My infatuation with kiwipop goes back to when I first started working at KALX, back in (ulp!)1986. Kiwipop was a big thing on our station. American college rock was rather dreary at the time, mainly packed with endless turgid "postpunk" guitar bands that couldn't decide whether they wanted to "rock out" or try something more complex (which usually meant something awful.) Along with a handful of European and American power pop bands, the lilting, off-kilter, deliciously imperfect kiwi bands were a nice bit of fresh air. With an artless, just-plain-folks charm crossbred with the easygoing, dark humour that only these Scots-Irish Commonwealth refugees can seem to muster, kiwipop has a lot going for it, in my book.

Gradually, the New Zealand scene became more sombre and artsy, and my interest started to drift, so this section of Slipcue (like many others) is mostly just me living in the past. Thanks goodness for reissues! Now we non-islanders can explore and enjoy the great, groovy kiwipop of years gone by, with a flood of '60s and '70s music coming back in print, much of it just as fun as those old Bats singles! I'm sure there are many bands I'm missing, records I haven't listened to in the right way, lots of facts I've got wrong. Oh, well. Anyway, the music is great. Dig in.

By the way, I'm also a big country music maven, and have a page on New Zealand country music that's part of a much larger overview of global twang. That might also be of interest.

Recommended Records (& Other Odd Stuff)

The 3Ds "Swarthy Songs For Swabs" (Flying Nun Records, 1991)
A six-song mini-album (or mega-EP?) that kicked off the career of the 3Ds, a Dunedin band that came a little late in my kiwipop days, though I remember playing a tune or two on the radio, back in the day. Probably need to go back and re-examine their work once I get that time machine working properly.

The 3Ds "Hellzapoppin" (Flying Nun Records, 1992)

The 3Ds "The Venus Trail" (Flying Nun, 1993)

The 3Ds "Hey Seuss" (Flying Nun Records, 1994)

The 3Ds "Strange News From The Angels" (Flying Nun Records, 1997)

Able Tasmans "The Tired Sun" (Flying Nun Records, 1985)
(Produced by Terry King & Anthony Nevison)

Like many of the Flying Nun bands, Able Tasmans went through constant fluctuations in lineup, and various members migrated into other groups over the years. The original core was made up of the duo of drummer Craig Baxter and keyboardist Graeme Humphreys, who had been a kiwi punk band called Sister Ray (one of several rock groups worldwide to take their name from the classic Velvet Underground song...) Formed in the northern town of Whangarei circa 1983-84, Able Tasmans clearly walked in the shadows of seminal bands such as The Chills and The Clean, though they adopted a much less shambolic style, with more clearly defined pop approach, with regular flights into grandiose, lush orchestrations. Also quite twee: a lot of their stuff frankly sounds like the Moody Blues, which I don't mean as a compliment. You can also find some keyboard-y romps that recall the earliest Chills EPs, but given the comparison, you might as well just stick with the Chills. The group was prolific, though, steadily releasing albums right up until their breakup in 1996. This six-song EP captures them during their more amateurish (and arguably more enjoyable) early years, although devoted kiwipop fans will probably find it worthwhile to delve into their later works as well.

Able Tasmans "A Cuppa Tea And A Lie Down" (Flying Nun Records, 1987)

Able Tasmans "Hey Spinner!" (Flying Nun Records, 1990)

Able Tasmans "Somebody Ate My Planet" (Flying Nun Records, 1992)

Able Tasmans "Store In A Cool Place" (Flying Nun Records, 1995)
Possibly the greatest album title ever... seriously.

Able Tasmans "Songs From The Departure Lounge" (Flying NunRecords, 1995)
Their last album probably had the tightest pop focus, mixing soft-prog and synth-band riffs with residual callbacks to the old, classic Dunedin Sound. The overall vibe is too 'Eighties new wave-y for me, like Tears For Fears backing Justin Hayward, or some similar band-math equation. I'm probably being too harsh, but basically these guys didn't appeal to me all that much when these records first came out, and it's still a struggle to get into them years later. On to better things! (Though the more open-minded among you might want to take my grumpy old mannerisms with a grain of sale...)

The Avengers "Electric Recording" (His Master's Voice, 1968)

The Avengers "Alive! Avengers In Action" (His Master's Voice, 1969)

The Avengers "Medallion" (His Master's Voice, 1969)

The Avengers "Everyone's Gonna Wonder" (Frenzy Records, 2016)

Bailter Space "Tanker" (Flying Nun Records, 1988)
(Produced by Brent McLachlan)

Hailing from Christchurch, this unruly, arty group grew out of an earlier band called the Gordons, which was among the first crop on Flying Nun bands in the early 1980s. Although they pursued a noisy, occasionally piercing style, Bailter Space also had a deeply embedded melodic core, leading to surprising, unexpected moments of beauty. Like many kiwipop bands, their lineup changed a few times, with musicians from "other" bands moving in and out on various projects; this debut album included drummer Hamish Kilgour of the Clean, who later left to form his own group, the Mad Scene. The original trio from the Gordons -- guitarists John Halvorsen and Alister Parker, with drummer Brent McLachlan -- eventually re-coalesced as the core members of Bailter Space. They became one of the more successful kiwipop groups worldwide, with a string of albums released simultaneously on Flying Nun in New Zealand, and Matador Records in the US; the American reissue of this album also included tracks from their initial EP, Nelsh Bailter Space.

Bailter Space "Thermos" (Flying Nun Records, 1990)

Bailter Space "Robot World" (Flying Nun Records, 1993)

Bailter Space "Vortura" (Flying Nun Records, 1994)

Bailter Space "Wammo" (Flying Nun Records 1995)

Bailter Space "Capsul " (Turnbuckle Records, 1997)

Bailter Space "Solar.3" (Turnbuckle Records, 1999)

Bailter Space "Strobosphere" (Arch Hill Music/Fire Records, 2012)

Bailter Space "Trinine" (Fire Records, 2013)

Alec Bathgate "Gold Lame" (Flying Nun Records, 1996)
Naturally, this will feel familiar to Tall Dwarfs fans, but Bathgate tempers the quirkiness with a bit more melody and less aggro, less pessimistic feel than his cohort Chris Knox has on his solo albums. Inventive, bright pop with a sinister underside... if you're already in this deep, why quit now?

Alec Bathgate "The Indifferent Velvet Void" (Lil' Chief Records, 2004)

The Bats - see artist profile

Bird Nest Roys "Bird Nest Roys" (Flying Nun Records, 1987)
The lone album from this jangly, drone-y kiwipop band from Auckland. Swell stuff which should appeal to fans of the Bats and the Chills. Like many bands from the '80s indie era, they moved through other musical projects, notably guitarist Dominic Stones, who also played in the 3Ds and Snapper. A charmingly shambolic, low-key band in the classic Flying Nun style, albeit with a slightly new wave flare.

Bird Nest Roys "Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love" (Flying Nun Records, 2013)
This compilation retrospective gathers all of their official releases, including numerous singles and whatnot...

Gray Bartlett "The Sixties Collection" (Frenzy Records, 2013)
A prolific session guitarist and music producer, Auckland's Graeme Bartlett first entered show business as a rocker, playing guitar music in a vaguely Cliff Richards & The Shadows-y style. He scored a huge hit (in Japan!) with the instrumental "La Playa," and found steady work backing Australian pop star Rolf Harris, from 1968-73. In the 1970s and '80s Bartlett focussed on country music, recording several solo albums and producing many more by other twang-oriented artists. This collection gathers his solo stuff from the 'Sixties, mostly pretty mellow though with a few hints of things to come, as heard on his cover of Don Rich's "Tim Buck Too." [Note: for some of Bartlett's later stuff, see the Kiwi Country section.]

Blerta "This Is The Life" (His Master's Voice, 1975)
(Produced by Richard Lush & G. Wayne Thomas)

A sprawling satirical/novelty set from the theatrical art commune Blerta, which derived its name from the acronym "Bruno Lawrence's Electric Revelation and Travelling Apparition," a tip of the hat towards the band's founder, actor Bruno Lawrence (1941-1995.) A seasoned musician, Bruno Lawrence was a veteran of several 'Sixties rock bands, but he carved out a unique niche in the New Zealand scene with this goofy, eclectic act which had a Bonzo Dog Band/National Lampoon vibe. (You could probably also make a strong case that these folks were an inspiration for the future kiwi supergroup Flight Of The Conchords... see below.) Founded in 1971, Blerta was literally a group effort, with the members living together on a commune, and traveling across the islands on a tour bus, which popped up at various big music fests and whatnot. This album marked their swan song: the group broke up in '75, with Bruno Lawrence devoting himself to his acting career. Another member of the collective, film director Geoff Murphy later produced a documentary about the group, called Blerta Revisited.

Brunettes "Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks" (Lil Chief Records, 2002)

Brunettes "The Boyracer" (EP) (Lil Chief Records, 2003)
Hmmm... I'm just not feelin' it here. This six-song EP is a good representation of this kiwi duo's basic approach -- super-goofy lyrics backed by rapidly-changing, purposely difficult music. If you're into artists that are clever for the sake of cleverness, and feel that the best way to underscore their cleverness is to make their music irritating and spasmodic, then you oughta love these two. Not quite as abrasive as Ween, nor as cutesy-wootsy as Stereototal, Brunettes manage to summon distinctive, catchy riffs, then fritter them away at a moment's notice. My favorite song on here is "Don't Neglect Your Pet": the lyrics are hilarious, but almost impossible to hear, amid the cluttered, murky mix. I guess I'll have to pass.

Brunettes "Mars Loves Venus" (Reverberation OZ, 2004)

Brunettes "When Ice Met Cream" (EP) (Lil Chief Records, 2006)

Brunettes "Structure And Cosmetics" (SubPop Records, 2007)
Another super-clever, super-cluttered novelty outing from these New Zealand noisemakers. Perhaps this is just the thing for folks who think rock'n'roll (and indie rock, in particular) takes itself too seriously these days. But still, some of us like a good melody, as well.

Chainsaw Masochists "Periphery" (Flying Nun Records, 1991)

The Chicks "The Sound Of The Chicks" (Viking Records, 1965)
(Produced by Ron Dalton)

A pop group that dipped into the groovy "beat" sounds of the late 'Sixties, The Chicks were primarily made up of sisters Judy Donaldson and Suzanne Donaldson, two gals from Wellington who started playing together publicly in the early 1960s and landed their first recording contract in '65. They had several hits and in 1967 were added to the cast of a television music showcase called C'Mon! which provided a rallying cry for a generation of New Zealand rock fans. The Chicks were together from 1965 to 1970, around the time Suzanne embarked on a solo career under the mononymic "Suzanna," culminating in her triumph in the 1972 Loxene Golden Disc contest, where she won top honors in the solo artist category. She also married fellow musician Bruce Lynch and subsequently recorded under her married name; around 1974 the couple emigrated to the UK where they worked for several years as part of Cat Stevens' backing band, and performed on several of his late '70s albums.

The Chicks "The Chicks Second Album" (Viking Records, 1966)
(Produced by Ron Dalton & Garth Young)

The Chicks "C'Mon Chicks" (Polydor Records, 1968)
(Produced by Ray Columbus & Bruce Barton)

The Chicks "A Long Time Coming" (Polydor Records, 1970)
(Produced by Bob Robinson)

The Chills - see artist profile

Ray Columbus & The Invaders "Every Nite" (Zodiac Records, 1963)
(Produced by John Hawkins)

Ray Columbus & The Invaders "Original Numbers" (Zodiac Records, 1965)
(Produced by John Hawkins)

Ray Columbus & The Invaders " 'Till We Kissed" (Philips Records, 1966)

Ray Columbus "The Ray Columbus Album" (Impact Records, 1966)

Ray Columbus "Hit Tracks" (Polydor Records, 1969)

Ray Columbus "Jangles, Spangles & Banners" (Family Records, 1972)

Graeme Downes "Hammers And Anvils" (Matador Records, 2001)
After an eight year hiatus, songsmith Downes (of The Verlaines) shows that he is still in fine form, as dark-toned and intense as ever. He can still pull a jangle or two out of his pocket, but this is mostly very dense, rather pessimistic material, rough-hewn, highly individual and pleasantly grating rock balladry. Fans of Mark Eitzel, perhaps, might want to check this one out. Amazing that this seems to have been Downes' only solo album!

Flight Of The Conchords "The Distant Future" (EP) (SubPop Records, 2007)
New Zealand's greatest supergroup... At least until they sold out and moved to America. This first, hard-to-find, fans-only EP is their best record... Everything else is rubbish. Except for the bootlegs.

Flight Of The Conchords "Flight Of The Conchords" (SubPop Records, 2007)
Apparently there's some kind of documentary about the band that you can see on a cable channel or something. Concert footage, too!

Flight Of The Conchords "I Told You I Was Freaky" (SubPop Records, 2009)

The Four Fours "The Complete Singles: 1963-1966" (Frenzy Records, 2019)
A badass, punky-poppy 'Sixties garage band that pops up frequently on compilations, The Four Fours morphed into a more psychedelic outfit by 1966, when they became The Human Instinct. I like the first name better, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right? This disc collects all of their early work in their more "R&B" garage band incarnation, including oft-anthologized gems such as "One Track Mind" and "Go Go," along with a bunch of fun stuff of similar calibre. Major overlap between this disc and the one below; if you wanna hear them get even more far-out and tripadelic, the split CD might give you more bang for your buck. As far as I know, though, they never released a full album as The Four Fours, just a slew of great singles.

The Four Fours/The Human Instinct "1963-1968" (RPM/Frenzy Records, 2019)
This generous set collects nine tracks by Human Instinct and another sixteen from The Four Fours, including "One Track Mind," which is just an awesome song. Here's the crazy thing: these guys are still together... and they originally formed in 1958, disbanded a time or two, but reformed when the moment(s) were right.

The Fourmyula "The Fourmyula" (His Master's Voice, 1968)
(Produced by Howard Gable & Peter Hitchcock)

The Fourmyula "Green 'B' Holiday" (His Master's Voice, 1968)
(Produced by Howard Gable & Peter Hitchcock)

The Fourmyula "Creation" (His Master's Voice, 1969)
(Produced by Peter Dawkins & David Mackay)

The Fourmyula "Live With Special Guest Star Shane" (His Master's Voice, 1970)

The Fourmyula "Turn Your Back On The Wind" (His Master's Voice, 1970/2010)
(Produced by Chris Andrews & The Fourmyula)

The Garage Crawlers "Only You Tonight" (Propeller Records, 1981) (7")
(Produced by Simon Alexander & Doug Rogers)

A three-song power-pop single notable for a couple of reasons... First, the opening track, "Only You Tonight" is a reasonably groovy power-pop tune, although the jokey pub-rock novelty number, "Normal Dunediner," is a genuinely loopy bit of kiwiania, a messy toss-off reminiscent of those Christmas records from the Beatles, which references the musician's Scottish ancestry while also lobbing a few good-natured volleys at Auckland and other outlying rivals. This group basically morphed into the perhaps less-distinctive Grammar Boys, which aggressively pursued a more commercial path.

The Gordons "The Gordons" (Flying Nun Records, 1981)
(Produced by Simon Alexander & The Gordons)

One of the earliest bands on the Flying Nun label, The Gordons represented the more abrasive end of the early 'Eighties kiwipop spectrum, though they also had elements of the janglepop/shoegazer sound heard in bands such as the Clean, etc. The original trio included guitarists John Halvorsen and Alister Parker, with drummer Brent McLaughlin, who all moved in and out of future lineups after the group rebranded itself as Bailter Space, and pursued a more assertively noise-oriented style in the late 'Eighties and 'Nineties. Originally self-released, this album was reissued on Flying Nun, along with tracks from an early EP, although their second album, Volume 2, remained in indie-label limbo.

The Gordons "Volume 2" (The Gordons, 1984)

Grammar Boys "Darin Feats" (EMI Records, 1983)
(Produced by Simon Alexander & Doug Rogers)

Commercially-oriented, slightly dorky new wave/power-pop material. Kinda manic and unsubtle, a little like Joe Jackson overdosing on meth. Guitarist Simon Alexander was previously in a power-pop group called the Garage Crawlers, which recorded an album a couple of years earlier.

The Gremlins "The Coming Generation: The Complete Recordings, 1965-68" (Rev-Ola Records, 2004)
A short-lived and utterly generic beat-goes-pysch band from Auckland, the Gremlins were capable musicians and generated some geenuine heat and a few groovy riffs, although their songwriting was generally fairly flat, and nakedly imitative of other bands from other lands. Still, there's plenty of far-out 'Sixties kitsch on here, notably on tunes like "The Coming Generation," which hammers away at all those squares who were on the wrong side of the generation gap -- it's funny, though not that strong as an actual pop song. "You Gotta Believe It" has a cool riff, though, as well as several other tracks... You can assess their work in its entirety with this handy, 22-song retrospective: it's all here. The band broke up after a few years, with its most famous member being guitarist Glyn Tucker who played in some earlier instrumental bands and went on to found his own record label, where he produced numerous records by innumerable Australian and New Zealand bands.

The Gremlins "Blast Off: 1965-1968" (EMI Records, 2004)
This set has all the same tracks as the collection above, just in different order.

Peter Gutteridge "Pure" (Xpressway, 1989)
(Produced by Peter Gutteridge & Peter Jeffries)

A Zelig-like figure in the indie-scene kiwipop era, keyboard player/guitarist Peter Gutteridge (1961-2014) was a founding member of The Chills, The Clean and his own group, Snapper, while also moving through a parade of other groovy "Dunedin Sound" bands. Possessed of a prickly personality, Gutteridge was one of the most influential architects of classic kiwipop, particularly his use of droning, repetitive riffs and driving rhythms. This experimental album is pretty anti-commercial and deliberately challenging, with moments of beauty and surprising gentleness. Think of Chris Knox, perhaps, though more extreme; there's also a palpable debt to John Cale and the Velvet Underground. This was his only officially solo set, although the Snapper albums also reflect Gutteridge's unique personal aesthetic

The Hi Revving Tongues "Tropic Of Capricorn" (Philips Records, 1969)

The Hi Revving Tongues "The Complete Singles, As & Bs" (Philips Records, 1969)

The Human Instinct "Singles: 1966-1971" (CD)
After about a decade together, the Four Fours changed into The Human Instinct, and took a more psychedelic turn. This disc gathers their singles during a period when they also recorded several albums, and includes the super-groovy "A Day In My Mind's Mind," an iconic kiwi rock track used as the name for a long-running series of pop/garage comps (below.) These guys were around for a long time and went through a lot of phases, from surfy 'Fifties teenpop and amphetamine-laced garage punk to lysergic Mod, chunky blues rock and even a fling at country-rock towards the end. Indeed, they seem to have been the Spinal Tap of North Island... Perhaps they never made it into a metal phase, but they definitely knew how to turn things up to 11.

The Human Instinct "Singles: 1966-1971" (Groovie Records, 2011) (LP)
A shorter, perhaps groovier vinyl collection, on the Spanish-based Groovie label...

David Kilgour & The Clean - see artist profile

Chris Knox - see: Tall Dwarfs

The La De Da's "La De Da's" (Zodiac Records, 1966) (LP)

The La De Da's "Find Us A Way" (Philips Records, 1967) (LP)

The La De Da's "The Happy Prince" (Columbia Records, 1969) (LP)

The La De Da's "Rock'N'Roll Sandwich" (EMI Records, 1973) (LP)

Larry's Rebels "I Feel Good: 1965-1969" (Cherry Red Records, 2015)
A fun collection of hit singles, album tracks and various odds and ends from this popular 1960s garage-pysch band from Ponsonby, New Zealand... Lead singer Larry Morris had a kind of Eric Burdon-esque blues-rock jones, though the band pingponged between various styles, most charmingly in a twee, Chad & Jeremy/Paul Revere-ish pop style, but also into bass-heavy Who-vian hard rock and playful, tongue-in-cheek psychedelic mode. The wannabe-Beatles songwriting often left something to be desired, though the distance between their influences and their artistry has a strong charm of its own, recalling one of the mightiest of all bands, ever, the fabulous Spongetones, though with much less of their intentional self-parody. All in all, this is a fun, honest portrait of a lively, eclectic band who were big in New Zealand, but little known outside of Tuatara.

Larry's Rebels/The Rebels "Study In Black/Madrigal" (Frenzy Records, 2013)
A reissue of two albums, A Study In Black and 1970's Madrigal, the band's final LP, which was released under the name of The Rebels, with lead singer Glyn Mason replacing Larry Morris, who had left to pursue a solo career.

Dinah Lee "Introducing Dinah Lee" (Viking Records, 1964)
One of New Zealand's biggest pop artists of the 1960s, Dinah Lee was the kiwi answer to gals like Brenda Lee and Petula Clark. Amazingly her stuff is apparently not available in a digital reissue, though random tacks pop up on various compilations (see below) which is a shame since this is some high-quality, completely manic teensploitation, with a heavy Beatles influence. Far out, baby!

Dinah Lee "The Sound Of Dinah Lee" (Viking Records, 1965)
(Produced by Ron Dalton)

Dinah Lee "The Mod World Of Dinah Lee" (Viking Records, 1965)
(Produced by James Haddleton)

Look Blue, Go Purple "Compilation" (Flying Nun, 1999)
I'm not a runaway, crazy-wild fan for these folks, but "Cactus Cat" is a great twee pop song. Nice stuff, typical of the unassuming approach of early Flying Nun albums -- this CD collects all their early EPs in one nice little package...

Mad Scene "Trip Through Monsterland" (1991)

Mad Scene "Sealight" (Merge Records, 1995)

Mad Scene "Chinese Honey" (EP) (Merge Records, 1996)
A 7-song EP...

The Magick Heads "Before We Go Under" (Flying Nun Records, 1994)
Those who are entranced by the pure pop possibilities of Robert Scott (of The Bats) gigging around with some other kiwipopsters (notably, the guitarist of the 3Ds...) may find themselves a bit baffled by this sometimes-difficult outing. Yes, there are pretty, melodic moments, but also plenty of darker, perhaps folk-influenced tracks... This is a band that's hard to get a handle on, but worth checking out if you're already a Bats fanatic.

The Magick Heads "Woody" (Flying Nun Records, 1997)

The Magick Heads "The Back of Her Hand" (7") (Flying Nun Records)

The Magick Heads "Transvection" (Flying Nun Records, 1999)

Barbara Manning "In New Zealand" (Communion Records, 1998)
Northern California's indiepop darling, Barbara Manning, had a longtime sweet-tooth for all things New Zealand, and over the years recorded more than her fair share of Bats covers, etc... Here she pals around with the cream of New Zealand's kiwi elite, coauthoring songs and covering classics. David Kilgour, Robert Scott, Graeme Downes, Chris Knox and others pitch in, as composers, performers and producers... It's all quite nice. Lazy and doleful, perfect for a rainy day at home.

