The New Zealanders we all gathered around the campfire and cried while we got violently drunk with in 2008 (or 2009 if you don’t get album advances) via the single “Happy as Can Be?” The question mark there is mine, the song was not of an interrogative, but of declarative caste. I’m asking if you remember. You do? Well, they’re back. They’re back, but with softer edges. As a band who embraced the “post-punk” denomination, one might wonder if this mellowing means that they have been cowed. No. Not the case; however, there will be no “new wave” accusations made here—at least not in an ironic way. This is a slow, “sunlight breaking,” (their words on “By Your Side,” not mine) LP and isn’t until halfway through the LP that the bpm skips up a bit via “Hollowed Out,” and to good effect—leadman Nick Johnston’s vocals pointing a finger back to Ian Mcculloch’s early wailings on, say, The Fountain. From there on it makes sense, as the confidence seems to mount, focus is found. There’s no real stand out instrumentation here, neither is it a castigating wall of sound. This is the sound of a well-produced rock group who knows they can break it off or get weird if they want to—but that sometimes straight-ahead and righteous might be the most original arrow in the quiver.
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