Terminals’ origins are in the Victor Dimisich Band, a Christchurch group focused more on garage than pop. When that outfit (which never included anyone named Victor Dimisich) broke apart, several members joined Bill Direen in the Bilders, while the majority became Terminals. Creating a niche of their own within the brainy, wistful New Zealand pop sound of the Bats, Chills and others, Terminals ignored the sweetness of their compatriots’ music to embrace the dark side, pointing the quartet closer in spirit to Australia’s Birthday Party. The songs are like a messy emotional archaeological dig in which the excavation of pained feelings also unearths a few shining fragments.
The change in guitarist Stephen Cogle’s vocals charts the transition between the band’s first two recordings. Although he retains a Syd Barrett-like edginess on both, the neat warbling drawl he evinces on Disconnect is smoothed out on Uncoffined. The shift costs him some uniqueness, which he later made up for in clarity and intensity. Both records include tense, random organ mixed with brief squiggles of guitar feedback, anchored by drummer Peter Stapleton, who thuds on his small kit like mausoleum doors slamming. Cul-de-Sac is a CD reissue of the combined records. (In an unusual role reversal, Cogle, who writes most of the band’s music, doesn’t provide any of its lyrics. Stapleton, who divides his time — and a lot of the Victor Dimisich Band songs — between Terminals and a group called Scorched Earth Policy, takes care of that duty.)
The live Disease, recorded at various public haunts or in practice sessions, is essentially a muddy live preview of Touch, which contains pared-down/cleaned-up versions of nearly the same set of songs. Recorded in a real studio and on a 4-track between 1990 and 1992, Touch is full of garbled vocals (Cogle sings from his spleen and nerves rather than heart or mind), Mick Elborado’s twittering space organ and tea kettles boiling away in the background. Although a little slower, with the organ ringing more hollow and Cogle letting his bandmates sing more, Little Things doesn’t vary the sound much. With less of Touch‘s out-there experiments, however, it most closely resembles Uncoffined.