The Bats - Daddy's Highway
Originally released in 1987, this CD is the extended and remastered album on Flying Nun records which has an additional five track, offcuts and b-sides all. As might be expected of an album of its time, even one from New Zealand, the style is pure unadulterated jangle pop. Now I love a good bit of jangle pop and have become especially fond of many albums of the genre in recent months, so it should come as no surprise that I was drawn to this. Jangle pop may not be to everyone's taste but the Bats, when they do it well, definitely know how to make it work.
The songs are generally a little slower and a little shorter than the stuff done by many of their contemporaries. This tended to suit the somewhat more melancholy than usual lyrical themes as well as the frequent addition of a guest violinist, Alastair Galbraith, an unusual feature for the times. The result is to deliver a number of songs which have pleasant and catchy melodies and which will stick around in your head long after you have ceased listening to it. Robert Scott and Kaye Woodward have complementary voices and when they harmonise there is sufficient distance between them to make you believe that they could have been doing this sort of thing all their lives.
The album opens with a relatively upbeat track with a downbeat title - "Treason". From then on there is a succession of short snappy little numbers. "Sir Queen" follows with an understated mellow twee feel about it; "North by North" is the stand out track on the album, a dark and powerful song which has one of those rarest of rare pop moments - a violin solo. "Candidate" has a gentle feel to it and contains some soft and understated keyboard work. "Tragedy" is similar in many ways, but has a more folk, almost country feel to it, at least that is how it comes across to me.
And yet the album is strange in so many ways. It has an odd pre-lo-fi era lo-fi production where everything seems to be recorded at the same level as everything else and thrown in the mix together. As a result, with the odd exception such as Galbraith's aforementioned guitar solo, it is hard to pick out any instrumental highlights. Even the guitars do not resonate as much as you might expect. The end result is that you get the distinct impression that the members of the Bats started out by playing Smiths songs to each other with acoustic guitars on misty nights in New Zealand while sitting in a garden and gradually progressed from there to writing their own material. One negative consequence of this is that, after listening to seventeen songs on this extended and remastered CD, it sometimes get hard to pick out individual tracks.
That is probably the single biggest criticism of this album. At times, it is too formulaic. It is a kind of jangle pop by numbers which is not overcome by a production which enhances the more positive elements of the music. The songwriting simply isn't strong enough to allow the music to stand on its own, with the exception of "North by North" and perhaps "Tangled up in Blue". As a result, it gets a lower rating than it probably deserves.
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on 2012-05-21 hstisgod Said:
I've one for ya Chaz...
Phil Edwards Band!
on 2011-04-14 CharlesMartel Said:
One of the rare albums I have from New Zealand, the Bats have a singular take on jangle pop.