The Bats – Foothills

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

I’ve made some (excellent) album purchases in the last several months, so I think it is time to backfill the relevant parts of my alphabetized collection. There is so much to appreciate about Foothills. It is the Bats’ tenth album, coming in their 38th year of existence – as previously mentioned, always with the same line-up. The music is just as appealing, polished, and melodic as everything else they’ve released. What a tremendous fucking band!

What I Think of This Album

There were probably a lot of reasons why this album might not have existed. The Bats have absolutely nothing left to prove – they’re giants of the New Zealand music scene and their track record is unassailable. They’re all in their late 50s to late 60s, and not only have day jobs but other musical projects as well. And the album was released during the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving the band with no ability to tour internationally to promote it. But we are all very fortunate that it does exist.

The Bats grace us with twelve warm, woody, comforting songs, mostly jangly in nature and sometimes augmented with colorful keyboard. Robert Scott delivers another strong batch of mostly downcast songs which he sings with his distinctive voice, and guitarist Kaye Woodward adds her perpetually underappreciated guitar leads as well as critical backing vocals and keyboards, too. The rhythm section of bassist (and sometimes second guitarist) Paul Kean and drummer Malcolm Grant adds a sense of urgency and fullness to the proceedings. That the record company could print the lyrics to twelve songs on two pages with plenty of negative space left over speaks to the economy of Scott’s songwriting.

As on all Bats albums, there is nothing to complain about and much to praise. “Red Car” is deceptively simple lyrically, but Scott and Woodward give revelatory performances that turn this so-basic-it’s-opaque song into a cathedral of musicality. The backing includes what sounds to me like a melodica, but there is no such credit (rather, it appears Woodward is making these sounds on a keyboard); in any event, it adds depth, drama, and nuance to what ends up being a stunningly beautiful song.

“Warwick” is another standout, with a precise and sharp lead part and energetic drumming; when Woodward adds her vocal harmonies, it feels like a flower blooming. The delicate “Beneath the Visor” finds Scott and Woodward making lyrics like “I’m none the wiser with you” sound like the pinnacle of romance. 

An atmospheric arrangement adds mystery and drama to the lovely “Scrolling.” The same is true of the watery guitar tones on the majestic “Another Door,” which benefits from an uplifting chorus that showcases Woodward’s vocal harmonies again; she also adds a great (albeit short) solo that Neil Young would be proud of. 

“Field of Vision” is one of the more upbeat tunes, with a great guitar part from Woodward and emphatic propulsion courtesy of Grant. “Change Is All” hints at domestic difficulties but does so via a charming melody, and towards the end of the song, the band adds a very encouraging drone (likely via Kean’s ebow guitar).

“As You Were” comes across as more intricate and also slightly darker in tone than the rest of the songs here, though Scott finds a way to interject some unusual bird-related humor into the proceedings (“You couldn’t say boo to a goose / You’re such a chicken”). Conversely, the surprisingly pounding “Smaller Pieces” sounds like the work of a tougher band, which is not to say there isn’t some delicate guitar work in the mix; this track may be the most welcome surprise on the entire album. Another surprise is the coda to this song.

The ebow makes additional appearances on “Gone to Ground,” which vacillates between reflective and somber, and the much more engaging “Electric Sea View,” which is the kind of song I could envision Ride playing when they are this age (if they are fortunate enough). 

Yes, it’s a Flying Nun release.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Red Car” is phenomenal.

Release Date

November, 2020

The Cover Art

Reminds me of Yo La Tengo’s Fade, but in any event, this is very pretty and calming. Good sans-serif font use, but perhaps too large and not well-placed.

