Welcome to the first installment of New Zealand Songs of F*cking Angst, a short series of blog posts that I will be doing intermittently over coming months, focusing on a selection of songs by New Zealand bands, songs which feature a healthy dose of good old fashioned drama and turmoil.
I'm dedicating this post to ZombieHamster, because I told him I would.
So, first up in the series:
Headless Chickens: Gaskrankinstation
For those of you not familiar with the band Headless Chickens, here's a brief rundown.
Headless chickens started out in 1986, formed by ex- Children's Hour Members Chris Matthews (vocals & guitar) and Johnny Pierce (bass) plus a fellow named Michael Lawry.
They put out a self titled mini-album with this lineup full of their soon to be trademark strange sounds and dark humour, then Johnny took his own life.
Grant Fell (the other Children's Hour guitarist) had just returned to NZ from Australia, and during this sad time joined HC as bassist. Ex-Children's Hour drummer Bevan Sweeny also joined up as their drummer around this time.
This lineup released the album Stunt Clown in 1988, after which co-vocalist Fiona McDonald joined the band. They then released the seminal 1991 album Body Blow, which both of the tracks featured in this post are taken from, and which is in my opinion one of the finest albums to come out of New Zealand.
You can find out more about the band by starting here, if you so desire.
And thus, the mighty Gaskrankinstation:
Click here to see a fullscreen version of the clip.
Now, this brand of angst is far removed from the whiney dross that started appearing in popular music after the early nineties "grunge revolution" changed the zeitgeist of music culture, nor is it the limp wristed misery posturing of today's "emo" bands.
No, this is the sound of sheer choking proletarian desperation, which cuts right down to the bone, wrenches the soul, and genuinely means something.
Listen to that sweeping, exhilarating guitar solo & the middle 8 that follows. That's pure soul right there guys. This is raw social commentary. This is something that matters. I fucking love this song with every fiber of my being.
Ivan's tale of frustrated, impotent rage here is a testament to how life itself can very easily eat you up whole, or in Ivan's case, life is content to just chew him up over the course of 20+ years.
Its a fucking bitter place to dwell, in the unrelenting maw of life's indifference.
Look at how much smaller than everyone else Fiona is.
But don't go getting the impression that Headless Chickens were just some one dimensional monger of nasty. Here's another side to the band, the gorgeous, shimmering and haunting song Juice.
Headless Chickens: Juice
Click here for a fullscreen version.
This song... I've listened to this song hundreds of times over the years, and it never fails to put a big lump in my throat and a feeling of wonder in my jaded wee heart. And that's really saying something about how awesome I think it is. If you change the lyrics from "back in '77" to "back in '97", well, its pretty much me all over. This song also features one of the creepiest little middle 8's you'll ever hear.
SO, in summation. Headless Chickens. A band well ahead of its time (without HC there would be no Garbage, or many of the bands of that ilk which followed in the wake of Garbage's popularity). A band capable of being both scathingly vicious and hauntingly beautiful. For all the things that this band was (and now is, as they reformed recently), they were always innovative, sincere (even at their most sarcastic), and never ever dull.