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The Human Instinct

(Sunbeam; US: 5 Jul 2011; UK: 10 May 2011)

Pure Reissue Madness

The Human Instinct originally formed in New Zealand in 1966 and quickly became one of the first bands from Down There to make it to the UK circuit, sharing stages with the Nice, Jeff Beck Group, and the Moody Blues. After 18 months the group broke up, leaving leader Maurice Greer no other option than to find a new lineup, a new direction, and start recording. The group’s earliest albums, Burning Up Years (1969), Stoned Guitar (1970) and Pins in It (1971) have all been reissued with bonus material.


The debut album is a fairly directionless collection on which the relative highlight is a cover of “You Really Got Me” that could have easily appeared in a skin flick. If there’s any unifying factor it’s the strong guitar work of Billy Te Kahika that buoys a pallid cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and other forgettable material to listenable status. It is perhaps the sound of a band that couldn’t settle on anything other than wanting to record and thus did so with results that are at best lackluster.


Stoned Guitar is a more focused effort, comprised largely of covers, most of them learned, according to drummer/vocalist Greer, from imports with the idea that the Human Instinct versions would be heard in New Zealand before the originals. Te Kahika mangles his guitar in the opening “Black Sally”, originally recorded by the Sydney band Mecca. It’s followed by an in-studio jam that serves as the one original in the lot and also predicts the New Wave of British Heavy Metal by several years.


A cover of Taste’s “Railway and Gun” closed out the original album in grand style as the New Zealanders were fairly adept at capturing the spirit of the Irish band. Unfortunately, Greer decided to add canned crowd noise and claim the track had been recorded live at the Bo Peep Club. Shame. Augmented by four bonus tracks Stoned Guitar lives up to its title and suggests that Human Instinct, despite some serious limitations in the writing department, at least knew how to throw down a hot jam.


Pins in It is the best and most fully realized of this messy trio. It is the sound of the band finally finding its stride and sounding like a full-fledged professional unit. By this point bassist Larry Waide had exited the band and was replaced by Neil Edwards, who, along with Kahika, penned a number of originals for the album. A cover of Pink Floyd’s “The Nile” is fairly interesting as are the originals “Pinzinet”, “Hazy Days” and “Highway”. The compositions are more concise than on the group’s sophomore effort—10-minute jams are replaced by two- and three-minute songs.


Not long after the album was released Kahika opted to leave the group. Greer led a new version of the band back into the studio for a single “Texas Sparrow” b/w “Children of the World”, both of which are included here as bonus cuts and are indicative of a much mellower, far less psychedelic sound.


Three more releases followed this original trio of frequently flawed and occasionally cohesive albums that, as a whole, will be of interest largely to psychedelic scholars and record store scavengers.

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Jedd Beaudoin is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He holds an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Wichita State University and hosts Strange Currency six nights week for Wichita Public Radio. His writing has appeared in No Depression and The Crab Orchard Review as well as at websites such as Ytsejam.com and Amazon.com.


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Human Instinct - Black Sally (Live)
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