The Clean – Anthology

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The Clean are the diffident Zeus in the pantheon of New Zealand bands. Without the Clean, we would not have the Bats, Bailter Space, or influential label Flying Nun, which means we don’t have basically any New Zealand indie rock at all. And other non-Kiwi bands like Pavement and Yo La Tengo would sound very different without the Clean, I believe. Formed in 1978 by Hamish Kilgour and brother David, it eventually included bassist Robert Scott. A fractured history ensued, and they did not release their first album until 1990. Scott also fronts the Bats, whom I love, and Hamish Kilgour formed Bailter Space and the Mad Scene (which at one point included former Go-Betweens bassist Robert Vickers).

What I Think of This Album

I believe this is what people refer to as “an embarrassment of riches.” At 46 tracks, this massive two-disc compilation is arguably all the Clean you need, and most certainly all the Clean you want. I often struggle with albums of this size – it’s daunting to take in all at once. I usually like to break things down into 12 song chunks or so when listening.

The first disc is from the band’s early period, when they neither released full albums nor anything not on vinyl. Starting with the impossibly catchy and cheerful debut single “Tally Ho,” I believe disc one gathers together everything from the early ‘80s (up until the band broke up, leading Scott to form the Bats, and Hamish Kilgour to eventually convene Bailter Space). The story is that the recording budget for “Tally Ho” was $60 (New Zealand dollars). Whatever the cost, it was money well spent, as the cheery, chintzy organ sound (which calls to mind garage standards like “California Sun,” “Little Bit O’ Soul,” and “Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love)”) is easy to fall for and propelled this simple, wonderful track to the Top 20 in New Zealand and thrust Flying Nun (this was the second single the label issued) into the limelight.

I am not going to go into each of the other 21 songs on this first album, but in general . . . it’s pretty cool. There is sometimes a Velvet Underground churn to the tracks, like on “Billy Two,” “Point That Thing Somewhere Else,” “Fish,” and “At The Bottom,” and sometimes more of a jangly sound, as exemplified by “Thumbs Off,” “Anything Could Happen,” and “Flowers.” There are slightly experimental numbers like “Side On” and “Sad Eyed Lady” (with Chris Knox on vocals; Knox also recorded several of these early tracks), or “Slug Song.” The organ reappears on “Beatnik.” Hamish Kilgour reliably plays a sort of motorik beat. And there is consistently a joyful exuberance to the performances.

Martin Phillips of the Chills sings backup on “Getting Older,” which features an unexpected trumpet from Scott (as well as viola). The wonderful quasi-anthem “Whatever I Do Is Right” is hilarious. And best song title goes to the surging “Odditty” – as in, odd ditty.

The second disc pulls from the post-reunion albums Vehicle, Modern Rock, and Unknown Country. This is generally more straightforward sounding, with much cleaner production. There is no reason songs like “I Wait Around” (which admittedly sounds like a looser version of the Bats) and the warm “Big Soft Punch” shouldn’t have been more popular. “Big Cat” is adorably unusual, while “Outside the Cage” is unusually lush.

There is a lot about the Modern Rock and some of the Unknown Country tracks that reminds me of Yo La Tengo. The revelatory “Do Your Thing” sounds like the band recruited J. Mascis on guitar and Warren Zevon on the piano. Outtake “Late Last Night” is better than most bands’ A-sides. “Wipe Me, I’m Lucky” (WHAT?) is an incandescently morose near-instrumental. “Clutch” is what Lou Reed and Brian Wilson collaborating would sound like.

Alan Moulder (Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, Swervedriver, Interpol, U2, Nine Inch Nails, the Killers) produced the Vehicle tracks. Hamish Kilgour’s drawings throughout the booklet are delightful.

The Best Thing About This Album

The bright enthusiasm of the performances is disarming and lovable.

Release Date

2002

The Cover Art

I like it. Hamish Kilgour’s whimsical doodles are the ideal complement to his band’s music.

Phil Wilson – God Bless Jim Kennedy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

The rare comeback that pleases fans and doesn’t embarrass the artist; you probably could’ve predicted that the humble, intelligent Phil Wilson would be able to pull it off. After the June Brides broke up in 1987, Wilson basically stopped playing music completely. Thank God the Slumberland label thought enough of Wilson to release this fine bit of indie pop. Will it change the world? No, but it will make it a smidge more tolerable.

What I Think of This Album

Named after his grandfather, God Bless finds Phil Wilson looking backwards. The June Brides were somewhat innovative for incorporating a viola and trumpet into their jangly indie pop, and if nothing here is groundbreaking or revelatory, that doesn’t make it any less welcome. There is always room for catchy, well-crafted tunes. Two other former June Brides participate – critically, they are violist Frank Sweeney and trumpeter Jon Hunter – so this is not too far afield from the glory days of the late-’80s.

The music here is bright, smart, and tuneful, and you may think you’ve heard it before, but even so, you still haven’t heard it nearly often enough. To be clear, this isn’t a tired retread – Wilson makes some excellent, energizing music on this album, well worth repeat listens (and owning – obviously). “Always In Trouble” is an amazing nugget, with an arpeggiated guitar and sawing viola, reminding me a bit of the Bats. A jaunty trumpet colors the sunny “Pop Song #32.” A sweeping viola (doubled on trumpet) adds to the feeling of nostalgia on the peppy and sentimental “Small Town.” “I Own It” likewise speeds by as an emphatic statement of purpose. The guitar work on opener “Three Days” is excellent, and “Found a Friend” is an airy, contemplative ballad. The ragged harmonies on the title track are charming, but what sells it is the stuttering rhythm. There is a latter-day Teenage Fanclub sound to “Up to London.”

Among the many people and bands thanked in the liner notes are Pete Astor (the Loft, the Weather Prophets), Bunnygrunt, and the Tyde, all of whom will have their own entries in this absurd blog.

Tissue alert:  Kennedy died at the age of 17, and as Wilson observes “his life was just long enough to give me and my family ours.”

The Best Thing About This Album

“Always in Trouble” is fantastic.

Release Date

November 2010

The Cover Art

It’s difficult to begrudge someone a picture of their grandfather, deceased while still a teenager. But I don’t have to like it.

The Bats – The Deep Set

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 7)

I defy you to identify another band that has been around for almost 40 years and produced such a consistently high quality of music. Most bands this age are either nostalgia acts or have had more volatile careers, churning out duds along the way. The Bats write jangly, catchy song after jangly, catchy song and fill their albums with warmth, light, and care. This band is a treasure and everyone should cherish them. And props to Flying Nun for keeping them on the label.

What I Think of This Album

This is the most recent Bats album as of this writing – their ninth overall, but just their fourth since 1995’s Couchmaster (and the third since 2005’s At the National Grid). The point is that the Bats have slowed their pace considerably but they are still producing excellent music.

The Deep Set is appropriately titled – it is a strong album brimming with the classic Bats sound. All the usual elements are there – Kaye Woodward’s lead guitar and essential harmony vocals; Robert Scott’s tuneful, wistful songwriting and warm voice, and the rhythm section’s understated work.

“Rooftops” is a great opener, with a compelling lead part by Woodward and surging vocals by Scott, and a proper introduction to the superb work that follows. “Looking for Sunshine” is indeed on par with it – another fantastic track. The rhythm guitars on “Rock and Pillars” evoke the sound of the Vulgar Boatmen, though New Zealand and Indiana probably don’t have a lot in common; needless to say, Scott’s vocals are his alone. Viola and cello add color and gravitas to the energetic “Walking Man.” The Scott/Woodward duet on “No Trace” can only bring a smile to your face, and “Diamonds” is a straight up love song, no joke. I don’t love “Antlers” but Woodward’s backing vocals and lead guitar are great, and Scott dials it up a notch for the final minute to salvage this song. “Busy” is another sold Bats tune – like so many that you could easily take for granted because there are almost no bad Bats songs to contrast it to; that said, follow-up “Steeley Gaze” is largely forgettable. “Durkestan” is grey and morose – as well as vaguely political – but no less catchy for it and the vocals are lovely. Closer “Not So Good”’s only flaw is that it is guilty of false advertising.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Durkestan” is haunting.

Release Date

January, 2017

The Cover Art

Mediocre. The cover (painted by Scott) is slightly disturbing, though there is an absence of menace on the creature’s faces (in fact, they appear to be smiling). Still, I don’t want them making an appearance in my dreams and the purpose of those tools is questionable, particularly in the dungeon setting, with the cult-member uniform adding further ominous gloss. I approve of the font and the use of proper capitalization.

The Bats – Free All the Monsters

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

I am profoundly unhappy and have been for most of my life. Music provides solace, comfort, escape, beauty, and inspiration. I love the Bats. They are so good at helping me feel ok for a little bit. I hope you have something like that.

What I Think of This Album

This is a wonderful album – arguably the best of their career (though I still prefer Silverbeet by a very slim margin), and how often can you say that about a band on its eighth album and in its fourth decade?

Honestly, there is almost no point describing each song on here. The melodies, guitars, and vocals are mesmerizing on every track. Kaye Woodward’s guitar will liberate your soul. Robert Scott and Woodward’s vocals will encircle you and protect your from harm for almost 43 full minutes. The bass and drums will suspend you over waves of despair. I make no promises about the viola, dulcimer, and mandolin accents, but I am confident they can only help. “Canopy” is probably the best instrumental they’ve ever written. This was recorded in a former asylum in New Zealand (and released on the Flying Nun label). You owe it to yourself to buy this album.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Fingers of Dawn,” though it could just as easily be “Spacejunk,” the title track, “Simpletons,” “Getting Over You,” “It’s Not the Same,” or “Long Halls.”

Release Date

October, 2011

The Cover Art

Not bad, and considering the Bats’ history in this respect, pretty good, actually. I approve of the bold handwriting-like font and the photo offers a forbidden peek at the band making magic.

The Bats – The Guilty Office

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

This may be the first Bats album I ever bought. I say maybe because the cover of Fear of God looks mighty familiar, and that was released in my CD buying heyday of the early ‘90s, so it is entirely possible that I bought Fear of God and then got rid of it, which means I did not like it, which is . . . not impossible . . . but seems hard to believe now. Granted, I’ve erred before and there is a decent number of albums I’ve bought twice, so sometimes things change. Regardless, The Guilty Office is the album that really sent me off on my Bats explorations. I’m pretty sure I bought it at Reckless Records.

What I Think of This Album

There was a roughly four year gap between At the National Grid and The Guilty Office, but it did the Bats a world of good. This is a strong return to form after that patchy comeback album.

“Crimson Enemy” sports a burst of dueling guitar leads behind a screen of acoustic strumming, with a robust Robert Scott vocal. “Broken Path” is a moody, hypnotic march, with a chorus that breaks free for a few seconds and then is taken even higher by Kaye Woodward’s harmony. The gentle lullaby “Like Water In Your Hands” is short but appropriately so. “Castle Lights” uses regal strings, subtle harp, and light snare work to frame Scott’s fireplace-warm voice (with Woodward joining him on the chorus). There are more strings on “Two Lines” with some Richard Lloyd/Tom Verlaine-like guitar work from Woodward. “Satellites” takes us back to tuneful jangle-rock territory. “Later on That Night” is a workmanlike but still enjoyable Bats track. “Steppin Out” gets the tempo back to “Crimson Enemy” levels, and rides a needling lead guitar part. “The I Specialist” sways between light and darkness, with Paul Keen’s bass providing the gravity to hold things together. The band gets slow and quiet again on the title track, showcasing some very pretty guitar arpeggio, but none of what has come before prepares you for “The Orchard,” the album highlight with a forceful chorus and gorgeous string arrangement (as well as some accordion).

The Best Thing About This Album

“The Orchard” is one of the best songs this band ever wrote.

