The 'Welly Sound' Epidemic 2.0

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 11:15 27/01/2014

I'd say the damage was done around a decade ago now, this talk of "the Welly sound" which excluded about 90 per cent of the music made in Wellington and focussed in on a lazy rebranding of reggae and dub music and then some imaginary genre called "roots". Along the way soul music was clipped of its funk, stripped of its heart - and energy - and tossed in the pot/tossed in with pot. We had bands like The Black Seeds and Fat Freddy's Drop championed as middlebrow music and celebrated by many who hadn't bought a CD since Thriller.

Worse than that crowd though, always, were the ones so sure it was up there with all the great soul, funk, jazz and, er, "roots" music they knew about. People telling you all about their Donny Hathaway and Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Bill Withers and Aretha Franklin records in one breath and then so sure to say that Fat Freddy's and whatever else was every bit as good - an insult to the residue of someone else's privilege, that is to say "good taste", that had somehow infiltrated their collection.

Well that's all going to happen again with the release of a new album and shows just how much we really can blame TrinityRoots and Fat Freddy's Drop, their cruel influence as telling on a particular type of posing-as-music as the Eddie Vedder vocal sound and Jack White's reedy guitar tone on others, and now the hollow sounds of Lorde and The xx for so many bedroom-hopefuls.

You see just last Friday saw the release of the debut album by Brockaflower - and if you think that's a bad name, the group's full name was/is Brockaflowersaurus-Rex & The Blueberry Biscuits. No, really. Their debut full-lengther, Build It, feels like it has been lazily assembled from leftover parts of a wasted Fat Freddy's jam session (like there's any other kind). There's no bones to the sound, it's all soft - ah, but you can certainly see the joints; the music barely rising above the purplish fug.

And when you do get to hear the music - when it does (eventually/nearly) arrive, you get to hear that these Brockaflowers guys and girls can certainly play - there's nine in the band and some have solo careers already, most prominently Louis Baker and Estere and though they're touted by that paragon of hip-marketing for music that might one day almost be worth it, Red Bull, here they're simply hiding behind the band - a safety-in-numbers approach that sees nine followers and no leaders. The drummer here, Thomas Friggens, is clearly a super-good player but the faux-D'Angelo sound they're going for just doesn't cut it; just doesn't do anything, or go anywhere.

This of course means that after a hugely successful album launch they'll be playing a vineyard tour in support of Fly My Pretties and then working with one of our Sympathy Orchestras (that's not a typo) and you'll be wearing a white Brockaflower hoodie with a carefully-designed almost-marijuana leaf before you know it.

Trapped in the dull echo chamber that is the Welly Sound 2.0.Build It

Please fight against this banality. Listen before you buy. Because to my ears there was just nothing there. Even though I could hear good enough musicians. I just couldn't hear music that needed to happen.

Let's stamp out The Welly Sound 2.0. Because you and your children deserve better.

Here's my review of Brockaflower's Build It.

So what have I missed with this band? They're nice people? No doubt. Good players? Almost certainly. But where's the music? And what's with that appalling name? And why should we support this as being anything special when it's just earnestly traced around faux-soul redux?

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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