Playthings Playthings 12″

Ōtautahi/Christchurch’s PLAYTHINGS have far too often been left in the shadows when it comes to post-mortem histories of New Zealand’s ’80s underground, which generally privilege bands who recorded for Flying Nun and/or the pastoral psychedelic Kiwi pop sound most closely associated with the label, but that’s exactly why this new compendium of the post-punk group’s two bonzer-certified singles (plus a bonus unreleased track) is so necessary. Bassist Jay Clarkson and guitarist Janine Saundercock each took a turn at the mic for their 1981 debut 7”—“Coloured” employs dryly recited vocals from Jay and angular twists of guitar with a dark and mysterious early UK DIY/Rough Trade feel, while the Janine-sung B-side “Sit Down (Stand Up)” explodes with bold, no-nonsense first wave New York punk energy like a femme-fronted VOIDOIDS. Janine left before the second and final PLAYTHINGS single in 1982 and Jay took over as PLAYTHINGS’ sole vocalist for three songs that smooth out some of the band’s sharper corners for a more pop-inclined approach, although there’s still plenty of tension to be found in the AU PAIRS-ish “Pure Frost” and the sharp, cutting guitar and rumbling bass that runs through “Bird’s Eye View,” with the previously unreleased “Grits” vaguely recalling Exene-led, Wild Gift-era X. There’s only 300 copies of this out there, and that’s criminal.