Around twenty years ago (or maybe it was more – make that 24) Car Crash Set created what can only be described as a gentle buzz around Auckland. I was always a bit of a fan but missed some of it, as I was living in London for a couple of years in the middle of it. My connection to CCS came from both my very close buddy Trevor Reekie, producer, sometime guitarist and mentor to the band; and from Nigel Russell, who was not only a long-standing friend, but half of the band (with Dave Bulog, whom I’d didn’t know well at the time but ended up sitting nights talking our mutual obsession with early house music a couple of years later – and we’ve stayed friends too).
I released the first CCS track on a compilation of mine, We’ll Do Our Best, in early 1983. At the time, there was a real groundswell around the inner city for early, post-punk, post Class of 81 era, electronica. Centred around clubs like A Certain Bar and Cream, there were dozens of bands playing, or attempting to play, this sort of stuff in garages across the city, and if any sound could be said to have been the sound of our inner city in early late 82, early 83, it was this raw, early (often cheap although CCS had an advantage as Nigel worked at Kingsley Smith’s gear shop) synth-punk. Early Human League, Mute releases, Wellington’s Body Electric, and Gary Numan were at least as influential as Toy Love and The Velvet Underground in the Queen City by then. Perhaps more so. The feeding frenzy on the imported electronic 12”s down there at Sounds Unlimited in Queen Street each week was something to witness. It was exciting stuff.
Most of the acts never made it to a recording studio (although the mighty Ballaré, featuring Eric Roulston, now a chef in Melbourne, also made it onto the We’ll Do Our Best album) and the era has largely overlooked in the rush to incorrectly hail Flying Nun as the sound of independent NZ in the eighties (although The Skeptics, Children’s Hour, and Jed Town’s Fetus / ICU bands, all of whom were seen as out of step with their label at the time, sat somewhere in the middle – although all those bands had their more traditionally-minded detractors).
Those of us around at the time are aware of an obvious, perhaps unintended, but lazy nevertheless, rewriting of history in recent years.
All of which is worth noting, but it’s rather fine to have witnessed a slow growth in the stature and reputation of Car Crash Set in recent years. B‑Net stations have started playing the increasingly rare CCS 12”s, and Roger Perry is remixing The Outsider for release in the near future. Those 12“s command increasingly large sums.
The music? It’s of its of its time but it works, still, after all these decades, and indeed, there is quite an international fan club of sorts out there. People beyond NZ’s shores are rather obsessed with Car Crash Set, so much so, that they’ve paid to remaster the catalogue, or at least parts of it and an album is out later this year in Germany, on vinyl, and, later, CD.
Waiting for that, I’ve done my MP3 blog thing again and decided to post a couple of tracks.
Firstly there is the original Toys, from We’ll Do Our Best, sounding very raw (it was) and still stunningly lovely 24 years on.
That’s followed by the slightly more sophisticated Another Day, from 1986, which has Nigel’s voice in fine form.