Song of the Day: Jean-Paul Sartre Experience “Shadows”
New Zealand’s sardonically named, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, turn in some characteristically mellow yet catchy indie pop with “Shadows”. The song is an album track from their 1989 sophomore LP, The Size of Food, released on the venerable Flying Nun label. The label was also the home of several other “Song of the Day” featured Kiwi acts, including The Clean, The Chills and Look Blue Go Purple. As such, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience are, as to be expected, exemplars of the laid back Dunedin sound that emerged in the late ’80s from New Zealand’s South Island.
The song begins with a laid-back guitar figure before the slightly nasal vocals from singer Jim Laing enter the fray. The song manages to nicely balance a generally laid back vibe with a certain ominous undertow that hints at something far more sinister. The lyrics are boldly poetic bordering on mock epic and perfectly fit the almost soaring feel of the song. This is indie pop par excellence and it is clear to see the influence of Jean-Paul Sartre Experience (who enjoyed distribution in America as well as their native New Zealand) on contemporary and subsequent American college rock bands.
Jean-Paul Sartre Experience experience may have only lasted for three LPs, disbanding following the release of their third LP, Bleeding Star, in 1993. They remain a key act of the Dunedin scene who have not received the retrospective reassessment of some of their contemporaries and label mates (likely because the group never reformed). Still, they remain one of the key acts of a deeply compelling indie scene and deserve to be better known.