Friday, April 29, 2005

Hazards of modern life

I now have, let me see, around 600 songs that I have downloaded but not listened to. That is something like two days consecutive listening. It keeps growing. It's starting to mess with my head. I may just have to abandon them en masse and start again. Is anyone else having this problem?

My feeling is that the whole post-punk/new wave revival may have run its course. When you listen to a song by a freshfaced young band and your first and only response is "It's the Cars", it's probably time to move on to the next thing.

And yet: to keep the music industry happy, I spent some hard-earned on the latest M. Ward album, "Transistor Radio". It might not contain anything as remarkable as "Sad, Sad Song" or "Let's Dance", from "Transfiguration of Vincent", but what he does he does well, and is worth doing, so I'm sure it will be a keeper.

Accidental avant-garde

Can I just say that "Congotronics" by Konono No 1 is the most astounding album I have heard in a long, long time. Who would have thought that the thumb piano, amplified (necessarily) by home-made electrics, could make such a beautiful noise?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Smells Like (pre)Teen Spirit

Anzac Day, late afternoon. Also, the last day of school holidays. We go to Manuka for an ice cream, and then stop off for a look in the bookshop. Sometimes we spend large sums of money there, sometimes we choose to treat it as a private reading library. This time it's the latter. Julius is at the stage now of beginning to recognise a few words, so reading a Maisy book can take some time, as we pause over every "is", "in", "and". (It is impossible not to get caught up in his excitement about this. We started reading to/with both boys when they were very little, so at this stage it must seem as if some kind of arcane Mystery Of The Little Squiggly Lines is slowly being revealed to them.)

So, it becomes time to leave. Carl starts to bolt towards the door, and I tell him (firmly) that it is against the rules to run in shops. To which Julius, who is just behind me, says, "Is it okay to fart in shops?" As I said, it's time to leave.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pop rocks

Obviously, the reason things have been so quiet around here is that we have been so deeply immersed in this Dissensus thread that we have barely been able to come up for air. It's all so difficult: am I a popist? a rockist? a deleuzian? a lacanian? (It's like the Mafia don said in "Prizzi's Honour": "Do I ice her? Do I marry her? Dese tings.")

It all started off so nice; so simple: "What is good about pop music?", asked Matt Ingram, and before too long cultural theorists, obscure philosophers, even poor old Bryan Ferry, were being flung over the battlements at a furious rate. It may be fun to watch. But what's it all about? If being a "popist" means liking whatever may be "popular" at a particular moment, well, I can't see too much future in that. But to the extent that being a "rockist" carries with it some subtle (or not so subtle) element of anti-popism, i.e. disliking something because it's popular, well, there's something a bit screwy there, too.

The correct answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. Popular is not everything. But it is also not a bad thing. It just is. The charts have always been fun to watch, because you just never know what might sneak in there ("Wuthering Heights", anyone? "O Superman"?). But, if you're a serious listener/consumer of music, they're not particularly relevant. And what about those poor, sad old "rockists"? They surely can't be having that much fun, forced to categorise every piece of music according to some complex personal "auter" theory, and having to throw out their favourite records in the face of overwhelming public approval. Be aware of what's going on around you, sure, but don't take it too seriously. Carpe Diem!

Saturday, April 16, 2005


While we are having a little "time away" (from the blog, not from home, family, or anything else), you may choose to contemplate how much "Jesus, Etc" by Wilco sounds like almost any track you care to recall from Aztec Camera's "Knife" album. (The latter of which was produced by Mark Knopfler, making that the closest - guest appearance on Scott Walker's "Climate of Hunter" aside - Dire Straits will ever get to our record shelves.)

Friday, April 08, 2005

What if Johnny Ramone was President?

Wednesday night I went to see the Ramones movie, “End of the Century”, on the last night of its two-week run in the Nation’s Capital (nice to see more than the usual token small handful of punters in attendance at Electric Shadows, too). It was, of course, a terrific film. Given the subject matter, it could hardly not be.

What I walked out with was a nagging feeling that it was reminding me of something else. At 5.55 this morning I realised: it was like a Wes Anderson movie - a bunch of oddball characters in ridiculous and frequently hilarious set-ups; except that all the characters are either doomed, or sad, or tragic, or cast adrift in some way, so that it is fundamentally not a comedy (making one’s own laughter increasingly uncomfortable). And, of course, unlike a Wes Anderson movie, it is all a true story.

