Every Record I Own: Scorched Earth Policy – Going Thru’ a Hole in the Back of your Head
This record is a compilation of the two EPs released on Flying Nun. There are a few other cassette live recordings but this is the complete studio recordings.
This band sound like they are on the verge of collapse at any moment. They never quite lock in together. The instruments sound like they’re competing with each other. Violins and pianos float in and out but get drowned out. Guitars disintegrate into squeals. The drums give every beat equal weight, which makes everything a bit unpredictable. The floor toms are used near constantly giving the songs a heartbeat backbone. The bass seems like one of the few constants but also seems to urge the rest of the music faster and more chaotic. You have no idea where this could lead and then everything slows down and the song stops.
The lyrics reference violence, but usually indirectly. talking about flesh and throats and accidents. The vocalists sing like they’re narrators in a horror b movie, at times sounding like they’re passive to the violence, and then at other times sounding like they’re the instigators. Andrew Dawson’s very low and Mary Heney’s higher register feel weirdly interchangeable. When they sing together it’s not in harmony, but like they’re chanting.
Nothing about this band should work as well as it does. It’s anxiety inducing hearing everything hanging on by a thread (or not even hanging on). But it’s too messy to describe as tense. And they are one of my favourite bands of all time.
A couple of years ago both Mary Heney and Peter Stapleton died and both affected me quite a lot. Peter Stapleton as a drummer and lyricist was the constant factor in a lot of my favourite music, and continued doing interesting things all through his life. Mary Heney didn’t release much music after this, but I think her presence was what made Scorched Earth Policy.
I only know small amounts of biographical details of this band, so I’m not speaking to that. But musically this feels unsustainable. I understand why this band had to end after 2 EPs. I’ve listened to this twice in a row while writing this post and it feels like I now need complete silence to deal with having listened.
Most of the members went on to make other music that had similarities with this, but nothing quite comes close to the chaos and darkness of Scorched Earth Policy. I’m from Christchurch, and there’s something about this group of musicians and their music that reflects an essential part of Christchurch which I have to come back to in the future when I return to them.
Fave songs: Too Far Gone, Since the Accident, Turn your Eyes Away. Really everything. Nothing bad on here.