Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Obscure: Observing The Cure

A new book of interest – to be released in September:

“Andy Vella has been observing The Cure since 1981. Foruli Codex (@foruli) is delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of 'Obscure', Vella's book of rare and unseen photographs of the band. 33 years in the making, 'Obscure' will be published worldwide in September 2014. This visually stunning and beautifully designed volume has been compiled with the full input of Robert Smith, who has also written the foreword.”

More details here

Brand New Hallelujah Picassos!

Out today – brand new from one of New Zealand’s great “lost” bands – Hallelujah Picassos with ‘Salvadore (Miles Away From You)’. It’s available as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp (link below). The band has released a few compilations of older material in recent years, but this is a new recording, the band’s first new track in 18 years, featuring the original line-up, and it’s apparently a forerunner for an EP due out in September. Get it while it’s hot ...

Hallelujah Picassos Bandcamp/Download here

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Classic Album Review: Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)

Sinead O’Connor has made a career out of wearing her heart on her sleeve – continually putting it out there, and damning any consequences.

O’Connor’s second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, is a prime example of exactly that, and it explores all of the usual Sinead perennials – from broken relationships to motherhood to social injustice to religion.
All of these themes will be very familiar to fans of O’Connor’s work, and they’re more or less ever present strands on each of her albums. What we get on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is personal, intimate, heartfelt … and seldom safe.

But what separates this album from earlier or subsequent work is the presence of a smash hit single, with the inclusion of her take on Prince’s emotional break-up epic ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, which was a No.1 hit across the globe back in 1990.

That track is an obvious highlight on the album, but I’ve always thought it odd that such a talented wordsmith (in her own right) should be best known to the masses for her interpretation of someone else’s words. But I guess she’s not alone in that regard.

What that hit did was to expose O’Connor’s work to a much wider public, and in many respects that in itself granted her a fair amount of artistic license or freedom when it came to controlling later output.

‘Nothing Compares’ also pretty much guaranteed the commercial success of the album itself, and IDNWWIHG is generally accepted as O’Connor’s most popular work.

Musically there’s a bit of everything – strings, fiddle, drum programming, a variety of percussion, some acoustic stuff, and some old fashioned power-pop.

The album credits are not without their heavyweights; including onetime Adam Ant collaborator Marco Pirroni on guitar duties (plus a song-writing credit for ‘Jump In The River’), and the legendary Pilster Jah Wobble sharing bass responsibilities with one Andy Rourke (ex-The Smiths). And there’s first husband, drummer, and sometime producer John Reynolds, who also happens to be the father of Sinead’s son Jake.

All up, it’s a great listen, but with its heart wrenching themes, it’s not really an album for all occasions … handle with care, and do not mix with alcohol.

Highlights: ‘Nothing Compares’, the scene setting opener ‘Feel So Different’, the genre-defying ‘I Am Stretched On Your Grave’, the simplicity of ‘Three Babies’, and the politically-motivated telling-it-like-it-is ‘Black Boys On Mopeds’.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Album Review: Warpaint - Warpaint (2014)

LA-based indie rockers Warpaint first crossed my radar a few years back when I heard their inspired cover of David Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes', and a superb track called 'Undertow', which was a single off the band's full-length debut The Fool. I never got around to picking up a copy of The Fool, but that initial exposure to Warpaint left a big enough impression for me to grab a download of the band's eponymous second album when it was released earlier this year.

Produced by Flood and mixed by Nigel Godrich, the second album has proven to be a marked success, propelling the all girl group into a whole other stratosphere from the humble origins of the low key debut – as their recent raved-about appearance at Glastonbury would tend to indicate. Warpaint, it seems, is one of the "buzz" bands of 2014, and one that offers yet more evidence that no longer is there any line between what we once called indie, and what now amounts to commercial pop, class of 2014. But I'm personally not so sure I get what all the fuss is about.

There's not really a lot wrong with the album - it's essentially lush dark atmospheric pop music, not too dissimilar to the more commercial variant offered by the Cocteau Twins all those years back. In fact you could argue that all of the album’s strongest moments have a soft-rock retro crossover feel about them.

