Even though I was born and raised in Dunedin I have to say the phrase “The Dunedin Sound” is completely new to me. Not being from the generation that encapsulates that label is perhaps a contributing factor, but I have come to realize that it is a fascinating subject and The Dunedin Sound by Ian Chapman has been a learning curve for me in music coming from my own hometown, during what is largely considered to be the greatest era of music.
The Dunedin Sound delves into 17 bands that were and are closely associated with the sound, providing background and explanations about the bands along with corresponding pictures that speak volumes. Amongst those we find written contributions from people that in some way or another have a connection to The Dunedin Sound. Their experiences vary greatly, as of course does how they personally view the music attached to The Dunedin Sound, but that is what gives the book a deeper meaning (rather than just biographies of some old bands that a few people want to reminisce about). It was reading about what attracted these people in the first place to the music, that makes me want to explore the treasure created in my backyard, hidden to my generation as the result of decades passing. Ian Chapman chose his contributors extremely effectively; they range from critics to fans to musicians, to music writers and more. All have a different take but all are united on the front that a vast majority of ‘80s bands from Dunedin had something special.
Throughout the book the snapshots and newspaper clippings, as well as posters (many of them hand-drawn) and the odd scribbled note here and there really made it feel like you had opened a time capsule from those days – a very well-presented and preserved one. One writer in the book talks about how ‘those days are gone now and, as is inevitable, a mythology is created and sold.’ The writer then makes the point that The Dunedin Sound is part of that, ‘but in it, relics are left to tell their own stories’, which is exactly what they do.
The only exposure I had personally had to the music written about was listening to ‘Pink Frost’ by The Chills, and it has only been since reading this book that I clicked that The Chills were a Dunedin band. But I have now discovered The Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, more fully The Chills and I know there is much more yet to explore. Ian Chapman and his many contributors have provided those like myself with the insight of what the Dunedin music scene was made up of in the ‘80s and has already proven to be an excellent guide in my initial introduction to The Dunedin Sound. He has also given many others the opportunity to revisit times passed, giving extra information about bands that they might have known and seen perform, and in that way provided a tribute to the bands of The Dunedin Sound but also to their loyal followers.
I would highly recommend this book thanks to this dual appeal, and Chapman achieves this without making his aims obvious: The Dunedin Sound is blunt in it’s truthfulness. In my opinion, those who are familiar with the books subject matter will appreciate that, and for the others who aren’t, it will prove to be a reliable source of knowledge about the esteemed Dunedin Sound.
Reviewed by Sarah Hayward
The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening
by Ian Chapman
Published by David Bateman Ltd