Friday 25 November 2016

The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening

"How the hell did this happen in a city of 120,000 people sitting at the bottom of the world?" Graeme Downes of The Verlaines asks in this book's foreword.

The essays and reflections on 17 Dunedin bands attempt in part to address this. Of course, no consensus is reached on what the Dunedin sound is but there's plenty of lively discussion on what it might be and how it came to be.

There are fascinating insights - producer Stephen Kilroy explains that any sonic similarity was partly down to shared equipment. Thanks to the "trade-substitution economy" most of the amplifiers were copies of well-known brands, made in New Zealand.

Like any artistic explosion, cheap rents and practice rooms helped fuel the initial boom. And at the bottom of the world there wasn't anything else to do.

This book is mainly a celebration of the Dunedin sound, telling "the bands' much by photographs, artwork and ephemera as by the written word". It's more than a New Zealand take on A Scene In Between, though. The visuals alone would make a great gallery exhibition.

However, The Dunedin Sound is no hagiography. It finds space for a tirade against Flying Nun and Dunedin bands, even if that essay exposes the author's mean spirit, personal grudges and dislike of jangling guitars more than it offers a coherently persuasive alternative view.

That critic, Gary Steel (the type of 'character', one imagines, who enjoys being talked about, but who really wouldn't worry what people thought about him if he knew how little they did), makes a fabulous misstep when he claims the Dunedin scene was "free of the usual competitiveness".

Wait just a minute. You've got The Clean's debut single Tally Ho!, a rallying cry to a scene as powerful as the Ramones' Blitzkreig Bop (hey ho let's go!). Then there's The Verlaines' debut single, Death and the Maiden, an intense punk symphony. Then there's the first 3 Chills singles, Rolling Moon, Pink Frost and Doledrums. I've tried to think of a stronger run of 3 first singles by any band and I just can't.

Now imagine being a band in that scene with that fusillade of records. How high the bar was set for newcomers. How much competitiveness there must have been just between those 3 bands.

The Dunedin sound is still going strong. The recent Fishrider compilation Temporary is testament to Dunedin's domestic jewels. The Dunedin sound itself may be at least as much in Christchurch in recent years. But equally it's in Brooklyn, Seattle, Vancouver and Melbourne.

This book is a fittingly well-crafted tribute to the Dunedin sound's foundations.

Monday 21 November 2016

Hangover Lounge by Hacia Dos Veranos

The only surprise is that it took so long for one of contemporary music's finest exponents to pen a pagan tribute to the sexy monkeyness of the Hangover Lounge's stewards.

After 8.5 years of selflessly dedicating our lives to providing a vital public service - soothing musical Sundays, free gigs - our efforts are immortalised in song.

True, the only English words are "Hangover Lounge, the  heroes of our lives", but I'm assured that the Spanish lyric effectively conveys the virility, generosity and towering intellectualism of Tim, Steve, John and yours truly.

Spanish speakers, don't feel free to disabuse me of this interpretation.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Hangover Lounge highlights

The last Hangover Lounge is on Sunday November 20 at the Betsey Trotwood. Six bands are playing that gig - full details announced on Monday. Time to revisit some of the last 8 years' highlights.

Some because there are so many. Some because I know what your attention span is like. Some because not everything is available.

All of these are wonderful

Robert Forster
Mark this one down as 'ambition fulfilled'. Robert was as urbane, gracious and charming as I'd expected. Our Tim pointed out afterwards that there was Robert, Pete Astor and David Westlake sat on a sofa chatting. I was sat there, too, but only when I wasn't getting them drinks.

Edwyn Collins
Many people - burly, grizzled, world-weary, grown men - were blubbing during this performance. After the gig I tried to give Edwyn money for the gig. He refused until he eventually realised I wasn't going until he took the money. He took it and immediately gave it to the support band to spend on beer for themselves.

Withered Hand
Dan Willson opened our Lost Weekend at the Lexington with this song, which starts "Me and you could maybe use a lost weekend". Nice touch.

Standard Fare
Emma Kupa's played for us a number of times, every one of them brilliantly, none more so than this time.

Darren Hayman
A Lounge regular and favourite.

Allo Darlin
Elizabeth played our very first gig 8 years ago as a solo artist. No footage of that exists. She was an eye-opener. Then she formed a band, who we were lucky enough to put on a few times.

The Papas and the Mamas
I've been on a personal yet futile crusade over the last 20 years to get East Village to reform. In 1996 Paul and Martin Kelly came to a club I ran then because I'd been badgering them to reform. They didn't reform. In 2015 they played an East Village song, which is as close as that reformation will get.

The Clientele
I know you're not meant to have favourites, but I think this is the best song we released.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Buildermash - Measly Love

Bill Direen is an enigma. He once thought it would be interesting to put a monkey at the control of the mixing desk to see what happens. It was. It "led to some fairly spontaneous mixing gestures".

His band The Builders released the first album on Flying Nun. He's made many records under different names in the last 35 years, many of them a variant of 'Builders'. Some of them I admire more for their spirit of adventure than I do for their music.

The records are mostly collaborations. The latest is a 4-track 7" ep under the name Buildermash. Of course it's experimental, careering from Hawkwind space rock to Moldy Peaches anti-folk. And that's just the title track. I don't know how much I like it. I do know how much I need it.

Yes, it does cost £15 unless you live in the US. There's no stream. You buy Builders records just because or just in case. Listen to Russian Rug instead. No monkeys were hurt in the making of this records, but they were involved in the mixing: