Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The man in the miror

When you stand in front of the mirror, shaving or brushing your teeth do you really take a deep look at the face staring back? Not just checking for nasal hairs, I mean a really deep look. I do and it seems the older I get the less I know that person. I know the inner me is unchanged from the days of my duffel coat and winkle-picker wearing youth, it's the shell that stares back that fails to reflect this.

The eyesight doesn't help matters. I started to wear glasses a couple of years ago. At first it was just for reading but now, of course it's for everything. When I take my glasses and look at the face staring back I see my Father. Dad always wore glasses from before I was born. When he took them off I can remember thinking how strange he looked. I get that same emotion when I am glasses free (albeit in soft focus)

So what does all this have to do with music? Well it's all thanks to the clever recommendation by Spotify that I listen to Ian McCulloch's Holy Ghosts. I've always been a fan of his solo work and of course that of Echo & the Bunnymen. Hearing the orchestral re-working of Killing Moon and Bring On The Dancing Horses was like going for a spin in that magic Delorean back to those duffel coat and winklepicker wearing 80s. 

Bands didn't come much cooler than Echo & the Bunnymen and it seemed every boy at my school was trying to dress like front man Ian McCulloch. I looked at the faces of Ian McCulloch across album covers and it made me wonder, what face does he see when he's standing in front of the mirror?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Black Box - LP to CD, 20 years on

Searching for CD gems at bargain prices is a hobby of mine. School fairs, charity shops, garage sales, it doesn't matter to me. The hope I hold on to is that one day I will outlive my peers and CDs I love and want will be there fir the taking at $2 a pop. (Yes folks, CDs, not digital downloads...)

At the moment I find myself sifting through a lot of dirt to find the gems. The classical CDs are always there, probably always will be. There are also those el-cheapo compilations like "Massive Hits of the 80s!" but these really aren't my scene. So, the prize winning gem this week? Black Box - Dreamland.

For a consumer of mainly alternative music in my early 20s, this LP was one of my guilty pleasures. It's quite a distance from the maudlin sounds of Manchester to an album of French House music but I still to this day sing along to Ride On Time with far too much enthusiasm every time I play it. It makes me smile and want to dance. That can't be a bad thing...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Dunedin Sound, old and new...

I am a big Flying Nun sound fan. My love of the Dunedin Sound of the late 80s and early 90s probably helped me choose Dunedin as my new home town. Crazy but true.

One of the early bands from that era to make me prick up my ears were the Netherworld Dancing Toys. Every Kiwi knows their song For Today, it's an iconic NZ tune but they offered so much more. Slightly more radio friendly than their Flying Nun stable-mates they unfortunately chose to pursue professional careers instead of rock and roll. A shame.

Well twenty-odd years later and my family and I are residents of Dunedin. My kids sing along to For Today when it's on the radio and they've been to school with the kids of the Netherworld Dancing Toys. Dunedin's a small place. It really shouldn't have come as any surprise I suppose to hear that those kids are now making music themselves. My daughter showed me a web page for The Puzzle Puppets. These 16 year old kids now part of what I hope is the new Dunedin Music wave.

I can't wait for more...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

This will only hurt a little bit...

It's all very fine trying to convince your kids that the music you like is cool. To them of course, it's not, and that's natural. In an effort to be completely open minded though I am going to go where few parents dare. I am going to watch the NZ Top 40. Unrestrained, and sober.

I know what you're thinking, "Why on Earth would you do that?" Well, if I'm subjecting them to my CDs, it only seemed fair so let's get started...

To have any chance of finishing I'm starting at number 10. First out of the starting blocks we have...

10. Titanium - Come On Home. Sweet Jesus, a Kiwi boy band. What were they thinking?
9. Taylor Swift - We Are Never Getting Back Together. She's pretty, but I'm picking John Mayer left her when she sang to him.
8. The Script feat Will.I.Am - Hall Of Fame. Rock 'n' Rap pap.
7. Pink - Try. Well that's exactly how I don't want my daughters to sound, or dress...
6. Justin Bieber feat Nicki Minaj - Beauty and a Beat. Two of the most plastic people singing plastic pop.
5. Flo Rida. I Cry. Never a truer word said. I wept.
4. Calvin Harris feat Florence Welch - Sweet Nothing. I don't know about him but Florence has talent.
3. Rihanna - Diamonds. Dime a dozen ballad. Drivel.
2. Guy Sebastion - Battle Scars. I liked him better when he had big fuzzy hair. Just kidding, I never liked him.
1. Psy - Gangnam Style. This year's one hit wonder. Dreadful. Enough said.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Play it again Sam

One of my favourite albums many moons ago as a young lad was Soul Mining by The The. I used to listen to it on my ghetto blaster (yes folks, it was a cassette!) again and again. Play, flip, play, flip...
The stripped back synth drum and simple keyboards were in stark contrast to the rest of my guitar-fueled CD collection, but how could I not love lyrics like these:

I see an old man fingering his perishing flesh
He tells himself he was a good man and did good things
Amused and confused by life's little ironies
He swallows his bottle of distilled damnation

Over time I lost my ability to play cassettes and lost touch with the album. Imagine how excited I was to see a CD of it for sale on TradeMe! $6 + p&p later and I slid it into my CD player, eager to trip back in time and rediscover an old friend. Hang on, what's going on here!? It's The The coming from the speakers, but it's not the The The of my youth. (I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've typed 'the The The' by the way...).

The sound was too clear and crisp and clean, almost sterile in places. Matt Johnson's voice was the same but what had they done to the rest of it? Was it the lack of 'hiss' from my trusty old ghetto blaster? Perhaps. But upon further investigation I reckon it's that 'Remastered' label on the front of the CD. In future folks, if it ain't broke, don't try and fix it.
So, the search continues for a cassette version of Soul Mining, a 1983 ghetto blaster and my bottle of distilled damnation.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Radio With Pictures

Back in the days before MTV (and by MTV I mean the one that played music videos, not episodes of "Teen Mom"), I spent my formative teen years watching a show called Radio With Pictures. This show was no Top Of The Pops. RWP beamed into my living room every Sunday night and kept me glued to the tube with post punk, new wave, metal, avant garde,  homegrown Kiwi tunes and more. To see my heroes sing on screen and see their faces, fashion, their attitude all at once was inspiring.

I know this all sounds strange in our modern multi-channel youtube internet-enabled lives but back then if it wasn't Radio With Pictures it was just plain radio. Come to mention it, I can still recall when radio meant AM, no FM. Now those were dark days...

So, back to the present. We all now accept that the visual goes hand in hand with the audible. Some would argue that the visual contributes more. I watch quite a lot of of the music channel '63'. I love it. If it weren't for '63' for me and 'Living' channel for my wife we'd cancel our subscription. The point I'm trying to make is I see loads of music videos and as I age, I am attracted still, if not more, by the visual package that accompanies the music.

The best example I can think of recently is the song "A Long Time" by Mayer Hawthorne. It's a 70's funk filled dance track with the whole video simply filled with people dancing on "The New Dance Show", a low budget TV dance show based in Detroit in the late 80s. Check it out here, it makes me smile every time.