15. The Stones – See red

from the Dunedin double EP, Flying Nun, 1982

Occasionally I may come across on these pages as a character of somewhat refined tastes but now and again I confess I am partial to a slab of idiot noise.  This derives from formative listening experiences centring on the garage and whirlwind sounds of early Creation and perhaps in particular the Jesus And Mary Chain.  Like the Stooges, the Reid brothers’ chaotic moments of feedback negation had primarily the effect of affirmation, with ‘Never understand’ a joyful rebuke to those who never understood, a celebration of music as raw noise, raw noise as music; music as electric power, whether it shocked or not (and very quickly, it didn’t).  On the evidence of the Dunedin double – and I have very little else to go on, given that it was one of the few occasions they found themselves in a studio – this is also the sensibility of the Stones, from the stripped down appropriation of the name to their melodic recklessness and discordant, youthful sonics.  ‘Punk rock!’ we might have exclaimed in the mid-eighties, using that phrase as an affectionate designation to summon up the best aspects of the previous decade’s big bang, which even then seemed to be long-distant history.  Now of course it would be a hallmark to damn and date a group were anyone unsophisticated enough to use it.  But the kind of group which can channel a limited colour palette into starbursts of barely tonal noise remain few and far between, and I think the Stones must have been one such.

‘See red’ sounds like Iggy Pop meeting the Fire Engines in a wind tunnel.  On the basis of it and the three other songs on Dunedin double together with reports of what they were like live (‘mesmerising’), I surmise that they must have been an influence on the Chills, whose ‘Flame-thrower’ is about as close as a song gets to resembling an object after which it is titled.  And perhaps elements of the Stones’ sound even rubbed off on the Verlaines in those early days.

But sadly the Stones themselves never made it far from the starting block that was Dunedin double.  With 1983’s Another disc, another dollar EP, they folded.  Wayne Elsey then teamed up with former Bored Games colleague Shayne to form the DoubleHappys.  This venture was itself cut short by Wayne’s untimely death in 1985.  Shayne and DoubleHappys’ drummer John Collie went on to form Straightjacket Fits, who definitely had their moments, and made it across to Britain for a Peel session.  It’s in their gene pool that the spirit of Wayne Elsey resides.

There’s a possibility of a live Stones collection appearing at some future point on Failsafe Records, while Flying Nun and other New Zealand music compilations routinely feature them.  So too does the seemingly short-lived but excellent Mixotheque mp3 blog, with ‘Surf’s up’ from Dunedin double lining up in the second of its volumes dedicated to New Zealand music. There you’ll also find a couple of numbers by the Verlaines and one each by the Chills, Bored Games, DoubleHappys and Straitjacket Fits, plus many other Flying Nun favourites, though unfortunately not Sneaky Feelings, polar opposites of the Stones, as part D of this Dunedin double mini-series will reveal.

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One Response to 15. The Stones – See red

  1. […] an organ on top of the noise the Stones made, give it a Martin Phillipps tune, a cantering rhythm and a Japanese feel, and you have […]

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