Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Album Review: Salad Boys – Salad Boys (2013)

I’ve been really impressed by this new release debut album from Christchurch’s Salad Boys. It’s available as a name-yer-price download from the band’s Bandcamp page. Get it here.

Recorded in Christchurch over the latter half of 2012, the album feels like a genuine throwback to the Flying Nun glory days of the mid Eighties, with the jangly guitar, bedsit-style vocals, and clever lyrics immediately prompting recall of great bands like The Clean, The Bats, and The Chills.

I note the band also made a cassette version available (a limited edition of 75, at $5.00 each). To be fair, as this was a February release, I suspect these will have all been snapped up by now, but that type of thinking is kind of cool, and something that fits perfectly with the band’s nostalgia-tinged modus operandi.
Highlights include: the instrumental opener ‘Eighteen Forty Four’, ‘Daytime Television’ (very psychedelic clip below), ‘Here’s No Use’, and ‘Best Kept Secret’ ... and the eight-track album download is supplemented with a pretty decent cover version of Wire’s ‘Strange’. Great stuff.
Salad Boys are: Joe Sampson - guitar, vocals, Ben Odering - bass, and James Sullivan - drums. (Sullivan is also a member of the last young Kiwi band to really impress me live – Bang Bang Eche – who I also raved about here).
Salad Boys play live at Puppies bar in Wellington on April 20 2013 in support of (ironically enough) Mr Clean himself, David Kilgour. I’m pretty sure they’ll be shit hot.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oh, Make It Magnificent, Tonight …

When I learned recently of the uncertain future faced by popular Wellington venue/club San Francisco Bath House (safety and compliance issues, followed by a sale), I was immediately fearful that two of the most loved nights on Wellington’s social calendar – and indeed, my own social calendar – would be at serious risk of becoming extinct. I thought it timely then, to have a look at the SFBH’s ‘Atomic’ and ‘24-Hour Party People’ gigs, and the main man behind both bi-monthly affairs, DJ Bill E.

Atomic has, for the past decade or so, been the benchmark by which all other Alt-80s nostalgia nights are measured. And 24-Hour Party People, with its 90s/post-millennium bent, captures a 30s-something market simply not catered for by Courtenay Place’s trendy "clubs" and venues. The great music on offer comes with the added bonus that neither night attracts the younger or more feral hordes often associated with Wellington’s mainstream party strip.

Just like its offbeat Cuba Street location, the San Francisco Bath House is known for its sense of community, and there’s no question in my mind that the success of both nights has been greatly enhanced because of that. I think it’s fair to say that Atomic has earned the title of being Wellington’s longest ever running “club gig” (prove me wrong), and that kind of accolade doesn’t come about by accident.

Atomic was started off in 1996 at the original Bar Bodega on Willis Street. It was a pretty irregular gig to begin with, but after Bill E (or Bill Nothingelseon as he is better known) returned from a three-year sabbatical in England in 2000, it started becoming a regular fixture, firstly at the (relocated/new) Bar Bodega, before moving to Indigo, which in turn became the San Fran Bath House. By 2003, 24-Hour Party People had established itself as a genuine rival to its older sibling, and the rest, as they say, is a little slice of local history.

If I learned anything from reading ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ – Brewster & Broughton’s comprehensive tome on the history of the DJ – recently, it’s that the fine art of successfully moving the crowd can be loosely whittled down to three key elements; having exquisite taste, having the vinyl to back it up, and most importantly, possessing an inherent ability to read the crowd. If you combine all three, other more peripheral factors become less critical … though obviously, venue, sound, and technical aspects of the craft are all quite important too. DJ Bill E brings all three key elements to the stage (literally), in spades. It’s as simple as that.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Bill recently – and naturally enough, my offer to get him deliriously pissed next time I see him was sufficient for him to agree to fill in a few square box shaped blanks for everythingsgonegreen …

If a time machine could transport a 21-year-old Bill E to only one of the following centres of pop culture excellence, where would he choose? … Merseyside in the 60s, New York in the 70s, or Manchester in the 80s?

Tough choice! I'd probably have to plump for New York in the 70s - the combination of disco, punk/new wave, no wave and the beginnings of hip-hop seal it, really. Pretty grim times in all 3 places, none of them would have been much fun to live through, though musically all were incredibly vibrant times. Much as I would have loved to see The Smiths, let alone Joy Division, New Order through to The Stone Roses and a whole bunch of other bands, the variety of what was happening in New York takes it for me.

There's an awesome documentary on New York in 1977:

Clever bugger
Someone has to write a song to save your life: Morrissey, Costello, or Weller?

My heart says Morrissey, but my head would probably go for Costello - he's a clever bugger.
 The dancefloor’s dying, you dig into the crate and pull out something produced by Martin Hannett and something produced by Andy Weatherall … which guy do you opt for?

Depends on the night and the vibe I guess, whichever feels right at the time. There's a perfect fence sitting answer for you, though there's some interesting similarities between the two - their use of space, dub elements, a certain darkness. It could go either way and you probably wouldn't be disappointed. There's a fabulous interview with Andy Weatherall on the Guardian music blog a few weeks back which is well worth a listen. He's a totally top bloke.

How many individual pieces of vinyl/black magic plastic do you own? (roughly is fine!)

3,178 all up as of today. That's 7", 10", 12" & LPs. I spent the last couple of years on and off cataloguing it all on, so you can check it out here if you're interested:

It was quite a labour intensive process but I'm glad it's done. It was nice to go through all my records one by one.

(I love Bill’s answer for that one. It makes me appear positively sane - Ed).

What are your most listened to albums so far this year?

1. Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold, 2. David Bowie - The Next Day, 3. Dexys - One Day I'm Going to Soar, 4. No Tag - Live at the Windsor Castle, 5. My Bloody Valentine - m.b.v., 6. Husker Du - New Day Rising, 7. Paul Kelly & The Messengers - Gossip, 8. Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner vs Everything, 9. Palma Violets - 180, 10. The Wedding Present - Tommy
"not guilty yer honour"
Guilty pleasure? (can be artist, album, or single track)

I'm at the stage now where I don't feel too guilty about anything. I'm more than partial to a bit of yacht rock or 70s singer songwriters, so I guess I've got to go with Taylor Swift, there's a little guilt attached to that :-)

Top 5 Kiwi desert island singles?

This is hard! Can I have a top 100? As of this very moment it's this (in no particular order):

Screaming Meemees - See Me Go, Car Crash Set - Fall From Grace, Danse Macabre - Between The Lines, Home Brew - Monday, The Scavengers - True Love

But ask me tomorrow and it'd probably be different.

New/current artist we can’t afford to miss?

Johnny Foreigner! From Birmingham, UK, they've been around since the mid 2000's. They tick all the right boxes for me: 3 piece (now 4), make a racket, male/female vocals, and they have tunes to spare.

Locally, The Eversons - loved their album from last year, and really looking forward to the next one.

What is your funeral song?

The cliched choice is probably Joy Division's Atmosphere, but it's pretty much unimpeachable, so, that. For something a little more upbeat, The Undertones' Teenage Kicks.

With the future of SFBH currently unresolved, worst case scenario, where does Bill E go from here?

I guess the worst case is that I have to find somewhere else to play records. Every year for about the last 5 years or so I've been saying that 'this year will be the last', but it's never quite worked out that way, I enjoy it too much. I have had one bar approach me to see if I'd be interested if things don't work out at San Fran, and there's a few venues around where it could work, so there are options. At the moment I have dates pencilled in for the rest of the year now, I just have to wait and see what happens about the sale and what the new owners want. I'll let you know :-)

The next Atomic is this coming Saturday night, 20 April 2013 …

Bill’s website can be found here

Here’s a taste of Atomic:


 And a slice of Johnny Foreigner!




Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lost Alternative 80s: The Machinations

For the penultimate Lost Alternative 80s post, here’s The Machinations, another Oz band, and yet another track from the glorious year that was 1983. This one peaked just outside the Australian Top 20, but its dancefloor-friendly groove propelled it into the US club charts. For years I had great difficulty tracking down a decent vinyl version of this track ... um, probably because for years I thought it was called ‘Precious Way’ ... here’s ‘Pressure Sway’ ...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Classic Album Review: Depeche Mode - Violator (1990)

I’ve just downloaded a (deluxe) copy of the brand new Depeche Mode album, Delta Machine. I hope to have a review of that release up on everythingsgonegreen sometime in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, in anticipation of that, I thought I’d revisit a review I wrote a while back looking at arguably the band’s finest moment: the Violator album of 1990 …


More often than not considered little more than singles-orientated chart fodder for much of the Eighties, the Depeche Mode brand was generally viewed as being largely irrelevant by 1990. Broadly thought of (by then) as fairly one dimensional and deeply unfashionable, synthpop had long since been closing in on its own use-by date, and it was going to take something extra special for DM to survive as a going concern heading into a brave new decade. And this time it was going to take something rather more tangible than new haircuts for Messrs Gahan, Gore, and co …

What Depeche Mode came up with is Violator, an album now widely regarded as the band’s masterpiece. Certainly it is the album most universally acknowledged as the one that thrust the band beyond the realm of the singles charts, and into the far more challenging and credible world of the album market. This was achieved not by abandoning its core strengths (or those glossy synths), but by developing upon them.
Violator is the sound of a band arriving at the crossroads and embracing the task at hand by adopting a darker, much harder edge to its trademark sound. Lyrically too, DM seemed more assured than they’d ever been before, the tunes this time around supplemented by a far stronger set of words than fans had been used to on previous efforts. Although, it has to be said, there are a couple of junctures on Violator still prone to induce the odd bout of cringing.

Even the more casual observer will recognise this album's best moments – ‘Personal Jesus’, ‘Enjoy The Silence’, and ‘World In My Eyes’ (to name only the most obvious tracks) have all been remixed, reconfigured, and regurgitated in so many different forms over the past two decades and that in itself is perhaps the ultimate testimony to the quality and longevity of Violator. The original versions as found on here remain just as essential, and along with ‘Policy Of Truth’, ‘Halo’, and the rather ironic* ‘Clean’, they form the core of Violator, and indeed all rate right up there as genuine synthpop classics.

(*ironic mainly because – allegedly – Gahan himself was about to enter a prolonged period of heroin addiction. I’ve seen it stated that ‘Clean’ is possibly about something other than hard drug use, but I very much doubt it).

It hardly comes as any great surprise that the release of Violator also coincided with DM finally achieving a modicum of respectability in the US – specifically as pre-eminent purveyors of dark pop within the still fledgling alt-goth genre. And although it would take a couple of post-Violator full-length efforts to really cement that status, this album essentially provided the coveted breakthrough.

So yep, Violator is quite probably the best Depeche Mode album of all, and something of a major return to form at the time.
Here's 'World In My Eyes':

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lost Alternative 80s: The Models

There’s something distinctly 1983 about this clip from Oz rockers The Models. The perfect blend of innocence, arrogance, and no little amount of hairspray. Although ‘I Hear Motion’ wasn’t the band’s biggest hit (see 1985’s ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’) a version of it blew me away on the only occasion I saw the band live in 1983, and the infectious Stevie Wonder-esque keyboard riff has been lodged firmly in the cranium ever since. This clip features the band’s classic line-up, including the late James Freud on bass, and ex-Palmerstonian Barton Price on drums.