The Verlaines

Bird Dog

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Crafty New Zealand pop group lead by song craftsman Graham Downes that leaned heavily toward Baroque classicism on this exquisite collection of tales from 1987. Their art was in the subtlety of arrangements, and the group was pivotal in defining the complex simplicity of the Flying Nun sound alongside the Clean and the Chills. The Verlaines were certainly the first of the family in the '80s to embrace truly classical modality in their delicate pop sound, and the result is Bird Dog, as a sophisticated and glorious album of Downes' distinct genius, whose only peers would be Robert Forster and Martin Phillips. Although his craft may be fastidious, the Verlaines have mastery of rendering it effortless on Bird Dog. Later their sound may have become a little more stilted, but for a group so ahead of their time, anything is forgivable, although many fans of this character and eccentricity displayed here may believe the edge was lost in the '90s when they pursued a straighter MOR sound. With Hallelujah All the Way Home and Some Disenchanted Evening on either side of this release, it is difficult to think of another group who made three albums of this quality in five years.

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