Snapper - Shotgun Blossom (1990)

The tag that Snapper often got in retrospect was that they were the Stereolab before Stereolab, though that only captures part of what made them and the Shotgun Blossom album such a great listen. Certainly in an uncanny way the group musically found the feedback/organ drone/motorik drive combination that Stereolab had as an early calling card (the fact that the second song is called "Can" is also a fairly clear tip of the hat to a past inspiration). The fact that the glammy stomp of "What Are You Thinking" predates Stereolab's "Transona 5" by four years is even more striking in retrospect. Instead of sweet French singing or the like, though, Peter Gutteridge and Christine Voice's vocals were often lower-key purring, almost desperately whispered, drawing connections back to fellow Kiwi acts such as This Kind of Punishment (whose Peter Jefferies guests on drums for the concluding "Rain"). Also, Gutteridge and Dominic Stones' guitar work balanced between minimal obsessiveness and brawling, massive soloing, the latter kept as part of the mix instead of the standout element ("Eyes That Shine" is a perfect example of this, with its snarl/buzzsaw opening notes and almost liquid melodies flowing through the noise). The tension between overdrive and restraint on many levels recurs throughout Shotgun Blossom after being established with a bang on the opening "Pop Your Top." The soaring, meditative guitar lines cutting through the mayhem on "Hot Sun" is a prime example, as is the full-on space/motorik combination "Emmanuelle." The swagger on songs like "Telepod Fly" suggests even older rock roots -- the squeal/shout at the end of certain lines is a kick. When the band tries something different here and there, so established is the sonic template in general that the results are downright surprising, thus the sweet semi-Byrds jangle of "Dead Pictures" (immediately followed by "Snapper and the Ocean," which blends that with the usual sound in a perfect combination).