OK important note here: Transistors are not The Terminals, though I get the two mixed up in my head because I’m not good with names and honestly – my knowledge of Classic New Zealand Music (TM) isn’t the greatest and I think The Clean are about as interesting as over-roasted lamb covered in packet sauce, and perhaps even worse for the deluge of shitty bands they have spawned trying to do what they do but less. Yeah – we get it, David Kilgour – you had a Classic Band (TM) once but now you write gutless music with an even more gutless band that people will fawn over anyway and not tell you otherwise, because, you know, Tradition. Nobody will tell you that you suck, or your latest album wasn’t quite as good. And what do you do about that? There’s always going to be cocksuckers about. The Terminals are a whole lot better than The Clean, mind you – and Transistors are unlike either.
I like On Cashel Street because of the localism – taking place names and features and making hyperlocal songs that are specific to a certain time or place. Americans have been doing it for years. New Zealanders – in bowing down to our American RocknRoll masters – have sort of avoided it, opting for banal attempts at universality. There’s exceptions, of course. I’m not saying nobody’s ever done this before. It’s just a nice thing to see – this regionalism, if you like. It gives what could be a so-so song – good short pop but eh – just a little more caffeinated somethin’ somethin’ (I can’t believe I just said that). There’s more pathos somehow because it’s about an actual thing. The band doesn’t give a damn about playing the same riff over and over: rock and roll is about repetition. Instead it subtly changes, almost coda-like, into a power-chorus which is short and doesn’t indulge. It’s almost monk-like in its brevity. Quaker-like. Spartan. This is a band which seems enthused about the direction they’re headed – their intention seems to be toward a good simple pop song. How do you measure that? Well – there’s not the exhilaration of a pop song like this one. The band seems a little too aware of pop form – of what works well (remember how short the power-chorus was?) The form of the song is too obvious – what it lacks – what I’ve had trouble putting my finger on, is this feeling of creation, of discovery, whilst the song is being played. If there’s any criticism, it’s a tad too pre-meditated. B