Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Bites - White Lines And Runways (2003)

This album features the classic four-piece line up of The Bites – Kirsty Stegwazi, René Schaefer, Gen Blackmore and Monika Fikerle. We recorded with Neil Thomason at his house in Reservoir, Melbourne, on reel-to-reel 8-track. It was quite difficult to accommodate all the instruments and vocal tracks on such a minimal set-up, but somehow we managed to get a decent mix.

I recall all three girls singing into the same microphone and everybody lending Neil a hand or two in mixing the resulting cacophony down. I actually loved the primitive technology, as it made us sound more or less like a live band in the studio. 

We’d been playing these songs for a while, and certain numbers, such as ‘Mexican Wave’ and ‘Lovesick Pilot’ got dropped from the repertoire pretty quickly after this recording. Funny, in retrospect those are some of my favourite Bites tunes.

‘Eno’ is a bona fide classic, with its ascending riff and duelling guitar lines. It’s the song that the audience kept calling out for at shows, right up until the end, but we never could make it work after parting with Gen. We revived it only once, when Kirsty and I played a duo reunion show in 2010.

White Lines And Runways came out of an atmosphere of liberation, after Melbourne’s live music scene had been dominated by shoegazey math rock bands for a few years. We deliberately embraced a messy, noisy aesthetic, which privileged fun over the chin-scratching pseudo-intellectualism that had been de rigeur. We rocked so hard that you can actually hear Kirsty breaking a string at the end of 'Masses'.

Kirsty came up with some of her most haunting lyrics on this album though, like the heart-achingly wistful ‘Desert Island’. It’s in waltz time, which makes it even more affecting. Her piano reprise at the close of the album still slays me every time.

The other curiosity is ‘Etwas Neues’, which is sung entirely in German. Having been taught the language by her Swiss grandmother, Kirsty thought that this move might enable us to find a foothold on the European touring circuit. Well, that never happened, but it still stands as a brilliant song. Her pronunciation is faultless, and the lyric references Slovenian post-modern industrial rockers Laibach. That’s pretty cool in my book.

1.   My Heart, Your Heart
2.   Nervous
3.   Etwas Neues
4.   Fired
5.   Summer Gnats
6.   Desert Island
7.   Mountains Call
8.   The Day We Lost Fitzroy
9.   Mexican Wave
10. Masses
11. Lovesick Pilot
12. Eno
13. Desert Island Piano

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