The Bats – Volume 1 (Captured Tracks/Flying Nun)

Volume 1 compiles three early albums from The Bats, one of the cornerstones (along with The Tall Dwarfs, The Chills, The Clean) of New Zealand’s alternative rock scene of the ’80s and ’90s. The Christchurch foursome were a very consistent band, but, by steadfastly sticking to the same low-key mid-tempo folk-rock/post-punk hybrid for three decades, that consistency is more of a fault than an asset. Listen to any one of their songs and you will pretty much hear everything the band has to offer; guitars that can only be described as “chiming”, loud bass plunks, drums that are the exact opposite of everything Keith Moon ever did, and singer Robert Scott (also a member of The Clean) painting melancholic pictures with his words and voice. I like The Bats, but having so many similar (and somewhat plain) songs in one place (53 of ’em, on three discs) is simply too much. Picture a meal with nothing but rice on your plate, and you’ll get a pretty good idea what it’s like to listen to Volume 1. Compiletely Bats collects their mid-80s EPs, where the songs were there, but the performances were still a little shaky and the recording too lo-fi. Their 1987 debut full-length, Daddy’s Highway, is usually regarded as their best and it is a marked step up from the early material, with a much better recording and some sly nods to The Velvet Underground. The set ends with the decade-capping The Law Of Things, which again features a step up in recording quality and musicianship. “The Other Side Of You” reminds me of Orange Juice (the band, not the drink), while “Time To Get Ready” could almost pass for a less mumbly R.E.M. If you already love The Bats, then you know what to expect from Volume 1 – with the added thrill of remastering, bonus tracks, and informative liner notes. However, for the uninitiated I recommend dipping your toes in the water with a single album before committing to this exhaustive (and exhausting) set.

The Bats – Free All The Monsters (Flying Nun Records)

Free All the Monsters

Free All The Monsters is my first exposure to Christchuch, NZ rock institution The Bats, despite a recording career that goes all the way back to the early-1980s. I’m late to the game, but I like what I hear. Free All The Monsters may not break down any doors or take you on a journey somewhere music hasn’t taken you before, but it’s a pleasant collection of well-recorded, slightly psychedelic, mid-tempo jangle tunes that reminds me of Yo La Tengo, later-period Feelies, or The Clean, the latter of which makes sense since head Bat-man Robert Scott was a member in the early-1980s. The group’s secret weapon is guitarist Kaye Woodward, whose tasteful backing vocals give Scott a perfect melodic foil. They certainly give the title track and the Velvet Underground-ish chug of “See Right Through Me” a little extra seasoning they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Free All Monsters is an album of small victories.


  1. Long Halls
  2. Simpletons
  3. Free All the Monsters
  4. See Right Through Me
  5. Its Not the Same
  6. In the Subway
  7. Fingers of Dawn
  8. Space Junk
  9. On the Bank
  10. Canopy
  11. When the Day Comes
  • Getting Over You