The Merseymen "A Visit To The Beatle Inn" (Zodiac Records, 1964)
(Produced by John Hoskins)

Omigod was there really a club called the Beatle Inn? That's so adorable. Obviously a bit derivative, the Merseymen were a short-lived "beat" band that specialized in cover songs, and seem to have made just this one album. Guitarist Bob Paris previously led his own band, The Peppermints, and also backed Johnny Devlin in the same early 'Sixties era. The Merseymen lineup doesn't appear to have much overlap with Paris's earlier combos.

Roy Montgomery
One of the more enigmatic, and heavier-sounding, New Zealand artists, guitarist Roy Montgomery specializes in dolorous, dreamy, spectral electric guitar instrumentals... like stuff you might have expected John Fahey to make when he was really down in the dumps. I don't have specific recommendations to make, just at the moment, but when I do, I'll let you know.

Larry Morris "5:55 AM" (Gemini Records, 1972)
(Produced by Terry Condon, Larry Ellis & Bruce Lynch)

The namesake Lorenzo of the rockers called Larry's Rebels, Mr. Morris took off on a solo career that largely left his garage-rockin' days behind... This soft-pop debut features covers of foreign folks like Bobby Hebb, Carole King, Lennon-McCartney and Elton John. Big orchestrations with little payoff, if you ask me -- but each to their own, right?

Larry Morris "Reputation Don't Matter Anymore" (Gemini Records, 1976)
(Produced by Doug Jane, John Kristian & Larry Morris)

Martin Phillipps - see: The Chills

The Pin Group "The Pin Group" (Siltbreeze Records, 1998)
Guitar whiz Roy Montgomery's first band, The Pin Group, had an almost embarrassing debt to Joy Division, but that's understandable, all things considered. This CD collects several of their 7" singles from the early 1980s (some of the first records out on the Flying Nun label) and reprints some contemporary record reviews which are charmingly askance about the whole thing. In some of the undertones (and undertow) you can sense Montgomery's darker, more fluid leanings, and can hear the basis for his later, moodier instrumental work. A period piece, but certainly worth checking out. This includes songs from the 1981 singles Coat and Ambivalence, as well as the subsequent EP, Go To Town.

The Pin Group "Eleven Years After" (Siltbreeze Records, 1992)

The Pin Group "Live At The Gladstone Hotel" (Flying Nun Records, 2011)
This set captures a live show from 1981... Nice snapshot of the times!

The Pleazers "Definitely Pleazers" (Zodiac Records, 1967)
(Produced by John Hawkins)

Pop Art Toasters "Pop Art Toasters" (EP) (Flying Nun Records, 1994)
Martin Phillipps (of The Chills) and a few other kiwi popsters kick back a bit and cover several fairly obscure '60s pop-psychedelic tunes. A nice side-project which brought the sparkle back into Martin's eyes. Mine, too.

Quincy Conserve "Listen To The Band" (EMI/Regal Records, 1970)
(Produced by Peter Dawkins & Peter Hitchcock)

A white soul/frat-rock/pop band from Wellington, these guys started out in the late 'Sixties but really made their mark in the early 'Seventies with a series of horn-drenched LPs that may remind some listeners of early Chicago. Mostly pretty kitschy, though I bet they got a lot of parties started, back in the day. This album includes the track "Ride The Rain," which is a legitimately groovy tune.

Quincy Conserve "Epitaph (Quincy Conserve 1967-71)" (EMI/Regal Records, 1972)
(Produced by Peter Dawkins & Peter Hitchcock)

Quincy Conserve "Tasteful" (EMI Records, 1973)
(Produced by Alan Galbraith & Peter Hitchcock)

A mix of cover songs and original material. It's pretty hard to take their manic cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" seriously, or even their jittery take on Edgar Winters' "Keep On Playing That Rock And Roll," although I guess the band's Small Faces vibe has its moments. Also worth noting are a couple of Todd Rundgren covers, a fairly bland version of "I Saw The Light" and an oh-so-naughty rendition of "Slut." Some fans are drawn to the group's "jazz rock" outings, but the interminable jams added to the "Extra Tasteful" version of the album are a little hard to take, even in hindsight.

Quincy Conserve "The Quincy Conserve" (Ode Records, 1975)
(Produced by Terence O'Neill-Joyce)

Yeesh. The band's final album leapt deep into aggressive, manic, prog-fusion is genuinely pretty awful. I'm sure this album has many deeply devoted fans, but it speaks of painful, Spinal Tappish excess to the rest of us. It's meant to be party music (as heard in a cover of Kool & The Gang) but really, you can skip this one.

The Rayders "Platter-Rack Raid With The Rayders" (Zodiac Records, 1965)
(Produced by John Hawkins)

One of numerous "beat"-era moptop bands, The Rayders grew out of a family trio called the Dynamites led by singer-guitarist Gene Campbell, whose brothers carried on after he left. Led by drummer Ray Mullholland, the Rayders included Danny Campbell (rhythm guitar) Ricci Campbell (bass) and Brian McCarthy on lead guitar, They were a pretty twee-sounding combo, and perhaps Auckland's answer to Herman's Hermits. Clean-cut lads, fresh-faced and very sincere. They soon toughened, though, and were aggro enough to land a slot on one of the Wyld Things compilations (below) with their gnarly, Who-flavored single "Working Man," which came out the following year.

Robert Scott "The Creeping Unknown" (Flying Nun/Thirsty Ear Records, 2001)
Not what you might expect from a pairing up of Robert Scott and David Kilgour of the Clean... This is a dark, artsy, open-ended, semi-instrumental album that sounds a little like Looper at times, but a whole lot more like New Zealand's brooding, avant-ish guitar whiz, Roy Montgomery. Only jangly in tiny traces, but captivating in an odd kind of way.

