New Zealand - Full Moon 187 - 12/10/11
Free All The Monsters
Flying Nun Records
The Bats have been around for nearly 30 years. Next year will see their anniversary (their first gig took place on New Years Eve of 1982 in Dunedin, NZ). 30 years of nocturnal highflying, blissful, yet sad-eyed pop music. They've been really good (feel good) ambassadors of the Kiwi pop sign of quality (provided by Flying Nun Records).
Please welcome The Bats: Robert Scott, Paul Kean, Kaye Woodward and Malcolm Grant with their eighth album, Free All The Monsters.
When revisiting the history of The Bats you get knocked over by a powerful collection of songs, from the stunning debut album, Daddy's Highway (1987), via the second, The Law of Things (1990), and third LP, the stunningly beautiful Fear of God (1991). Absolute brilliant recordings of the trademark Bats-pop; catchy, cool songs sneaking up on you, biting your neck to make you turn into a pop vampire. Back in their early days (the 80s) they also put out a line of classic EPs; By Night (1984), And Here Is 'Music for the Fireside' (1985), Made Up in Blue (1986) and 4 Songs (1988). As a fact, The Bats had a Midas touch when writing and recording pop music. After their 5th album, Couchmaster (1995), The Bats took a break (well, they did perform as the Bats occasionally, but most of the time they were involved in other projects) for almost ten years, before putting out a new album, At the National Grid in 2005. This time on their own label, Pocket Music (the album was released in the US by Magic Marker, in Germany by Little Teddy, in the UK by Egg Records, and in Australia by Reverberation). When checking out the album at the time I recall wasn't blown away by it immediately, but the album kept growing. When checking the album once again, I get the same feeling. Not top-notch at first, but it's got it. Plenty. Next album, 2008's The Guilty Office (released on the label Arch Hill, NZ - elsewhere: Mistletone, Australia; Yesboyicecream in the UK and Europe; Hidden Agenda in the US; Kning Disk, Sweden [ltd ed of 499 handmade, numbered copies, and different cover art]) was again a low-toned triumph. This is the band that never fails.
Free All The Monsters serves the Bats-pop we've learned to love. It's like popping a vintage bottle of something. You simply can't go wrong. From the opening tones of "Long Halls" to the closing beauty "Getting Over You" (one of their shortest songs ever). 12 songs, all bull's eye. The Bats is maybe the NZ equivalent to the Feelies, but I guess The Bats are even more stable song writers. Sorry, Feelies (not that you're bad, not at all). Of course New Zealand also had The Chills and Sneaky Feelings (and many others), but the number one band is The Bats.
The title track and single choice is another highlight. Check out the sheer brilliance of the guitar playing, the vocals, the backing vocals (Kaye), everything. "In The Subway" is another track recalling the golden era 20 years ago. Same goes for "Spacejunk". Take "Simpletons", take "On The Bank", take "When The Day Comes". You can just throw a dart arrow and you're bound to hit a good song. Every time.
Here's even a fine little instrumental, "Canopy".
Free All The Monsters has got this allover warm and cosy feeling to it. This is a record to fight the harshest winters. I'm feeling quite ready for frost and snow.
Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen