Porky’s good friends at Fishrider Records have been especially good to the fat pig this month, by supplying the debut album by The Prophet Hens: Popular People Do Popular People.
As with much of the material by new bands, Porky gave a dismissive look at the cover of dozens of drawings of our feathered friend, but these parcels often bring forth some unfeasible pleasures and this is one of those.
The Hens are a four-piece who wear their Dunedin badges firmly on their lapels and shout out their love of all things Flying Nun and the requisite label/ city bands, namely The Chills, the Magick Heads et al. You may remember my review of the Salad Boys, a band with a similar love of the supposed sound of Otago. In reality the ‘Dunedin Sound’ of the 80s was fairly generic and the label never did properly attribute the role of Christchurch and other South Island settlements in its developments.
The Hens – named after a cunning stunt in early 19th century England that shows the age of opportunistic deviousness began some time before tabloids were invented – are made up primarily of the handsome Karl Bray and the even handsomer Penelope Esplin with other Monopoly players such as John White, Sefton Holmes, Robin Cederman and Darren Stedman joining in.
There are Über-jangly guitars, playful drums and earnest basslines aplenty, with the delectable vocals of Esplin and Bray ensuring there’s no instrumentals about. At nine tracks and 29 minutes long it isn’t one of those over-long efforts that the compact disk has encouraged. While there’s a distinct and discernible Mainland sound, Left It Out To Shine drips with English eccentricity and the 60s harmonies endlessly repeated that is the bootprint of Stereolab.
That this was the fifth track was a slight surprise as, to then, all the pointers were ringing true – the Godlike popiness of The Chills, and touches of the lo-fi rock’n’roll of The Clean.
High Times is an outstanding opening track, Bray and Esplin’s boy-girl unanimity mingling with effervescent guitars, and a chorus that demands endless repetition. Romp is it’s elder brother and Green Blades of Grass a track that would have been released as a single in the days when such things existed. This is an album for those bred on Sarah Records, the Primitives, and joyous singalongs from bands formed by kids whose fathers were white collar workers who watched Stoke City on Sunday mornings on delayed free-to-air TV and mums who read the back pages of The Listener.
Of course, it isn’t all jaunty humathons; A Filled Page falters, and the last track Red Blonde screams ‘filler’ but I’m in no mood to ruminate and act like a purist, this is a fine, if slightly nostalgic album that Grandmother could listen to.