The Bats are still going strong. The New Zealand legends have never really gone away and indie fans should be thankful for that. The group is set to release their newest album, the excellent The Deep Set, on Flying Nun tomorrow in New Zealand and Australia, and the rest of the world next week. The record is, like the best Bats releases, perfect and unassuming.
Things get underway with the spry "Rooftops" which segues nicely into the understated "Looking for Sunshine", all loping rhythms and sublime Robert Scott vocals that veer close to early John Cale territory in terms of delivery. Elsewhere, the churning "Walking Man" has that distinctive Flying Nun sound that echoes not only old Bats records but stuff from label-mates The Clean, while the supple "Diamonds" leans more in the direction of a languid bit of Neil Young-style business. The first single from The Deep Set is "Antlers" and the cut illustrates in a succinct package the appeal of The Bats. While there are bits here that are, clearly, reminiscent of all of the other great New Zealand bands -- bits that place this band as the sonic equal of The Verlaines in many ways, for example -- there are other touches here -- a nod in the direction of Tom Verlaine and Television, a hint of early Feelies -- that provide quick examples of what sets this Robert Scott-fronted band apart from their peers down under. Similarly, the beautiful "Shut Your Eyes" is far closer to Galaxie 500 than it is to The Chills, if you get my meaning. The cut unfurls with a deliberate and quiet grace that is something to be savored. Things get more up-tempo on the rockier "No Trace", a nice showcase for Robert Scott's guitar-work. Closer "Not So Good" is, like so much of what's on this record, the sort of indie-rock that chimes and rambles in the best kind of way. A listener to this one is taken by the idea that so many bands have taken a cue from The Bats, acts as disparate as Pavement and Built to Spill, for example.
The Bats are pioneers and one of the most consistently high quality acts to have come out of the boom of New Zealand alt-rock so many decades ago. That they have survived so many eras is a fact that I very much appreciate. That they are making music that's so rich is another thing to be thankful for. The Deep Set is warm and human in the very best ways. Without a trace of unnecessary pretension, The Bats can release music like this and make it look so easy, each cut unwinding with a precise kind of unhurried musicianship.
The Deep Set by The Bats is out tomorrow on Flying Nun in New Zealand and Australia, and then everywhere else next week. Follow The Bats via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.
[Photo: Uncredited photo from band's Facebook page]