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Ah, this is what I’ve been after. The last few weeks have seen a slew of re-issues from bands of varying vintage emanating from New Zealand and they are all very good and we are always very nice and it’s good to see but it’s sooooo exciting to see a brand new band emerge out of the isle who, from the very first seconds, have everything intact to not only be able to compete with but to better their forefathers.
The first time I heard this album I couldn’t believe my ears. It’s the perfect, perfect New Zealand jangly pop album with nods throughout to the bands I worshipped during my youth particularly The Chills. Opener ‘High Times’ is immediately catchy with an almost nursery rhyme style melody that is immediately infectious if not contagious. It sounds like something off The Chills’ ‘Submarine Bells’ with even more melody slathered on...and this ain’t no fluke, ‘Romp’ has the brittle guitars, melodic bass and droney organ as used by bands from The Verlaines to The Clean. It breezes along without a care in the world.
‘Pretty’ darkens the mood with its ‘Pink Frost’-like air of mystery. Throughout they repeat the trick used by the best Flying Nun bands, concise literate pop, if you are going to just use four chords in a song then make them good ones, then make sure the vocals you put over are insanely tuneful and catchy.
I’ve recently begun an obsession with early ‘80s lo-fi psych poppers Cleaners From Venus, and although stylistically slightly different, this lot remind me of that discovery. Finding a rich seam of untapped musical brilliance that sounds just so right to my ears. I urge any fans of literate, chiming melodic pop records particularly those made in 1980’s Dunedin to give this a try.
10/10 Vaughan Customer review, 28th January 2014
Of course, you can’t recommend something just because it’s from New Zealand. Even a group that harks back, rather brilliantly, to early Smiths and further — to late 70s/early 80s girl groups like the Au Pairs, Modettes and Delta 5, the edginess of Subway Sect and the one-off pop and garage bands of the 60s — has to have something special to deserve an audience outside its home country.
Well, on the evidence of this LP the Prophet Hens do. The jangly guitar, the slightly mournful organ, the thudding drumbeat all make a virtue of the modest production values. The tunes on Popular People Do Popular People feel like a soundtrack to real emotions rather than slick, clichéd, cynical approximations. And those tunes are so relentlessly catchy. I would be astonished by anyone who didn’t at least smile on hearing the hummable opener High Times. Or the (very late 70s DIY girl band, this) gorgeous, slightly off-key All Over The World. Or the gloomy but lovely closer Red Blonde.
But it isn’t just the tunes that make this LP. The lyrics and their delivery —plaintive, worried, but always longing for things to be all right — add so much to songs that sound charming but are pleasingly tortured underneath. It’s all so likeable that I should hate it already. But I don't; I’ve been getting a daily fix of all 29 minutes for weeks now. Maybe it’s that dark undertone. People seem to be hoping, regretting, drifting apart and splitting up all over this LP. You notice it more with every listen, and it keeps you listening.
Bizarrely (to me, anyway) Popular People didn’t storm the end-of-2013 lists in New Zealand. Then again, this hemisphere has hardly done them proud. If this LP hadn't been propping up the Norman year-end top 50 I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. Maybe I should just pretend it came out this year and hope Norman will put it at the top of his 2014 list. With 11 months to go it’s already at the top of mine.
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- Popular People Do Popular People by The Prophet Hens
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