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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Straitjacket Fits - Hail

Name: Straitjacket Fits
Album: Hail
Year: 1988
Style: Alternative, Jangle Pop
Similar Bands:Mighty Lemon Drops, Dillon Fence, Chills, Trashcan Sinatras, Teenage Fanclub
One Word Review: Tedious Jangley Melodies
Based Out Of: Dunedin, New Zealand
Label: Flying Nun Records, Rough Trade
Hail- Tape, Cover, Liner Notes
Hail (1988)
  1. Dialing A Prayer 3:53
  2. All That That Brings 4:17
  3. Hail 4:05
  4. Sparkle That Shines 3:57
  5. She Speeds 4:05/
  6. So Long, Marianne 3:59
  7. Grate 3:18
  8. Fabulous Things 3:38
  9. Live in One Chord 3:10
  10. This Taste Delight 4:21
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Terry Moore - Producer, Engineer (The Chills)
David Wood - Bass (Swamp Thing, Teens, Your Demise, Julian Lennon, Working With Walt, The Cruxshadows)
John Collie - Drums, Percussion (Doublehappys, The Weeds)
Andrew Brough - Guitar, Keys (The Orange, Bike, Mink,
Shayne Carter - Guitar, Vox, Keys (Bored Games, Dimmer, Lame & Sorry, TheAdults, Doublehappys, Weeds, The Chills, Bic Runga, Tha Feelstyle, Die! Die! Die! Peter Jefferies, Alistar Galbraith)
Jan Hellreigel - Backing Vox (Working With Walt, Cassandras Ears, The Verlaines, Push Push, Mutton Birds,

Unknown-ness: I heard of this band back in the early 90's, but didn't really know what I was buying when I got this tape. To this day, I can't recall their sound. I want to say that this is Americana alt-folk, and from the cover art, I would assume they are like Let's Active.

Album Review: Straitjacket Fits were a very popular band in their home country of New Zealand. Exporting their music and tour seemed like it would help them take off internationally, but they never gained the popularity in the US at least. Their single She Speeds was ranked #9 on a list of 100 most important NZ songs. As the members disagreed on style, with their guitarist leaving in 1990, they broke up in 1994, and found minor success in their new directions.
“Dialing A Prayer” starts with an urgent guitar and swaying bass line. The swaying nature takes over, and the boozy, wobbling melody takes the lead. Nasally, raucous vocals are added with a juvenile confidence. The song feels like a waltz, ready to topple over at any moment. The small hook in the title phrase chorus is catchy, but it is buried beneath a lot of fuzzy production
“All That That Brings” starts out simply with some jangly guitars and a soaring John Easdale-like vocal. The song feels kind of the same as the opening track, but it feels like it is trying to get somewhere that it can never reach, or chooses not to reach. It just meanders in jangly territory with half melodies and sleepy production.
“Hail” follows a dark jangly loop at the beginning. The vocals are layered in harmony, but the melodies are tedious and don’t really build anywhere. They just kind of exist in a free flowing format without a roadmap to guide the song.
“Sparkle That Shines” has a head nodding tempo built on shuffling chords and percussion. The vocals tap into a little psych-brit-pop sensibility. Still, the song is very jangly, and feels like it is overdubbed with a hundred layers of instruments.
“She Speeds” was a single, and ranked #9 in one poll of the top 100 NZ songs. The jangly guitar is shrouded in fuzz, as a delicate melody is introduced. Vocals slowly glide over the growing song, with an echo that is again, slightly psychedelic. After the first chorus, the song feels like it is going to go into a new direction, but it quickly dies down, preferring the initial verse. But there are lasts of vocal sections, playing intermittently with quiet, melancholy whiny vocal sections. There is a small section of the chorus that is catchy, but there is too much distraction to maintain quality interest.

“So Long, Marianne” is a Leonard Cohen cover. It begins with a layered acoustic guitar and side to side sway of a light, care free nature. The backing vocals are female, by a guest musician, and there is a certain Christmas-y vibe to the choral production.
“Grate” begins with a buzzy guitar alarm sound, and a deep, dark bass line. The whispy vocals add the slightest of change to the song, which might as well be an grueling, driving instrumental with vocals added as a second thought.
“Fabulous Things” has a meandering guitar over a new age/renaissance style guitar, and a minstrel percussive tempo. The vocals are sullen and reserved. But again, the song is pretty one dimentional. It doesn’t change or offer alternate atmosphere than a slow, down trodden stotyline with hints of bright strings in the background.
“Live in One Chord” is all fuzz and chaos in the beginning. What sounds like a drum machine propels the song into a driving, buzzing glam pop song. The song winds down slowly after a wall of buzzing sound carries the song to the end.
“This Taste Delight” is a quiet song at the beginning with mosquito buzzing effects and a tedious melody that is not that fun to follow. Acoustic guitars set the pace over haunting moans and creeking effects in the background. It grows, and the sections seem to come together following a steady tempo but still doing their own thing. The instruments stop, allowing the vocals to act out the remaining few notes of the album.

Stand Out Track: Sparkle That Shines

Links:
Wiki
Allmusic
Discogs
NZ Herald
Interview on Youtube
Audio Culture NZ
Flying Out
top 100 NZ songs

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