And, it turns out that Johnny was the most screwed up of them all. It's alway the quiet ones.

Monday, April 04, 2005

brothers gonna work it out

Slint in the New Yorker? Ah, Sasha, you've done it again.

Bonus track: Reynolds' book scores a nice review in the Independent. Big up ya mon, as the saying goes.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Infotainment Scan

We went off to the Autism ACT trivia night last night. Our table came a creditable third (we should have been equal second but let's not go there), two points behind the winner.

My contributions were few and far between, but I redeemed myself by being seemingly the only person in the room to know the name of all four Banana Splits. (How quickly we forget.)

I'm Not Angry

... but some mornings I wake up with a burning desire to pick up the Red Pen of Death and put an indelibly obliterating line through everything Elvis Costello has done since "Blood and Chocolate". Today is one of those days. It's not that nothing of value can be found in the Warners albums ("Brutal Youth", at least, still gets a fair hearing in these parts) but as a whole they are so hit and miss, and often completely misguided, that it takes a more positive disposition than I currently possess to be bothered separating the wheat from the chaff. Be gone the damned lot of you!

(Although, I wouldn't go so far as to adopt the radical approach Jonathan Lethem describes in his recent harrowing personal-history piece in the New Yorker in relation to his obsession with Talking Heads, and how he was compelled, upon witnessing the awful spectacle of their later records, to disown everything they had ever done (I mean, can you imagine life without "Remain In Light"?). Obviously, the majesty of the first few Costello albums, up to and including "Imperial Bedroom", cannot be tainted by anything that may have happened subsequently.)

(By the way, I'm willing to wager that Lethem's piece contains the only reference ever to appear in the New Yorker to Fripp and Eno's "No Pussyfooting"; at the very least it must surely be the only time Brian Eno has appeared in the opening paragraph of a feature article in the magazine. Now all we need is for Sasha Frere-Jones to slip into the magazine a reference to David Bowie's ""Heroes"", so that we can see how the magazine's ruthless and unbending style keepers deal with a song title which itself contains inverted commas.)

Spooky coincidences dept.

On Friday I sat down with some old New Yorkers at the National Library. After flicking through the ads and Goings On About Town listings at the front the first issue that I opened up, that of 18 October 1958, I got to the Talk of the Town section, the first sentence of which started with the words "The day after the Pope died ...".

Friday, April 01, 2005

Gentlemen it's Time

Over Easter we were lucky enough to be blessed by visitors from the deep, unreconstructed south (i.e., Melbourne). The conversation turned, as it does, to music. My suggestion that our visitors harboured a couple of Dead C artefacts owned by myself was countered, conclusively and authoritatively, by my being reminded that a transaction had been entered into long ago whereby those artefacts were traded for a 7” single by Alastair Galbraith, entitled “Gaudylight”, comprising five tracks and released on the short-lived but crucial XPressway label (and in the US on Siltbreeze).

Suffice to say, I do not resile from the deal. My love of that-era Alastair Galbraith is unabated. Another XPressway release, on cassette only, featuring on one side demos and on the other a recording of a performance (with Helga Hunke on piano accordian) in a Dunedin theatre late one night in June 1987 during a 24-hour book sale, has slowly been absorbed into my DNA. It is all stark, emotional, fragile. You feel that if a light was shone on this music, it would melt away.

The definitive (to my mind) Galbraith release from that time is a compilation CD, “Seely Girn”, originally released on XWay but licensed to the strangely misnamed (in this context) Feel Good All Over in the USA. It contains three-fifths of “Gaudylight”, along with selected tracks taken from the live tape, the Plagal Grind ep (with Peter Jefferies, David Mitchell and Robbie Muir), the fabled “Stormed Port” and “Timebomb” singles, and more besides.

Here, by popular request, are the three tracks from “Gaudylight” that are reproduced on “Seely Girn”:

“As In A Blender”

“Mrs Blucher”

“Warden Tye”

This gives a representative sample of Mr Galbraith’s sound (note: “Warden Tye” does cut out like that, it’s not poor handiwork on my part), and obviates the need for me to attempt any kind of description.

Out of the mouths of babes

"There are two kinds of layers, dad: the Himalayas, and bricklayers."