R E V E I W
‘This Sporting Life – Alms for Children’ compilation
Former Christchurch, now Japan-based Failsafe Records have some pretty ambitious plans for the next 12 months, with the intended release of 25 albums. Having ‘This Sporting Life – Alms for Children’ among the first of these releases is highly appropriate given this is where the label’s moniker originated, and the Alms for Children song ‘Failsafe’ fittingly opens this compilation. While Flying Nun have been getting the press recently for archiving their master tapes in the Alexander Turnbull Library, the release of compilations like this – bringing together the collected works and live recordings of these inextricably intertwined bands from the early ‘80s – is every bit as laudable for its safeguarding of our musical taonga.
Alms for Children and This Sporting Life existed in the ’81-’84 period, considered by many to be the golden age of New Zealand music. The opening tracks on the compilation belong to their Alms for Children period, with songs from the 1981 ‘Alms not Arms’ 7”. Following the B-sides ‘Failsafe’ and ‘Mother’, the original A-side ‘Danny Boy’ is included at track 3; this highlight will be familiar to many New Zealand music fans not around for the original release, due to its inclusion on the 1988 music compilation ‘It’s Bigger than Both of Us’. Most of the compilation is dedicated to ‘This Sporting Life’, beginning with tracks from their two Flying Nun releases, 1982s ‘Show me to the Bellrope’ mini-album and 1983s ‘In Limbo’ EP. If you are familiar with The Mekons 1981 single ‘This Sporting Life’, from which the band took its name, you will be in familiar territory among these songs. The compilation winds up with a series of live recordings, including one of the highlights for me, ‘Point to Point’ – again, familiar to many a New Zealand music fan through its original appearance on the fantastic early Failsafe compilation, 1986s ‘Biding Our Time’.
Overall, this compilation provides an excellent document of a band whose music has slipped from public consciousness somewhat over the last 35 years, but whose songs are well worthy of both preservation and to be brought back to the forefront of the minds of lovers of New Zealand's post-punk music. While Failsafe are doing their thing, wouldn’t it be great if something similar could happen for Hamilton music? The seminal Orange Recordings 1989 cassette-only compilation Surf Music, for example, certainly forms a gaping hole in my Hamilton music collection; how great would it be if someone could delve into those music archives and release our music from that period digitally? In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what Falisafe brings us next!
The ‘This Sporting Life – Alms for Children’ compilation can be bought via their Bandcamp or from Failsafe Records, as a digital download or physical CD.
- Ian Duggan