Monday, August 18, 2008

The Verlaines - Bird Dog (1987)

'Bird Dog' is undoubtedly the apex of the Verlaines' career. Far more assured than their debut full-length, 'Hallelujah All the Way Home,' 'Bird Dog' finds master craftsman Graeme Downes fully in command of these elegant and classically derived compositions. For this listener, the highlights of the album are too many to mention, though special note must be given to the pieces which bookend the album, "Makes No Difference" and "C.D. Jimmy Jazz and Me," and the heart and soul at the center of it, "Slow Sad Love Song." - Ariel

Crafty New Zealand pop group lead by song craftsman Graham Downes that leaned heavily toward Baroque classicism on this exquisite collection of tales from 1987. Their art was in the subtlety of arrangements, and the group was pivotal in defining the complex simplicity of the Flying Nun sound alongside the Clean and the Chills. The Verlaines were certainly the first of the family in the '80s to embrace truly classical modality in their delicate pop sound, and the result is Bird Dog, as a sophisticated and glorious album of Downes' distinct genius, whose only peers would be Robert Forster and Martin Phillips. Although his craft may be fastidious, the Verlaines have mastery of rendering it effortless on Bird Dog. Later their sound may have become a little more stilted, but for a group so ahead of their time, anything is forgivable, although many fans of this character and eccentricity displayed here may believe the edge was lost in the '90s when they pursued a straighter MOR sound. With Hallelujah All the Way Home and Some Disenchanted Evening on either side of this release, it is difficult to think of another group who made three albums of this quality in five years.

[Martin Walters, allmusic.com]

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3 comments:

Peter said...

Thanks for this!
--P

bryzo said...

Great great stuff!! I'll keep coming back to this wonderful blog and unearth even more gems. Cheers!

Will said...

Finally -- I have a fairly complete collection of Verlaines recordings, but I never got this on cd (only a well-worn cassette which got me through high-school, and a mint Homestead lp which I just ogle).

I'm missing the last track from Chills' Brave Words which was scratched on my cd -- if you could post that (maybe you have, and I just didn't make it to it yet) I would appreciate it.