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Album Review

by Popstrangers


Review Date
26th March 2013
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

Punk rock by way of contemporary psychedelia, Antipodes is the debut album from Auckland three piece Popstrangers. Issued through American indie label Carpark Records and here via Australian label Spunk, it's release curatorially places them alongside the likes of Cloud Nothings, Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi and The Men (to name but a few): acts all unified by the sense of nostalgic yearning that underpins their respective creative outputs. It also marks them out as I believe, the third New Zealand act to be signed to Carpark label in seven years. Despite the scorecard importance of most of these statements, idealised evocation of nostalgia is the most crucial in setting the Popstrangers discussion.

Musically recalling the early works of cultural New Zealand monoliths such as David Kilgour and perhaps even Darcy Clay, Antipodes forty four so minute running time is also steeped in sonic traditions easily associated with Radiohead, Nirvana, The Pixies, The Kinks, My Bloody Valentine and on a contemporary note, Tame Impala.  Much like the early era Flying Nun work associated with Kilgour and his peers, Antipodes carries a breezy, filmic outdoor feeling. An ambience that was once coded as born of cultural isolation and the playing of music as a reaction to complete and oppressive small town boredom. However, Popstrangers' journey into a space similar to this longstanding New Zealand trope is one which feels substantially more born of, or indebted to, turning inwards into a lifestyle scheduled around intensive band practice sessions. An approach one could over zealously frame as a direct reaction to the data heavy, hypersaturated infoscapes synonymous with modern music in the 2010s.

Bursting into degraded metal and alt-rock informed fuzzy psychedelics on the opening track 'Jane', Popstrangers' music floats and blasts with a lurching pop dread on 'Witches Hand', spilling into rough-yet-melodic post Butch Vig produced Nirvana territory on 'Cats Eyes' before wrapping up in a deep experimental rock space on 'Ocassion', a song where richness of texture is everything. But wait, that's not all, on an untitled bonus track tacked on, Larson's propulsive percussion reaches full speed intensity, completely driving the song and letting Flyger and Page play second fiddle to his unrepentantly exuberant grooves. Elsewhere, the remaining songs ebb and flow, riding the scale from spectrally soft to granite hard, alongside this, selected highlights include some druggy wonderlandesque vocal melodies framed though dreamy lyrics on 'Heaven' and walls-of-noise with pure pop hooks buried deep beneath on 'What Else Could They Do'.

Even at the peaks of it's sometimes punishing intensity, effortless and natural Antipodes is the debut Popstrangers needed to make and the experience we deserved to sink into.


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