The Bats – Daddy’s Highway

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The Bats have a wonderful story and not nearly enough fans. Already the bassist in a legendary New Zealand band – the Clean – Robert Scott formed the Bats in 1982 and the same four members have been together ever since. Their lead guitarist is Kaye Woodward, mostly unknown and completely unheralded. They took a ten-year break in 1995, and returned as if nothing had happened. Does every Bats album sound the same? I don’t know, because I am not fortunate enough to own them all, but as for the ones I do, yeah, sure – I couldn’t tell you which song is off which album. But this is a good thing because the Bats excel at tuneful, jangly, guitar-based indie. New Zealand’s great bands per capita figure is astonishingly high, and the Bats are one of the premier NZ bands. Needless to say, this is on the Flying Nun label.

What I Think of This Album

Within the first twenty seconds, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to be getting on this – and indeed, every – Bats album. Chiming, pleasant guitars, midtempo rhythms, and Robert Scott and Kaye Woodward’s voices blending together. Some songs skip along and some are slower, and on a few tracks, there is some guest violin. This may sound like faint praise but don’t be deceived. Each song has its unique appeal, even if they are close kin, and it’s a testament to the Bats that they can maintain this consistency at this level of quality.

“Miss These Things” has a crystalline lead guitar part, the vocal of “Some Peace Tonight” is beautifully winsome, and the harmonies on “Treason” are divine (with a very John Cale-like sawing on the violin by Alastair Galbraith). “Round and Down” is supremely tuneful, featuring a jumpy bass figure, while “Sir Queen” pulsates with its encouraging chorus. “Take It” has an unexpected country feel, with a nifty guitar lead, not unlike something antipodean neighbor Grant McLennan would undertake many years later. “North By North” is all menace and shadows, with pounding drums and a bristle-brush lead guitar part, as well as well-placed violin. The title track is a fine example of all the Bats’ strengths.

The album version I own adds some B-sides and a 1986 EP; not surprisingly, all excellent. “Calm Before the Storm” is a B-side in no rational universe, with fantastic vocal takes from Scott and Woodward and another winning lead guitar part. “Candidate” lulls you to stillness with gentle tom rolls and organ melodies. “Mad on You,” “Trouble In This Town,” and “Made Up In Blue” make up what was obviously a stellar EP in its own right – all these songs are top shelf.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Round and Down” is what I would rescue from this album if it were on fire.

Release Date

1987

The Cover Art

There is no information in the album credits about this artwork, and perhaps that is for the best. Not appealing and slightly off-putting, this is a poor cover.

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