Retrospective Review: Discordia Concors: Various Artists
By Ian Duggan
With the recent release of a compilation of ‘80s Hamilton music, ‘Hamiltune’, I thought this a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I consider Hamilton’s best compilation. This is, as such, not so much a review as a love letter to something fondly remembered from my past. Released on 28 September 1993, ‘Discordia Concors’ provided a retrospective of what was Hamilton’s recent musical history, featuring songs recorded between 1985 and 1993. Although covering roughly the same time range of the aforementioned ‘Hamiltune’, the compilation could not be more different.
The album starts brilliantly. The opener is the perfect pop of ‘Take This That Way’ by Watershed, darlings of the Hamilton music scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. This song doesn’t just pass the test of time, it aces it. This was a Hamilton band destined for greatness, and how they did not become world famous in New Zealand, or beyond, I will never understand.
Following this is the early Romantic Andes song ‘Anaconda Funky Limbo’, with its instantly memorable chorus of “Bob Marley used to sing this song, and now white boys sing it too”. Certainly less sophisticated than their later songs, such as the brilliant 'Long Slow Trip to the Moon’ from their 1996 EP ‘Rocket’, this track does highlight why the Romantic Andes were so fun (and popular) live. Nostalgia? Hell yes!
Dribbly Cat Attraction is up next with ‘Vulnerable Sheds’, experimental, yet with a full sound centred around Grant Brodie’s keyboards and Stefan Neville’s vocals. Incredibly creative, the band was more than the sum of its parts, and also could have been world famous had they had stayed together.
The ‘art rock’ songs of the ‘80s are high among other highlights. Huge Industrial Artsnob’s ‘Trains’, recorded in 1986, is a spoken-word poetry piece over a keyboard driven track, which despite its age never seems to gets old. In a similar vein is 1985s ‘Miner’s Song’ by Hitlers Kock, utilising Philip Larkin’s 1969 poem ‘The Explosion’ read over a driving casiotone, violin and percussion track. These are simply brilliant, and I would argue are truly among the best of all ‘Hamiltunes’ from the ‘80s.
Another perfect piece of pop on the album comes from Crown of Wild Myrtles ‘Underbelly’, while the wackiness of Wendyhouse’s ‘Suit Suit, Kill Kill’ provides a short but sweet (?!) killer of a track. The Postlethwaites ‘Broke’, with its chorus of ‘I’ve got no money’, Book of Martyrs bass and violin driven ‘The Man that Said’, and Pieces of Cod’s ‘Fall in a Hole’ all provide even yet further highlights. The list goes on…
As stated in the liner notes, ‘compilations, like people, are by their very nature diverse”. It would be rare for all songs on any compilation to be both creative and strong, or for the songs on them to stand up over twenty years after their release, but Discordia Concors has a pretty high strike rate on both counts. As in the Huge Industrial Artsnob song, this is “music to die to, music to cry to”. This is Hamilton music at its best, from a magical time in the cities musical history. On the merit of these songs, this was a period when Hamilton should have been revered in the same way that Manchester, Seattle or Dunedin was in their musical primes. Discordia Concors, I still love you.