(limited edition of 300, Czech Republich pressing), out May 20 :
As if to mirror the ultimate series of drags on their first EP, Civil Union's US tour in 2014 was, itself, a series of shit shows. Two separate vans with the same wheel trying to unhinge itself, and that was in addition to the break-in and the hair loss. But at least everybody heard about it: the cassette they were touring on the only merch they brought with them, ridiculously found its way around the country just fine. (They never missed a show.) Like that justifies several near-death experiences. Anyway, what an apt bummer for a band that could, by that point, already list an earthquake among its influences.
It was in 2012 when Perry Mahoney first started playing bass in Civil Union; he’d moved to Auckland from Christchurch at a time when the city was about to become reduced to rubble. For all that was quickly ruined by the Christchurch earthquake, it catalysed a spike in local creativity as stragglers turned into bands and their PTSD turned into music.
Unsurprisingly, the new “Arson City” bands tended to have a bleak streak, deadpanned in a specifically NZ way the “Antipodean Gothic”, as Jasmine Gallagher put it and in Auckland, Perry came across its northern equivalent.
The similarities between Auckland and Christchurch increased as more musicians moved north and interbred following the earthquakes, and so did their knack for “revelling in the perverse”; a cynicism that was familiar to a generation living under the rule of conservative oafs. Civil Union were the latest band to paint with a dark brush, and though they didn’t owe their despondent take on existence to the Christchurch bands, knowing them enhanced the overall surrealist misery: it felt like the goal was to reveal parade a gash in an otherwise pretty nicelooking country. But yet, Civil Union weren’t absurd like the Christchurch bands; they weren’t obscene like the Auckland bands. Just bummed out, with a twang. And maybe a bit of 90s Glasgow sound in there as well.
For such a fucked place, New Zealand’s anxieties haven’t been advertised all that much. There’s hints within The Gordons' disembodied bass. Batrider's strangled emotions. The Skeptics, freakish in the mundane. And Civil Union’s snivelling pessimism, wretching at the real, unpublicised Aotearoa and all its neoliberal byproducts. In it, proof that this old “Land of Plenty” is finally beginning to export two of its most abundant raw materials: Guilt and shame.
'Seasick, Lovedrunk' is about lying to your doctor to get on the dole (‘Dress For Success’), manipulating someone’s affections (‘Follow The Red Herring’), or, specifically, the suicidal misery that was a cult leader’s son (‘My Father Below’). It’s a road to realization that ends in a cul-de-sac of selfflagellation, suffering, and death. To put it cynically, it makes it sound as if the van wheel(s) that kept trying to kill Civil Union on tour were making a point: New Zealand is bad luck.
"These New Zealanders carry the downer dope torch with a certain strained pride." - Rob Fletcher, Terminal Boredom
"A dark clanging mono flow of transgressive depth." Fuckin' Record Reviews