Post ironic posturing sounds as interesting as it reads – like kids who listened to Tom Tom Club but forgot the words to Wordy Rappinghood. I’m tired of this – club music with a wink and a nudge, club music for people who can afford Lonely Hearts bras and those stupid pieces of Karen Walker jewellery. Also white girls doing dance in videos: no more. Please. Stop it. Please. Please? C-
I don’t know if The Dandy Airlines are any good but I like them. Their music verges on self-parody often – depending on your tolerance for this sort of thing you might be able to stomach it, or maybe you can stomach it for the first listen but not the second – it’s why 99% of Frank Zappa is cool when you’re 13 and you’re like WOAAH DUDE THIS ZAPPA DUDE IS KEREAZZZZZZZY ALMOST MORE KERAZZZZY THAN WEIRD AL HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE CAUSE WEIRD AL IS ONE KERAZZY GUY! – which is my way of admitting I used to listen to Zappa when I was still a mere human. You could say I am now NO LONGER HUMAN (spot the reference, look at how smart I am). I am a critic-deity. I am a god. Hurry up with my damn croissant.
It’s because when you’re making music like The Dandy Airlines you are constantly walking that tightrope between having fun and a sense of ‘play’ and falling off the edge and making me slap my own face into my wall of Peter King lathe cuts. Yet maybe it is better to fall off the edge than stay safely on the boundaries of ‘cool’ experimental – to have a sense of humour rather than remain stone-faced and grim. ‘Ashleigh and Jason’ sounds like Bad Brains – glassy and and rooted in the simplest riff there ever was. More, please. B
Sweet Mix Kids make ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ if Kanye was never a part of it. It’s like if you make a painting with the subject removed. I held this view for the introduction of the song, anyway (“you might think you’ve peaked the scene, you haven’t, the real one’s far too mean”) – or whatever. Then, as Undertheradar diplomatically puts it, it becomes rather ‘horn heavy’. It sounds like tequila-lad music – I mean ‘lads’ in the very British sense of boreish fuckboys who say things like “PUMP UP THE BASS” and “WASSUP” like it’s 2001 still and Britney and J.T are still an item.
In other words, Sweet Mix Kids make Mackelmore look like he’s on the cutting edge. The insipid chorus – “I have walked the whole world over” lacks the pizzazz of a true dancepop single – Queen Nicki’s ‘Starships’ for instance – it’s too cynically rendered, meant to be played in late night Dominos and at struggling kebab joints on K Rd. It is overwhelmingly smug, drunk on its cleverness, the way it turns and twists – slowing down the beat, speeding up moving into a country beat for a few seconds. These are all tricks supposed to add variety but come off as distractions supposed to take your eye off the Eurotrash melody, which was never good in the first place. True Eurotrash has joy to it – listen to how Ace of Bass is produced – ugly and neon and very much of its time and aware of it. There is no joy here. Only an infatuation with oneself that seems particular to twentysomething year old men. (especially to Pikachunes, who seems to have perfected sensitive fuckboy look and sound – so full of its own what-a-clever-boy-I-am-attitude that the video repulsed me, physically. Melbourne has not been good to him). It’s like: Look at how clever I am! Look at how ironic I am being! Look at how commercial I am but it’s a big joke! Ha ha! Look at my expensive curated style! Look! Look! Look! Validate me! Give me all your money! We don’t need anymore of this dudebrocore music – this is no different to Linkin Park of Six60 or Fall Out Boy – merely the canvas is altered slightly. But not a jot of sincerity. Bad, bad, pop. The musical equivalent of the corporate dads from last season’s My Kitchen Rules. D-
Well – I got a bit of flack here and there in the weekend when on my Really Real Review press junket for my dissing of The Clean in a previous review. “How could you!” they said. “David Kilgour is a national treasure!” they said. “The Clean invented music and BIC biro pens!” they said. “Maybe it’s a bit harsh”, they said. “I like The Clean and this is pretty good” they also said – the mysterious ‘they’ with so many opinions. The worst is the thing he put out with Sam Hunt, because that’s two overrated NZ ‘icons’, and Sam Hunt is worse – leery and Speights-swilling and not a very good poet. Jeez, make an album with that Booker person – the one I pretend to have read but haven’t because I’m too busy with eyebrow threading appointments etc. Jeez, make an album with CK Stead.
