written by Chris Familton
The Bats are about to celebrate 30 years as a band in 2012 and one that can still boast the original line-up. Not many groups can lay claim to that milestone yet the New Zealand quartet have quietly gone about crafting a considerable body of work that has never taken drastic directional changes or seen them seeking to box above their weight. Free All the Monsters is their eighth album and finds them sounding more cohesive and relaxed than ever before.
Robert Scott, Kaye Woodward, Paul Keen and Malcolm Grant decamped to an ex-asylum north of Dunedin to record the album yet there are no traces of the former tenants on these twelve songs. The mood is laid-back, gently propulsive and hypnotically meandering tied together by the unassuming yet familiar and comforting voices of Scott and Woodward. The latter is given a freer rein on this record and the songs benefit immensely. She adds a lilting harmony on It’s Not the Same, high sweet notes on Simpletons and she lifts the title track into reaffirming territory. It isn’t all easy going though – In the Subway take a dark detour, still with that trademark shuffle and jangle but with added sinister overtones. Elsewhere there are essential krautrock subtleties to Grant’s drumming on tracks like Spacejunk that prevent the songs from settling too comfortably into folk-rock territory.
All of The Bats’ albums have included ‘should have been hits’ like North By North, Smoking Her Wings and Afternoon in Bed but on Free All The Monsters they’ve conjured up possibly their strongest batch of songs across a single album. This is all killer no filler as they say and it’ll leave you casting aside fears and worries for a brief moment of musical respite in the blissed out indie guitar world of The Bats.
this review first appeared in The Drum Media