Release Date: Aug 7, 2015
Record label: Fire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, New Zealand Rock
Having reputedly bonded over magic mushrooms and a collective penchant for existentialist literature, idiosyncratic New Zealand indie-pop quartet The Jean- Paul Sartre Experience then sent out primitive early demo tapes inside tins of dog food. Their unlikely approach, however, attracted Roger Shepherd, whose discerning NZ DIY imprint Flying Nun had already issued titles from respected cult-level Kiwi outfits such as The Clean and The Chills. The JPSE subsequently recorded exclusively for Flying Nun, and their entire canon, from 1986- 94, is now reprised on this extensive three-disc anthology.
The Jean Paul Sartre Experience may not rank in the top-tier of Flying Nun bands in most people's minds, but this set compiling everything they released may cause some re-evaluation. First emerging in the mid-'80s with a string of solid EPs and singles (compiled on the Love Songs album), the band was a little tougher and less jangly than their counterparts. With an off-kilter lyrical view and songs that took unexpected twists, the group rewarded dedicated listening with their intelligent songcraft and churning emotions, but were capable of delivering sweetly melodic pop too.
I can’t be the only person who used to flip through the old Trouser Press review anthologies as if they were apocryphal holy books revealing undiscovered (by me) musical saints and prophets. Weeks or months after scouring over the bio-review of some obscure band, I’d strike gold in a used record bin and get to hear what I’d repeatedly read about and built up with expectation. Each new sonic discovery sent me back to the books for the next revelation.
Like their better-known more senior labelmates and fellow compatriots, The Chills, The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience were intractably linked to the fluctuating fortunes of New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records. Yet unlike Martin Phillipps’ recently self-renewed power-pop outfit, The JPSE were a far artier and more awkward proposition that perhaps understandably struggled to transcend commercial and geographical barriers to wider recognition. Whilst, this must have grated the band at the time, time has a healing hindsight effect to make sense of it all through retrospective rediscovery; which is where this 3CD/3LP boxset comes in, to retell the full story of yet another historically misplaced group.
Some folks tell us that we’re in the last days of the CD. If that’s the case, let me tell you: You will miss your water when the well runs dry, because I doubt that the experience of reissue, rediscovery and immersion facilitated by a nicely appointed CD boxed set will ever be matched by a virtual bucket-load of files. Case in point: I Like Rain.