Buzz gurls

But as much as I've tried to get on board with it, as many times as I've given it "another chance" by giving it another spin, I'm quite bored by it. It's all just a bit bland.  It ticks many of the boxes; it’s well produced, as you'd expect from a production dream team, there’s nothing offensive about it (to damn with faint praise), it’s just that nothing on the album really grabs me, nothing really screams out … "listen again" ... so, the truth is … I probably won't.

Highlights: it certainly feels like all of the best moments occur in the first half of the 12-track album – say, 'Keep It Healthy', 'Love Is To Die', and 'Biggy'. 
This is a great little clip and one that catches the band in an almost perfect light:

Album Review: No Broadcast - No Broadcast (2014)

This one came recommended by a couple of local bloggers and it’s a “name your price” download on Bandcamp, so I figured what’s to lose?

No Broadcast is a hard rocking Christchurch-based three-piece and this self-titled debut album was released digitally a few months back. The band has been together in one form or another for the best part of a decade, calling itself Anthesiac for a few years – releasing an EP titled ‘Null And Void’ under that moniker back in 2011 – before a name change to No Broadcast. An EP called ‘1736’ followed in 2013, and earlier this year a second EP, ‘Live at the Dux’, showcased the band performing live in Christchurch.

Finally getting around to a full length release, the Bandcamp blurb notes that the album was “recorded throughout the year of 2012 in Josh's garage and house” ...

The fact that the band has honed its craft with regular gigs and live performances over a prolonged period probably explains why the album itself immediately comes across as very assured for a debut release. These guys are tight, and the album feels like the culmination of many years worth of hard work.

Whatever else it is, No Broadcast is a solid set of very heavy tunes – not metal, but atmospheric hard rock, brooding and foreboding at times, with prog rock influences also at play. Classic rock touchstones abound, and the album seems to get progressively heavier, relentlessly building to the climax of the eight-minute-plus closer ‘Driven’.

Other highlights here are the opener ‘Reset The Sun’, plus ‘Realise’, which I think was an advance single, and the mid-album two-part ‘Drone’, with part two being particularly impressive in its menacing Mogwai-esque approach.

Josh Braden’s vocal, guitar playing, and production is strong throughout, while rhythm pairing Sam Hood (bass) and Chris Self (drums) lay an unyielding foundation, and I’m struggling to recall the last time I heard this much of a racket from a three piece.

Harder rock forms aren’t usually my bag ...well, not post-millennium hard rock forms anyway ... but this was well worth the trouble of the download and it took me a little by surprise. You really should grab a copy from the band’s Bandcamp page and decide for yourself.
Here's 'Reset The Sun' ...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Elvis Should Play Ska

Sometimes when I’m surfing the net and poking around You Tube music clips I get an overwhelming desire to share my discoveries. Like anyone else really cares, right?

Perhaps that’s a childhood conditioning thing, perhaps it’s an external validation thing, or perhaps it’s something else entirely ... I dunno. I don’t really care ... it is what it is.
Anyway, I’m not usually one for posting completely random video clips to the blog – that’s more of a Facebook thing for me – but I’ve already owned up to a love of Tears For Fears on here, and well, I thought there was something slightly disturbing about this clip, and I wanted to share the cringe factor with you.
Because let’s face it, if I can’t “disturb” my reader(s) every now and again, I’m not really much of a blogger am I?
So, have you ever wondered what Curt and Roland were doing before they became emo synthpop giants? They were part of a band called Graduate and they weren’t very good ...

Here's Graduate with 'Elvis Should Play Ska' ...

WARNING: contains awkward and embarrassing 80s dance moves, proceed at own risk:


Linky Love

I noticed that the online edition of NZ Musician has posted my June/July issue Q&A with local indie god and funny man Vorn Colgan. I thought the questions I posed were really rather ordinary but Colgan’s responses were superb ... here's the link:

Q&A with Vorn Colgan (of Vorn) as featured in NZ Musician June/July 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Album Review: Celt Islam - Generation Bass (2014)

This is the first of two recent Earth City Recordz* label releases the blog currently has queued up for review. The other release is another instalment in the label's Future Sound of the Underground sampler series – Volume 4 – and I hope to get back to that one soon. But this one takes pride of place and is yet another cutting edge work from the label's main man, Sufi electro/dub specialist Muhammad Hamzah (aka Celt Islam).

