19 Nov 2017

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

Bill Direen and The Bilders - Album Review: Chrysanthemum Storm

22 Aug 2017 // A review by Petros

I wasnít old enough to lament the discontinuation of the vinyl, so Iím not invested enough in the medium to be a part of the resurgence. But Iím not so blind as to know it isnít happening on the peripheries of my attention span.

Last month, as if just to spite me, Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails went full vinyl with their remastered, reissued, definitive editions, just as I had completed as much of the CD collection as I could be bothered with, and could afford.

Nice Inch Nails may seem like a strange reference when reviewing Bill Direen. I doubt they share a fan base, and people from either camp may stare blankly and ask ďwho?Ē The small overlap of audiences that know both will question what Iím on.

When you encounter something unknown and unfamiliar, it is good to find a common ground to build your understanding from. But what common ground could an Industrial band and pre-Alternative Rock group possibly have.

Nine Inch Nails are a group worlds apart in style and sound, yet from what I can see are strikingly familiar in ethos to Bill Direen, who has just re-released his nearly ten year old album, Chrysanthemum Storm on vinyl this August.

Aside from the tenuous connection of the vinyl reissue, the commonality is that both NIN and Bill Direen & the Bilders are experimental bands supporting a central poetic figure, a tragic genius who canít help but breathe creativity, with a thing or two to reflect upon and a rotating cast of characters to fill in as surrogate fingers on the many instruments.

While I had seen the poster on Cuba Street for the upcoming film documenting Bill Direen, I had never heard the name. Him nor his Bildereens, Bilderbergs, Bilders or otherwise named band.

I didnít own the original CD, so I canít tell you if this better Ė though vinyl purists will praise the warmer sound Ė but I can tell you, from a cursory Google, that the tracklist remains true to the original release, albeit with a couple of minor name tweeks here and there, the most notable being the change from Luza Sweepaz, a name like a 90's rap group, to Losers Weepers.

Thatís probably the stand out track for me, if only because itís the most relatable to someone with my generational disposition. Where other tracks feel like the music is the soundtrack to a collection of spoken word pieces, Losers Weepers has that rise and fall that fits the Verse Chorus Verse structure of the Rock songs of my age. That and album opener Nobodyís Fault.  

There are pieces of Pink Floyd-like experimentation. Like the Psychedelic Rock jam without the Psychedelic aspect, with the group in tune to each otherís vibrations enough to not devolve into a free-form Jazz session.  

There are husky voiced Leonard Cohen like stories, narrated by Direen, no doubt a poet in another life. Emotion where emotion is due. A whisky, a cigar and a reverie. Reflections on times and peoples gone by. Songs that are real, not candy coated and auto-tuned, that exist to shift units.  

There are pieces that feel like an observational comedian standing in a bingo hall or dive bar (before they were cool) or empty Honky-Tonk floor, narrating the lives of the patrons. Character Studies and word play and humour. A good synopsis of the album.

Iím not the target audience here, Iím not part of the niche market, but thatís OK. I can find references and relatable aspects in the music that I can enjoy. If you remember the band, youíll probably enjoy it too, or if youíre from the world before our collective imagination and attention span were wiped clean by the instant gratification streaming music and cellphones provide. If anything itís got me interested in the documentary I saw advertised, just to see the creative process behind the band, and the man, the legend, Bill Direen.

About Bill Direen and The Bilders

Bilders is the professional appellation for many different groups led by New Zealand singer-songwriter Bill Direen. Direen began recording in 1978, when working as a community reporter and DJ for a provincial radio station (Radio Marlborough). He is known for literate lyrics, challenging song-subjects and a hands-on recording style that has produced "many genuine classic compositions" [John Dix, Stranded in Paradise]

The first Bilders appeared in 1980 performing material assembled or recorded between 1975 and 1980. Other collaborations have happened in NZ and overseas. The most recent Bilders completed national tours in 2007 and 2008 with Powertool Records. Direen works freely with independent musicians, and collaborations are usually titled Bilders (sometimes... The Builders !) [Bilders poster by Lesley Maclean]

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Bill Direen and The Bilders


Chrysanthemum Storm
Year: 2017
Type: LP
Beatin Hearts
Year: 2016
Type: LP
Schwimmen In Der See
Year: 1982
Type: EP

Other Reviews By Petros

Sneaky Feelings - Album Review: Progress Junction
22 Oct 2017 // by Petros
I was sure Iíd been sent the wrong album. Pieces of ephemeral memorabilia bookending nostalgic rock didnít suit my usual shtick.
EP Review: Tidal Rave
26 Sep 2017 // by Petros
Thereís this book. A novel.
Grawlixes - Album Review: Set Free
03 Aug 2017 // by Petros
I put things in boxes. We all do, deny it though you will; it is an artifact of the humanís quest for knowledge.
Will Saunders - Album Review: Hopeful Objects
27 Jul 2017 // by Petros
Straight to VHS: a pejorative term to the normals, but a sign of a cult classic for circles too cool for you to be in. I see the negatives of the term.
Gold Medal Famous - Album Review: Activity
19 Jun 2017 // by Petros
There was this gig in Palmy once. Well there have been a few, but the one I mean was Gold Medal Famous and Mucus Kids.
Sonic Delusion - Album Review: This Material World
12 Jun 2017 // by Petros
ĎTis the wrong season for Sonic Delusionís new album, and it is definitely far too early for funk and calypso. Or it was as I trudged up and down those hills on the way to work on that, albeit mild, winter Wellington morning, This Material World in my ears.
Churlington - EP Review: The Andy Anderson EP
22 May 2017 // by Petros
Andy/Neville Anderson/James is one of the least-famous famous people in New Zealand. The actor-slash-singer was in the middle distance of film and television from our youth, before, and after, and many of us didnít even know it.
Social Shun - Album Review: Songs For Sea Lions
03 Mar 2017 // by Petros
ďThis album was not intended to be listened to by humans. To my Sea Lion friends, I know your struggles, I know your pain.
View All Articles By Petros

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Post Malone feat. 21 Savage
    Post Malone
    Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug
    Marshmello feat. Khalid
    Sam Smith
    Maroon 5 feat. SZA
    Dua Lipa
    Portugal. The Man
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem