The Black Keys are the Mark Zuckerberg of pale white boy rock. They are so boring I find myself slip off into sleep as I write this. They are the famous version of every mediocre dude band in your ‘scene’ wherever you are, they are the lesser White Stripes (who at least had Meg). So what a surprise to see Dan Auerbach write a half decent pop song, which sounds like latter day Macca, or perhaps even Wings. I have never seen CARS or CARS 2 or CARS 3. I like Pixar films. I have no interest in talking cars. Hats off to Auerbach, though — a Wings song is ten times better than imitation 70s (his solo stuff) or rockist imitation 70s (‘The Black Keys’). ‘Like I finally started living for myself again’, Auerbach sings. With lyrics as unabatedly schlocky as these it’s a good thing the melody clings to cheesy riffs with all its might. B+
I once was playing The Chills great hit ‘I love my Leather Jacket’ at work, and this lady goes “I HATE THAT SCARFIE MUSIC”. I said, what? She said ‘I love my leather jacket’. I said, ‘Oh, The Chills’. She said “I HATED THAT SCARFIE MUSIC WHEN IT CAME OUT AND I HATE IT NOW’. I said, I think Martin Phillips is too old to be a scarfie. She reiterated she hated scarfie music. I put on Tall Dwarfs. I said, Chris Knox. How about that. She said, SCARFIE MUSIC IS NOT DINNER MUSIC. B-/C+
Shaggs-esque vocals meet a pop sensibility reminiscent of The Chills. And not in the try-hard way every half-bit band in Dunedin attempts to recreate The Chills, albeit in a ‘new’ way (The Prophet Hens spring to mind). It’s a wholly joyful sensibility where the pop springs out of the joy, like a joyful jack in the box, except a joyful jack in the box playing rocknroll. When I say Shaggs-esque vocals I mean vocals seem hollowed-out somehow, like how Nico sounds hollowed out all the way. Shaggs-esque is hollowed out half the way. It feels as if this might be a Link Wray record from an alternative timeline — one where Link Wray supplants The Beatles as The Greatest Musician and everyone sports Link Wray haircuts and Link Wray jackets and your parents talk about Wraymania. In New Zealand it is cold at the moment and this record gives my icy cold heart joy. Bravo. A
Aldous Harding is nowhere near as bad as Simon Sweetman says she is. She doesn’t sound like a goat. Goats do not like folk music. ‘Blend’ is folk music at its heart – Harding can’t rid herself of plaintive guitar lines, like those that were strewn over her debut. In songs like ‘Horizon’ Harding exaggerates those folk tendencies toward something that resembles what a cave would sound like if it joined a Bob Dylan covers band with a seal and the famous singer, Seal. Folk, at its heart, is a type of theatre. Woody Guthrie is performing the part of a dust bowl Depression-era citizen. Bob Dylan is an exaggeration of those qualities to the nth degree until he suddenly decides to perform something else – country singer or Frank Sinatra or whatever. More recent folk singers — Nadia Reid, et al, peddle a version of authenticity where the singer is an omniscient entity across the whole album (consider the reverb applied to Reid’s recent outing, ‘Preservation’). So authenticity doesn’t really matter. It’s boring. But ‘Blend’ is still folkie, cold drum line or not. Harding switches between “I” and “her” effortlessly – her lyrics are so specific as to be gnomic: ‘I used to watch you from the van/it was your band’. They feel directed at one particularly person — as the audience we’re left with the husks of lyrics, the hulled shells.
I find Harding more compelling than the current crop of New Zealand folk: Reid, Kane Strang, Marlon Williams, Luckless, et al. Most folk is at pains to reassert its authenticity, to lay some WORDS on you. Lay some authentic FEELING on you. I’m relieved music in the various micro-scenes here has moved away from such sincerity. The band Ov Pain sometimes sounds like characters from a H P Lovecraft story – Tim Player’s vocals as if he were in a B movie in another reality. Harding is at ease with playing a multiplicity of characters. I’m unsure if it is always compelling — ‘Blend’ does go on a bit – it’s like the Ebert scale of rating superhero movies against superhero movies, war movies against war movies, folk singers with folk singers, and so on. B-