The Kills, Faithless, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Christchurch The Music

Reviews from SST…


The Kills are a Florida-based girl-boy outfit who play stripped-back bluesy garage rock. As you’d expect from that description, their sound owes something to other minimal, raw rock acts like The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While it’s easy to draw comparisons, there’s plenty of innovation here, especially the use of fuzzy, lo-fi drum machine. The title track, for example, sounds like a young PJ Harvey singing a cappella over a release from German techno label Kompakt. In other words, bloody fantastic. The lovelorn Rodeo Town and the Patti Smith-like Ticket Man provide other highlights. An excellent album.


Back in the mid-nineties Faithless took the dance world by storm, and, being the halcyon days of super clubs and super DJs, hit the pop charts on more than one occasion. Forever collects sixteen of their greatest hits, most edited down to home stereo-friendly three minute length. The euphoria and hedonism of the era is ever-present – think thumping kick drums, airy female vocals, huge snare rolls, and uplifting synths. The title of one of their best known tracks, ‘God is a DJ’, gives you some idea of where they’re coming from – this is strictly a subtlety-free zone. In retrospect, Faithless were the epitome of pop-trance. Great if you like that kind of thing.


After winning hearts and blowing minds with their live shows, Fat Freddy’s Drop have finally committed their wholly unique bass-heavy amalgam of funk, soul, hiphop, jazz, dub, and roots reggae to CD. The tracks are immaculately arranged, proceeding from deceptively simple riffs, with DJ Mu letting the percussion, horns, etc ‘drop’ in at just the right time to pick the songs up towards their final crescendo. Containing an almost entirely new suite of songs, the album went straight to the top of the NZ charts on release – a rare achievement for an independent release, and testament to their massive grass roots support and the consistent brilliance of their singles so far.


There’s no question that Christchurch punches above its weight in terms of producing local pop stars. This compilation helps shed light on some of the reasons why, digging up a forty-year legacy of hits from a roll-call of well known local acts from Dinah Lee to Scribe. Also included are lesser-known underground gems that until now have been very difficult to get hold of – including brilliant tracks by The Pin Group and The Gordons. There’s a good spread here from the sixties to today, with a focus on the early/mid-eighties new wave heyday. There’s been some attempt to separate the glossy pop on disc one from the underground rock on disc two, but distinctions along these lines will always be problematic – a simple chronology would have sufficed. The liner notes make for a rewarding read, revealing the love that’s gone into this package. Take for example the story of Chants R&B’s Australian vocalist being getting busted AWOL from the Air Force, or Iggy Pop joining the Androidss on stage in a Lyttelton pub. It’s hard to imagine many listeners who will appreciate everything here, but what ‘Christchurch The Music’ lacks in coherent focus it more than makes up for in its encyclopaedic 45-song scope.


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