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September 6, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Sharpie Crows Golf Course / Mass Grave EP

Sharpie Crows
Golf Course / Mass Grave EP
(Mole Music)

Sharpie Crows’ last release, Greed, cemented itself as one of the best New Zealand releases of last year exceedingly quickly; its hyperpolitical noise balladry ringing true with many of those dissatisfied with either one Mr. Key, the lack of visceral, angry music in Wellington, or both. Then, of course, they upped and left to Melbourne, leaving us pretty much high and dry—a pretty good move really, since their brand of rhythmic, grooving, sparse noise-rock is much more in tune with the likes of Bad Seeds children like HTRK than the poppier focus of Flying Nun offshoots in New Zealand.

And now we have Mass Grave, the new EP. Once again produced by band member Jackson Hobbs, the quality of the work here is immediately apparent. Sharpie Crows have a bizarre knack for self-recording to a level well above anyone else operating on the same budget. It’s not gloss, not by any stretch, but it is b.r.u.t.a.l.

The music itself switches down a gear from the unrestrained fury of Greed; opener ‘Communist Girls’ rides by on a two simple haunted house keyboard chords, the same tone carrying over into the ‘Fifteen Golden balls’ duo. It’s important to note, I think, that this EP probably has the best flow of any piece of work I’ve listened to this year—keyboards from ‘Communist Girls’ overlap into ‘Fiftteen Golden Balls’, which in turn segues neatly into the final two tracks on the EP—a credit to both their songwriting and their production skills.

The two parts of ‘Fifteen Golden Balls’ are two affecting sides to the same coin: Part 1 reprises the trailer trash guitar shreds of ‘Landlords’ from Greed, driving a 4/4 nail home. Part 2, however, sprawls much more; at almost half the speed of its first part, Sam Bradford’s vocal multitracking haunts much more than their terror-noise assaults of past, and the horn-filled exiting coda, equal parts melodic and apocalyptic, is a surprising but excellent turn for the band. Leading out the EP are ‘Country Music’ and ‘Hunterville Tire Spikes’, both employing the best of their effects—the former’s stuttering machine-gun pedal bursts jar the listener out of the childish keyboard melody, ‘Hunterville Tire Spikes’’ slow, echoing build is easily the EP’s highlight, however. Bradford’s yelling punctuates the tale of Hunterville’s redneck Tartarus over some deathly, pallid pacing: it’s a world of pain laid out in 5 minutes of unrequited angst and squalor.

Following on from this, is Golf Course. Effectively a b-sides EP, it comes free with Mass Grave, and showcases a weird, fun side of Sharpie Crows. There are live smash hits, like ‘Bank’ and the formidable ‘Sheepskin’, alongside a couple of other, rougher, less subtle tracks than those on the main EP. The real surprise here is ‘Heybro vs Keybro’, a nearly six-minute banger redux of Greed epic ‘Hebrew vs Key’. It gets grating in parts, with a solid section of the middle taken up with an annoying refrain of ‘Racheeeeel, Racheeeel’, but still, it’s a Sharpie Crows banger.

All in all, this EP marks a turning point for Sharpie Crows, it seems: Josh Jenkins is no longer a part of the band, and their future is up in the air. However, even if there is no more Sharpie Crows material in the near future, this is all you need to tide you over, it’s hateful, for sure, but compellingly so. To quote their press release: “You know when you hear it, and you don’t hear it often, because most bands can’t do it. It’s staring into the void, and then pissing into the void.” That’s pretty much them.

Buy it.

Mass Grave: 4/5

Golf Course: 3/5

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  1. crepes says:

    This is a good review. The record sounds how you have described it. You know some things about music. Kudos, James Beavis!

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