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Sneaky Feelings - Album Review: Progress Junction

22 Oct 2017 // A review by Peter-James Dries

I was sure I’d been sent the wrong album. Pieces of ephemeral memorabilia bookending nostalgic rock didn’t suit my usual shtick.

My role as a reviewer and a socially isolated, industry outsider, is to muse on the latest unheard New Zealand music releases. Niche market bands making a start in this treacherous industry. Untested bedroom musicians that need the sympathetic ear other publications have less time for. That sort of thing. Not usually lost albums from the 70's, remasters nor reduxes.

I’ve probably mentioned in previous spiels that I like to go into albums blind, without the spin or the back-story. Just as there is a lot more smell involved in taste than many realise, there is a lot more thought in music for me. I find that too much thought taints the taste of the music.  

So naturally I didn’t realise that Progress Junction sounded like something from the past because technically it was. Or at least the band was, this being the first album from Sneaky Feelings in almost the duration of my life.

There’s this channel on YouTube. They have a carefully selected assortment of teens, adults and kids reacting to things. You know, like international foods, the latest computer games, pieces of nostalgia.

They’re something I have a sick fascination with, the episodes on 90's and 00's music especially. There’s something about feeling my brain recoiling at the ignorance and cringe inducing enthusiasm of youth that reminds me I’m alive. Other people prefer reality TV or horror films, but to me, there is nothing more real or horrific than real life.

Watching the teens (all of whom were born on this side of Y2K) struggling to name the songs and artists of my personal musical renaissance reinforces that I am as old as I feel, and that this feeling of disdain I hold for the younger generation is justified (again reinforcing point #1).

These feelings of shock and disappointment must be what the people that enjoyed Sneaky Feelings during their original outing in the 80's must feel about me when I say I wasn’t around when Sneaky Feelings were a thing. I missed the birth of the Dunedin sound and the advent of Flying Nun. I haven’t listened to Elvis Costello enough know the origin of the band name.

Everyone has their golden age of music. That ideal sound, feel, and style that they compare all future sound to, ultimately finding nothing compares and feeling nothing will ever be as good as the music of that time again.

Mine extends from the mid-90s Rock period to about System of a Down’s Toxicity. To me, every promise of the return to the Rock age fell disappointingly short and it’s been a struggle feeling anything meaningful in the music since.

When I think of the 80's, I think of synthy Electro Pop, Ballads, and the formative years of Goth. Not the underside of the industry, the music you had to be there for, that classic hits format shows don’t play. The folksy guitar rock inspired by overseas bands of the late 70's.

I didn’t know the Dunedin sound started before the hipster scarifies we have today. Those alternative types. I never considered there were alternative types before they garnered the mainstream appeal of this age.

Being of my mindset, with my set of influences, it was hard listening to soft rock in the beginning. It was when I started to listen to Progress Junction on repeat, like really listened, that the connections began. I started to see the similarities in the music before and the music of now.

They don’t make music like this anymore (from all accounts no one made music like Sneaky Feelings back then) but I can hear those parts that modern music stole when it branched off and mixed with other genres.

In Sneaky Feelings I hear the progressive rising sound to which my chosen genres strictly adhere. The experimentation and psychedelic guitar tricks I can’t name. The sounds that made Pink Floyd famous. I really enjoyed the effort that went into the mastering. The album had a full sound, as if the music was played all around me through these $8 Warehouse headphones. Not played at me like music is now. It was more immersive. Like was listening with, not at. It’s a sound that usually comes with vinyl releases, perhaps another product of the musical sensibilities of yesteryear.

It is hard to peg the songs on Progress Junction to a genre, when at one moment the music sounds like the Byrds and another David Bowie, and when they have a... I have no other word than Twangy, titular track on the album. It’s the most playful track on the album and a good album closer. Like the music behind the credits.

The rest of the songs are quite emotionally dense, in the same style as the pieces I’ve sought out since finishing the new album. It’s not the superficial Electro Pop I mistakenly typecast an entire decade as. It is deep moods, smooth grooves and the occasional sojourn into the obscure instrumentals. A fusion of feelings, styles, and sounds..

The words speak of a myriad of topics, relevant to the now in the style of the then. The kind of reflective musings that come with having something to compare the cultural zeitgeist to, and the life behind you to find meaning within them. Songs about earthquakes, thrift store salesmen – almost relevant to the contents of the music itself, and retirement homes.

The aforementioned pieces of memorabilia work well, this itself being memorabilia. I’m talking advertisements from even before the olden days from whence this band came. It makes it quite the self aware album, and the pieces bookend the tracks into easily digestible segments.  

These aren’t the same kids from the 80's, but their genre defining sound remains. It makes me wonder if I would recognise System of a Down were they to reform in 2030. Would they sound the same? Would I still feel the same now that I’m not the same person that felt something in their music all those years ago?

Come for the nostalgia. Come to see what it’s like for a band from your youth reform. The curiosity, the memories. While not an easy album for someone outside the era, it has its payoff if you put in the time. Songs you wouldn’t normally seek out become earworms and a piece of history you were ignorant to opens up. Good for the nostalgia. Good for the easy listening – once you get into it.

Review written by Peter-James Dries


About Sneaky Feelings

Sneaky Feelings were the poppiest Nun band, preferring poise to noise. They didn't set out to be cool; they set out to make great, hummable records with thoughtful lyrics. Their main musical influences were The Beatles, The Beach Boys, soul music, Fairport Convention, The Brill Building songwriters of the 60s for a start).

They formed at the University of Otago in Dunedin in 1980, where they were all students, and debuted with The Chills in November of that year, mixing original material with covers like 'Hey Joe' played slow like Jimi Hendrix. The line-up eventually settled as a four-piece. David Pine and Matthew Bannister were the guitarists and main songwriters; drummer Martin Durrant also contributed the odd tune. Kat Tyrie played bass.

In November 1981 the group played their first out-of-town gig with the Verlaines at the Gladstone Hotel in Christchurch. Roger Shepherd saw one of the gigs and asked both bands to participate in the 'Dunedin Double' EP with The Chills and The Stones. Three songs; 'Pity's Sake', 'There's a Chance' and 'Backroom' were recorded in a Christchurch bedroom in early 1982. The band weren't happy with the recordings, or with their next single 'Be My Friend' b/w 'Amnesia', which was made during the band's first trip to Auckland in late 82.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Sneaky Feelings


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Year: 2017
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