Opposite Sex "Hamlet" LP

Image of Opposite Sex "Hamlet" LP

$15.00

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Two albums in, with the link between each moment of slurring spoken word, piano ballad, and dischordant “fuck you” song becoming less and less clear, we all ought to be asking how, in 2016, Dunedin is still spewing out bands as strange as Opposite Sex. Is it all the native psilocybin? The isolation? The musical ‘legacy’?

Strange feelings come out in strange ways, as tends to happen in a city of miserable winter, depression, and a uni populace crawling with the sorts of fucking jocks about whom the songs basically write themselves. Lucy, in ‘Supermarket’: "Make me cute, make me sweet, make me fragile and petite / So I can be pushed around by some dickhead who likes rugby, beer and meat". Swipe right. Tim’s standout moment, ‘Tasman's Puke’, spells out in no polite terms his take on NZ's colonial past. And with Reggie’s voice drifting away with his guitar in ‘Regicide’, it makes it abundantly clear that Opposite Sex have as many ways to do songs as they have songs.

That’s because, in spite of the patented ‘sound’ of their city, the real Dunedin influence on Opposite Sex is an ideology. There’s punk, of course, as usual, but the bizarro lens of Xpressway -- “the Dunedin label” -- what with its Marxist dues and DIY purism, is the band’s heftiest inheritance thanks to how many of their peers come from this older, noisy school. It only helped their underground reputation that certain big-name ex-members of the Fall and the Pastels wound up being big fans of this obscure New Zealand band.

Whichever way you have ‘em Opposite Sex have already left a permanent impression within today’s younger underground generation. Besides that one fact, there aren’t many unifying features of a band so scattered, but so brilliantly chaotic, and by no means confused. But that’s just what you get from a band with so much uncontrollable inspiration, with imagination that’s like not unlike mashing one’s hands against the keyboard of existence and expecting Shakespeare to come out. Judging by HAMLET, it’s just funny when it sort of does.

Terminal Boredom:

Opposite Sex "Hamlet" LP
Firstly, I like this record a lot, and was fairly sure this was their first LP - but after looking at the label description discovered that this is their second LP - the first of which was released in 2011, which was six fucking years ago (and shit I might even be reviewing this a year late, but now we're splitting hairs), which is a long time between records (but maybe not for a Dunedin band I guess), but the point I'm trying to make here is that this record is so good I'm excited to know that they have a back catalog (albeit one record) to now delve into. So take that for what it's worth. So yeah, Dunedin band (i.e. they're more Xpressway than Flying Nun, more weird, less obviously punk), a trio who share vocal duties (and songwriting chores I'm guessing as well) over these eight tracks which showcase a wide varitey of talents and approaches to crafting a beautiful song. "Supermarket" has Lucy Hunter on vox (and bass and piano, which she wonderfully adds to half the tunes) which is a short heartbeat of a song that immediately makes an impression - sharp lyrics (and I love her rhyming of docile with L'Oreal), her quiet yet strong singing/talking, sturdy bass/drum rhythm, understated guitar swish (flamenco-y?) and her piano tinkles like loose change falling from her pocket as accent. "She Said" then breaks out on a more agressive path, with one of the gents taking on vox (Tim Player on drums, Reg Norris on guitar) and Lucy adding back-up, guitars going to noisier pitch, forming a swarm with some guest violin (that sounds angry, if you can believe that) and it's cool as ice postpunk/Aussie(?) that is certainly good enough to warrant yet another song with this title existing in the world. "Oh Ivy" is next (and I'm trying to believe they're doing a song called "She Said" followed by "Oh Ivy" intentionally, but maybe I'm reaching) and has Lucy back out front, Reg playing some slide - Lucy gets to yelling some here, her voice showing some wonderful cracking in this desert-ish slinky ode that references Opal and Gun Club sonically. "Complicity" ends the side with Lucy again, all piano and a whisper playing off the violin this time for a beautifully dark tune that builds up emotional heft and tension, her vocals increasing in volume and her piano moving from ivory-slide smooth to key hammering aggression and back. Side B starts on "Regicide" (with Reg on vox, natch) that is built on repetition and guitar noise (slide-fuzz-muck) and bass/drum run, sort of post-hardcore in its determination and Reg's distant vocal. "Vicarious Life" is another gorgeous Lucy track, again Opal-esque, slide guitar some crafty drumming, arid and sad but not defeated. "Tasman's Punk" is a Fall-in-a-hole shard of off-ness (that also has a bit of Sonic Youth in it) with spoken word vox croaked from Reg and some unstructured avant-guitar snippets bent around a crisp drum jaunt that all ends up disappearing. Closer is "Long Dead Night", glad to end with a Lucy vocal and more violin (which is the closest to sounding like "rock" that I've heard a violin be - credit to Motoko Kikkawa for her guest shots) - Lucy plays piano and sings her heart out here over/under layers of guitar twang, it's a fitting and theatrical closer with love-beaten and harrowing lyrics. For a rather brief LP (eight songs total, 20-25 minutes) they do more than enough - one of the more interesting and resonant LPs of recent vintage, give me a late pass. Best thing from NZ in a spell, at least according to my ears.(RK)