I’ve always liked Hamish, though. Hamish posts good things on facebook – weird youtube videos of good music with a great deal of consistency and seems less ‘legend’-like, less living on the shattered dreams of Flying Nun. And yeah – he’s a good drummer. Doesn’t show off. Sympathetic. I like Tiny Ruins/Hollie Fullbrook, too – I have talked your ear off about how NZ folk is mostly really boring – aesthetically pleasing and hits all the right buzz-notes but lacks any heart, the lyrics have all the right words but don’t sink beneath the surface. Tiny Ruins doesn’t work in this tradition,
– say the tradition of Anthonie Tonnonand co, if you want specifics (has anyone noticed how model-heavy his videos are? ( What about REAL PEOPLE am I right? Has Dove not taught us anything??). If anything she’s a inheritor to the word-heavy and pathos-heavy tradition Nina Nastasia is so good at, with sly phrasing – the downward when she sings ‘hurtling through/this dark space’ which actually place her straight in the tradition of Schubert, who’s almost as good as Tay Tay. Consider the sighs implicit in ‘Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel’. Of course, you know – German and classical, yet the feeling is retained – this one of resignation coupled with a tiny thimble-full of hope. It’s uncommonly beautiful. It feels like prose. Kilgour’s drumming is subtle and punctuates Fullbrook’s voice without declaring its presence at all – neither does the slide guitar which soars overtop, which is exactly how it should be: even though this is quite a dense track – Lanois-like even; full of swampy fullness – New Orleans ha, which only becomes apparent on second or third listen. It’s swampy but doesn’t swamp it (sorry – the bad jokes I delete from here in the course of editing are a lot, I promise). It’s wistful. It feels like The Perfect Cup Of Tea – or how Faulkner is on a good day. Fullbrook’s guitar is the most prominent instrument – again I can’t stray away from my Nina Nastasia albums (say ‘Dogs’ or ‘You Follow Me’ – also made in collaboration with a drummer, the great Jim White). It sounds hollow and rhythmic and somehow open – as if it as a wide field for the rest of the song to sit upon. Oh, and there’s bells, too – you’ll notice those on the 8th listen. A+
Here’s this ridiculous regionalist track about where I live so I had to review it because how many songs are there about Oamaru? There’s The Trendees ‘small town/dressing gown’ of course, and maybe that is it – maybe there is a Cloudboy song too? Maybe. More songs have been written about Cashel Street. Most of the bands in Oamaru – aside from the glorious Moonrakers – don’t give a damn about writing original material because they’re too busy covering Led Zeppelin or AC/DC with their shitty Ibanez guitars and trying to relive their shitty 20s even though they are 50-something year old men who come across as the saddest thing you ever did see. So! It took someone who might (?) not be from Oamaru to write an almost anthemic kraut-rock superhit about my hometown. There’s a lot of question marks here – it’s bombastic and the vocals kinda resemble Lou Reed’s ‘Disco Mystic’ and the lyrics are wry – “less solos than Marton, better houses than Greymouth” and then the chorus is “Steampunk beats a giant carrot” (I don’t know, does it?). It’s the sort of faint praise you might expect from Anna Wintour but taken down a class or two – it’s a satire of the overwhelming whiteness and homogeneity of Oamaru. Writing about this is so subjective, right – of course I want to give this song an A+ because sometimes that’s how you feel about your hometown, no matter which hometown it is. When I lived in Stockholm my friend Emma said ‘Why do you want to live here‘. ‘Cause Stockholm is beautiful! Grass is always greener, etc.
The precedent here is ‘What’s wrong with Huntly’, an actual superhit in its own right. There’s something lovely about regionalism, even when it is a bunch of backhandedness: knowing where it’s about, exactly. They sound nothing alike: Hugh and the New Zealanders sounds rowdy and human and like Woody Guthrie with grease on his chin. Otautahi Death Worm sounds weirdly slick and not quite human – maybe there is a little Devo here and there, using mechanical-sounding music to hilarious ends, etc. The question marks are from lines like “And there is bugger all Asians” – it makes you uncomfortable, even though you know that’s the intent – the white-bogan-voice. And it inhibits the white bogan voice perfectly – perhaps too perfectly for comfort. B
It’s difficult when bands release an album without a clear lead single because it means, out of my obligation to giving you the Really Real Lowdown, that I will end up listening to the whole album – ok I might skip a track or two if I get bored but I try and listen to all of it. It’s rare to say it’s been a pleasure to listen to the whole album of a band. I’ve found this with LoveyDove – Showstopper alternately sounds like what latter-day Brian Wilson should sound like – joyous and broken and bent and with liberal use of 80s pop hooks. Yet not in the way the kool kids are appropriating the 80s in astonishingly wildly predictable ways. LoveyDove, to be fair, are old enough to have actually lived through the 80s (take it from me: I used google images). It’s more like Was-brothers inspired chaos – bits of sleek LA production leaking everywhere out onto Kim K’s collection of Lanvin and then onto the stinking masses clad in Ed Hardy T-shirts or what-have-you. That’s to say it’s sleek, but broken-sleek. The album I’m thinking of in particular is Bob Dylan’s best album, Under The Red Sky – you’ll have to buy it in your local record store because it’s not on YouTube. LoveyDove take these elements (surf rock, Brian Wilson’s ear, the 80s people try and forget, big hair) and meld it into something quite delightful and refreshingly free of pretense.
