Saturday, September 23, 2006

Silver Scrolls Report: Are the Mint Chicks the Best Band in the Land?

Mission accomplished! Last Wednesday, media pass in hand, I joined the likes of TV3 and National Radio in a VIP room at the Auckland Town Hall. We were there to interview the five nominees for the 2006 Silver Scrolls - the country's premier music award. Having blagged my way in at the last moment and therefore having done no interview prep whatsoever I listened in on the other interviews, partook of the complimentary drinks , and tried to look like I knew what I was doing.

After the interview session it was the mix and mingle. A five hundred strong crowd comprised of the nations top musos. Feeling a little braver I spoke to Chris Knox, Evermore, Cody from The Mint Chicks, Eddie Raynor from Split Enz and Ray Columbus. Listen out for "Your listening to . . . " stings from the last two on Counting The Beat.

The award ceremony itself is fantastic. Each of the nominated songs is performed by another New Zealand act. This leads to some great suprises and some cross-genre car crashes. In the latter category would be The North Shore Pony Club and Aaradhna covering Evermore's Running, while highlights were South Auckland teenagers Spacifix doing The Reduction Agents The Pool, and The Mint Chicks awesome version of Anika Moa's Stolen Hill. You should be able to hear excerpts of these performances and an interview I ended up doing with Don McGlashan in coming weeks on Counting The Beat.

But back to The Mint Chicks. They have just released their second album "Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!" which showcases their ability to make great pop skewed by a punk-brat anarchic aesthetic that means you never know where they are going next. One song by these guys contains more ideas than a whole album by many artists. If you haven't heard their material check out the songs streaming here. Their cover of Stolen Hill at the awards just confirmed their brilliance. The song was transformed from being an introspective quiet singer-songwriter piece to a tense, edgy thriller. Apparently they now want to include it in their live set.

The Mint Chicks are one of only two currently recording bands on the Flying Nun label, once the proud vanguard of intelligent indie pop in NZ (the other being The Shocking Pinks). Russell Brown of Public Address has been running a top five Flying Nun post which makes interesting reading. The predominance of old material is telling. Lets just hope that the labels 25th anniversary is marked by something better than the dire 'Under the Influence" album that was released for their 21st.

A box set is promised. Now that Flying Nun is under the wing of a multi-national conglomerate I fear the acts included will be the obvious ones like The Chills and The Straitjacket Fits. I've got no argument with that but I hope it's not at the cost of some of the great acts with out-of-print material that risk being lost to history. Let's hear it for Marie and the Atom!

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