Album Review

Rewind The Hateman

Rewind The Hateman

by Hallelujah Picassos

8 / 10
8th November 2011

Reviewed by Danielle Street

The genre-twisting Hallelujah Picassos have released a retrospective album to stamp their mark on New Zealand music history.

The Auckland-based group started life in 1988 as a Cramps-influenced garage band called The Rattlesnakes. Frontman Roland Rorchach (aka Harold) had seen guitarist Peter McLennan performing in a café he was working in. McLennan’s strung out version of James Brown's 'It's a Man's World' had Roland buzzing enough to later approach him about starting a band. The duo soon picked up other members, drummer Bobbylon and then bassist Johnnie Pain, and it didn't take long to evolve into the dynamic Hallelujah Picassos, a group that became renowned for pushing the boundaries of musical styles.

Rewind the Hateman reveals a sample of the wealth of material recorded by the group before they broke up in 1996. Their cooperative approach to recording saw the Picassos’ music morph from punk to dub, hiphop to rock, reggae to thrash - often within the same track - a sound they dubbed ‘Picasso Core’. The 18-track retrospective encompasses the ethos of the group - their eclectic style, transitioning moods and the issues they felt needed discussion. It is a beautifully reflective album, the liner notes filled with memories from friends, photographs and illustrations by the late Marty F. Emond.

The ebb and flow of the Picassos’ musical tone adds a rich texture to the album. Reggae kickback track ‘Lovers +’, with guests Greg Johnson on trumpet and Alice Latham on saxophone, is a sweet, lamenting song of polyamory. On the other end of the scale is the stripped back, percussion driven track ‘Snakeman’s Cry’ which pulls Roland’s unusual inflection to the fore with a diatribe of righteousness. While other songs, such as ‘God gave us Boom Boom Washington’, are all-out uproarious. Upbeat pop-ska numbers such as ‘Rewind’, the hit that gained the group a place in the charts, though obviously much more commercially friendly still sit well with the more experimental tracks.

No matter which musical style, the passion that the Picassos felt for what they were doing shines through. Conscious-driven lyrics deliver messages surpassing genre and, more than 15 years since their disbanding, the songs on Rewind the Hateman still sound innovative, and the message is as relevant as ever.

Black spade Picasso core
Black spade Picasso core, by Hallelujah Picassos
From: Rewind The Hateman, (2011)

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