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Monday, November 26, 2007

SHOCKING PINKS - "self-titled" 76%

Nick Harte is no stranger to isolation. He grew up in New Zealand, a nation where it is said that the human population is outnumbered by sheep. But being the child of artists who went to school with post-punk band The Gordons, Harte was exposed to a wide variety of eclectic musical genres. And when his mother bought him the “Loveless” cassette by My Bloody Valentine, a whole new world had been opened up.

Shocking Pinks is the culmination of Harte’s deep love of post-punk and eighties teen nostalgia. In fact the name is apparently an ode to the film ‘Pretty in Pink’. After drumming for The Brunettes, Harte began recording on his own, turning out three modest albums. With the new self-titled album, he has essentially combined songs from his previous two records - “Mathematical Warfare” and “Infinity Land” (both released in 2005) - to create this impressive DFA Records debut. Written, performed and produced by Harte himself, this is an introspective post-modern record, full of raw angst and gentle vulnerability. And whereas the first Shocking Pinks album “Dance the Dance Electric” embodied more of a dance-punk sensibility, the latest has a decidedly intimate, fuzzed-out dream-pop tone about it.

The strength of the album lies heavily upon the stripped-down production style. On the tinny rocker ‘Blonde Haired Girl’, Harte croons in a distorted and ultra close-up monotone vox that sounds like he recorded it onto a cassette recorder, but somehow it’s as if he’s inside your head. On the instrumental track ‘Cutout’ a Peter Hook bass line dances around a driving beat and a gentle guitar refrain to create a gorgeous road song. The upfront single ‘End of the World’, without question one of the standout tracks here, relies on a simple new wave synth-pad that dangerously recalls heights previously reached by The Cure.

But more important than Harte’s eighties persuasion is the dark romanticism in his voice, which does a fine job of keeping a relatively sporadic album cohesive and real.

by Scot Bowman
Originally published on

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