Beat Rhythm Fashion was a Wellington post-punk band formed in 1980 by brothers Dan and Nino Birch (who had grown up in Hong Kong). They were part of the “Terrace Scene” (centred on large, old flats near Victoria University) but the finely crafted, swirling sophistication of their sound set them apart from more aggressive musical neighbours. After signing with Mike Alexander’s Bunk label, they released three well received singles — but a projected move to Australia failed to eventuate and an August 1982 gig at Wellington’s Clyde Quay Tavern was their last.
The video for BRF's second single contrasts images of youths in gas masks with This is New Zealand-style panoramic scenery. The song ominously describes a complacent society ignoring apocalyptic possibilities: it could be the theme song to The Quiet Earth. But like BRF's UK contemporaries the Cure and Joy Division, behind the brooding, melancholic music is a pop song with deceptive hooklines. The haunting melody emerges slowly from a funereal marching beat, while the chorus is almost ecstatic, with phased synthesised strings that seem to take flight.
‘Beings Rest Finally’ was the A side of the first of three singles released by Wellington post-punk outfit Beat Rhythm Fashion (the single shared its initials with the band’s name, as did the flip side ‘Bring Real Freedom’). A product of early 80s nuclear dread — the “disaster day” in the lyrics might refer to the death of millions — the band nevertheless saw it as a “happy sort of lullaby” rather than a sad song. The TVNZ video captures this combination of innocence and terror as children paint a colourful mural over news footage of war, unrest and a mushroom cloud.
“You get the impression that Wellington wants an audience but doesn’t want to be seen to be trying too hard to get one”. This report surveys 1982's local music scene, framing tensions between an energetic politically-conscious underground, and commercial rock and pop (i.e. Auckland). Not all is positive, with complaints about lack of venues and promotion, and violence at gigs. Interviewees include Mocker Andrew Fagan, Nino Birch (Beat Rhythm Fashion), Dennis O’Brien, Ian Morris, promoter Graeme Nesbitt (in Radio Windy sweatshirt) and punk singer Void (Riot 111).
In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.