Bike

Apologies for the relative lack of PopLib postings. I had imagined the coronavirus lockdown in NZ would mean I would have plenty of time for regular postings of mood-enhancing new music discoveries. However working from home from my day-job – and grateful to still have a job that I can do that way – has proved to be full-on.

Following on from the sad news back at the start of February of the death of Dunedin musician Andrew Brough (The Orange, Straitjacket Fits and Bike), Bike’s solitary album “Take In The Sun” is now available in digital form via Bandcamp along with the preceding “bike” EP (1995) and “Circus Kids” EP (1997).

Here’s one of the quieter songs on the album. “Sunrise” is full of coded optimism, perfect for these dark and uncertain times:

I only met and talked to Andrew once. It was at a gig at Sammys in the 1980s. His first band – The Orange – were not playing but I saw him and maybe the others in his band at a table and said how much I loved the “Fruit Salad Lives” EP. An awkward momentary congress of introverts.

Next time I saw him was again at Sammy’s, Dunedin’s large ornate Edwardian era music hall. This time he was on stage with Straitjacket Fits. It was around the time of their “Life in One Chord” EP and they were opening for the Jesus & Mary Chain. It remains one of the most memorable performances I’ve seen. I can still vividly recall the feeling on non-drug-assisted euphoria hearing their songs blasted out with passion to their local crowd like they were playing for their lives… followed by a feeling of dull ennui when Jesus & Mary Chain plodded sullenly through their “Darklands” era set afterwards.

Bike’s “Take In The Sun” is a glorious collection of melodic guitar pop. It was probably out of time in 1997, but it just sounds timeless now. Brough’s vision was “to make beautiful music, which had a lot of feeling: beautiful music, with soaring vocals and guitars” and he certainly achieved that on his Straitjacket Fits songs and in Bike’s “Take in the Sun”.

I bought a copy of the album when it was released on CD in 1997, and saw the band play at Arc Cafe in Dunedin that year. Listening to the album again this year, Brough’s lyrics stood out. So many coded messages that his death may now begin to unlock.

“Sunrise” may for some be a minor track on the album but they melodic flights the vocal melody takes are extraordinary and the dynamics are majestic. The lyrics are a wry kind of reflective Brough positivity too, perfect for these times:

“In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ Raise your glass to save your life/ we wish you well/ may good health prevail

In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ Take a partner by the hand/ and spin round ’til good health prevails

In the sunrise, there’s nothing left to say/ while you’re gone we’ll play a song/ of love and tears/ and maybe you might hear 

Raise yourself/ it’s going to be your sunrise soon/ so let yourself shine.”

Bike album CD