The Terminals - "Touch"
(Last Visible Dog 2007, LVD 122, originally released 1993)
From Aural Innovations #40 (September 2008)
There are certain cities out there that are always going to be identified by musical genres that they have spawned. Seattle had its grunge, Liverpool its Merseybeat, Chicago its electric blues. In the same way, albeit on a much reduced scale, the city of Dunedin in farflung New Zealand is responsible for its own specific brand of sonic destruction, that being the “Dunedin Sound”. This southern city is blessed with a cold, damp climate and itinerant student population, both of which have heavily influenced the music generated in grubby and leaking university flats. Throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s, The Chills, The Bats, Straightjacket Fits and Toy Love were all proponents of the Dunedin Sound. Also amongst the ranks were The Terminals who released their album “Touch” in 1993, now reissued with two additional tracks.
“Touch” is an album that will surely polarise listeners. Love or hate it, there can be no middle ground. Quite simply, this album sounds like a drunken party between stoned members of The Velvet Underground and The Tall Dwarfs, recorded in a biscuit tin using un-tuned guitars with half the strings missing. The Terminals are uncompromisingly indie, perhaps the ultimate garage band. A perfect example of this is on the most excellently-titled track “That Thing Upstairs Is Not My Mother” which sounds like something out of a horror movie, with groaning and feeding back guitars underneath strangled vocals. “Something Dark” is an ode to lowlife student flats, haunted by your worst nightmare, while at the same time sounding upbeat almost to the point of hysteria.
The beats of drummer Peter Stapleton (also the lyricist, although not the vocalist) have the same kind of semi-audibility as VU’s Mo Tucker, while the creepy lyrics and lo-fi (or even no-fi) production call to mind Joy Division and crumbling psychosis of solo Syd Barrett and Skip Spence. Fans of the kind of bands name-checked above will almost certainly fall in love with “Touch”. Everyone else had better light the blue touchpaper and stand well clear.
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Reviewed by Pat Albertson