G I G R E V I E W
The Naenae Express, your new favourite band
…and a partial review of HUP’s May gig.
by Ian Duggan
On 27 May, The Naenae Express played Nivara Lounge with Halcyon Birds, Hospital Sports and Crows. The Naenae Express, I have to say up front, are my new favourite band. And they should be yours too. This may be less of a review as a piece of obsessive fan mail.
What isn’t to love about the Naenae Express? They sing about all the finest things in life. First and foremost, they sing about cricket, the most cerebral of all of the world’s sports. For example, on the night they played songs named ‘Eden Park’ and ‘Carisbrook’, which they stated were both about the man they named the band after: ex-New Zealand cricket player Ewen Chatfield. They also sing about biology, the most fascinating of all the sciences. ‘Sea Anemone’, for me, is just about as perfect a song as ever could be written; the lyrics cover mutualistic relationships between anemones and clown fish, their use in the aquarium trade, and – perhaps for the first time in musical history – they reference cnidocytes, the stinging cells distinctive of the phylum Cnidaria. At the gig they also played one of the other EP tracks, called ‘Asteroid Blues’. I don’t know what the lyrics were about, but it is easy to imagine it was about a mass extinction event following an extra-terrestrial collision. Did I mention the opening track on the night, ‘Overlander’, also mentions Hamilton? Pretty much all of my favourite things covered. Brilliant.
But wait, there’s more! Live, they were enthralling. Their live sound was somewhat different to their rather wonderful recorded outputs, but not in any bad way – both are excellent. And lead singer Scott Kendall appears to have some kind of an aura. An X-factor. A je ne sais quoi. A bit like Ringo Starr had that time I saw him walking through Dublin's airport. It’s like some kind of magical property, which makes you feel like he is going to someday be someone special. Overall, Kendall appears somewhat reminiscent of Steve Malkmus of Pavement; in attitude, in the way he stands, in the way he plays his guitar, in the way his vocals sound live, and in the way he commands your attention. In fact, the whole band seemed quite Pavement-esque on the night, in terms of both their sound and look. Both bands include two excellent guitarists, bass players who appear to be existing in their very own, very interesting little worlds, and percussionists who seem to be just the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet. Naenae Express left me star-struck. Luckily I can’t draw. Otherwise this review might be accompanied by an inappropriate piece of fan art.
Overall, HUP’s May gig was as excellent night, from the mellow twin-guitars of the Halcyon Birds, the entertaining indie-pop of Auckland three-piece Hospital Sports, to the beautiful noise of locals Crows (who were known on the night as ‘Sam Shaw and the Ring-Ins’, due to two-thirds of the members standing in for others). And of course, the night ended with eight awesome Naenae Express tunes, ending with Dream State, which I am sure sent everyone in the audience home happy.