Friday, May 10, 2013

Dead Flowers - Skin of a Stone (1993)

It appears that 1993 was the hayday of NZ rock music. The Dead Flowers were an indie-pop-rock band with a few hard rock elements that formed in Auckland in the early 90s. They received reasonable airplay and modest levels of fame, including opening for some well renowned acts - including Guns N Roses and received good reviews and overall seemed to have been on the road to success.

Their first single was "Lisa" and I actually went to a short acoustic performance at a local music store, and got my cassingle autographed. They laughed at me - in a nice way - because at that point they'd been around for some time and released a lot of other stuff and here I am presenting them with a cassette tape to sign - and not even a full length album , a cassingle. Anyhow, I am pleased to say I now own all three of their albums - two on cd and one of cassette. Although I will confess, they were pretty cheap (this one, for example was 50% off $16.99.

This was the only time I ever saw them live. I guess they never played at underage events locally.

This century, however, it appears they have vanished into obscurity, although vocalist Bryan Bell appears to be pursuing a solo career. The good news is that due to their relatively succesful career, I should have some videos to share with you, the possibly uninitiated reader.

Now, back to their first album release. The cover is one of those fold-out-into-a-poster ones, except that the only cover image is on the bit that sits in front of the cover and the rest is all the lyrics and band photos. The main cover shows a rather distorted and blurry image of an angel statue, next to a headstone. Very moody.

The album opens with the rocking "Be Someone". It's quite heavy, with an edge of aggression. Bell has a strong voice, with a sharp edge of angst. This is a song about paternal child abuse - so pretty heavy stuff, as is reflected in the hard guitars and the angry tone.

"Someday" is somewhat less passionate and inspiring.

There's something undeniably gloomy about "Underground". With its slow rhythms, melodic harmonies on the chorus and general down-tuned sound of the instrumentations. And the lyrics reflect this:
"Goodbye sunshine, hello rain, come tomorrow here again."
 Another somewhat maudlin piece, "Plastic" picks up the rhythm a bit and rises to a relatively stirring (if slightly sarcastic) chorus. I like the video for this one, since they seem to be trying to do the whole vampire-goth thing. The lyrics have a distinctly nasty edge. I would suspect this is a "break-up" song.  Good solo in the middle there, building like a steamroller of disgruntlement.

Sunshine speckled, dreamy guitar with an echoey edge lends us some "Karma" - a song that radiates colour and sunshine, light and love. The vocals are gentle and sweet. A rather short piece.

Erratic, dramatic; like (extremely musical) nails on a chalkboard, we enter into "Madness". There's almost a Deep Purple edge to the opening guitar rifts which are heavy, then dancing up and down the neck. Falls quickly into fairly regular rhythms.

Bright, vibrant and colourful guitar introduce us to "Lisa" this is a cheerful, lively piece with a high edge to the guitar strumming, melodic vocals and a general feeling of sunshine and life.

To follow up the cheer, we have "The Killing of Lisa". This is a slow, acoustic number with a decidedly melancholic edge. You cannot help but wonder how exactly Lisa died - and if it is a physical or metaphorical death:
"Cause you see the sun crashing to the floor. Your rainbows crash and your windmills soar..."
 The not-at-all-country "Better Dead than a Country Singer" follows it up, with its cynical, bitter and somewhat sarcastic edge to the vocals and the mocking rhythms of the instruments.

Another slower piece, with aching vocals, "Ma Ma Picture" has good rhythms, slightly erratic and with a hint of the melancholic.

"Mihi" starts with a quote in Maori, translated into English and then a gentle and sorrow-filled folk song in Maori, from a female singer, Whaea Hadfield (Riqi's wife? Or sister?). About halfway through, Bell takes over, adding his own haunted voice. Another electric acoustic piece.

Final track "Collision" gets off to a headlong, racing start. I reckon this would be a good song to play over surfing video footage. Vocals are fast, frantic and the guitars chug along. Energetic with a hint of aggression and a touch of distortion.

Overall, a polished and very nice album from a skillful New Zealand band. They were professional and talented and produced a good solid, but accesible rock album that has a distinctly kiwi flavour, a touch of sunshine and their own distinct sound. Rating = 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment