Dunedin Soundings: Place and Performance, edited by Dan Bendrups and Graeme Downes, Otago University Press, 2011, 176 pp., $40.00.
‘The Dunedin Sound, mmmm, me and my big mouth!’ — David Kilgour (The Clean) 2005.
The cultish mythology of the so-called ‘Dunedin Sound’ has endured for over 30 years, but what is it? And did it ever really exist? Some of the best groups from the Flying Nun era such as The Terminals were actually from Christchurch.
It probably materialised with the Flying Nun curated 1982 Dunedin Double — two 12” 45rpm records where four Dunedin groups had a side each. Featured bands the Chills, the Stones, Sneaky Feelings and the Verlaines had different line-ups, and each group possessed a singular style: The Chills evincing a lush, kaleidoscopic psychedelia, the Stones insouciant with their bratty pop, while Sneaky Feelings owed less to in-vogue-at-the-time UK post-punk and Velvet Underground musical influences than they did to ’60s American West Coast groups. As for the Verlaines — well, under the leadership of Graeme Downes (now Senior Lecturer in the University of Otago Department of Music, supervising the ‘rock degree’), they favoured a fiercely calculated type of literate baroque pop. The reverb-drenched, ringing guitars, or as Downes puts it in his bone-dry way ‘trebly, highly reverberant guitars and partial barre chords with jangling or open strings,’ is what supposedly lumped all these groups together.