Straitjacket Fits: Five Best Songs

Of the indie guitar bands proffered by Dunedin’s Flying Nun label in the 1980s, Straitjacket Fits were the most likely to break through to a mass audience. The Fits were based around two vocalists and songwriters who were an unlikely combination but who complemented each other beautifully; Shayne Carter had the rock star swagger and his songs were driving and anguished. The bookish looking Andrew Brough played chiming guitar and sang like a choirboy. While other Flying Nun bands played low key indie, Straitjacket Fits sounded huge and sexy.

Straitjacket Fits peaked early, even before their first album. They never topped their debut EP, 1987’s Life In One Chord, and the Carter-Brough partnership only lasted two albums before Brough left the band. Straitjacket Fits didn’t leave a great catalogue of albums, although 1990’s Melt is a respectable effort. Their legacy is a clutch of excellent songs:

Straitjacket Fits Best Songs

She Speeds

from Life In One Chord EP (1987)
Carter’s ‘She Speeds’ is Straitjacket Fits’ signature song. The song benefits from the contrasting styles of Carter and Brough; Carter’s angst fuels the terse verses, while Brough’s backing vocals provide the hook in the triumphant chorus. ‘She Speeds’ was voted as the 9th best New Zealand song on the APRA Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time list in 2001.

Sparkle That Shines

from Life In One Chord EP (1987)
Brough’s ‘Sparkle That Shines’ sounds influenced by The Smiths – the guitars jangle and Brough’s warm voice recalls Morrissey.

Dialling A Prayer

from Life In One Chord EP (1987)
As with ‘She Speeds’, Carter utilises anguished verses and a huge, harmony-stacked chorus. Carter’s claim in his biography that ‘Dialling a Prayer’ “predated art-noise bands like Sonic Youth” is far-fetched, but it’s uncannily like 1990s alt-rock, despite its 1987 release-date.

Down In Splendour

From Melt (1990)
Brough fronts one of the lighter, poppier songs from the group, although Carter’s stinging guitar solo adds some bite. The success of ‘Down in Splendour’ created issues for the group – their record label wanted more radio-friendly Brough songs, while on-stage, Carter introduced ‘Down In Splendour’ with the line “for all you grandmas out there”.

Burn It Up

from Blow (1993)
Recorded after Brough’s departure, Straitjacket Fits’ final album Blow is their least interesting. Without the artistic tension between Brough and Carter, they’re left as merely a solid alt-rock band, but Carter’s driving ‘Burn It Up’ is a fine rock song.

Straitjacket Fits broke up in 1994. Carter formed the more relaxed and electronic Dimmer, while Brough released one successful album of guitar pop in 1997 as Bike.

Read More:
Straitjacket Fits Album Reviews
Song Lists


    • Cool – I’m very fond of their best songs. I guess they would have got a little bit of traction in the UK and USA at the time, but probably never got beyond critics favourite kind of status.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: