Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fresh Cuts for NZ Musician February/March 2015

One of the best things about doing (unpaid) work for NZ Musician is the sense that you’re helping expose the work of artists who might not ordinarily get a lot of coverage. It’s all about the local stuff and a broad spectrum of music is covered without preference for genre or commercial consideration. Once again I had a couple of reviews published in the Fresh Cuts section of the latest edition of the magazine.

Otis Mace has been around for something close to three and a half decades so he probably doesn’t really need my words, he’s already something of a legend in local “indie” circles. But for Dunedin pub-rockers Scurvy Dogs, there’s a real possibility that NZM is the only publication giving the band’s latest work any reach whatsoever ... and I kind of like being part of that.

Otis Mace – Balaclava (EP)

"Someone's trying to write a song to change the whole world" ... so sings Otis Mace on 'A-Marie', the third song of four on the Auckland-based troubadour's latest EP, Balaclava. It's a simple enough line, and it's one we can all relate to. It’s also something that might very well work as a mission statement for Mace. It certainly had me thinking about what might motivate him, as a much travelled singer-songwriter hovering around periphery of the local music scene for at least three full decades. During that time he's travelled the world; living in London for a spell, performing as a busker, as a solo act, and as part of various bands. Trends, scenes, and venues have come and gone, yet Mace has remained faithful to the modus operandi that has served him so well. The Balaclava EP offers up a prime example of that. Four quirky songs that traverse precisely the sort of unusual frameworks we’ve come to expect – from the power-pop bent of the title track and opener, across the humour and eccentricity of 'The Revenge of the Five Hundred Thousand Tonne Baby', right on through to the environmentally conscious closer 'Miner Key', which reminds us all that once we’ve screwed with nature, we’ll never get it back … “once it’s gone, it’s gone, you see.” Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Tony McAdam at the Ice Station Zebra studios in London, Balaclava is a more than worthy addition to Mace’s already rather extensive catalogue of work.

Scurvy Dogs – Set Sail For Hell

When they're not unfurling the Jolly Roger on cutlass-waving rum-ravaged voyages around the southerly seas of Port Chalmers, pirate rock stalwarts Scurvy Dogs are regularly playing live rock’n’roll around the ale houses, inns, and dens of decadence that make up Dunedin’s live music scene. There was a national tour a few years back, a support slot for Stiff Little Fingers last year, and a number of releases over the course of the band’s decade long existence. It sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. So much so, the current three-piece incarnation decided to record more of that swashbuckling merriment for posterity. The result is Set Sail For Hell, a rocking and rollicking five-track release, produced by long-standing first mate Paul Sammes. While there are keen Celtic-rock reference points throughout, and the entire album is pirate-themed, punk rock sits right at the very core of this release. This is rebel music played with attitude. Good old fashioned hard and fast fun. 'Sinking of John Barleycorn' is one such example; less about a maritime disaster, it’s more about raising an overflowing tankard to the gods of fire water, and it rivals the Johnny Horton cover 'Sink The Bismarck' as the best thing here.

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