Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos

Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos were a Dunedin-based duo consisting of Michael Morley (Guitar/Organ/Vocals – before forming the Dead C, 2 Foot Flame, Angelhead, Tanaka-Nixon Meeting, The Weeds) and Richard Ram (Bass/Guitar/Vocals) – though in an early video recording Morley states the group had formed ‘Up North’ before heading to Dunedin. The duo released a handful of handmade cassettes and had an affiliation with Bob Scott’s Every Secret Thing label, with both album releases and compilation appearances. Their most well known material is the River Falling Love EP which was released on Flying Nun in 1986 before being expanded and re-released by US label Ajax in 1993. Morley formed the Dead C in 1987, effectively bring an end to Wreck Small Speakers.

Featuring performances from other Dunedin musicians: Denise Roughan (Recorder/Vocals – Look Blue Go Purple, The 3Ds, Ghost Club), Ivan Purvis (Guitar – Love In A Gas Oven, Alpaca Brothers), Lesley Paris (Drums – Look Blue Go Purple, The Puddle, Olla), Bruce Blucher (Drums – CyclopsTrash, Fats Thompson, Brown Velvet Couch, Alpaca Brothers) and Martin Kean (The Chills, Doublehappys, Fats Thompson, Stereolab). The groups recordings are based around strong rhythm tracks – usually plucked bass guitar and drum machine, with shout-sung vocals, fractured guitar riffs and organ squeels, with samples and other sound manipulations added into the mix. Though experimental, Wreck Small Speakers retained a high level of musicality and accessibility.

Both their creative genius and the quality of their songs really shines through on the groups lo-fi cassette recordings. The slinky, funky bass and proto-rap vocals on ‘Over My Skull’, the low-key beauty of River Falling Love highlight ‘All Of This’, and Denise Roughan’s wonderful appearance on their most well-known song ‘Rain’. Small scraps of the bands fairly substantial discography have appeared in the digitally archived era, however if ever there was a Flying Nun associated act that could use an anthology release it would be Wreck Small Speakers – its been almost two decades since Morley’s Dead C band mate Bruce Russell released A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers on his own Xpressway label.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • My Blue Fairy Godmother [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK14]
  • 3.V.M. EP [1983 Wrecked Music WRECK20]
  • Over My Skull Cassette Single [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 06]
  • Cave Cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 21]
  • Worlds Fall Apart cassette [1984 Every Secret Thing EST 24]
  • A Summer In Taradale Cassette [1985 self-released]
  • River Falling Love ep [1986 Flying Nun FN068]
  • A Child’s Guide To Wreck Small Speakers Cassette [1988 Xpressway XWAY03]
  • River Falling Love Reissue [1993 Ajax AJAX 029]

See-Also

The Renderers

The Renderers are New Zealand’s prime example of southern-fried country, and are indeed one of our finest ever bands. Brian Crook formed the Renderers with his partner Maryrose in early 90s christchurch when the Max Block Group failed to go anywhere. He was already part of the Scorched Earth Policy / terminals sequence of bands that was picking up wind again – but the Renderers were the Crooks band (they’ve cycled through line-ups, with John Billows, Peter Mitchell (also of squirm and Hiss Explosion), Denise Roughan (the 3Ds, Look Blue Go Purple et all), Robbie Yeats Dead C, verlaines) and Haydn Jones, whilst the Crooks’ have always remained consistent.

Their early recordings stuck to a strictly country approach and seemed a bit too forced and distant, it wasn’t until the band relocated to port chalmers, a small bay just outside of dunedin that the Renderers really found their sound. Maryrose’s vocal on the 7″ sincle ‘a million lights” is like a defining moment in New Zealand rock. An achingly beautiful, brief song that has since featured on many Flying Nun and xpressway compilations, the song typified the Renderers new found dark and country-tinged rock sound.

Over the course of the 90s, the Renderers albums grew stronger and stronger – culminating in the masterpiece that is 1998’s dream of the sea. Featuring a wonderful cover of Ritchie Venus forgotten gem forbidden planet and a swagger of fine, dark songs themed around the sea, it was welcomed with open arms by the u.s. Underground music scene, whilst going mostly ignored in New Zealand. The Renderers are still going strong, touring sporadically, whilst both Maryrose and Brian have released their own solo material (most notable Brian’s 2002 album as Bible Black, and Maryroses contributions to the Arc Life series of dunedin music compilations).

