Arch Hill/Flying Nun
I liked Ghost Wave’s EP but it’s nice to have this debut, full-lengther to flesh things out. And that’s what they’ve done – fleshed out the band and the songs on this album, as much an upgrade as a continuation of the sound.
Ages takes me back not just to the obvious-to-say Dunedin Sound stalwarts (and really, they don’t sound anything much like The Clean, apart from the way the bass prongs the songs and a touch of a David Kilgour slacker-tone to some of the vocals, but there’s Carter and Mulcahy there too) but to a golden run of music from New Zealand in the mid/late 1990s: bands like Stereo Bus, Letterbox Lambs, Superette and Garageland; bands that (also) certainly took something from where Flying Nun had been/come from but made their own way forward.
There’s a touch of the Wilco-meets-Krautrock sound to the intro of Bootlegs but it gives way to run alongside what The Salad Boys are doing now in terms of subconscious subversion of Kilgour.
Arkestra bubbles and pulses along in a strange-space groove that hopefully references in some way Wings’ Rockestra Theme. And there’s something just a little bit Beatles-y to the cute/so-simple riff to Country Rider.
I can’t tell you this is a classic album. It is not. But it is a good album. One that kicks up its heels instantly (Horsemouth) and doesn’t stop partying until the finish line (Orb) is in sight. And there are handful of really good songs in between. Importantly, there are no duds; not one single song that shouldn’t be here. So in that sense it’s getting close to a classic/ish album. It’s charming, bright, happy, snappy – never sappy – and there are moments (like on Mountains) where you’re hearing that perfect thing that feels like it only comes from New Zealand: the big nod of bass moving in and around between the guitars, a propulsive groove that pays tribute to powerpop without ever tumbling on into the blatant Record Collection Rock area and that drippy whine of vocals; lovely and loathsome all at once. We recognise it with a cringe almost. The rest of the world – when it (occasionally) catches on – wonders how this sound got found. Dreamed up in the garages and practices rooms and mouldy lounges of falling-down student flats; you hear that sonic-dripping, bottled and bound. That’s how the sound was found.
Ghost Wave is next in a long line with just enough too to make them stand out. Because Ages is good.