When New Zealand qualified for the World Cup, I distinctly remember some very proud, vocal gloating from Australians who were looking forward to seeing them getting beaten 4-0 every game. Out of interest, how are the Socceroos getting on with that so far? And how did New Zealand do earlier today? Having said that, there’s no denying that New Zealand are largely attending just to make up the numbers; if they qualify from their group ahead of Italy or Paraguay it will be a shock of the highest order. It’s lucky for me that they’ve qualified, though – partly because they have some pretty great music going on, but mostly because I can now take my one and only opportunity to post a Middlesbrough player.
New Zealand’s prime musical export has been indie pop, in various incarnations – Split Enz being the most famous (singer Neil Flynn went on to form Crowded House with some Aussies, the traitor), and The Clean the most influential (as Pavement and Yo La Tengo will only be too happy to tell you). The Chills are probably the pick of the bunch though; certainly, they recorded possibly the greatest single by any NZ indie band in the form of “Pink Frost”, a shoegazey standard with just a hint of peak-era Sonic Youth about it. I’ve never been that keen on the intro, but from the 25 second mark onwards it’s glorious.
As a country that’s always stayed in the shadow of Australia – a country that has itself struggled to make itself heard ahead of America and England – it’s expected that the dominant trend in rock music would stray from the mainstream. That extends a lot further than the pleasant, if not exactly user-friendly indie-pop of the previous paragraph – it extends into noise with The Dead C, improv with Flies Inside the Sun, post-rock with Dadamah, and drone with Birchville Cat Motel. As much as I’d dearly love to play you some of the latter, there’s not much of YouTube for them, so here’s some of the surprisingly humble, low-budget sound of Dadamah. You may find it interesting to compare the influence Sonic Youth have had on this song with the influence they had on the one just above.
Outside of rock, you may be surprised to learn that there is such a big reggae scene in New Zealand that it has its own Wikipedia entry. It’s an intriguing scene, too – one that doesn’t use dub as a stop-off point between reggae and electronica, choosing to blend them directly. A handful of acts from the scene have broken out internationally (The Black Seeds and Salmonella Dub might be familiar to you), but none have earned the kind of admiration as the frankly fantastic Fat Freddy’s Drop. Their last album, Dr. Boondigga and the Big BW, was one of the musical highlight of last year, but here’s a slightly earlier, more typically reggae song to play us out.