Release Date

June 2009 in the US, but December 2008 in New Zealand.

The Cover Art

Not bad.  Perhaps the first not-awful cover of their career. This is a Scott painting, and the bright colors are cheerful and benign. I don’t love the lowercase album title but I don’t mind it as much as I normally do.

The Bats – At the National Grid

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

Reunions and reunion albums are usually not a great idea. At best, the band manages to not damage their legacy and at worst, well, there is no bottom limit. I came of age during the many Who reunions but never contemplated that the contemporary bands I loved would one day engage in the same behavior. But one after another they fell (and then reanimated):  Echo & the Bunnymen, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Wonder Stuff, Ride, Slowdive, the Pixies, the Wedding Present. It’s disappointing, though somewhat understandable, certainly to the extent a lot of these bands weren’t able to reap monetary rewards the first time around. I did not begrudge the Pixies cashing in for their first reunion tour, and I loved that Slowdive got their due in the 2000s. And selfishly, I am thrilled to be able to see bands that I missed the first time. But to keep going after that? I don’t know. The Go-Betweens were a little different because I was not a fan prior to the break-up, so all of their material was new to me when I came to it. Ditto the Bats, who never even broke up – they just took a ten year break. And in the case of the Bats, most of their later material sounds the same as their early stuff; there really is no drop-off in quality.

What I Think of This Album

Of the Bats albums I own, this is the weakest. It lacks the immediacy of the others and I definitely found it to be a grower. It’s difficult not to attribute it to the fact that they had not been the Bats since 1995. That said, it’s not a bad album at all.

There are many annoying string scratches on the otherwise bucolic “Western Isles” – Kaye Woodward’s backing “doo doo doos” are super charming. “Horizon” chugs along with verve and a stinging guitar tone, though the melody is slighter than what the Bats usually produce (on the other hand, if you want a Feelies/Velvets type rocker, this is your jam). “Bells’ is where things finally come together – the old tunefulness and the wistful quality of Robert Scott’s voice return in a gentle number. “Single File” is a cousin to “Horizon,” almost motorik in its beat and with barbed guitars, it’s less about musicality than groove.

The seesaw continues with throwback “The Rays,” which could’ve been on The Law of Things, and “Things” is likewise classic Bats, with a bit more oomph behind it (reminiscent of Silverbeet-era work). Woodward contributes a song and I’m heartbroken to admit that I don’t care for it. But the album ends with a string of strong tunes. “Up to the Sky” flies like a kite, dipping and swerving with Scott and Woodward’s vocals and intertwined guitars. “We Do Not Kick” has a hypnotic bass part and delicate guitar work, producing a woodsy sound that, if anything, emphasizes the kick drum. Closer “Flowers & Trees” find Scott struggling to get the words out before the measures end, and if the lyrics are nothing special, this is the track where the competing themes and sounds of the album come together:  it is both tuneful and driving, melodic and droning, repetitive and mutable; returning guest Alastair Galbraith adds some very John Cale-like violin while Woodward cuts loose herself.

There is an unlisted 13th track, which neither adds nor detracts from the album.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Flowers & Trees” is a natural glory.

Release Date

2005

The Cover Art

Terrible. The color scheme is fine, in truth, but the image is ugly and the composition appears to be a bad Photoshop job.

The Bats – Silverbeet

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

On the one hand, hunting down hard-to-find albums is much easier in the age of the internet; there can be no debating the boon of instantaneous searching and online payment to the music collector. On the other, it’s almost too easy, which seems like an odd complaint. But there was a romance surrounding finding that long-sought platter in a record store (I still called them record stores even though I’ve almost always just bought CDs); there was the rush of excitement and the relief of discovery and the apprehension that maybe this band you’d only read about might not be something you actually liked and was it worth the gamble? I’ve had both experiences with the Bats’ albums – I bought The Guilty Office in a record store and ordered the rest online (that many of these were New Zealand releases without American distribution (or distributed on tiny labels) makes finding them organically, thirty years later, sort of impossible). As it turns out, Silverbeet was on Mammoth (here, but on Flying Nun in NZ), but I still bought it online many years after its release. In the case of the Bats, it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the albums, but I can see how it might.