I could’ve chosen the track which features the incomparable John S Hall, or the “I saw the light” – about the most Cali-sounding thing on the record. I choose “Instant Joy” because that’s how I feel at 9.26 AM on a Thursday: it has a really good hook and relentless drums that don’t care if they are cheesy – in fact, they dare you to call them cheesy. Yes, it’s long. If there’s any criticism to be had here it’s that a good amount of the songs are a bit too long. Think of as the full-blown indulgence of “Purple Rain” and contextualize it in a similar way – it’s a good party track or track to wash dishes too or clean the house to or play in your cafe (called “Katez Koffez”). The delivery is so ballsy – so many bands are afraid of being pop, or take it too seriously (Taylor Swift’s pop but takes it very seriously, Nicki Minaj is pop but plays with it – she embraces it – that’s why The Pinkprint got such a uhm-ah critical reaction, because critics are too snobby to listen to all of “Grand Piano” without worrying someone might take away their critic credintials). There’s attention to small weird sounds – ‘mm’s and ‘hmms’ in the vocals, but the weirdness never encroaches on the pop. I read an excellent piece here about Denniz Pop, AKA why-Ace-of-Base-in-your-parent’s-CD-stack, AKA the-reason-Swedes-control-the-pop-world-with-their-perfect-transport-system-and-good-public-welfare. There’s a bit where Pop’s quoted as talking about how a good pop song has something different, something slightly odd which makes it song listenable. Think of the string line in Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, or the slightly off-putting periphery sounds in “Instant Joy”. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of Swede-disco pop has to answer for here – the long mixes, yet eminently danceable long mixes. It gives, well, instant joy. A-
OK it is really hard not to make every review about how gosh darned hard it is to find Good Music sometimes – I know ya’ll think of me as agit-rock critic to the stars, the kind of critic who Christgau has night terrors about and Simon “I only listen to white guys with dicks” Sweetman resents because I have topped him as #1 living rock and roll critic in the world and my blog doesn’t rely on a lame Bob Dylan pun. But look – I like music and when I found Rank Pulla, that mysterious enigma of an electronic deity, I was excited. And when I found Music Sucks I was excited too and I still listen to it – that’s the test, isn’t it? If the song holds up after you’ve used it up like a spent artisanal coffee filter for your own selfish Real Rock Critic purposes. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing reviews of shitty bands – my tiny critic hands with their perfectly painted nail-art of Lou Reed scowling get all excited and shaky, but you’ve got to choose your targets carefully – there’s a lot of shit out there.
Lost Rockets make me excited again. Let’s talk about the obvious: the vocals resemble Black Francis*, but that’s ok because everyone knows Kim Deal was the whole reason The Pixies worked anyway, same as Kim Gordon for Sonic Youth, Yoko Ono for The Beatles, etc – what I mean is that breathless used! to! be! in! A CULT chorus-phrase which is repeated throughout works because it’s a great vocal technique – it breaks up over the deluge of guitar and drums, and the riff is a logical continuation of the sparse idea proposed at the beginning. It’s catchy. It doesn’t need to impress you. As you listen you feel yourself hypnotised by the riff – it’s because the band never seems to get sick of playing it. It drives, over and over. Same with the chorus, as the rest of the band shouts out USED TO BE (in a cult) and it’s that repetition – turning phrases subtly, adding in brackets and commas – that’s what makes it. It’s four minutes something long. I didn’t even mind. Play it at your next party probably. B+
*There’s a bit at the start where the vocalist trails off, too, that’s very Pixies as well. I know other bands before Pixies did this also – but gosh The Pixies do it well, don’t they?
