So after having the pleasure of reviewing Crash Test for Favourite Thingsí brand spanking EP The Powers That Be, they invited me along to their EP release party on Saturday night at Juice Bar in Parnell. Like I said, before I reviewed the EP, Iíd never even heard of Auckland four-piece Crash Test for Favourite Things. Sometimes I do live pretty far up my own arse, and I was worried about the turn out. Surely, if Iíd never heard of these guys then no one mustíve. But the crowd at Juice Bar was plentiful and excitable. After their grand entrance involving the showing of a pre-made introductory video which I can only assume was some personal joke (or maybe Iím just not as bright as I like to think), they kicked the night off with the deliberately beautiful pseudo-rock ballad, Moving, from their 2008 We All Want to Be Just Like You EP.
From there, their set managed to go from strength to strength. Sometimes, and especially with bands working within this particular genre, live performances can turn the amazing tracks youíve heard on an album into dull, flat echoes of their digitally mastered counterparts. But Crash Test for Favourite Things didnít fall into that trap. Their live sound was comprehensive, commanding and hauntingly beautiful at times. They have managed to master that alternative rock sound that was so predominant in the late nineties, without being too needy or Creed-y. Frontman Mikey Brownís vocals give their sound something unique which isnít often found in the progressive rock pool, and the ethereal surrealism that is predominant in many of their tracks puts it a step above other groups trying to head in a similar direction.
The two highlights of their set for me were always going to be the two songs that Iím most familiar with, Dry Ground and title track The Powers That Be. The night was obviously a celebration for their new EP release, and seeing as these songs make up two thirds of The Powers That Be, there was a special electricity emanating when they played them. Dry Ground in particular was performed with atmospheric precision.
It was easy to see that the boys were having fun on stage. It was endearing how excited and proud they were about their new EP release and I can tell you all with confidence that their blood, sweat and tears was all worth it.
The phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts" is often used in relation to modern music. Crash Test For Favourite Things are a living breathing embodiment of this concept. Their sound is multi layered and multi textured, yet it's the way that those very layers and textures interact that result in something so remarkably original.
The term "progressive" was almost derisive in times gone by, but it's one that is appropriate and complimentary in this case Ė and all the more so since the progressive approach is used with an enthusiasm and innocence rarely found in modern popular music.
Their sound is as atmospheric and ethereal as Pink Floyd at their psychedelic peak, yet there is a sub strata as uncompromising as Soundgarden or Tool. Lyrically there is a personal and political challenge as relevant today as in 1968 or 1998 Ė yet without the direct value judgements of the former. Crash Test in their live setting are a journey into many spaces. Take the trip.