A two-disc, 19-track compilation starring the class of 2002 Flying Nun Records roster performing their own songs and those of their forebears on New Zealand's most fertile indie label, Under the Influence shows that although the Flying Nun scene gets much less attention than it did in the late '80s and early '90s, when New Zealand was perpetually the Next Big Thing but never quite broke through to the mainstream, it's still one of the best guitar pop labels on the planet. Recorded in the space of a few days in April 2002, these 19 songs are most enjoyable examples of Flying Nun's penchant for arty yet accessible pop songs, where hummable hooks and singalong choruses coexist alongside lyrics that name-drop French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine and arrangements that incorporate strange instrumental textures and unexpected left turns. Highlights include not only expected treats like the Clean's version of Snapper's "Gentle Hour" and previously unreleased original "Corridor" and the Tall Dwarfs' deconstruction of the Straitjacket Fits' "If I Were You," but impressive new songs by new groups like High Dependency Unit (whose moody instrumental "Inner Silenced" recalls the glory days of the Dead C) and the garage rocky D4. The two finest tracks, however, have to be Garageland's brilliant recasting of the Chills' "Heavenly Pop Hit" as a twangy surf-rock instrumental and a terrific version of the 3-D's' "Outer Space" by Betchadupa, a punk-poppy quartet led by Neil Finn's teenage son, Liam Finn, whose original "Bad Food and Long Drives" suggests that a new generation of quirky Kiwi popsters is on the immediate horizon. Special mention also must be made of Graeme Downes' clever "Same Old New World," which cuts and pastes lyrical and musical elements from half a dozen old Flying Nun classics into one entirely new song.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason