Album Reviews

The Bats: Foothills – “jangle-pop splendour”

The New Zealand veterans return with one of their finest records yet.

New Zealand four-piece, The Bats, return just in time for summer in the southern hemisphere with their follow-up to 2017’s The Deep Set in Foothills.

Their tenth album in a career spanning just under forty years with an unchanged line-up, the Christchurch-born act are one of a handful of New Zealand bands credited with the Dunedin sound and with Foothills, once again they produce jangle-pop splendour.

Whilst also plying his trade as bassist with the equally lauded The Clean, singer/guitarist Robert Scott leads the charge on Foothills with a modest allure.

It all starts with the sun drenched grandeur of Trade in Silence. A stirring opener led by Kaye Woodward‘s jangling riffs, Paul Kean‘s nimble bass lines and Malcolm Grant‘s sharp, concise drum beats. All vital contributions that underpin The Bats‘ framework of sound.

The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives – “a band invigorated”

Songs like Warwick and Field of Vision are the kind that put the swathe of dole rock fodder from The Bats‘ trans-Tasman cousins to absolute shame. The former in particular a clear highlight of Foothills.

Scrolling and Red Car are a pair of slow-paced Sunday morning jams, littered with The Bats‘ trademark jangle. If anything, they feel like refined cuts that could have found their way onto 2011’s Free All the Monsters.

With Another Door, the stakes reach their highest point as Scott sings, “The meaning pours down/We’ve all left this place/Nothing seems to fit/Now we’ve left the race/Behind.” With gorgeous atmospheric tones providing a surprisingly gloomy backdrop, it’s not only the most obscure song on the album, but ironically the focal point.

The Bats - Foothills

With luscious acoustic arrangements, As You Were keeps the champagne flowing with Scott wrenching in a lyric like, “You couldn’t say boo to a goose/You’re such a chicken.” The line is worth its weight in gold. The track itself of 24 carat variety.

Electric Sea View majestically concludes Foothills and would be the perfect companion to driving around the beautiful landscapes and winding hills from Akaroa beach on route to the band’s native Christchurch. A defiant finish to a terrific collection of songs.

Hen Ogledd: Free Humans – “throwing down the gauntlet”

Foothills comprises of songs that are the best The Bats have produced. No mean feat considering they’ve spent a career breaking through creative ceilings and here, once again they outdo themselves.

This year, many will doff their cap to the Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (and fair enough), but had it not been for bands like The Bats, then arguably the former wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

The Bats may have to wrestle with Bailter Space as the finest band to ever derive from Christchurch, however for a city to boast such cornerstone acts in underground music, it’s more than many other places around the world could offer.

Foothills is yet another layer of song craft splendour. We shouldn’t have expected anything less from The Bats.

Foothills is out now via Flying Nun Records.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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