View the Mobile Version of M+N

Record Reviews

Various Artists
Tally Ho!: Flying Nun’s Greatest Bits

The story of New Zealand’s venerable Flying Nun label is best told aurally, writes DOUG WALLEN.

“Well you said it was yesterday/Yesterday’s another day” – The Clean, ‘Tally Ho!’

Flying Nun’s 30th anniversary may have come and gone last year, but this two-disc retrospective is only reaching Australia this month. It’s both an introduction to the one-of-a-kind label and a satisfying distillation of its best bands and eras. In his succinct liner notes, founder Roger Shepherd muses on the sort of parallel universe inhabited by Flying Nun in the 1980s as well as touching on the cultural cringe that must still to be overcome today. Not just in New Zealand, either.

But it’s the 40 songs that tell the story, each a rallying cry in its own way. There were always going to be some acts missing (The Mad Scene, Alec Bathgate, Toy Love), just as tough choices were inevitable with the most iconic bands (‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ or ‘Pink Frost’? ‘North by North’ or ‘Block of Wood’?). But honestly, you could have sold me a compilation of The Clean’s title song 40 times in a row. Clogged with a cheap keyboard and scrappy harmonies, it’s one of the label’s punch-drunk early “hits” that can hardly be bothered standing upright. Equal part hooks and sneers, it’s an unlikely reconciliation of pop and noise.

The funny thing is, Tally Ho! attempts to divide those two things: the first disc is reserved for the poppier artists, the second for the noiseniks. But while that’s a nice way of avoiding a schizophrenic tug-of-war from track to track, the beauty of Flying Nun is that there’s melody in even the harshest noise, and scars of distortion or other such subversion haunting the pop. Yes, there’s also post-Velvets jangle in great abundance, but more telling are the dual (but not quite duelling) impulses to experiment and to write a proper song, pop or otherwise.



“You’re just too obscure for me” – The Verlaines, ‘Death and the Maiden’

There’s a family vibe to Flying Nun, thanks to certain personnel playing in different bands. Shayne Carter pops up here in Straightjacket Fits, Dimmer, Doublehappys and a Peter Jefferies collaboration that’s easily a highlight. Likewise, fans can trace the defining qualities of The Clean into The Great Unwashed and rejoice other such trajectories (The Mint Chicks into F in Math, The 3Ds into Ghost Club.) There’s also a real sense of dialogue between the bands, as if everyone is learning from everyone else. Even with decades separating some of the output, it’s all still part of that Flying Nun continuum.

For me personally, the attraction of Tally Ho! was to move beyond the familiar pantheon of Clean/Chills/Bats/Verlaines into the label’s deeper reaches. Some of it was introduction, some merely a reminder. The all-female Look Blue Go Purple are one of my favourite Flying Nun discoveries of late, while it’s always a perfect time to encounter the chiming layers of Straitjacket Fits’ ‘She Speeds’. Bressa Creeting Cake’s Nilsson-ish ‘A Chip That Sells Millions’ is the best thing I’d never heard before, while Headless Chickens’ angsty tumult ‘George’ is the worst.

For all its hummable tendencies, the first disc encompasses bagpipe-fuelled psych (Able Tasmans), wispy synths and soggy drone (Fetus Productions) and 1950s innocence twisted with romance and sexuality (Chris Knox). Where bands like The Clean and The 3Ds influenced Pavement, Garageland’s 1995 track ‘Pop Cigar’ seems to come out the other side with a Pavement influence. Also on the newer side of the spectrum is the guitar-pop clarity of The Phoenix Foundation’s ‘40 Years’ and the exhilarating clutter of Grayson Gilmour’s ‘I Am A Light!’.



“I really don’t know how to behave/But I guess I'll try” – Tall Dwarfs, ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’

The second disc, meanwhile, moves ably from droning jangle (Pin Group, The Gordons, The Stones) to incessant grooves (Tall Dwarfs, Snapper) to frayed and fuzzy indie rock (The 3Ds, Bailter Space) without stumbling with Children’s Hour’s dour ‘Looking for the Sun’. There’s room alike for Dead C’s uncharacteristically brief ‘I Was Here’, Skeptics’ eroded pop nightmare ‘And We Bake’ and Shocking Pinks’ melody-clouded lo-fi reverie ‘This Aching Deal’.

“The beauty of Flying Nun is that there’s melody in even the harshest noise.”

Still, better defining the second disc is a run of songs either instrumental or so intent on driving mechanics that they feel instrumental. That includes Solid Gold Hell’s spiky post-punk, Dimmer’s burnt noise-rock atmosphere, Loves Ugly Children’s wading lushness, High Dependency Unit’s tidal churns and crests, Ghost Club’s Burma-heavy blast of psych and The Subliminals’ taut intensity.

Playing bookend to that famous title song might seem a thankless duty, but the post-Mint Chicks outfit F in Math ploughs through ‘Don’t Look Down’ with the synth-mad contagion of Devo. It has more than enough of the tinny, anthemic verve of ‘Tally Ho!’ to bring these 40 songs – and 30 years – full circle.

+

‘Tally Ho!: Flying Nun’s Greatest Bits’ is out now through Flying Nun/Remote Control.

  -   Published on Wednesday, January 25 2012 by Doug Wallen.
Related Artists


Your Comments

slazza  said about 2 years ago:

There’s room alike for Dead C’s uncharacteristically brief ‘I Was Here’

It might be brief but not uncharacteristically so, it's not even the shortest track on the album it is taken from.


geneclark70  said about 2 years ago:

Looks like a solid compilation and I like this review but I'd be a damn sight happier if Doug had been reviewing the reissues of some classic Flying Nun records on vinyl....come on ffs, I want The Clean's Compilation LP on wax.


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

The Clean's Compilation LP on wax.

there's a demand for this? i need to find my copy


geneclark70  said about 2 years ago:

Well there is at my house. Find it and sell it to me.


FrankieTeardrop  said about 2 years ago:

Hm. I already own just about everything on this compilation. I wish there were a companion release with some more obscure FN stuff. Still, it's a mighty fine starting point for the un-initiated. Every one of these tunes could have been a hit in some perfect parallel universe.


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

I wish there were a companion release with some more obscure FN stuff.

the box set isn't too bad in this regard.. had a good handful of stuff i'd been yet to hear


LeRayonVert  said about 2 years ago:

There's just always more flying nun stuff to find, recent faves include Goblin Mix, Exploding Budgies, Bilders, Dead Famous People, Fetus Productions, Sneaky Feelings and most of all The Verlaines who I somehow missed until recently.

Bressa Creeting Cakes ''chip'' song is hilarious, though I think Rocky Mountain is probably their finest.

As for Look Blue Go Purple ... anyone who likes some 80's FN and doesn't know them should get the cd with their complete discography right away.


steveholt  said about 2 years ago:

Fuck.... Garageland!! There's a blast from the past. Used to love that song 'Kiss It All Goodbye'.


GrantleyBuffalo  said about 2 years ago:

Garageland had soooo many better songs than 'Pop Cigar'. Oh well.

(...and in the interest of pedantry - STRAITjacket Fits)


puke_spit_and_guts  said about 2 years ago:

... ''and 1950s innocence twisted with romance and sexuality (Chris Knox).''

chris knox? innocence? this the same chris knox?


Northside  said about 2 years ago:

Agreed Garageland had much better songs than Pop Cigar, Fingerpops would have been better.

Also I think the Chills could be better represented than Heavenly Pop Hit. Pink Frost is too good to be left off this comp...


FrankieTeardrop  said about 2 years ago:

Personally, I never really rated Garageland that much. A decent power-pop band, but nowhere near as exciting, or distinctively NZ sounding, as the majority of FN bands.


unvisible  said about 2 years ago:

Yeah, there was something about Garageland that never quite sat right. They had some really catchy tunes, but maybe a lot more style than substance. Their songs felt kind of calculated in the the same way Weezer (for example) does.


