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Graeme Downes

The Verlaines emerged in the early '80s, part of the New Zealand guitar-pop belle époque which also produced such notables as The Clean, The Bats, and The Chills, and the noble Flying Nun label. After the band's amicable split-up in 1997 following a half-dozen albums, singer/guitarist Graham Downes, the only member to stay with the band from start to finish, accepted a teaching position in Aukland, but brought his four-track with him and kept on recording. Over the next couple of years he put together a new album with colleagues Peter Van Fluit and Mike O'Neil. Hammers and Anvils features much of the romantic, unpredictable charm that endeared The Verlaines to so many, but Downes has fully embraced singer-songwriterdom, his compositions still prismatic but more solitary than before, his astute lyrics as strange and wonderful as ever. Downes plays all of the instruments here, including guitar, piano, clarinet, and trumpet. Some refined rockers populate the album, as do a few sauntering, jazzier numbers, but for the most part the songs tend towards elegant, multilayered piano ballads, an ideal medium for Downes's seasoned, rough-edged voice.

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