Sneaky Feelings: Send You

This 1983 debut effort by under-appreciated Flying Nun band, who were in the vanguard of the famed Dunedin Sound, is the latest to get the Captured Tracks reissue treatment.
Sneaky Feelings
Flying Nun

A band whose ambitions outpaced their recording limitations, New Zealand’s Sneaky Feelings have been largely ignored when discussing the increasingly influential ’80s Flying Nun roster. Much has been said about the tightly-coiled melodic contours of the Clean, and to a lesser extent the smart literate pop of the Verlaines — both featured alongside them in the now seminal Dunedin Double LP — but Sneaky Feelings were just as crucial in giving depth and vibrancy to a label that already bore a high number of nervy jangle heads. Notably ostracized by Flying Nun scribe Chrix Knox, who once referred to them as “bland and wimpy soft rock”, Sneaky Feelings weren’t a tough sell by any account. Their songwriting approach was perhaps too refined, and unabashedly sentimental, for a scene that, at least in their early stages, held a high standard for brazen discord rather than gentle elegance.

Recorded in the span of four days with minimal overdubs and very little studio trickery, Send You was practically built from the ground up from a series of live sessions. The descending chord progression that opens “Waiting for Touchdown” has the primal, calm antipathy of early Velvet Underground, balancing mournful balladry with rhythmic verve. At first they sound apprehensive, as if they’re figuring things out as they go along, but “Throwing Stones” quickly rectifies that with a gorgeous sprawl of cascading guitars that slowly unfurl with a floaty psychedelic sensibility.

That calm eeriness pervades throughout Send You, only mildly interrupted in its early half when they decide to explore more sophisticated, even modern, forms of pop. Vocalist Matthew Bannister bears all in the Brill Building-inspired “Strangers Again”, which gives way to saccharine type of emotionalism juxtaposed with a solid melding of twangy chords. It precedes the slightly out-of-place “Someone Else’s Eyes”, a surging, bouncy rocker brimming with single potential that, more than anything, gives a hint of how they widened their scope a few years later starting with the release of Husband House EP. It doesn’t disrupt the album’s overall arch, however, an aspect that becomes immediately apparent once the final three tracks collide into each other in dramatic sequence. It ends with the southern-tinged mid-tempo swell of “Everything I Want”, a haunting elegy that brings forth a formidable counterchange of Byrds-ian folk and pop influences.

The deft songwriting of Send You is not entirely showcased considering the label’s limited recording resources at the time, so most of the multi-tracked harmonies on display (all four members were vocalists) are unfortunately obscured. While it’ll ultimately be left forgotten to any “deeper cuts” playlist of Flying Nun’s greatest hits, the contributions made by Sneaky Feelings in the early ’80s are testaments to how the label subsequently morphed into merging lighter, more understated emotions with taut droning textures. The band went on to flirt with mainstream sensibilities further into their career before they disbanded in 1989, evoking a yearning for not wanting to repeat themselves by expanding their musical palette with chamber instruments. Their fruitful run was certainly short-lived, but thankfully, this reissue will serve as a reminder of how they were serious contenders who never ascended to the top tier.

RATING 8 / 10