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

i think the 'come back special' ep of theirs is pretty good, but i thought everything they did after that was a bit naff


Northside  said about 2 years ago:

Yeah early stuff was better, as far as 90s NZ power pop goes, I thought they were a step up from Bike, Letter Box Lambs, Stereobus, Superette and the like.... Pretty listenable.

All stopped when bands like Stellar*, The Feelers and Zed got big before dub took over...


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

I've ordered a copy of this as there were a few hard to find tracks that I didn't have and a fair few tracks I have on record that'd be handy to have on CD. I can't help thinking that a box-set (say 4 or 5 discs) would have done the Flying Nun catalogue far more justice though. I mean it seems strange having a Flying Nun anthology with only one Clean song on it.


outerspacextrapnel  said about 2 years ago:

It's not like the clean were the first band on the label.


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

I thought they were.


outerspacextrapnel  said about 2 years ago:

I think it was the second.


outerspacextrapnel  said about 2 years ago:

The pin group was the first


unvisible  said about 2 years ago:

The first FN release was the Pin Group ''Ambivalence'' 7''. I think ''Tally Ho'' by the Cean was #2.


GrantleyBuffalo  said about 2 years ago:

outerspacextrapnel said 8 minutes ago: It's not like the clean were the first band on the label.

Maybe not, but they were a hell of a lot more influential than the Pin Group.


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

Who the hell are are The Pen Group?


Hellzapoppin  said about 2 years ago:

And this is why I don't bother talking to people anymore...


outerspacextrapnel  said about 2 years ago:

Pin group. Google them.


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

Speaking of which Hellza, are you named after the 3D's song or the album Hellzapoppin?


Hellzapoppin  said about 2 years ago:

Song


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

Thanks for clearing that up.


Hellzapoppin  said about 2 years ago:

I aim to please....


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

Cactus Cat by Look Blue Go Purple is a brilliant pop song. I'd totally forgotten about it until I popped on the In Love with these Times compilation last night. That has to be one of the best compilation albums ever put together in the history of ever.


electricsound  said about 2 years ago:

In Love with these Times compilation

it has AFFCO on it, so you can't go wrong


Hellzapoppin  said about 2 years ago:

Agitator is a much more interesting tune.


Northside  said about 2 years ago:

For those who haven't seen it, this is a very good doco on Flying Nun which is on youtube and always reminds me of what a cool guy Chris Knox is (or was I guess, as is unfortunately the case)...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjUDemQFznA


LeRayonVert  said about 2 years ago:

Every song by LBGP was great.

Pin Group was an early band with Roy Montgomery. Ambivalence is a great track. Always wondered if they were named after the Pin Group in mathematics (obscure geometry reference) or it's a coincidence.


space debris  said about 2 years ago:

What no Scorched Earth Policy!? What a joke! My bit on them here http://cardrossmaniac2.blogspot.com.au/


FrankieTeardrop  said about 2 years ago:

What no Scorched Earth Policy!? What a joke!

That's a bit rich coming from someone who only discovered SEP 4 months ago, isn't it?
Seriously though... fuck yeah, they rule, as do This Kind Of Punishment, Pin Group, The Weeds, Handful Of Dust, etc etc.
That's why I reckon there should be a separate NZ comp of the slightly more esoteric stuff, and not just Flying Nun either.


slazza  said about 2 years ago:

Well this might be more the thing you're after, even if it is just Flying Nun.