Robert Scott "Songs Of Otago's Past" (Powertool Records, 2005)
An odd, fascinating album, in which indiepopster Robert Scott delves into acoustic folk music, poetry and other archival lore exploring the history of the Otago region, where the city of Dunedin is located. It's similar to, say, Martyn Wyndham-Reed's work collecting Australian outlaw and sheep-shearing ballads... A curious shift in style, but a fascinating record, nonetheless.

Snapper "Snapper EP" (Flying Nun Records, 1988)
(Produced by Peter Gutteridge, Victor Grbic & Terry Moore)

This stunning four-song EP marked the debut of keyboardist Peter Gutteridge's hard-driving drone band Snapper, which pursued a mesmerizing sound suggesting a mix of antediluvian krautrock, Jesus & Mary Chain and more playful kiwi groups such as the Clean and the Chills (both of which Gutteridge helped co-found.) It also certainly prefigures the nearly-identical early work of Stereolab in the 1990s, though I would argue Gutteridge's vision was purer and much less precious and twee. Only four songs, but boy, they sure are great.

Snapper "Shotgun Blossom" (Avalanche Records, 1990)
(Produced by Peter Gutteridge & Brent McLachlan)

While his debut disc had an ambient melodic glory that could appeal to fans of bands such as Stereolab or My Bloody Valentine, this album is harder, darker, more driving and perhaps a bit grim. While the songs are captivating, they also have an immense downward gravity, like a distant black hole pulling in all the matter that surrounds it. Great stuff, but genuinely sinister and unrelenting.

Snapper "A.D.M." (Flying Nun Records, 1996)
(Produced by Peter Gutteridge & Brendan Hoffman)

Sneaky Feelings "Send You" (Flying Nun Records, 1984)
(Produced by Phil Yule)

A very stripped-down set of guitar pop by one of the "Dunedin Sound" bands most explicitly recording in the shadow of the Chills and the Clean. This initial album has a notably thin production style with purely guitar-based arrangements and emotive vocals that perhaps place it more in line with the C86 bands in the UK. The doleful feel of their kiwipop progenitors is pretty clear, although this album lacks their memorable hooks, and the plodding rhythms and undifferentiated jangle gives it a slightly dreary feel. Not until the Feelies-like "Won't Change" -- almost the last track on the album -- do they pick up the pace and reveal something more energetic and engaging... I "get it," but I'm not wild about this one.

Sneaky Feelings "Sentimental Education" (Flying Nun Records, 1986)
(Produced by Victor Grbic & Phil Yule)

Sneaky Feelings "Positively George Street" (Flying Nun Records, 2000)

Stephen "Dumb" (EP) (Flying Nun Records, 1988)
Stephen "Radar Of Small Dogs" (Flying Nun Records, 1999)

A great and groovy spin-off of David Kilgour and The Clean. The Small Dogs CD has all the material on the original EP, as well as some other groovy stuff. Highly recommended!

Tall Dwarfs - see artist profile

The Tongues "The Tongues" (Zodiac Records, 1970)

Toy Love "Cuts" (Flying Nun Records, 2005)
One of the legendary albums of New Zealand's odd, unpredictable "kiwipop" scene has finally found the light of day in the digital era... Before Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate founded the bizarro band, Tall Dwarfs, they fronted Toy Love, a punky group that was supposed to become New Zealand's answer to The Saints. They signed to a major label, and had begun a tour of Australia and the UK when the whole deal imploded and they were sent packing back to Dunedin... Their lone album, issued in 1980, was lost to the sands of time and as kiwipop became better defined and better known outside of NZ, the disc took on a Holy Grail status, forever drifting in the tide of corporate limbo. Well, here ya go: here's a 2-CD set that collects all the tracks off the original LP, along with several singles issued on other, smaller labels, and a ton of demo tracks and kitchen-table lo-fi stuff that dates back to the Toy Love years. The lyrics are more youthful and abrupt, and much of the music is more overtly punky than Knox & Bathgate's later work, but what's amazing is how much they sounded like themselves, even back in their angry young men days, how weird the lyrics were and how twisted the music sounded. It's not unlike Robyn Hitchcock's old band, The Soft Boys, a kooky riff on rock and punk, with surrealistic and self-referential lyrics galore. It's also very, very noisy, and might be a little hard to get into at first. But for fans of Tall Dwarfs, or anyone who appreciates the truly weirdo, oddball artists of the world, this'll be a set you'll want to check out. One technical note: the material from the Toy Love record comes courtesy of a label executive who surreptitiously dubbed a copy of the master before moving on to another job (...yay! you rock, dude!) so Knox & Co. took the opportunity to remaster the tracks and add in some of the low end that the LP lacked (one of many disagreements with the label, I'm sure...) Anyway, it sounds fine, but if you're super-picky and persnicketty about stuff like that, you might want to know that the original version sounded a lot tinnier than this... So I guess the vinyl copy will still remain an elusive prize!

The Verlaines "Juvenilia" (Flying Nun Records, 1988)
Classically trained guitarist Graeme Downes and his band, the Verlaines, generated several of the most magical moments of the early kiwipop scene, including the doleful "Joed Out" and the irresistible "Death And The Maiden," with its sweeping chorus of, "Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine..." Both songs are collected on the original Juvenelia LP, as well as on the remastered, expanded CD version. With tighter compositions and loftier, more poetical lyrics than many of his contemporaries, Downes' work later became a bit dense (impenetrable, almost...) but these early records were pretty sweet.

The Verlaines "10 O'Clock In The Afternoon" EP (Flying Nun, 1984) (LP)
All this stuff is collected on the CD/LP above, but if you're a vinyl junkie, this is a really nice record to have around. Just thought I'd mention it.

