Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Children’s Hour – Flesh 12” (Flying Nun Records, 1983)

Thanks to my good friend (and occasionally steadying rudder) Lightning Baltimore for showing this to me. You’ll find a link to his excellent and eclectic blog Lightning Jukebox in my bloglist below.

Considering that the prime exposure to New Zealand throughout my life has been Murray Ball’s cartoon strip “Footrot Flats” it’s probably unsurprising that the idea of New Zealand Goths conjures up visions of kids attaching buckles and spikes to their gum boots. In the case of Children’s Hour, the fact that they would later appear on a N.Z. compilation entitled Outnumbered By Sheep (Flying Nun Records, 1986), does nothing to dispel the image.

Luckily for the listener (and come to think of it, the band), Children’s Hour’s debut 12” Flesh sounds considerably less…err…rustic and indeed exciting if at times outright menacing. Nods to Joy Division and the Birthday Party are obvious here, and is that a spot of early Cure influence I detect here and there on guitars and vocals? Wouldn’t surprise me to discover the band might have a fair bit of Killing Joke stashed away in their record collections either. Happily, the band were successful in combining this plethora of styles in a manner that render them as a distinctive entity in themselves rather than merely vapid clones.

Slaughter House

Caroline's Dream

I Know Where She Lies

Frontman Chris Matthews has some intriguing recollections of the song “Looking For The Sun” that make it a genuine pity author John Birmingham didn’t have the opportunity to interview him as source material for “He Died With a Falafel in his Hand” – sounds like Children’s Hour would have fitted in perfectly:

(It’s) “Mostly about a big, run-down, 12-bedroomed, 3 storey victorian villa in Grafton, Auckland, that was a veritable den of iniquity - there was a brothel next door - where Johnny, Grant, Bevan and lots of other people lived for a time: I  remember one young guy fresh up from Gore who'd just moved in, but within 2 days of being there he decided to sample the datura that grew in abundance in the garden and then spent the entire night running around the house from floor to floor like a rabid jack-in-the-box while the rest of us were involved in an all-night drinking session downstairs. He popped back up at about 7.00 a.m., raving about how his father had just turned up at the front door with no arms or legs, and then vanished into the semi-darkness again and when I went upstairs looking for this drug-addled flatmate a short time later I was just in time to find him on the phone to his place of work telling them that he couldn't come in that day because of his hallucinatory limbless dad (he moved back to Gore the next day but was spotted some months later at the only gig we ever played in that N.Z.. home of country and western music, on the looney tour that we did with The Chills, The Stones and The Expendables, early in 1984). That sort of shit happened there all the time; it was that sort of house. There's also some stuff in this song about me spending the night in hospital after overdosing on anti-psychotic medication I stole from my grandmother. Good times... good times...”

The Ya Ya Ya 7” (Flying Nun Records, 1984) followed the next year, the A-Side of which “Stuck Pig” would cause the band some perhaps understandable grief from what otherwise might have become female fans for the line “If she’s young enough to bleed then the pig will feed”. A serious strategic miscalculation by any measure.

By 1986 the band would mutate into the rather less confrontational, less Goth and more radio-friendly Headless Chickens who would go on to have several reasonably big hits in both Australia and New Zealand in an apparent attempt to prove me wrong that the genre “commercial alternative” constitutes a total oxymoron.

A brief reformation and a series of live shows took place in 2005, resulting in the live CD Looking for the Sun (Failsafe, 2005) which incorporates all their recorded material and a number of other tracks. It's still available at the link below.
Sit back and enjoy.

Track Listing
1. Caroline’s Dream
2. Go Show
3. I Know Where She Lies
4. Slaughter House
5. Looking For the Sun

Line Up: Chris Matthews (vocals, guitar), Johnny Pierce (bass), Grant Fell (guitar), Bevan Sweeny (drums).

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