Time To Go - The Southern Psychedelic Moment: 1981-86

Although I reckon its hard to improve on that Corpus Hermeticum comp, Le Jazz Non.


space debris  said about 2 years ago:

The Max Block are on there. Choice! The Max Block EP is another forgotten bewdy. Making Losers Happy, the Xpressway comp is also one of the finest compilations ever.


space debris  said about 2 years ago:

I think there are only 4 tracks on **Time to Go **that I don't have but maybe it'll work well as a comp as It's compiled by B.Russell the compiler of the two previously mentioned compilations.


slazza  said about 2 years ago:

Yeh I love Making Losers Happy too, and the Xpressway Pile=Up one.


space debris  said about 2 years ago:

I ended up writing a bit here about The Max Block, Bruce Russell here http://cardrossmaniac2.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/max-block_03.html


slazza  said about 2 years ago:

My copy of Time To Go arrived yesterday. Its a pretty sweet comp.
Looks like Flying Nun are putting it out on vinyl too.


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

Tally Ho! is a pretty great comp. There were quite a few Flying Nun artists who I was unfamiliar with: Doublehappys, Children's Hour, Skeptics, Solid Gold Hell and it has a terrific Dimmer track (Pacer) a group I had never gotten into before.


specialaward  said about 2 years ago:

Yeah Dimmer's early 7s are awesome. Comp is good. The newer releases are a pretty big step down but whatever. still can't believe Mint Chicks won NZ songwriting awards for that track. In fact maybe I can...


djbollocks  said about 2 years ago:

I agree that the more recent Flying Nun suffers in comparison with the classic era. High Dependency Unit are always good value though.


You need to be logged into Mess+Noise to contribute to the Releases.
Go on and Log In or if you you're not a member, feel free to Sign Up.

Tracklisting
  • 1.   The Clean – Tally Ho! (disc one)
  • 2.   The Verlaines – Death and The Maiden (disc one)
  • 3.   The Chills – Heavenly Pop Hit (disc one)
  • 4.   Sneaky Feelings – Husband House (disc one)
  • 5.   Look Blue Go Purple – Cactus Cat (disc one)
  • 6.   Bird Nest Roys – Alien (disc one)
  • 7.   The Bats – North by North (disc one)
  • 8.   The Great Unwashed – Can’t Find Water (disc one)
  • 9.   Straitjacket Fits – She Speeds (disc one)
  • 10.   Able Tasmans – Fault In The Frog (disc one)
  • 11.   Fetus Productions – What’s Going On? (disc one)
  • 12.   Jean-Paul Sartre Experience – Breathe (disc one)
  • 13.   Garageland – Pop Cigar (disc one)
  • 14.   Bressa Creeting Cake – A Chip That Sells Millions (disc one)
  • 15.   Chris Knox – Not Given Lightly (disc one)
  • 16.   Headless Chickens – George (disc one)
  • 17.   The Mint Chicks – Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! (disc one)
  • 18.   The Phoenix Foundation – 40 Years (disc one)
  • 19.   Robert Scott – Too Early (disc one)
  • 20.   Grayson Gilmour – I Am A Light! (disc one)
  • 21.   Pin Group – Ambivalence (disc two)
  • 22.   The Gordons – Machine Song (disc two)
  • 23.   The Stones – Down and Around (disc two)
  • 24.   Children’s Hour – Looking For The Sun (disc two)
  • 25.   Doublehappys – Needles and Plastic (disc two)
  • 26.   Tall Dwarfs – The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (disc two)
  • 27.   Snapper – Buddy (disc two)
  • 28.   The 3Ds – Outer Space (disc two)
  • 29.   Shayne Carter & Peter Jefferies – Randolphs Going Home (disc two)
  • 30.   Bailter Space – Fish Eye (disc two)
  • 31.   Dead C – I Was Here (disc two)
  • 32.   Skeptics – And We Bake (disc two)
  • 33.   Solid Gold Hell – Bitter Nest (disc two)
  • 34.   Dimmer – Pacer (disc two)
  • 35.   Loves Ugly Children – Space Suit (disc two)
  • 36.   High Dependency Unit – Schallblüte (disc two)
  • 37.   Ghost Club – Ghost Club Theme Song (disc two)
  • 38.   The Subliminals – United State (disc two)
  • 39.   Shocking Pinks – This Aching Deal (disc two)
  • 40.   F in Math - Don’t Look Down (disc two)
Related M+N Content
Today On Mess+Noise