Straitjacket Fits Melt

Down in Splendour by Straitjacket Fits

The small city of Dunedin, in the south of New Zealand, produced a lot of great music in the 1980s – The Flying Nun record label distributed acclaimed albums by acts like The Chills, The Clean, The Bats, and Chris Knox. But the Flying Nun act most likely to break out beyond cult status and attain mass popularity was Straitjacket Fits.

straitjacket-fits-down-in-splendour

Straitjacket Fits were formed after Shayne Carter’s previous band, The DoubleHappys, was curtailed by the tragic death of Wayne Elsey. In Straitjacket Fits Carter teamed up with another singer/guitarist, Andrew Brough. It’s an unlikely pairing – Carter, with his thick Mick Jagger lips, contributed edgy guitar and rock star attitude, while the bespectacled Brough brought chiming guitar and a choir boy voice. The resulting conglomerate was a little like having Roger McGuinn and Mick Jagger in the same band. But the tension between the two approaches resulted in some glorious music.

‘Down In Splendour’ was part of a double a-side single from the band’s 1990 album Melt, and it’s an Andrew Brough song, with Brough’s warm voice filling the sound. But the guitar interplay between Carter and Brough provides contrast and lifts ‘Down In Splendour’ to another place.

After ‘Down In Splendour’, Brough left Straitjacket Fits – the record company were asking for more songs like ‘Down In Splendour’, but Brough wasn’t a prolific writer and the remainder of the band wanted to capture a grungier sound. But for a few years and a few glorious songs, Straitjacket Fits threatened to turn the synergy between two disparate musicians into something great.

Hey down in splendor, join the slide
Standing on the seashore and the tide
Comes rolling through your eyes
You’ve got no place to go
Comes rolling through your mind
You’ve got no one to know

Hey down in splendor, take a bow
Blinded in the white light and the crowd
Die slowly in your arms
You’re left to lie alone
And save your face of changing color
And your smile of fading color

Cause you’ll never find another
Who will give you ever after
And you shouldn’t have to say goodbye
And wonder if this way is how
It’s going to be

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Aphoristical
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande.
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12 Comments

  1. Th at’s great noise pop/jangle pop. Never heard of them before but they sound good. I had a workmate (and big music fan) from New Zealand when I lived back in England and he used to talk about “The Dunedin Sound” which obviously baffled me. Is this an example of it?, and if so I really should be doing some investigating!

    • They’re the most commercial sounding band on Flying Nun, I think. A more typical Flying Nun song is probably something like The Chills’ ‘Pink Frost’ – Lo fi, jangly rock. If you like that, Straitjacket Fits have some other good songs – She Speeds, Sparkle That Shines, and Dialling A Prayer are all strong tunes from their 1987 EP Life in One Chord.

  2. New one for me. A very jangly sound they had going on there, eh? Not quite my thing, but Im intrigued enough to check out She Speeds and Sparkle That Shines.

    • Best Carter song and best Brough song, right? Although Brough’s backing vocals really elevate ‘She Speeds’ and Carter’s guitar helps ‘Down In Splendour’.

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