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Album Review
Tally Ho! Flying Nun's Greatest Bits

Tally Ho! Flying Nun's Greatest Bits
by Various

Flying Nun

Review Date
13th January 2012
Reviewed by
Brannavan Gnanalingam

Flying Nun rules. One of New Zealand’s greatest cultural institutions, it’s made so much great and vital music, that narrowing the label down to forty mere songs would certainly be difficult. Arguably more noted for the live performances and great singles/EP from the bands (relatively speaking, there are perhaps not as many great albums from the label), a compilation such as Tally Ho! Flying Nun’s Great Bits is almost a perfect starting point for neophytes and for those who can’t afford the now hundreds of dollars for the various EPs.

The compilation is split into two discs – first, the more ‘poppy’ side of things, and the second disc, the darker stuff. The first CD features stuff that could easily fit on classic hits radio or those silly Nature’s Best compilations. But won’t. There are some fullblown masterpieces in there – The Bats’ cracking ‘North by North’ (with that Galbraith violin, and a menace rarely seen in such a friendly band), The Chills’ ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’ (one of the loveliest melodies ever written on these shores), JPSE’s ‘Breathe’ (one of the most underrated bands in this country – on a label full of underrated bands), Straitjacket Fits’ ‘She Speeds’ (pop and brutality at once), the Verlaines’ ‘Death and the Maiden’ (more classic pop goodness) . Also some of the more underappreciated bands – Sneaky Feelings, Look Blue Go Purple, Fetus Productions (‘What’s Going On?’ is a cracker). Some of the later stuff – Mint Chicks, Phoenix Foundation, and Grayson Gilmour help contextualise the earlier stuff. And then of course, there’s the Clean - the album gets its name from the classic $60 tune that essentially gave the label its early momentum. Some of these bands had so many great songs that picking a definitive one would have been difficult.

The second disc however is the real beaut. It features New Zealand’s greatest ever song – ‘Buddy' by Snapper with its sinister riff and slightly off-tempo harmonies. There’s also reference to one of New Zealand’s greatest albums, with the Gordons’ brilliant ‘Machine Song’. Other classics include the rallying ‘Outer Space’ by the 3Ds, Children’s Hour’s ‘Looking for the Sun’, Tall Dwarfs’ ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’, the Skeptics’ ‘And We Bake’, plus many, many more (not to mention names such as Bailter Space, Dead C, HDU, Ghost Club, Subliminals, Shayne Carter and Peter Jefferies, and Solid Gold Hell). It’s music that certainly doesn’t get aired in most communal settings. But it’s the music that continues to underpin the much sunnier side of the label, and continues to underpin this country’s musical history.

Like any compilation there’s the classic stuff that didn’t make it – the Renderers, the Terminals, the Bilders, the Rip etc. – but it’s hard to deny that over these forty tracks you can actually place New Zealand music smack bang in the middle of that great line between the Velvets, NY punk, post-punk, and the alternative/indie boom of the ‘90s and 2000s. None of this music has aged. It’s absolutely vital stuff.


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