Waves "Waves" (Direction Records, 1975)
(Produced by Peter Dawkins & Phil Yule)

Super-groovy, ultra-twee acoustic pop-rock, very much in the mellow, harmony-driven mid-1970s folk/soft-rock style. If you were feeling uncharitable, it would be easy to dismiss their approximations of Crosby, Stills & Nash, and/or Seals & Croft as a bit slavish, or to crack some quip like, "hey, were these guys New Zealand's America?" But you can also be charmed by it, and perhaps even find some common threads with the spacey noodlings of the 'Eighties kiwipop scene. (Indeed, producer Phil Yule went on to do a lot of work with Flying Nun Records, producing the Sneaky Feelings albums, as well as seminal records by the Chills, the Clean and the Verlaines.) Overall, though, this album feels overly gauzy and unfocussed, with a mellow feel, but few strong compositions or memorable material. It's easy on the ears, but slightly dreary if you listen to it all the way through. Best taken in small doses, perhaps in a mix with similar 'Seventies pop.


Various Artists "A DAY IN MY MIND'S MIND, v.1" (EMI-New Zealand, 2005)

Various Artists "A DAY IN MY MIND'S MIND, v.2" (EMI-New Zealand, 2008)

Various Artists "A DAY IN MY MIND'S MIND, v.3" (EMI-New Zealand, 2008)

Various Artists "A DAY IN MY MIND'S MIND, v.4: HURT, LOVE AND FIRE" (EMI-New Zealand, 2014-?)

Various Artists "A DAY IN MY MIND'S MIND, v.5" (Frenzy Records, 2019)

Various Artists "C'MON" (Frenzy Music, 2016-?)

Various Artists "COME AND SEE ME: DREAM BABES AND ROCK CHICKS FROM DOWN UNDER" (RPM Records/Frenzy Music, 2015-?)

Various Artists "COME FLY WITH ME" (Sony Music, 2009)
"Great New Zealand Rock'N'Roll, 1964-1972..." A twenty-to song set including familiar faces such as the Avengers, Larry's Rebels and the La-De-Da's, as well as even more obscuros like Blerta, Top Shelf and the Gremlins. The first half of the the set concentrates on "R&B" bands, the second on more acid-tinged artists.

Various Artists "GET A HAIRCUT: 31 OF THE BEST NEW ZEALAND ROCK'N'ROLLERS EVER!" (Zerox Records, 2004)

Various Artists "GOD SAVE THE CLEAN" (Flying Nun Records, 1998)
A tribute to... wait for it... The Clean! The roster is packed with usual-suspect kiwiposters like Alec Bathgate, Chris Knox and Alastair Galbraith, as well as some surprise old-timers like guitarist Gray Bartlett, who covers the song "Fish." Some American admirers as well, including Pavement, Guided By Voices, Barbara Manning and Calexico. And really: who doesn't love the Clean?

Various Artists "HEED THE CALL" (Vostok Records, 2017)
This one's a little far afield for me, or at least for this page... Still, having stumbled across a collection of New Zealand's disco, funk and soul music circa 1973-83, I figure there's one or two of you out there who'll be way into it. As far as the artists go -- folks like The Pink Family, Prince Tui Teka, Tina Cross, Golden Harvest,, -- I can offer few insights. The Vostok label also dipped into the world of vintage kiwi freakbeat, with Volume Three of the Wild Things series, a record that I would very much like to possess.

Various Artists "HOW IS THE AIR UP THERE?" (Frenzy Music, 2017-?)

Various Artists "THE KIWI MUSIC SCENE: 1966" (Frenzy Music, 2016)

Various Artists "THE KIWI POP MUSIC SCENE: 1967" (Frenzy Music, 2017-?)

Various Artists "THE KIWI POP MUSIC SCENE: 1968" (Frenzy Music, 2018)

Various Artists "THE KIWI POP MUSIC SCENE: 1969" (Frenzy Music, 2019)

Various Artists "KIWI POP! HITS OF THE '70s" (Frenzy Music, 2018)

Various Artists "LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN... UNDER" (Frenzy Music, 2014)
All you favorite old-timers covering the Fab Four. (That's the Beatles, for you whippersnappers...) Not all tracks are 'Sixties/Seventies vintage, though, with folks like Chris Knox, etc., on board

Various Artists "LOXENE GOLDEN DISC: 1970 SPECIAL" (HMV/Loxene Records, 1970)
A memento of the annual Loxene Golden Disc award show, which was a sort of public-private partnership between the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) and a UK-based company called Reckitt & Colman, which manufactured Loxene dandruff shampoo and was looking for a clever way to market their product to the youth of the Southern hemisphere. Hyped on a nationwide TV show from 1965 to 1972, the Golden Disc awards were New Zealand's equivalent to the Grammys, lining up ten contestants drawn from a variety of musical style, including pop, country and -- later on -- heavy rock. Although the "beat" bands of the Mod scene and hippie era were well represented throughout, much as in the American awards, blander, poppier acts tended to take the big prizes. The winners on this album were singer Craig Scott (for the "solo artist" award") with the Golden Disc going to the band Hogsnort Rupert for their song "Pretty Girl." Apparently there was an earlier series of albums on the Viking label that covered the Loxene shows from 1965-69, though I haven't laid eyes on this ones yet.

Various Artists "LOXENE GOLDEN DISC: 1971" (HMV/Loxene Records, 1971)

Various Artists "LOXENE GOLDEN DISC: 1972" (HMV/Loxene Records, 1972)
This was the final year of the Golden Disc awards, and though the album still has groovy 'Seventies artwork, it looks a little more like a K-Tel disc of the same era. Although "beat" bands had been ascendant for much of the show's run, the winners in '72 seemed to reflect a tilt towards softer pop material -- the solo artist award went to Suzanna (aka Suzanne Lynch) who had been a member of the rock-pop duo The Chicks, and was launching a post-Chicks career that would soon lead to her landing a gig as a backup singer for Cat Stevens. The group award (and big prize) went to the band Creation, a florid, orchestral, post-hippie pop band in line with the Terry Jacks-y stuff on the charts in the US and UK; their winning song, "Carolina," was pretty drippy.

Various Artists "MAKING LOSERS HAPPY" (Drag City Records, 1996)
The more grating, arty side of the kiwi sound, with dark artists such as Dead C, Alastair Galbraith, Graeme Jefferies, The Terminals, etc. Mostly not my cup of tea, though that's probably more my problem than yours.

Various Artists "No. 8 WIRE" (Particles Records, 1998)
One of those marvelous, mysterious bootlegs (originally only out on LP) but packed with first-rate '60s material, collected from various impossible-to-find kiwi oldies. This has a more typical garage rock feel to it -- less poppy and immediately catchy, more into trippiness and distortion, less into infectious pop hooks and teen-beat cutesiness. It's also a smidge uneven, though certainly above average as far as your typical NUGGETS knockoff goes, and definitely worth checking out.

Various Artists "NOW WE ARE THREE!" (Lil' Chief Records, 2004)
An 11-song sampler from New Zealand indie label, Lil' Chief Records...

Various Artists "SHREW'D: A COMPILATION OF NZ WOMEN'S MUSIC" (Flying Nun Records, 1993)

Various Artists "TALLY HO! FLYING NUN'S GREATEST BITS" (Flying Nun Records, 1993)
A two-disc set that gathers many of Flying Nun's best-beloved tracks. You may come for the gloriously loopy sing-along pop tunes and stay for the more artsy and dark stuff. Or, vice versa. Nice to have so much of this stuff available in one place, particularly since the original old albums can be a bit elusive.

Various Artists "THEMES FROM AN EMPTY COFFEE LOUNGE" (Frenzy Music, 2016)
Like much of the Commonwealth, New Zealand had an early 'Sixties infatuation with Cliff Richards & The Shadows-style pop-rock instrumentals, and spawned its fair share of surf-adjacent guitar bands. This collection gathers thirty-three examples, notably picker Gray Bartlett, whose hit single "La Playa" made him a star in Australia and Japan. Although "La Playa" is not included here, several other Bartlett tracks are, along with tunes by Peter Posa, Ray Columbus's band, The Invaders, Jim Coyle and many others, including the Four Fours, whose shrill, whistle-laden "Theme From An Empty Coffee Lounge" provides the compilation with its title. Although several of these artists would later pursue a rougher Mod sound, it should be noted that this rock subgenre didn't always produce the most vigorous or rollicking music... pretty twee, overall, although I'm sure this disc will have its fans, and a few track, such as Max Merritt's "Soft Surfie," have some bit to them.

Various Artists "TOP OF THE DIAL: A SWINGIN' TRIP THROUGH '60s KIWI RADIO" (EMI Records, 2004)

Various Artists "TOP OF THE DIAL, v.2" (EMI Records, 2009)

Various Artists "TOP OF THE DIAL" (Frenzy Music, 2016-?)
This collection is an homage to an offshore pirate radio station known as Radio Hauraki -- or, "the Good Guys," as they liked to call themselves. Radio Hauraki launched its first ship, the MV Tiri, in December, 1966, in order to bring unregulated musical programming to the culture-hungry masses of New Zealand. Although they probably played their fair share of British and American pop, they had a lot of great homegrown talent to work with as well, and this 2-CD set concentrates on kiwi artists, bands that reciprocated the station's support by visiting the ships for on-air appearances and even staged fundraising shows for the radio rebels when back on dry land. Radio Hauraki was granted a full, legal license in 1970 and reorganized itself as a public company which led, perhaps inevitably, to the gradual demise of its rebel ethos and vitality. The informative CD liner notes may be of interest to followers of pirate broadcasting; also fun is this fan site which presents a wealth of press clippings and other archival goodies.

Various Artists "UNDER THE SOUTHERN MOONLIGHT" (EMI-New Zealand, 2008)
Subtitle: "...The Kiwi Rock Scene: 1970-1975." Oooh! Oooh!! Oooh!! I wan' it!! I wan' it!!

Various Artists "WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE BEAT ERA... DADDY!!!" (Frenzy Music, 2014)
Older, slightly squarer stuff from 1963-66, when the Beatles reigned supreme, although down under, fab folks like The Invaders, The Merseymen and The Secrets were giving them a run for their money...

Various Artists "WILD THINGS: WYLD KIWI GARAGE 1966-1969" (Flying Nun Records, 1992)
The kiwi equivalent of Australia's legendary UGLY THINGS '60s garage-pop comps... This is a pretty tasty set of rare New Zealand garage-psychedelia by bands such as The La De Das, The Action, The Bluestars, The Pleazers, etc. Since this is a Flying Nun production, attentive listeners may HEAR a musical through-line between some of these tracks and the later jangle'n'drone of 'Eighties kiwipop... nice sound quality, too. Pretty much anyone with a pulse is guaranteed to enjoy this collection -- it's all top-notch! Great liner notes, too.

Various Artists "WILD THINGS, v.2" (Zerophonic Records, 1996)
On a different label, but with an equally high level of quality, and only a couple of bands that overlap. As with the first collection, this has a great mix of original material and cover tunes, but the best news is that nothing on here is subpar. This disc may have a bit more of a poppy, teenybopper vibe... Tracks like "Go Go" and "One Track Mind" by the Four Fours are pretty irresistible, as are the "chick" rockers such as, well, The Chicks, who have the dazzling anti-conformity anthem, "Rebel Kind," and the Clevedonaires, who chirp "He's Ready" with all the adolescent lust they can muster. Also has spiffy liner notes... Recommended!

Various Artists "WILD THINGS: SOCIAL END PRODUCTS OF THE WORLD UNITE!" (Vostok Records, 2018)
Wait a minute. You're saying there's a third volume of Wild Things on yet another record label, and that it's totally impossible to find? Oh, man. Let me at it!!

Many Thanks!

Thanks to all the groovy folks who helped turn me on to kiwipop over the years, including but not limited to:
KALX, Flying Nun, Amoeba Music, Aquarius Records (SF, RIP), Discogs, and all the various artists.


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