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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Haunted (Etch)


Remember the Maurice Gee book Under the Mountain? The one where the two kids got crazy stones and had to stop some badass aliens from taking over the world via the five volcanoes around Auckland? Those aliens were called Wilberforces, and the current Auckland incarnation of the name have taken the ruthlessly badass ethic of their alien counterparts to heart. They cop the usual Flying Nun suspects like the 3Ds and The Clean, going so far as to ‘borrow’ a riff from ‘Point That Thing Somewhere Else’ for their track ‘Sirens’. They also take cues from 90’s noisemakers like Fugazi, but without dwelling on the intense scuzz that their brand of grungy pop could so easily have fallen into (see—Wavves). In fact, this brisk 9-track album doesn’t dwell too long anywhere across its half-hour romp. The closest you get to a pause for breath is the 3-minute outro to ‘The Red Lights’, yet even that’s more of a cathartic build of noise than a breather. Lead single ‘Tidal Waves’ busts down the door with its hammering jangle, as mic combatant #1 Thom Burton implores the listeners to “Get out of your cars / Just start fucking on the motorway” in his Kiwi twang. Seconds afterwards, mic combatant #2 Emily Littler (Street Chant) shouts her two cents into the fray, the two trading off words and lines as if they were fighting for control of the same mic. It’s like this throughout the album, yelping shouts and punk-ass grooves—think a ballsier Surf City on crack.

The lyrics are easily made out thanks to Burton’s weirdly meticulous delivery, which enriches the album even further. Lyrics like “Whatever, I don’t even care / It’s not my planet anyway” reinforce the slightly manic/weird side of the band, true to the sweaty, shape-shifting Wilberforces of Maurice Gee. Yet while the roots of this album lie in the noisy grooves of their forebears, this album sets itself apart with a bizarre sense of fun. Spooky keyboards and delay effects uphold the album’s title, and subsequently give the album an almost parodical feel. Rather than haunt you in the way that Gee’s Wilberforces do, this album haunts and hunts with hooks and ghost-rock vibes and graveyard keyboards that wouldn’t be too out of place on Rock Lobster. Essentially, the Medieval PS1 game soundtracked by The Clean’s darker moments.

While this album isn’t exactly brazen about its influences, it does manage to be more than the sum of its parts. Between the abusive vocal tantrums of Littler, the tongue-in-cheek otherwordliness of Burton’s lyrics and the general ghostlike temperament around the guitars, this album stands apart from the recent crop of NZ noise as a bona fide accomplishment. It’s weird without sounding alienating, its noisy yet retains familiarity and melody at the fore, and it’s F U N. Waaaay better than those bastards in that Maurice Gee book.


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