Archives for posts with tag: Ha The Unclear

Paul Cathro

Our song for day 30 of New Zealand Music Month 2020 is the opening track “Birth” from Paul Cathro’s recent 4-track concept EP “Birth, Religion and Loneliness”:

Cathro is the bassist and in former Dunedin/ now Auckland based band Ha The Unclear, in which guitarist band principle songwriter is his brother Michael Cathro. Michael has a distinctive Kiwi voice and a lyrical imagination combining observational storytelling with absurdist surrealism.

Paul Cathro here sounds much like brother Michael, and his lyrics take a similar questioning and probing approach, examining the human condition from the somewhat unusual perspective of a newborn baby only seconds old here on “Birth”, and wondering “What if I turn out to be/ A psychopathic business junkie?” before ruefully concluding “I didn’t ask to be out”.

Cathro’s songwriting and vocals on these 4 conceptually-linked songs comes across like a Kiwi Jarvis Cocker; nerdy, awkward, anxious, overthinking, and capable of delivering some of the most skewed lyrical wonders.  The music is also like a thrillingly adventurous mix of Pulp and another UK band Squeeze. 

Unlike the Aussie guitar-pop bands who sing in unashamed ‘strine accents, here in NZ we are mostly still embarrassed about our funny ex-cents and musicians who perform as their natural Nu Zild selves. Our commercial radio stations still prefer overseas sounds and locals who re-heat generic international sounds with geo-anonymous vocals, justifying this on the basis “it’s what the public want” even though it must be hard for their listeners to know what they want – what they really, really want – if they never hear it on the radio.  We should be hearing these songs on the radio, and celebrating who we are. 

NZMM 2020

Ha the UnclearHa The Unclear – “Alt-Pop/New Wave/Indie from South Dunedin based in Auckland, New Zealand” – are back with another brilliantly catchy single “Wallace Line”:

There’s a bit of an Orange Juice vibe about “Wallace Line”. Bouncy Afro-Beat guitar lines zing around over trebly rapid-fire strums, with glorious sugary vocal harmonies in the chorus.  Michael Cathro’s existential musings sung in that laconic but precise deadpan South Dunedin delivery tie it all together with a bow.

Ha The Unclear play at The Cook in Dunedin tonight.

Ha Tour 2018

Ha the UnclearDay 16 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music month marathon comes from Auckland-via-Dunedin band Ha The Unclear. It’s a sickeningly good new single “Big City”

Ha The Unclear are the unchallenged masters of the NZ vernacular song in the same way that Courtney Barnett nails the philosophical minutiae of everyday Australia existence.

Ha The Unclear would no doubt appreciate if a bit of the fame and fortune and world tours of the feted Australian rubbed off on them. But here in NZ we are mostly still embarrassed about ourselves and our funny ex-cent and musicians who perform as their natural Nu Zild selves.

Actually, we are mostly still embarrassed about local musicians full stop. So embarrassed our commercial radio stations still prefer overseas sounds and locals who re-heat generic international sounds, justifying this on the basis “it’s what the public want” even though it must be hard to know what you want – what you really, really want – if you never hear it.

Not me. I’d much prefer a local song about the disconnection of people in big cities as told through the experience of narrator struggling to be a responsible first-responder putting a vomiting stranger on a bus in the recovery position so they don’t choke, while the rest of the indifferent human cargo shuffle off at the next stop. In the Big City, “everyone’s anonymous.” And all done with the wit and casual storytelling style of CB.

Ha The Unclear have songwriting and musical chops to spare.  “Big City” sparkles with the zip and zest of Squeeze and early Split Enz and the chorus is a A-grade earworm. C’mon New Zealand, don’t be anonymous.

Death & The Maiden

Day 24 of the song-a-day-May NZ Music Month Madness comes from Dunedin’s hypnotic trance-pop alchemists Death & The Maiden. Those of you who have been paying attention this year will complain “you posted that song on 28 March” which is true. But here it is again; a great song deserves a second post.

The other reason for posting this song is that Death & The Maiden play at Chick’s Hotel, Port Chalmers near Dunedin tonight, along with no-longer-called-Brown-anymore (posted a few days ago) and David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights, who require no introduction round these parts.