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The Terminals - Touch

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Artist: The Terminals

Album: Touch

Label: Last Visible Dog

Review date: Apr. 18, 2008

New Zealand’s The Terminals are not one of the country’s best-known bands, despite time spent with the legendary Flying Nun label and a lineup boasting names quite recognizable to anyone familiar with the NZ anti-pop scene. While they offered their share of jangly guitars, Touch was a bit of an oddball when originally released in 1993. Remastered for this reissue, it has thankfully lost none of its rough edges.

Like some gnarly hybrid of the Velvets and the early Rough Trade catalog, shoved out squinting into the light before its time, this album rolls forward smoothly on the straightforward drumming of Peter Stapleton and steadfast bass propulsion of John Chrisstoffels. Organ and synth by Mick Elborado creep through the crevices, lending uneasy sideways sounds here and there and often taking center stage. But it’s primarily the guitars from lead singer Stephen Cogle and Brian Crook (lately of The Renderers) where things get edgy, with equal parts Dream Syndicate strum, Fall jangle, and Dead C rust and decay.

Cogle’s vocals often ring out from amidst a dusty reverb, clear but nonetheless fighting through the dense guitars and atmospheric chaff surrounding things. On songs like “Amnesia,” where the vocals and organ battle for domination, or “Mr Clean,” with strong, declamatory singing by Cogle, I’m most reminded of The Stranglers, albeit filtered through an oddly NZ-centric dreamsick vibe.

When the band let rip with strange guitar solos, twisty synth burbling, and full-on distortion mantras, they really surpass their influences and hit some pretty high marks. The opener, “Basket Case,” will make for immediate believers. The chaos at the peak of “That Thing Upstairs is not my Mother” and the authoritative swagger of “Deadly Tango” allow no argument. The title track is, oddly, one of the less effective songs. Heard 15 years later, it comes off a bit too coy, especially amidst the more immediate songs surrounding it.

As a whole, however, augmented with the original CD’s bonus track and an additional cover (“Native Waiter”), Touch hasn’t aged so much as bided its time.

By Mason Jones

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