In early / mid 2004 during the process of organising a christchurch show with the band, i managed to conduct an interview with the duo, and have kept up to date on their schedule for future releases. Since the recent demise of arc life, plans are now intact for the Renderers to start their own label. With Maryrose’s first solo release, a further solo release from Brian in a form similar to that of his fractured solo debut bathysphere under his current Anti-Clockwise performing alias, and perhaps the 5th Renderers release on the way, to boot.
circa mid-2005 the group made further line-up changes, this time coinciding with a possible move back to christchurch. Original bassist john bellows was reinstated, and drummer mike daly (also of Eskimo and formerly YFC) become the groups rhythm section for a one-off christchurch show, still preceeding the highly-anticipated 5th album.

discography
picks in bold

  • trail of tears [1991 Flying Nun fn184]
  • ‘bigger than texas’/’revival radio’ 7″ single [1991 Flying Nun fn185]
  • ‘a touch of evil’/’howling at the moon’ 7″ single [1993 Flying Nun fn254]
  • that dogs head in the gutter gives off vibrations [1995 Ajax ajax042]
  • surface of jupitor [1996 Ajax]
  • dream of the sea [1998 Siltbreeze]
  • ghost of our vegas lives [2005 as ‘Maryrose Crook’ Tinsel Ears]

recommended songs

download from mp3.co.nz

  • dream of the sea
  • i hear the devil calling me
  • pure poison
  • a million lights
  • forbidden planet
  • dimmer waters

See-Also

The Weeds

[Profile thanks to Tim Davey]

The Weeds were around for about a year in the mid-80’s, formed with the intention of having fun and seeing just how stupid they could be, while also entertaining people. The band provided a great distraction for its members from the more ‘serious’ music they were making in other groups at the time. The name supposedly came from the fact that all the members were quite skinny at the time.

Robert Scott and Michael Morley had been playing together in the Pink Plastic Gods in late 1984. Following the end of the group Scott (Bass, Vocals) And Morley (Guitar, Vocals) got together with Jeff Harford (Vocals) and Chris Healey (Drums) and The Weeds was born. All except Healey had had much experience in other bands; Scott had been in The Clean and was frontman with The Bats, Morley was in Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and Harford had played with Bored Games. Following the tragic end of Doublehappys in mid-85 Shayne Carter (Guitar , Vocals) And John Collie (Drums) were also added to the line-up. An odd feature of the group was that they had two drummers.

Every gig they played involved some sort of dress-up theme which the whole band would participate in. One night they would be playing draped in foliage and weeds, another would be in glam gear or bad taste clothes. Their most outrageous ‘dress-up’ was playing in their underpants on the town hall stage as support to the Verlaines and the Rip at a 4XO dance. Their only out-of-town gigs were at the Gladstone in Christchurch as support to Look Blue Go Purple and in Auckland at Windsor Castle. The latter gig didn’t go down very well and the band realised that dressing up stupidly and playing music was best done only around people who knew you.

The essence of the weeds was not about serious music or writing meaningful lyrics but about having a good time. A review by Sharon Guytonbeck following a gig at the empire spelt this out:

with a couple of friends helping out The Weeds were a lot of groovy fun. Who needs ‘Live Aid’ when you can have this. Yes, The Weeds confirmed my belief that Dunedin is where it’s all happening musically. We don’t need the rest of the world when we can be at The Empire with The Weeds.

– Critic 6/8/85

Band rehearsals were for the sole purpose of writing new material which gave their on-stage sound a very fresh feel. In mid-85 the band made some recordings at Dockside Studios on Wharf St which emerged as the Flying Nun single ‘Wheatfields’, a very Velvets-influenced piece that buzzed along with the chorus line ‘It’S Been A Hard Day On The Wheatfields …’. further recordings were made later in the year at Chippendale House which to this day remain unreleased.

By late 1985 the members of The Weeds were being pulled away by their other musical projects and the band faded away. Scott continued with The Bats and Carter And Collie went on to form Straitjacket Fits. Morley was later involved in Dead C, Gate and This Kind Of Punishment while Harford became part of My Deviant Daughter.

