Various Artists, Dunedin Double

Robert Ham

By Robert Ham

on 04.18.14 in Reviews

If there’s a potential downside to our ability to easily access any piece of music from anywhere in the world, it is that we might stop seeing insular little masterpieces like Dunedin Double. The double 12″ EP, released in 1982 by then-fledgling label Flying Nun Records, was the product of a hermetic community of musicians, all sharing influences and instruments on New Zealand’s South Island.

The cadre of bands that sprung from this scene explored similar musical territory — jangling major guitar chords, slack rhythms, seemingly disinterested lead singers — with slight variations on that theme. Those little disparities, though, were what made the Dunedin Sound so enthralling, and this compilation, which is being rereleased by Captured Tracks for Record Store Day, trains the lens on four of scene’s best bands.

Martin Phillipps brought a love of ’60s psych and bubblegum to the three arch, edgy love songs he recorded for this compilation with his still-active band the Chills. The short-lived trio the Stones exhibited a Gang of Four influence, while the Sneaky Feelings aped the agitpop of the first Velvet Underground album. The Verlaines sounded as if they were bursting out of their skin with ideas: The stutter step rhythm that opens “Angela” bolsters singer/guitarist Graeme Downes’s barely-masked vocal fury in “You Cheat Yourself of Everything That Moves.”

Hindsight allows us to see the effect this release had on not only the New Zealand pop universe, but the many acts around the world that followed in its wake (Superchunk, Pavement and Bright Eyes would be much different animals without it). Now we just have to hope some industrious young musician will stumble upon this on Saturday and let it blow some new minds.