Next to The Chills, The Verlaines, and even Sneaky Feelings, New Zealand's The Stones were the odd men out on that seminal Dunedin Double EP back in 1982. More loose than even the early tracks from Kilgour's Clean, and certainly not as obviously cerebral as The Chills, and nowhere close to being as poppy as Sneaky Feelings, The Stones were, instead, a classic acid rock band that had been morphed by the blast of energy from NYC Punk and Cleveland's underground -- the barest trace of Pere Ubu lurks here too.
This new Three Blind Mice collection on Captured Tracks is a gift from the gods for any fan of the legendary New Zealand sound. Now we have the missing piece of the puzzle to the birth of the Flying Nun label. Carrying that odd men out idea further, and referencing NYC punk again, one could say that if The Chills were Talking Heads, and The Verlaines were the Patti Smith Group, or Television -- even if the band was named after the poet and not Tom Verlaine (!) -- then that would make The Stones the Richard Hell and the Voidoids of the bunch. Spin "Something New" and see what I mean. The bratty lip-curled snarl of New York City punk filtered through what is -- or would shortly become -- a very recognizable Flying Nun guitar sound.
Still, even though "See Red" and other cuts reveal that the band was listening to their VU records faithfully, "Funky Conversations" hints at the influence of Alice Cooper, and the spectre of The Stooges rises on "It's a Shame" and elsewhere. This is a collection full of surprises.
"Down and Around" sounds like what The Clean would do so well after the brief performing career of The Stones was over. Poised somewhere between the influence of very late Sixties freak-out rock acts, and the style of singing perfected by Lou Reed a few years later, a cut like this reveals a band pushing at a lot of constraints. Even more remarkable still is that music this unhinged and raw was being produced in the era of ABC and Duran Duran. Decidedly a good 15 years ahead of their peers in some sense, The Stones here are revealing themselves as expert pioneers in what we'd end up calling post-punk, for lack of a better term. Poised next to The Chills in this era, The Stones probably did seem less interesting. Somehow stood up next to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain-era Pavement from years later and The Stones seem like odd forefathers of a style no one knew the name of yet in 1982.
This collection is pretty much everything you're gonna need, or find, by The Stones. Collecting all the band's tracks on the Dunedin Double EP, plus the 5 cuts from the Another Disc, Another Dollar (1983) EP, the set is then rounded off with about 8 rare live cuts from the band.
In a live setting there are loads of revelations. "We Live" shows the band adept at a meshing of the styles of Talking Heads and Gang of Four, while "Think About It" adds in a hint of the Modern Lovers. if on the record The Stones were surprisingly loose and nearly experimental, on these live cuts they sound positively tight and even punchy.
Three Blind Mice by The Stones is out next week on Captured Tracks. It's a fantastic release. That shouldn't be a surprise since the label has been doing a great job lately with this sort of reissue.
Any fan of New Zealand post-punk, or the legacy of Flying Nun records, should grab Three Blind Mice by The Stones as soon as possible.