Archives for posts with tag: Dunedin Sound

Our Day 21 song for 31 Days of May Madness, attempting to post a New Zealand track every day of the month of May, is “Another Door” by The Bats:

Thirty eight years on from their inception in Christchurch NZ, combining The Clean bassist-turned-guitarist Robert Scott, with ex-Toy Love bassist Paul Kean, guitarist Kaye Woodward and drummer Malcolm Grant, The Bats still rock that original line-up. “Another Door” is from their 10th album, called “Foothills”.

There’s a comforting and familiar melodic chug and jangle, those vocal harmonies, a certain kind of wistful warm lo-key DIY homeliness, and an atmosphere of subdued psychedelia hovering in the air.

That atmosphere here (and throughout the album) is given weight through the minimalist tone soloing from Kaye Woodward’s lead guitar. Over successive albums Woodward has refined those lead guitar lines into things of Fripp-like esoteric beauty, with their thick overdriven saturation and sustain, and a ghostly waver of tremolo here.

Tough Age on tour 2018Tough Age are from Toronto, Ontario in Canada, this song title is a reference to Melbourne, Australia band Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and bassist/vocalist Penny Clark sings “I want to be signed to Flying Nun” and “I’ve never been to New Zealand, but if you sign me I’ll go every week.” Are you confused yet?

Sure enough there’s a stereotype Flying Nun guitar jangling guitar strum energy going on here. However, on the evidence of the three tracks shared ahead of the release of the latest Tough Age album, there seems to be as much influence from US outfits The Feelies and Jonathon Richman & the Modern Lovers in that ramalama strumming, as well as the Australian band referenced in the title of this song.

Presumably the desire expressed in this song is to be signed to the mythical 1980s free-form version of the label. There’s no scruffy jangling guitar rock released on Flying Nun Records these days apart from the 80s album re-issues.

Still, this weird, confusing international link up does show how far the idea and influence of the label, or to be more accurate the idea and influence of The Clean, traveled and is still travelling. The best evidence of the influence of The Clean on Tough Age comes in this glorious standalone song “Waiting Here” released in January:

In 2014, not long before the New Musical Express (NME) withered from its physical form altogether, the UK music magazine ran a feature on Flying Nun Records called “Songs in the Kiwi of Life”  with the introduction: “Founded in the early 80’s, New Zealand’s greatest ever indie label Flying Nun Records created a magical roster of bands whose Dunedin Sound continues to exert an influence today…” 

The magazine wasn’t available in Dunedin so no-one could read what it was about. However, some local Dunedin musicians took their default opposition position on what they assumed would be an oldies yawnfest about decades old music regardless.

Sure, there was a bit of that of course in telling the story of the label, but the main angle of the feature observed the label and some of the music it released through the eyes and ears of young people creating music today, and featured UK and US musicians (from Parquet Courts, Veronica Falls etc.) explaining how the music had influenced them.

The young NME writer April Welsh already had some serious Flying Nun nerd credentials too, having previously published a fanzine tribute to the label (still available to read as an Issuu online edition here), further demonstrating the influence of that “magical roster” of Antipodean oddities on a new generation of music lovers.

So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that reverberations about the label as we hear from Toronto band Tough Age are still rippling around the musical world, and even getting conflated with Australian bands (perhaps) at the same time.

[Thanks to Bandcampsnoop for the Tough Age tip-off.]

too-tone-tony-awaits-you-2I’ve spent a lot of my life in record stores. I’ve even planned overseas trips around record stores to be visited. Although still in the prime of life I’ve seen the heyday of record stores and now the twilight of record stores (as well as the rise and decline of progressive civilisation it seems).

Yes, despite the much-discussed ‘vinyl revival’ and best year for new record sales since 1991, the small independent stores that kept the format alive throughout the dark years as well as the good years continue to drop away.

Sadly Dunedin’s iconic record store Too Tone Records, out in North East Valley, closes on Sunday 15 January 2017.

Too Tone Records started out in the back of Chick’s Hotel about 2008 or 09. It was a much better idea in theory than it was in practice. I enjoyed the regular pilgrimage out to Chick’s in Port Chalmers, and browsing the record bins while waiting for a show to start. But it wasn’t really a happening place for a record store, despite everything else going for the location.