Earlier in the year I took a look at Celt Islam's seriously good Medina EP, but Generation Bass represents something entirely different. Not only in terms of the album being rather more expansive than the EP format – featuring twelve frenetic tracks – but because it also appears to represent a move toward a much harder edge style.
Where much of Celt Islam's past work has merged electro textures with dub and softer world music signatures, Generation Bass morphs industrial strength dubstep with high tempo EDM in a way that elevates this sound to another level of intensity altogether. It doesn’t sacrifice a commitment to global sounds – a wide variety of “world” music influences remain intact – yet it also feels quite different to past work ... heavier, more urgent. In short, Generation Bass feels like progression, a genuine step forward for Celt Islam.
The album opens as it means to go on, instantly reaching for the jugular on the highly charged dubstep-infused 'Dub Virus', followed by the sub-rattling 'Ghettoblaster', which does exactly what it says on the tin. They’re clear highlights and a great choice as an opening pairing, but there's no let up all the way through to album closer ‘Energize’. With no obvious catch-yer-breath chill out moment, this is relentless high bpm electro dub of an almost post apocalyptic nature.

If Celt Islam’s music is all about sending a message – and it is, the message has always been one of respect, tolerance, and inclusiveness – then right now it appears that something is under this man’s skin, and right now it seems he’s as mad as hell.

And why wouldn’t he be when every day it feels like nobody is listening? When every day (on a global scale) there’s another new conflict? When every day murder, hatred, and division is rife just about everywhere you care to look ... when you’ve reached the stage where you can no longer trust your own government or its puppets in the mainstream media?

Generation Bass, whatever else it is, feels as though it was a cathartic exercise for the man who made it.

Other highlights include ‘Cosmonaut’, ‘Earth Tribe’ and ‘Interstellar Nomad’, but there isn't really any filler on what amounts to a take-no-prisoners no-holds-barred beast of an album.

My copy of the album is an advance release for preview, so it’s not quite out yet ... but keep an eye on the Earth City Recordz Bandcamp page ... and maybe grab a couple of the label’s other releases while you wait.

* belated postscript/update 27 August 2014: it turns out Generation Bass was released on Urban Sedated Records - not Earth City Recordz. This review was written pre-release and I just presumed Earth City Recordz would release and distribute as per the case with much of (but not all of) Celt Islam's previous work ...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On My Radio

Fantastic news this week that 2-tone legends The Selecter will open a six-date tour of Australia with three gigs in NZ this October – one each for Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. For me this is a bucket list gig, up there with The Specials in Godzone back in 2009. I’ve always believed that The Selecter and The Specials were/are the most authentic acts of the late 70s ska explosion. I didn’t mind missing out on The Beat (a few months back) and I never really warmed to Madness, but there was a degree of political nous and serious social commentary present in the music of The Specials and The Selecter that elevated both bands to a height other acts of the era never quite attained ...

Metropolis Touring and Tombowler proudly present:
TOO MUCH PRESSURE – 35th Anniversary Tour!
2-Tone Legends The Selecter will return to Australia this October on their Too Much Pressure 35th Anniversary Tour!
One of the most vital, visceral and important ska / 2-Tone acts ever, The Selecter are fronted by the female icon of the 2-Tone era, Pauline Black (cited as a prime influence by No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani) and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson. Mixing punk, ska and reggae, The Selecter reflected the social and political issues of the early Thatcher years in Britain and gave a voice to disaffected youth across the racial divide that still rings true today.
The Selecter burst onto the ska scene in March 1979 with the self titled song on the flipside of The Specials 'Gangsters' (the debut release on 2-Tone Records). They followed that in October with their own single, the skankin’ classic 'On My Radio'. And in February 1980 they released their classic debut album Too Much Pressure which spawned the timeless - 'Three Minute Hero', 'Missing Words' and of course 'Too Much Pressure'. It will be played IN FULL along with a special encore of all your favourites from their extensive back catalogue!
Pauline Black “We thought our 35th anniversary would be the perfect time to revisit our very first album Too Much Pressure and perform it in full…for the very first time! We can’t wait to get on the road to bring our message of multiculturalism from across 4 decades to venues up and down the land. See you there!”