I was all prepared to give this song a really (real) great great from the first couple of seconds of this song alone, after listening to so many sad songwriters releasing their songs all at once yesterday anything vaguely loud-ish felt appealing: it has an arhythmic sea-saw guitar line a bit like The Shaggs, but probably more practiced and premeditated – and the vocals are a bit Crude (this town is full of losers/you’re one/you’re one) – shouty and melodic like people who read the paper at the library. It’s a pleasing dirge. The lyrics are really great too and it’s worth reading through them on the bandcamp. But it does go on, doesn’t it? There’s a bit where the singer goes really fast and it’s like HIGH ENERGY BIT HERE – maybe it should’ve stopped before then. And you’re left with questions because your attention starts to wane. Who are these people? How seriously do they take themselves to release a vinyl which Peter King didn’t cut with his bare teeth? The audacity, the audacity! To release a $40 vinyl of four songs! Where’s the cassette?!?! Where’s the eraser? Where’s the cursor? Or, as per their bandcamp description:
“and their lo-fi, DIY punk-poet-noise-noir is utterly unique.”
Fuck all those words. lo-fi. DIY. Punk. Poet. Noise. Noir. Unique. Utterly. Is. Musicians, please stop trying so hard to market yourself – it makes ice queen critics like myself dislike you more! ‘Cause there’s a whole bunch of influences here – it’s not utterly unique – that’s a bare-faced lie. The sound of the record is pretty high-fucking-fidelity thank-you-very-much. It’s just such a vexing array of words – all so worn and used and tired and bullshit. And that’s what I mean: how much of this track was made by saying “OK, we’re going to do this, and this, and then do the fast bit, and put the vocals through a filter, and make the guitar slightly off kilter” – there’s an element of faux-naivety here. I mean, that’s fine. Jad Fair does it all the time and he’s great, but you also get the sense that there’s a pure joy that pours out of his Jad Fair guitar when he plays – a part which is not premeditated.
SO MANY FEELINGS GUYS.
This is a pretty fun song. It’s too long. The lyrics are good. B-
Sometimes, rarely, I remember that there was a period of time called the early two thousands where all guitar rock sounded like Billy Corgan’s piss in a bucket thrown at a bunch of sad fuckboys with dyed black hair and weird wristbands with lightening bolts on them and then said sad fuckboys were thrown into washing machine with a bunch of Les Paul replicas and shitty distortion pedals and then stamped out into shiny CDs with names like Rage Against The Machine or Greenday or whatever. I am probably getting half of this wrong – I mean, I avoided it like the plague – but all these bands – early two thousands fuckboy-core – sort of have the same sonic signature. The guitars are distorted but not tastefully ’cause by the time the distortion signal has been processed (probably through a bunch of compressors) it sounds like Billy Corgan taking a shit on his future self after time travelling into the future and being horrified at the transphobic asshole he became. Uhm. The vocals sound similar – over-compressed and turned into a kind of parody of emotion, as if the vocalist is going: “LOOK! AT! ME! I AM A SOULFUL WHITE BOY WHO LOST HIS ALLOWANCE!! UHHHHHHH!!” The melodies are usually unimaginative and the drummer slightly worse than a drum machine but not as mechanical. Basically,
It’s good to see No Broadcast are continuing this proud tradition. C-
Rank Pulla sounds like Yeezus if Yeezus was the logical continuation from 808s and Heartbreak (maybe I should reconsider putting albums and songs in titles – pretentious much? Eh). It’s a heady mix of warble-vocal as if over a speaker – kind of removed and commanding and 80s – whatever that means. What I mean is Liquid Sky:
I mean – hell – Discrimin8 is a Kanyesque title. It is probably one of the titles he thought up whilst eating hand-dived scallops in Hawaii on his private floating island or whatever. Or it sounds like the title to a never-made first person shooter from the fabled 90s – not the real 90s, but the fake 90s we are remember to be great. By “we” I mean “you” if “you” are over 30. I don’t remember the 90s, except watching Titanic with my Grandparents. It was boring. It wasn’t Suzy Cato – so. Names are sort of important – Rank Pulla is a great name too – so evocative. The track is dirty and woozy and like the synth-insanity garageband encourages in people- and that’s kind of great – who cares if garageband played a part in it – it sounds like it did. The melody’s not much different to Littler’s debut solo outing, but otherwise it’s a whole other thing – it is woozy. Like when you drink your seventh cup of coffee in Port Chalmers and realize some asshole has stolen your favourite beret. It’s cheesy – ‘1 2 3 4’ is sang before a brief moment of euphoria and only gives the track more life, as if reestablishing it’s real – Real Music (TM) always starts with ‘1 2 3 4’, if you didn’t realize. Taylor Swift always starts off with ‘1 2 3 4’. That’s just what you do. B+