Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The truth about Withered Hand and my dog

Tonight at the Scala gig, Dan said on stage I looked sad because of my dog. Let me put the record straight.

2 years ago I put up Dan - then an impoverished minstrel - after he supported a rock band in London. I left Dan in my flat when I went to work the next day. When I returned, my dog was pregnant.

Quick work, right? I'm not suggesting Dan "interfered" with my dog. You see, even then, before Dan strode the world like a rock love god, he had a magical sexual power that could impregnate animals just by looking at them.

Dan said sorry tonight, again, about my dog. It was a long time ago. I'm over it. I can't speak for the dog, but she seems ok. I was surprised that Dan said my dog was now dead. I suppose it was what she would have wanted. Had she been asked.

There's no moral here. On the way out of the venue tonight, someone asked me what I'd done to Dan's dog. This is how rumours start. There's a chance that if this blog post isn't published, I may be thought of as someone who messed around with a rock star's dog. I didn't.

It's worth concluding with the fact that I don't have a dog. I never have done. Not even an imaginary one. But this long-running joke, or shaggy-dog story if you like, is in danger of ruining the reputation of either a kick-ass rock love god (Dan) or a mithering indie milksop (me).

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Radiator Hospital: Torch Song

Torch Song is better than last year's - admittedly very fine - Something Wild album by the same magnitude It's A Shame About Ray is better than Lovey.

Like the Lemonheads, Radiator Hospital turn bone-crunching riffs into sweet pop hits. No one, surely, will need persuading to play Honeymoon Phase repeatedly. This and Blue Gown and Bedtime Story have that immediate powerpop energy that puts in a pep in your step. They'd sound great on daytime radio. Or in a car with the roof down.

Philly in 2014 is sounding as exciting as Boston in 1990. So far only Waxahatchee are getting the attention, but make space for Radiator Hospital, Cayetana, Little Big League and Strands Of Oak. Right, I'm going to play Sunburn by The Blake Babies. Then Torch Song again. And again.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Buy these records

The wiaiwya singles club hits 3 new highs. You should buy them all. Yes, they look great - these picture discs are very attractive - but, god, they sound great.

My Favorite
Ah, the sound of Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat. Dance With A Stranger is a twilit Domino Dancing. Second Empire is what Say Hello, Wave Goodbye would have sounded like if it had been recorded as the Berlin Wall came down. Somewhere in the background David Bowie is smoking a cigarette and musing on the futility of discotheques. This is, er, my favourite.

The Human Hearts (with Franklin Bruno and Jenny Toomey)
Distracted should have been Vanessa Paradis' follow up to Be My Baby. Flip it over and it's cocktail hour as Loyal Opposition brushes shoulders with The Girl From Ipanema while John Barry dims the lights and ups the atmos. It's entirely reasonable to imagine that Jenny and Franklin recorded this while wearing monogrammed pyjamas. No, this is my favourite.

As lovely as it's lonely, eagleowl match gentle menace with brooding lullaby. Life We Knew is a funereal shanty, bleakly captivating and rousing, and a reminder that the boys Yorkston and Roberts used to make records this good. Yes, they still make good records, but not quite this good. And that's just the b-side. Clean The Night is just as strong. No, this is...Oh, fuck it, they're all my favourites. Buy these records. You'll love them.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Allo Darlin: We Come From The Same Place

Allo Darlin was where they found their feet and Europe was where they learnt to run. We Come From The Same Place is where Allo Darlin are bigger, bolder and better than before.

Kings and Queens gets renewed with a sledgehammer bassline, Half Heart Necklace is the song J Mascis forgot to write, and Bright Eyes sounds like it hitched a ride on Halley's Comet.

Bright Eyes is a duet between Elizabeth Morris and guitarist Paul Rains. It makes good the weak spot, Dreaming, in their back catalogue. Where Dreaming sounded like it was played for laughs, or karaoke, Bright Eyes is confident, playful, ragged and knocked about. It reminds me in a way of Otis and Carla's Tramp. This whole album has that loose Memphis groove.

Allo Darlin didn't get this good by accident. They've toured for most of the past 5 years. They didn't get rich and famous along the way. No one does at this end of the music business. So they still play for love. And it shows. I admire Elizabeth for turning down big money last year for a Benetton advert (for using an Allo Darlin song, I think, or maybe for a photo shoot - I sometimes forget stuff I'm told in the pub).

I admire her and the band heaps more for this record. Part of me thinks it will be their last because of the normal demands of earning money, raising families and living in separate countries might get in the way of making another record. If so, they leave on a high. If not, We Come From The Same Place will ensure them a bigger audience for the next one.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gorilla: Mary Anne

You can check your DIY Come Out And Play: American Power Pop compilations but you won't find Mary Anne by Gorilla there. You will find the same energetic riffs, yearning for girls, sweet and effective guitar solos, and the kind of, uh, cheap tricks kids with skinny ties and guitars turned in the late 1970s. The b-side has all of the above, too.

Gorilla are from Japan. These songs are on 7". They had to be.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Temporary: Selections from Dunedin's Pop Underground 2011 - 2014

Shayne Carter got it right about NZ music when he said about the Dunedin scene: "You're braver when it doesn't really matter, less self-conscious when you think nobody's listening."

The obvious reference point for Fishrider's compilation of the new New Zealand underground is Flying Nun's 1982 Dunedin Double compilation. Fishrider is capturing a scene at an exciting time - recent releases by The Prophet Hens, Males and Trick Mammoth have placed the label as the foremost chronicler of the kiwi underground - but Temporary is a very different enterprise to Dunedin Double.

Temporary showcases Fishrider's artists, kindred spirits and fellow travellers. It quite clearly dismisses the idea that Dunedin only has one sound. How else would you explain Mr Biscuit's riot grrrl sounds that belong more to Olympia than anywhere else? Or Strange Harvest's brittle electro folk? Or Kane Strang's strung-out psychedelia?

This daring, inventive collection has more in common with 1980s NZ compilations Off Our Shoulders and Unexplored - A Compilation Of New Zealand Recordings 1982-86 than it does with the Dunedin Double. It opens the doors to a thriving, genuinely exciting scene and is strong enough to demand, correctly, that the world takes notice.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Fuck Yeah! Choo Choo Train

The late 80s to early 90s indiepop boom in the USA inspired some great fanzines. Fuck Yeah! was one of the best. Issue 2 (just "one clam" at the newsstands) came with celebrity endorsements, eg: "I just like the word FUCK, it makes me happy" - Clare, Sarah Records.

This issue had an interview with Choo Choo Train. Predictably, Ric does most of the talking (if you ever saw him on stage, he hogged the limelight even from behind the drum kit).