Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Bats' early releases re-issued

This post is about three releases, but the introduction necessarily focuses on two labels a world apart and a band of friends entering their fourth decade of making sublime music together.  Christchurch, New Zealand's Flying Nun is a iconic label.  Founded in the early '80s with a DIY punk attitude and a scrappy roster of artists such as The Bats, The Clean, Toy Love, Dead C, Chris Knox, The Verlaines, The Enemy, and The Chills, the label was instrumental in presenting New Zealand guitar pop to the world, and fans of pop music have benefited ever since.  And the modern iteration of Flying Nun continues to issue work by exciting emerging artists, including Surf Friends, T54, Tiny Ruins, Grayson Gilmour and Ghost Wave.  For its part, Brooklyn label Captured Tracks has earned a fond place in the hearts of indie fans with a tasteful roster of current artists (e.g. Wild Nothing, Perfect Pussy, Beach Fossils, Mac DeMarco, Soft Moon and Widowspeak, Donovan Blanc), and a laudable devotion to reissuing  excellent past works.  Recently, Flying Nun and Captured Tracks agreed to work together to reissue Flying Nun's past catalog.  This series already includes a comprehensive Toy Love collection (review here) and two early treasures from The Verlaines (review here).

The four friends are Robert Scott (guitar/vocals), who also is the bassist for The Clean, former Toy Love bassist Paul Kean (bass/vocals), Kaye Woodward (guitar/vocals/keys), and Malcolm Grant (drums).  In late '82 they ventured to play together and, after a trial name that didn't stick, christened themselves The Bats.  Their music is characterized by memorable melodies, intertwined guitars with plenty of jangle and chime, male/female vocal partnership of Scott and Woodward, the sinewy core provided by the interplay of the bass and lower-register guitars, and a certain shading of darkness or melancholy.  With a few breaks for other projects or to live life outside music, they have stayed together to this day.  And since The Bats is one of my all-time favorite bands, I'm happy that Captured Tracks has made the band's early work the subject of their latest Flying Nun re-issues.

The three records are the first LP by the band, Daddy's Highway, a collection of their early, pre-Daddy's Highway, EPs and demos named Completely Bats (yes, the misspelling is official and an intentional pun), and their second LP, The Law of Things.

Daddy's Highway -- While we all can enjoy music together, it remains for me a deeply personal experience.  In writing about music I try to determine how other listeners might react to the songs, but my first inquiry is how it makes me feel.  With that in mind, I'll note that my first reaction to Daddy's Highway was "this is just about perfect music".  And many years later, it remains my idea of the gold-standard guitar pop album.  If you also are a fan, you may already have this album.  But if your version is a CD or digital copy, note that this release is vinyl with a digital download code.  For readers whose album collection is missing this gem, try out a few of the tracks below.


Compiletely Bats -- Assembling the seminal mini-LP By Night, and EPs And Here's "Music for the Fireside and Made Up In Blue, and singles from the first half-decade of the band, and then seasoning with some demos, Compiletely Bats is essential for any fan of the band.  A bit scrappy and lo-fi compared to their later work, it demonstrates the development of The Bats and, it seems to me, underscores their sense of humor.  And check out "Made Up In Blue" and "Mad On You" below, as they are among the best songs in The Bats' catalog.  This album also is in vinyl with a digital download.


The Law of Things -- After the release of Daddy's Highway The Bats took one of their breaks, and Robert Scott joined up with his mates in The Clean.  However, by 1990 The Bats had recorded their second full length album, The Law of Things.  It must be said that their was nothing particularly different from the first album, but I'd be the last person to fault a band for having the good sense to continue doing something that they do sublimely well.  Moreover, close listening suggests to me that there are some developments.  The vocals seem more assured and higher in the mix, and some ragged ends have been snipped.  While some pacier songs are in the mix, the vibe seems less urgent than Daddy's Highway, making for a distinctly different listening experience than its predecessor, but nevertheless a very rewarding experience.  If you would like a suggested use, I'll mention that this is one of my favorite late night albums.


So there you are: The early history of The Bats on vinyl with digital download.  If I had decided to invent a better re-issue package to take to a desert island, I couldn't have done a better job.  Check out the commercial details at this link:  Captured Tracks page for releases.

Facebook for The Bats
The Bats' website

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