Shayne Carter and John Collie formed Straitjacket Fits in in 1986 after the demise of the Doublehappys and were joined by Andrew Brough and David Wood. The reissue of Hail is deeply tinged with sadness following the recent loss of Andrew Brough; gifted songwriter and guitarist of not only Straitjacket Fits, but also Bike and Dunedin band The Blue Meanies. Andrew’s musical impact is undeniable and it’s unimaginable to think of a world without his contributions to New Zealand music.
Straitjacket Fits’ debut release, the Dialling a Prayer EP appeared in 1987 and the album Hail was released in 1988. Both were recorded at The Lab in Auckland with Terry Moore (from The Chills). This reissued version of Hail is a combination of both those records as it was originally released in the UK by Rough Trade.
“[The songs] ‘Hail’ and ‘Grate’ suggested a monolithic guitar monster future and, while that is part of what can be found on Hail, there is a remarkable diversity of song and sound on show. The oft-described Shayne Carter/Andrew Brough duality of sour/hard and sweet/soft is a simplified observation of what is a much deeper and richer stew of ideas and sounds.” reflects Flying Nun Records founder, Roger Shepherd.
Hail is an album that beautifully showcases the many strengths of Straitjacket Fits in the early part of their development. It is a record full of furious off-piste guitaring and startling vocals anchored by a granite hard rhythm section but that also showcases gentler melodic material including a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘So Long Marianne’. But generally the songs are more experimental in nature with a considerable range of material from Andrew Brough’s standout ‘Fabulous Things’ to the vigorous guitar noise of Shayne Carter’s ‘Grate’.
Hail is a documentation of a band on the up, a band flexing its potential and oozing confidence and optimism. With Hail the Straitjacket Fits were well on their way to giving the rock ‘n’ roll thing their very best shot.