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There are a few of us here a little bit in love with New Zealand and the music that comes from it. As a young man, once weaned off Farley’s rusks, I graduated to the school of New Zealand skewed pop as performed by the likes of The Chills, The Verlaines, The 3Ds, and the labels Flying Nun and Xpressway. It was an eerier, darker take on guitar pop that I was previously aware, full of twisting guitars, dishevelled voices and a generally cold rainy night melancholy.
Popstrangers age-wise are probably the grandchildren of those bands but share a predilection for grungy swirling guitars, a punk like intensity and strange song structures that wander around the vagaries of melody. They also sound a lot like Deerhunter, a bit like early Teenage Fanclub, a smidge of Sonic Youth and on ‘In Some Ways’ frighteningly like Radiohead. They start strongly; ‘Jane’ is a tour de force, seemingly two songs rolled into one - beginning with stinging guitars which explode into a hurricane of a chorus, thats somehow in the exact midpoint between My Bloody Valentine and Deerhunter. It’s brill.
They can play it straightforward too, ‘Witches Hand’ is a grungy, slacker anthem, one part Sonic Youth, one part Teenage Fanclub. The album is full of moments like this, it veers schizophrenically between bursts of pop adrenaline and skewed, experimental guitar slinging. The breadth and variety of the album reminds me of two of the great album of the last few years, Women’s ‘Public Strain’ and Warm Widow’s ‘Widower’, both albums harking back to the glory days of noise pop but bringing a fresh exciting slant to the table. Neither of those previous records however have moments as gloriously infectious as ‘Heaven’ which is a superb piece of stinging guitar pop which bursts into a chorus so catchy it might as well be wearing a red nose. For concert, home or late night trans-Pennine drive, this is a superb album which I urge you to check out.
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