by Chris Familton
The term ‘Flying Nun sound’ gets bandied around a lot but in truth the acts on the New Zealand label’s roster were a diverse bunch. Popstrangers released an early single on the label and have been tagged with Flying Nun references but unlike usual suspects The Bats and The Clean, Popstrangers sit firmly in darker sonic corners where Gordons, JPS Experience and Headless Chickens resided.
Antipodes is a wonderful debut release that wraps itself in a myriad of psychedelic guitar forms and moody pop-tinged post punk. Rhythm is a key factor in the immediacy and contagious element of their sound with all three instruments locking into thick grooves that swagger and roll across the record. The guitar tends to sit amongst the rhythm section, intermittently raising its head with 3Ds-styled riff that puncture Antipodes’ dense nature like barbed wire in skin. Antipodes has little chance of cracking the Top 40 yet there are two moments where in a just world they would. What Else Could They Do has a glorious vocal melody that drifts along amid static and fuzz drenched guitar. Its simplicity and repetition show they knew they were onto a good thing when it was written and they were wise to keep it concise and focused. The other epiphany is Heaven which almost feels like Popstrangers set themselves the task of composing a pop song. It casts them in the same warped pop world of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Opossom and with a chorus that is hook heavy and soars high it is one of those songs that should soundtrack a summer.
Popstrangers sound fully formed and in control of a range of styles that morph and rub against each to great effect. This is uneasy pop music, a superbly balanced mix of melody and noise that strangely sounds comforting in its dissonance.
this review was first published in The Drum Media / themusic.com.au