After hitting Australian shores in 2012 for the first time ever, the band have jumped at the chance to return to a country filled with 2-Tone lovers. They will kick things off with three shows in New Zealand, where they are venturing for the first time before playing every capital city in Oz. As anyone who came along last time knows this isn’t a band simply going through the motions – they still put every bit of energy they have into their shows and deliver the ska goodness!
"The pit and circle of sweaty dancers threatened to spin out of control." Coachella Review
"A joyous rude-boy revue from an act as slick and brash as their shiny silver suits." GQ Magazine
Thursday 8th October – DuxLive – Christchurch NZ
Friday 10th October – Bodega – Wellington - NZ
Saturday 11th October – The Studio – Auckland NZ
www.theselecter.net / www.metropolistouring.com / www.tombowler.com.au

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blog update, Me, and Mrs Jones ...

The blog has been a little neglected lately. You may have noticed. Usually I’m pretty anal about regular updates or posts – even if it is just an album review or two to keep things ticking over. But last month was the first time in two full years where everythingsgonegreen fell short of its self-imposed minimum quota of four posts per month. Ah well ...

It isn’t as though your humble blogger hasn’t been busy. So much so, whenever I’ve thought about the blog it’s amounted to a shrug of the shoulders and a ... “nah, can’t really be arsed” (that’s a little voice in my head, not anything I said out loud).
But with a whole raft of real life issues to contend with – a short family holiday, a cancer scare/biopsy, ongoing health dramas for a teenage daughter, the tragic accidental death of a close friend, some DIY, World Cup footy, and the small matter of successfully breaking free of my last remaining addiction (nicotine) – you might say I’ve had a lot on my plate ... and then there’s the day job.

I’ve also started a new relationship with another publication. I’ve been moonlighting. I’ve been seeing “someone else”. Breaking out from the bosom of everythingsgonegreen and contributing words for NZ Musician magazine. That in itself has taken me beyond a comfort zone and presented fresh challenges. When I write album reviews for the blog it’s simple; I ramble ... I have as much space as I like to say whatever I like ... whenever I like ... about whatever album I like. There are no rules and no word count restrictions. I’m the boss of me.

With NZ Musician it’s quite different; I have no idea what album I’ll be sent to review, or even how many. I have to say what I want to say with a maximum of around 300 words, and the brief includes trying to be “positive wherever possible” or to “view it from the angle of the audience it WILL appeal to”. Which is fair enough. It’s a bi-monthly publication with limited space, and whatever else it is it’s a magazine about NZ music for NZ musicians. It pushes the boat out for local content far more than any other “local” music publication currently in print form (say Groove Guide, The Fold, Rip It Up). You could call it “loyal”.

For the most recent edition (June/July) I reviewed new releases from exceptional Wellington-based band Vorn, and Melbourne-based Kiwi rockers Bonjah. I also posed a few questions for a two-page Q&A spread with Vorn Colgan (of Vorn). For the next edition I have a CD/DVD/new release from another Wellington-based musician, a solo artist, and my first impression of that one is that it’s going to be especially hard to stick to the “positive” brief. Thankfully I have a word count to adhere to.
More generally, chatting (online) with members of the small editorial team at NZ Musician has been interesting. The magazine exists only due to the hard work of a few key individuals yet its muso-centric starting point is very unique, and I think that point of difference is actually quite important for the industry here in NZ. It would be great if more outlets stocked it, despite it being readily available around Auckland and the upper North Island, only The Rock Shop and Slowboat Records help out with distribution in Wellington. For a quality glossy pick-me-up, that's a real shame.

So anyway, everythingsgonegreen is back, for now at least. I will upload (on the blog) the work I’ve done for NZ Musician at some stage – but not until the next issue is in circulation, as I guess that gives the magazine some form of interim exclusivity (for what that's worth!). In the meantime I also intend to jot down a few words for the sole benefit of the blog, to get things back on a regular footing, with regular posts.
But I really can’t be sure of that either ...