What I Think of This Album

Silverbeet is a much more muscular affair than normal. I am tempted to attribute this to the behind-the-board work of Lou Giordano (producer of Sugar and the Goo Goo Dolls); this album strikes me as the most “American” sounding of the band’s offerings. But production aside, it seems clear that the Bats decided to inject a little more fire this time around. Anyway, it works; everything is louder (well, maybe not Robert Scott’s vocals) and focused.

“Courage” is expertly crafted indie-pop. “Sighting the Sound” features a mind-burrowing lead line and adds some tambourine coloring to Scott’s winking vocal. “Slow Alight” is propelled by sprightly drumming and and nice ascending guitar lead. “Valley Floor” throws in some unexpected droning organ to create an understated, impressionistic, silver-streaked gem. The band spreads foreboding on the darkly driving and intricate “Love Floats Two,” and continues the naval theme with an impassioned dedication to Greenpeace and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand waters by France on “Green.” Fellow southern hemisphere musicians the Go-Betweens are aped on “No Time for Your Kind” and “Straight On Home” does not stray far from that sound, either. “Drive Me Some Boars” slows things down to offer a truly beautiful bit of rumination. This might be the best, most consistent album of the Bats’ career, and that’s no small accomplishment.

The Best Thing About This Album

Really, almost every song is excellent. “Drive Me Some Boars” is what I find most memorable.

Release Date

June, 1993

The Cover Art

I like it. The font is fun, and the color scheme works well (note how the red rim of the plate matches up with the red bands on the cover. The silver foil looks good and the solitary leaf of swiss chard is intriguing; as it turns out, silverbeet is another name for swiss chard.

The Bats – The Law of Things

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

It’s going to get difficult to fill this space up over the course of the seven Bats albums I own. I have little personal emotional connection to the band, and the band members themselves are fairly anonymous. I can riff for a little bit about my love of the “Dunedin sound” that arose in the ‘80s. The Dunedin sound – named after a college town in New Zealand – is really the same phenomenon that took root in other spots around the world around the same time:  jangly guitars combined with punk spirit, and less-than-high-dollar production values; a mix of the Beatles, the Byrds, and the Velvet Underground. Throw in the distinctive New Zealand accent and you have the Dunedin sound, heard not only in the music of the Bats, but also that of the Chills, the Verlaines, Alex Knox, the 3Ds, and, of course, the Clean, if not also the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience and the Straightjacket Fits. It’s a welcome addition to the indie pop atlas.

What I Think of This Album

The liner notes aspire to sparseness, but some sleuthing reveals that Alastair Galbraith once again adds violin flourishes to a strong batch of songs.

“Other Side of You” is an energetic winner with a hypnotizing three-note guitar figure and a cymbal-bursting chorus. “Never Said Goodbye” is one of the Bats’ best. The oddly-titled “Yawn Vibes” benefits from Woodward’s excellent harmonies, and “Time to Get Ready” skitters along on her delicate guitar picking.

I should take a moment to praise the warm, inviting tones of Scott’s voice; like so many in the indie-pop world, he won’t impress with his technical skill but his voice is perfect for his songs. The violin gets avant-garde on the surging “Ten to One,” otherwise notable for an unusually present drum sound. “I Fall Away” is typically pretty, while “Nine Days” slowly builds in intensity, with some mesmerizing floor tom hits punctuating the proceedings.

I don’t know what “Smoking Her Wings” is about – barbeque? – but it ends things on an eerie, sinister note.

Another Flying Nun release, obvi.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Never Said Goodbye”

Release Date

1990

The Cover Art

Terrible. Just hideous.

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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