The Bats, Daddy's Highway (1987)

One of New Zealand's finest (and, stateside, most sadly overlooked) exports, the Bats were one of several amazing bands to emerge in the 80s on NZ's Flying Nun record label.  Their 1987 full-length debut is in some ways reminiscent of the Feelies' 1986 classic The Good Earth, full of simple, pastoral guitar jangle, with occasional forays into a more droning, frenetic Velvet Underground-influenced sound like that offered by label-mates The Clean (for whom Bats frontman Robert Scott served double-duty).

Scott's casual vocals and generally chipper lyrics lend this a charming vibe throughout, an immensely sweet and likable album that draws you in and holds on for the duration.  Kick-off track "Treason" sets the blueprint, a midtempo, joyously infectious pop track, Scott's vocals abetted by lead guitarist Kay Woodward's lovely harmonies.  That same ear candy crops up over and over again on songs like "Round and Down" and "Mid City Team."  Elsewhere the tone is more subdued and melancholy, on haunting tracks like "Sir Queen" and "Block of Wood."  The band lets loose on "North by North," the album's most electric and Clean-reminiscent track.

While Daddy's Highway is far and away my favorite Bats album, they've been releasing reliably solid albums ever since, and even if later albums aren't as densely packed with memorable tunes, the albums are never less than enjoyable. (1990 follow-up The Law of Things is particularly great, and 1992's Fear of God adds a more powerful studio sheen to the mix.)

Here's a video for "Block of Wood":


Here's "North By North":

And, yow, here's a lovely little stripped-down take on "Treason" at a record-store appearance a few years back:




Buy it on Amazon.

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