Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Charity Children ‘Elizabeth’

Charity Children

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[YouTube / Soundcloud]

[Grade: 3.4]

Eden Bradfield: Once you sit through the overwhelming pretentious faux-art film (or just bad art film) beginning, the song you waited all two minutes for to begin isn’t much better. Faux-relaxed strumming, faux-‘naïve’ vocals, faux-‘concern’-songwriting, when in fact it’s a highly calculated piece of shallow shit. Lou Reed singing ‘The Kids” is a better concern song than this, and even that’s not great, like, what does ‘and I am the waterboy’ even mean? But at least there’s more to it than the repetitious strain of ‘you’re unloved, Elizabeth’ and at least the delivery isn’t like every single Coco Rosie ripoff since 2006 or whatever. Seriously. [0]

Dan Taipua: Having run a warm bath and slit my wrists in the first 2mins of the video, the actual song was a nice way to glide out. [5]

Miles Sutton: The following are excerpts from Charity Children’s Facebook bio: ‘Charity Children are two lovers from New Zealand, who send their melodies flying through the streets of Berlin’; ‘Some songs are joyful, some painfully tragic but all heartfelt…’. It then goes on to talk about how they added a third member into the group (to play the cello), before finally quoting Oscar Wilde. Would it surprise you if I said that this song was hella trite, and bloated? Arohamai Elizabeth. [4]

Stephen Clover: Oh to be young, in love, relocated to Berlin and creating bewildering incomprehensible earnest scenery-chewing unacceptably self-conscious folk(?) music. [1]

Andrew B. White: So we’ve had Berlin being the destination of choice for a lot of NZ acts recently. Charity Children however don’t make the type of music you’d assume would come out of being there. This is ‘folky’, ‘organic’ and ‘erstwhile’. Not a blip or a bleep to be heard. Its the kind of current trendy sound that seems to be the new face of New Zealand music that includes the likes of Five Mile Town, Avalanche City and Farah Loux. Earnest young folk with lots of hand clapping, mandolins, upright basses and stuff. They are seriously lulling about in Tumblr-style videos, often the blokes have beards and wear vests, the girls look like librarians and obviously the lot of them read books like Huckleberry Finn and watch reruns of The Waltons. I think I’m gonna call this genre ‘Fey Pop’.

Charity Children start their song off with the mandatory mandolins (pun intended) before they get to the hand clapping stuff. The vocalist has that currently in-vogue vocal style of sounding like they are chewing something while singing – its the earnest warble of a Fey Pop singer in 2013. I find it annoying as hell. In the end this is kind of like a 2013 version of Greg Johnson’s ‘Isabelle’ but without any irony. On a side note the video is nicely done and you can kind of forgive the song for a bit if you look at it as some kind of mini movie. Six60 and NZ ‘roots’ music look set to be overtaken by Fey Pop in 2013. While that may sound appealing to some it’ll actually be a case of ‘don’t forget your lutes’ rather than roots, ad nauseum. [5]

Sean Quay: More earnest and hackneyed folk music: vague allusions to some murky tragic situation that would be utterly opaque without the video. ‘Elizabeth’ wants to be emotive and uplifting but instead is un-engaging and tired. And the ukulele makes it feel like an ad. [2]

Hayden Currie: Well-shot video. And the instrumentation and singing are technically okay. But from the first flaccid horn toots I feel bad BBQ Soul vibes emanating. And I don’t even think that’s what this is, but there’s a familiar kind of NZ Soul snarl to the delivery of the words, which speak for themselves: ‘Those few lyrics you said, all those lyrics were bad. In a prepubescent way, just cry, cry, cry all day. You’re unloved Elizabeth, you’re unloved. You’re unloved’… Yes, Elizabeth sucks.

I feel bad hating on this track so hard because for all I know the artists are sincere, loving people who give to charity and pat orphans on their heads and stuff, but it hurts my ears. [2]

Luke Jacobs: I admit that the plaintive beginning to ‘Elizabeth’ was a bit cloying to me and I had to relisten four times before I was able to get into the mode of the song a bit better. After repeat listens it sheds this saccharine quality a bit and there is a good deal of depth and tension. I liked that. The vocals were so smooth and you could tell someone with serious skills recorded it. The interplay between the two vocal lines was actually what made me like it, because despite the rather straightforward lyricism it adds an element of mystery and makes it sound a bit darker than the presentation first presents.

The horn does creep in a bit too much though, and it doesn’t really fit the mix very well. It sounds like it was recorded in a different studio and added in later. I don’t know much about the band but I would have left that out. The Veils can have that kind of instrumentation but Charity Children don’t seem to need it. Love it is much too strong a verb, but like it a bit seems apt. [7]

Taylor Groves: I dunno, unfortunately this just really didn’t touch me post 3.20 (1.30 w/o intro)/ Having heard the end, the whole song is kinda gone now. [2]

Miriama Aoake: Audible proof of the magic of Berlin. Two years on her streets has paid off for the two-piece kiwi export, Charity Children. If golden was a sensation it would be my elective emotion in this instance. I wanted to abscond from the wrath of my parents and cavort with insubordinate gypsies. Although on balance with the lyrics, telling Elizabeth she’s unloved whilst remaining seemingly jovial is confusing but in their own words, “…[Elizabeth] is… not a mawkish bellow of patronizing sympathy.” Tough love it is, Lizzy. [6]

Disclaimer: My parents are loving human beings and at present no sense of ‘wrath’ is being directed at me.


  1. Andrew- we (myself and a few others in Oamaru, so not a very big “we”) used to call what you’re calling “Fey Pop” “The Portland Sound”, because for every great band from Portland who came out here there seemed to be a bunch more who had this twee sincere folky thing going on. I guess the trend has finally reached NZ! (in bulk and in force, anyway)

  2. mattp says:

    Maybe he was an actual ‘waterboy’ at halftime in a soccer match- yearning to move up to oranges. His friend Elizabeth was a ‘watergirl’ – togethor they were in love.

  3. Possible! He wrote that song about wanting to play football for the coach ( maybe he only ever got to play waterboy. Poor Lou.

    Watergirl and waterboy sounds like a sharkboy and lavagirl spin-off. Mark my words- somebody’ll make that within 10 years. Probably in 3D.

    • speaking of water boys, you could say The Waterboys made Fey Pop® but the difference is they probably drank lots of whiskey so it sounded better.
      This latest incarnation is all very deep and sincere – 9 out of 10 of these NZ Fey Pop® actts end up playing at Parachute. Go figure.

      • stephen says:

        They’re the “salvation army” you have when you’re not having an actual Salvation Army.

  4. Maddie says:

    ‘don’t forget your lutes’


  5. Maurice says:

    All ukuleles, mangos and glockenspiels should be rounded up and deported as a serious risk to the health of New Zealand music.

  6. Princess says:

    Lou Reed the kids owns what are u on

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