Hard News by Russell Brown


Some things just don't let you down

Some bands burn out, some fade away. Some reinvent themselves, some become irrelevant to all but their fondest fans. And some -- like The Bats -- just understand what it is that they make when they are together, and set about it.

The new Bats album, Free All the Monsters, is their eighth -- and it's warm  and thick with melody. Three pieces fit together here: Robert Scott's lovely tunes, the band's own special chemistry, and Dale Cotton's, production, as perfect and textured as this season's avocados.

Indeed, Free All the Monsters has swiftly occupied the same place in our household's life as The Phoenix Foundation's Buffalo did -- it is the music of family dinner times. That's a special thing, and this is a special record. The fact that The Bats, after all these years, could make a record that might even be the best thing they've ever done is remarkable.

Here's the title track:


After this week's Media7 recording, I got myself along to the first show of Bic Runga's tour in support of her new album, Belle. I was intrigued at the prospect of the gig because it's not Bic as the country has come to know her. For one, the venue was the King's Arms. For two, her backing band was former Mint Chicks' lead singer (and co-writer on the album) Kody Nielson on drums, and former Mint Chicks bass player Michael Logie (aka recent Fkying Nun signing F in Math). How was that going to work out?

Very bloody well, as it happened. The structure could hardly have been simpler. The two young men laid down a groove -- a sort of Atlantic shuffle -- and Bic created the colour. Not everything from her back catalogue worked in that bare-bones format -- 'Get Some Sleep' was a numble delight, 'Sway' seemed to be missing something, 'Drive', solo with voice and electric guitar was amazing -- but her new songs were a revelation. The nostalgic pop of 'Hello Hello' suits radio, but I suspect it will be some of the more sensual works on the record that really endure.

She's now back in more familiar mode in her Classic Hits-sponsored acoustic church tour, but I strongly hope she has the chance to further explore her new indie self. This could be pretty special. Anyway, here's the video for 'Hello Hello':

(One other thing that was special about the Bic show, and not in a good way, was the conversation that went on behind me for part of the gig. I don't know if you could even call it a conversation: it was a form of social intercourse I've near really heard before. Two women somehow managed to talk to each other constantly, rapidly, loudly -- and at the same time. They were still at it afterwards. I think they were from the North of England.)

Righto: I have a TV show to make. Tell me what you're loving now.

PS: Don't forget the Flying Nun 30th-anniversary "Nunvember" shows the length of the nation. Guide and bookings here. Also, the Epic Flying Nun 30-year Ale is a delightful, hoppy IPA.

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