Album Review: Various, Tally Ho! Flying Nun's Greatest Bits

By Scott Kara

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Album cover of Flying Nun compilation Tally Ho! Photo / Supplied
Album cover of Flying Nun compilation Tally Ho! Photo / Supplied

In the past Flying Nun has released some top-notch compilations. The first, Tuatara from 1985, documented the early years of the fledgling label, in 1990 In Love With These Times showcased its growing diversity from the jaunty pop of the Bats' North By North to the dirge and groove of Bailter Space's Grader Spader, and the part-cover, part-original tracklist of 2002's Under the Influence was a fitting tribute for its 21st shindig.

Greatest Bits, the 40-track compilation released to coincide with the label's 30th birthday, is similar to In Love With These Times, because it captures the catchy, ingenious and strange sounds of the roster.

In the liner notes, founder Roger Shepherd says the songs on the first disc fit loosely into the pop category, and indeed tracks like Chris Knox's Not Given Lightly, George by the Headless Chickens, and The Chills' Heavenly Pop Hit were top of the pops in their day.

The second is made up of those who "tested different boundaries". There is a particularly muscular, and sometimes extreme 12-song stretch that starts with the gloriously grinding pop of Snapper's Buddy and ends with the mangled math rock of the Subliminals' United State, with harrowing contributions from the Dead C (with the distant dissonance of I Was Here), the agitating majesty of the Skeptics' And We Bake, and HDU's searing Schallblute in between. And as well as that lot there is the all-powerful beauty and brutality of Machine Song by the Gordons, the slovenly rock of Solid Gold Hell's Bitter Nest, and the dizzying digital frenzy of label newbie F In Math on Don't Look Down.

However, as Shepherd also points out, the two discs overlap because they both "showcase important and creatively powerful music that remains relevant today". Too right. And songs like the 3D's Outer Space, the eerie elegance and unnerving allure of Fetus Productions' What's Going On?, and I Am Light! by modern-day piano whiz Grayson Gilmour (the shining light of Flying Nun's new acts) easily straddle both camps.

Of course many classics are included here too, like Clean opener Tally Ho!, Straitjacket Fits' She Speeds Death and the Maiden by the Verlaines, and Shayne Carter and Peter Jefferies' brilliantly moody Randolph's Going Home.

And yes, the Flying Nun jangle is also in full effect - but sometimes you forget how deliciously noisy and trippy it could become. North By North went from jaunty to jagged, Carter's DoubleHappys took the jangle, warped it slightly, and turned it into a rock 'n' roll trance on 1985's Needles and Plastic, and then there's the sneer and jangle of the Stones' Down and Around.

Flying Nun fans will have many - if not most - of these songs already, but as compilations go they don't come as comprehensive and well-rounded as this. It's just like Nature's Best, only better, more gritty, and made up of songs that were far more ground-breaking.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Heavenly pop, rock, and noise hits


- NZ Herald

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