The Weeds played only around 15 gigs but will almost certainly be remembered by everyone who saw them for their mix of shock, humour and good music.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

The 3Ds

One of the few kiwi bands that have actually retained a somewhat consistent line-up over the years (though the three d’s in the band’s did expanded to four), they were formed in 1988 by Dominic Stones (Drums – Bird Nest Roys), Denise Roughan (Bass, Vocals – Look Blue Go Purple), and David Saunders (Gat, Vocals), with Dave Mitchell (Guitar, Vocals – Goblin Mix) joining soon after.

With each member having experience in other well known kiwi bands, they immediately set out creating a large catelogue of fun and hugely varied songs. Deviating from manic guitar distortion and yelped vocals (which have been compared to the pixies), to carefree sing-song mellow numbers (due to the wonderful naivete in Denise Roughans’ voice, and Mitchell’s more precious numbers) with the following song.. All three 3Ds albums (along with with their 2 EPs and various singles) have been student radio favorites over the years. Singles such as ‘Outer Space’ from the stunning debut Hellzapoppin were released with ingenious no-budget videos, created by the band themselves (Mitchell also sidelines as a graphic artist, and is responsible for the bands brilliant record sleeves and poster designs, as well as being a creative force behind their videos).

Hellzapoppin bought the band a great deal of exposure that was rewarded with successive support slots for many touring major-label bands, including Nirvana, the Buzzcocks and Pavement – which was a big deal for a minor-label artist in the early 90s.

The band really hit their stride though with the sophomoric album The Venus Trail. The album extended the debuts’ vivid audio palette to the absolute extremes. Opening track ‘Hey Suess’ gets the ball rolling with flourishes of guitar-buzz and manic screamed vocals, while still effortlessly retaining the 3Ds pop-dynamic, i know of no other band that can sound so abrasive yet still carry so much pop appeal as the 3Ds can. The album is quite aptly summed up by the mid-album one-two punch of the whimsical ‘Beautiful Things’ followed by the turbulent ‘Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown’, a keen reflection of the albums’ style.

Third album Strange News From The Angels saw the band fleshing out their sound to a more matured, nurtured sound – though the chaotic vibe of their earlier recordings is still present (like in opener ‘Dust’ or mid-album number ‘The Fiery Angel’). Sadly this is the end of what we’ve heard from the 3Ds, so tracks such as the elegant single ‘Animal’ may be the last we hear from one of Dunedin’s finest exports. Thankfully though, Mitchell and Roughan resurfaced in 2001 with the first album from their new outfit Ghost Club – the uniformly brilliant Ghostclubbing, with ex-pat Jim Abbot completing their new London-based line-up.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Fish Tales 12″ Ep [1990 Flying Nun FN150]
  • Swarthy Songs For Swabs 12″ Ep [1990 Flying Nun FN167]
  • Fish Tales / Swarthy Songs For Swabs [Compilation 1991 Flying Nun FNmc187]

  • Hellzapoppin [1992 Flying Nun FN225]

  • ‘Outer Space’/’Babys On Fire’ 7″ Single [1992 Flying Nun FN241]
  • ‘Beautiful Things’/’Summer Stone’/’Song For The Whole World’ Cd Single [1994 2/ FN297 Flying Nun FN262]
  • ‘Hey Seuss’/’Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown’/’River Burial’ Cd Single [1994 W/ FN262Flying Nun FN297]
  • The Venus Trail [1994 Flying Nun FN281]

  • ‘Hey Seuss’/’River Burial’ 7″ Single [1994 Flying Nun FN297]
  • Caterwauling Cd Ep [1995 Flying Nun FN318]

  • Strange News From The Angels [1997 Flying Nun FN351]

  • ‘Dust’/’Animal’/’Fallen Angel’/’Strange News From The Angels’ Cd Single [1997 Flying Nun FN361]
  • ‘Dust’/’Fallen Angel’ 7″ Single [1997 Flying Nun FN361]

See-Also

Olla

Chris Heazlewood and Sean O’Rielly’s pre-king loser outfit, featuring former look blue go purple guitarist and flying nun alumni Lesley Paris.

discography
picks in bold

  • ‘septic hagfish’/’ditch’/’don’t fall too hard’/’olla putrido’ 7″ ep [1992 flying nun FN214]