The Terminals - "Crown Of Teeth" (Last Days Of The Sun)
It’s getting harder and harder to be a band in isolation, but the Terminals do a pretty good job. The combo, whose personnel are split between the southern cities of Dunedin and Christchurch, New Zealand, have carried on a fitful existence through two line-ups and 20 years, including several when they didn’t play at all. During that time they’ve never played outside the country and only rarely on the country’s more populous northern island, and they’ve never fit into any local scene. Even in their more restrained first incarnation, their moody mix of the Velvet Underground’s ballads, ? And The Mysterians’ Farfisa atmospherics, and Roxy Music’s grand epics from stood out from the Flying Nun crowd’s groovy pop like a protection racket enforcer at a Critical Mass ride. Despite receiving a helping hand from Xpressway records and maintaining enduring associations with the NZ improv scene, they don’t really fit in there, either. The Terminals may whip up some noise, especially live, but they’re also a song band with a fine sense of drama that derives as much from their tunes’ never-resolved stand-off between chaos and structure as from main singer Steven Cogle’s rich baritone.
That’s never been truer than on Last Days Of The Sun, the quintet’s first studio release in 11 years. Its predecessor, the “Medusa” 7” issued by my long-slumbering label Roof Bolt (yep, that’s a disclosure), tilted towards dire, fangs-barred rock. This time things sound less unhinged. This is partly due to their switch from 4-track to computer recording, which keeps the fuzz at bay. But it also reflects the workings of a band that’s so far out of fashion that they’re referring more to their old history – in this case their first album, Uncoffined – than anything else being recorded anywhere on earth. As on that record, Cogle’s voice and understated rhythm guitar are at the helm, guiding brooding lyrics and shuddering music safely into port. Mick Elborado’s organ and John Christoffels’s bass are like steady currents, articulating melody and pulse without deviation. Drummer Peter Stapleton and guitarist Brian Crook play the wild cards; sometimes they put their muscles behind the music, other times battering it like a roaring ’40s gale. Their noise is welcome, but so is the restraint that bathes quieter moments in a dim blue glow.
Note: Bill Meyer ran the aforementioned Roof Bolt Records.