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]
My very last Sheep Technique (kiwi music show on student radio station RDU); with Paul, and with an aborted interview with Cindy (previously known as Sandra) from former Flying Nun single band 25c.
Bible Black – Hell of a Woman
The Renderers – Low to the Ground
The Clean – Point that Thing Somewhere Else
25c – The Witch
Front Lawn – A Man and a Woman
25c – Don’t deceive me
The Good Housewives – Concerto in D Minor
The Stones – See Red
Spacedust – Too Much Action
3Ds – Outer Space
Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine – Woman By My Side (Mexican Man)
Ticket – Mr. Music
Shaft – The Downhill Racer
Scorched Earth Policy – Sunset on the Loading Zone
Scavengers – Mysterex
Toy Love – Bride of Frankenstein
Reduction Agents – Urban Yard
Blam Blam Blam – There is No Depression in New Zealand
Pop Art Toasters – What Am I Going to Do
Tomorrows Love – 7 and 7 Is
King Loser – 76 Comeback
Straitjacket Fits – Life in One Chord
Palace of Wisdom – Found and Lost
Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos – All of This
the Bats – Block of Wood
Snapper – Snapper and the Ocean
Bitch – Wildcat
Die! Die! Die! – Sideways Here We Come
The Androidss – Auckland Tonight
Lawrence Arabia – Half the Right Size
After several false starts as a founding member of (get this) the Clean, the Chills and then the Great Unwashed, Peter Gutteridge was struggling to find an outlet for the sounds pent up inside him. Recording at home with a 4-track recording unit, he formed a new sound quite removed from the loose acoustic ramble of the Great Unwashed.
These recordings were created primarily solo, but with the occassional assitance of Alan Haig (Drums) and Ex-Bird Nest Roy Dominic Stones (Guitar) – culminating in a live support show for the Delawares featuring Gutteridge on Keyboards. Delawares guitarist Christine Voice was impressed and soon replaced Gutteridge on keyboards (and backing vocals), leaving Gutteridge free to lead the band (now officially named Snapper) on guitar.
The sound of Snapper grew and grew – Gutteridge began experimenting heavily with distortion and layering voices keyboard, adding thick, dense drones to their live and recorded sound. the debut self-titled ep was released and garnished critical acclaim, as the outside world was by now discovering the delights of the new zealand underground. the concept for their releases were to treat each instrumental passage as a layer of sound, songs rolled on and coalesced into a continious amalgam of sound. this continued on 1992s Shotgun Blossom – the bands first full-length release (after the best part of 5 years).
With the band taking their time between releases they eventually lost Haig (to be replaced by former Toy Love Drummer Mike Dooley) and Stones (who went on to form the 3Ds) in the process. ADM finally surfaced in 1996 to pretty much universal adoration – whilst some critics compared them to the departed art-punk (and synth pioneers) duo Suicide, others cited them as the inspiration for the new wave of drone-popsters such as Stereolab.
ADM was recorded with something of a revolving support line-up – Stones was replaced by Gutteridge’s old pal David Kilgour, whilst a young Demarnia Lloyd (yet to make her name with Mink or Cloudboy), Celia Pavlova (Aka Mancini – of King Loser) and Voice provided backing vocals, with Dooley staying on as drummer.
Since then, not much has been heard from Gutteridge – despite Snappers reputation growing in retrospect. In the late 90s he played tribute to his old band the Clean, playing guitar on High Dependency Unit‘s excellent cover of the Gutteridge-penned Clean classic ‘Point That Thing Somewhere Else’, and occassionally ventured out with some live performances, now reportedly focusing on keyboard based songs.
Discography (picks in bold)
- Snapper Ep [1988 Flying NunFn110]
- ‘Dark Sensation’/’Snapper And The Ocean’ 7″ Single [1990 Avalanche]
- Shotgun Blossom [1992 Flying NunFn216]
- ‘Vadar’/’Gentle Hour’ 7″ Single [1993 Flying NunFn264]
- Adm [1996 Flying NunFn294]
- ‘Hammerhead’/’Alive’ Live 7″ Single [2002 Crawlspace]
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]