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Jean-Paul Sartre Experience

What a party! The 1985 Flying Nun Christmas party in an upstairs “loft” up an alley just off Oxford Terrace where the “strip” can now be found. The Christmas tree was suspended up side down from the ceiling and conveniently fell on a troublesome participant later in the evening, the bath tub was full of drinks, The Terminals played a stomping set, the Dunedin contingent arrived late and so drunk that some could not get out of their cars.

And what a band! The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience gate crashed our party, played an accomplished and astonishing set of startlingly individualistic material and got them selves signed to Flying Nun Records as a consequence. I was so impressed that I fell into the Avon River at the end of the evening.

So rock and roll but in many ways the perfect start to a career in music that was to develop and evolve over the eight preceding years. Musically assured and in procession of an unusual strength in that there were three songwriters and none of the songs were like anything anyone had ever heard before.

A stand out self-titled EP was released in 1986 and marked the band as worth watching with the moody idiosyncratic pop masterpieces followed by the intelligent and melodious Love Songs album in 1987. These are slow dreamy psychedelic songs that are strong with happy dynamism and intent that stand out individually as unique and fully formed. Check out the songs and the videos that accompany them for “Flex” and “I Like Rain” and you’ll get the idea. No other band like them on the planet.

The band followed it’s labels move north to Auckland in 1989 where they recorded The Size Of Food album. This represents a shift in the groups sound. Darker, bleaker and perhaps a little angrier now with the guitars louder fuzzing over the parts where gentle vocal harmonies once dwelt. Still plenty of variety and differentiation between the songs, but this is pop music made with angst-ridden thoughts and menacing modern sounds.

The 1991 single “Precious” release saw the band develop their sound and push it towards a poppier place. They withdrew a little on the pop front but kept much of the sonic attack in their subsequent work which culminated in 1993's album Bleeding Star.

This, their final album, sees the ideas developed on The Size Of Food and pushes them into a more polished and produced place that sees the sonic ambitions of the band realised and, as always, welded with fine “pop” songs such as “Into You”, “Breathe” and “Ray of Shine”.

But not pop as in pap. It is simply great song writing sensibilities manifesting themselves clearly and all held together amongst layers of guitars, textured sounds and imaginatively structured drumming. 

- Roger Shepherd, 2010.

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