By the end of 2010 Too Tone Records had moved to North Road in Dunedin’s North East Valley; the city’s artist quarter, if Dunedin had such a thing. More musicians past, present and future than any other Dunedin neighbourhood at least.

Dunedin’s record stores have played an important part in the music scene here. From the mid 1970s to the 1990s it was Roy Colbert’s Records Records in Upper Stuart Street. The main indpendent record store during the 1980s and 1990s was Echo Records on George Street. It was bought out by Auckland-based chain Real Groovy Records, moved into a huge warehouse next to The Police Station and then closed, several years ago now.

In recent years Portil had a short but useful run in the centre city before Relics started nearby. Relics continues to trade – new and used vinyl as well as CDs – and long may it run.

Too Tone Records is/ was a special place. It’s rare in the world of used record stores to have such a meticulously ordered and aesthetically pleasing space. The wall displays – including seasonal themes – were ordered and displayed with an art curator’s eye for colour and order. That care extended to the carefully washing of all used records and their re-bagging in new anti-static sleeves.

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The New Zealand music selection is/ was legendary. Sure some locals grizzled about the prices, but not the visitors who knew a good deal when they saw it. The reason for such a strong local music selection in Too Tone Records is that Tony refused to do what every other record store in the country did which was putting all their rare local stuff on E-Bay and Discogs for overseas collectors to obtain. Tony had no problem with overseas buyers, he just preferred to see them visit Dunedin and his store in person.

Apart from the records, a visit to Too Tone was a chance to view great original art. Tony is a renowned comic artist/ illustrator, and a recent focus of his artistic skill was the ‘re-purposing’ of paint-by-numbers paintings, acquired mostly at the rubbish tip recycling shop, into giant green octopus-themed works of art.

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A Tony octopus-themed paint-by-numbers modified artwork.

Despite Too Tone Records’ proprietor Tony Renouf’s carefully crafted image as an idiosyncratic curmudgeon, he has always been a very welcoming and genial curmudgeon, as long as you didn’t come into his shop drunk or indulge in other anti-social or record-store-inappropriate behaviour.

A visit to Too Tone was also a chance to discuss the weighty topics of the day, or just to grizzle generally about the things that annoyed us most at the time. Tony was a good listener. He’d say that’s because he’s partially deaf from years as a dub reggae DJ, and is therefore used to just looking at people and nodding thoughtfully when they speak to him.

Visiting Too Tone Records you’d find all the local LP releases available and also have a good chance of bumping into a famous Dunedin musician or two, or even a former England cricket international, or a touring US rock band.

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Tony shows members of Real Estate the Clean EP pop-up art while they purchase Sneaky Feelings’ “Send You” LP and The Orange “Fruit Salad Lives” EP in 2012.

Anyway, Tony has decided to get out ‘at the top of his game’. Can’t disagree with that. You can still follow Tony’s art exploits via his blog.

Thanks for the vinyl, the art, the conversations, the patient listening, the salesmanship and the whole Too Tone Experience.

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toy-love-live-at-the-gluepot“Pull Down The Shades” closes Toy Love‘s “Live at The Gluepot 1980” album, which first saw the light of day as a Record Store Day release in NZ in 2012. Now it’s available as a digital album via Bandcamp and Goner Records, who were responsible for the initial release along with Auckland record store Real Groovy Records.

Dunedin’s proto-punk band The Enemy – who feature on the cover and inside the recently published photo-book “The Dunedin Sound – Some Disenchanted Evening” – disbanded in 1978 after a move to Auckland.

Three of The Enemy – Chris Knox, Alec Bathgate and Mike Dooley – went on to form Toy Love, adding Christchurch musicians Jane Walker (keyboards) and Paul Kean (bass).

Toy Love called time in 1980. Kean subsequently went on to join The Bats, a band which lasted a bit longer than Toy Love (over 30 years now and they are still releasing fabulous albums, with a new one out soon).

Knox acquired a 4-track reel-to-reel recorder, recording the infamous “Dunedin Double” EP which helped kick-start the careers of a handful of Dunedin bands and their Christchurch label Flying Nun Records.

Knox and Bathgate formed Tall Dwarfs and the rest, as they say, is now history…