The storied Kiwi-pop label Flying Nun continues its 30th-anniversary celebration with a series of comps and reissues slated for release throughout 2012. They kicked off with a user-friendly best-of collection, Tally Ho! Flying Nun’s Greatest Bits, which showcased mostly mid-’80s and early-’90s jangle-pop characteristic of the label’s beloved acts like the Chills, the Clean, and the Bats.
The latest compilation, Time To Go: The Psychedelic Moment 1981–1986, departs from the moody-but-composed power pop that self-consciously grew out of the fizzling punk movement. Instead, Time To Go closes in on the nascent years of Flying Nun’s repertoire, a time when their artist roster was less, say, melodically inclined than it was interested in semi-improvisation and pushing against (if not abusing) listener expectations.
Truthfully, using the term “psychedelic” here is a slight misnomer—it’s about as neutered as the word’s appearance on the cover of the Nuggets boxed set. There’s a decent smattering of indisputable pop gems (“As Does The Sun” by Look Blue Go Purple and “Some Fantasy” by Doublehappys, not to mention the distinctly out-of-place “Not To Take Sides” by Sneaky Feelings) that all smack of established Flying Nun fare. But the critical surprises are a handful of perfect psych cuts nestled in between the standards. The Rip’s “Wrecked Wee Hymn” is a baroque, five-minute vocal-warp missing from a Nico album. Scorched Earth Policy’s “Since The Accident” is an elegy for punk itself, a punch line chanted with a straight face over a tense violin and a restrained guitar. Acoustic-flavored “Obscurity Blues” by the Great Unwashed (consisting of repurposed Clean members) feels ripped from a psych-folk duo whose sole album you unwittingly bought at the flea market. Label fixtures Pin Group always confidently sound like a bizarro Joy Division and the Bilders’ “Russian Rug” sits portentously astride the crevice between no wave and noise rock.
Most of these selections are lovable for their imperfections, which is basically the story of Flying Nun in summation. One of the strongest songs, the Shallow’s “Trial By Separation,” is a drone-y triumph whose hints at melody are all but hypnotic. Arguably the one pristine track comes from Victor Dimisich Band, an icy ballad that creeps the closest to being emotive as anything on the compilation, and single-handedly warrants investigation of the label’s out-of-print catalog. Longtime Flying Nun devotees might prefer the sounds they’ve already cozied up to, but for the inquisitive listener, Time To Go offers more pointed classics.