Surrounded by indifference / I had to let it out

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).

ccsI 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 ccs2album 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.


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