Friday, September 02, 2005

I know a Girl Called Elsa / She’s into Alka Seltzer

Public transport...its quite a thing isn’t it. Well actually in most of the world it is. Auckland of course is another matter...more or less it has none. I used to catch the bus when I was at University a year or two back but since then for me, more or less, its been the totally pervasive form of public transport in the Queen City…that being the four door sedan with one person in it, sitting in traffic. How sad, and I guess my only excuse is that I’ve always lived within reasonable walking distance of my working space and I meant to walk…honestly, oh and the fact that over the past couple of decades much of my working time has been when buses and trains don’t run. That’s as good an excuse as any. Yep so Auckland has trains always has had as far as I know and there is a cool blog devoted to this at Slow Train Comin’, where Miles muses about his niche subject with humour and the inevitable frustration.

I’ve caught the local train in Auckland twice.

The first time was with my Grandmother back in 1967. I have no real memory of it…

The second time was last year when my ten year old daughter said to me last year “Dad…what’s a train ride like?”. I felt very guilty. She had of course caught a train quite a few times in Sydney when I took her there at age four, Australia having superb public transport in most cities; but she had no memory of it either.

So we trekked down to the new palace under the old Britomart car park (wasn’t that a shitty old building and deserving of smashing….unlike the wonderful and iconic building in Jean Batten Place that the BNZ wants to bowl for a corporate headquarters… didn’t Auckland learn anything from its Tizard endorsed gutting in the Eighties...I guess not, and the fact they would even consider it says more ugly things about the BNZ than I would think they’d like to say). I’d been there a couple of time earlier for a look…curiosity y’know, as to what we paid for, and to muse as to how much we almost spent and how much so many people walked away with. It really didn’t impress. It’s kind of like the Auckland Casino...when you’ve seen a real one its hard to get excited about something like that. But, hey, it’s a start and god knows we need one in Auckland. Now they just need to get trains that actually go somewhere, like the North Shore for example, and go often & on a regular timetable. I tried to get a ticket to Glen Innes and back but there was an extensive wait of an hour or so to come back on one of Auckland’s few lines. I inquired as to why so few bloody trains and I was told there weren’t enough people to justify the train. It seemed to me, thick as I might be, that the reason there were so few people wanting to use the train was that there was no train offered….

So we went to Newmarket, past my old flat in Parnell where Jonathan Tidball and I tried to lasso the Wellington night train with the other end of the rope tied to our uninvited lodgers’ shed…yes I know it was irresponsible of us but…………… a) he (Ted the lodger who had just moved in without invitation and preceded to terrorise our female flatmates) was at the pub, and, b) the state we were in that evening we stood no chance of successfully throwing the rope, let alone successfully hooking the choo-choo. What used to really worry me about Ted was his mate Bill Smith with a missing hand and a steel hook instead coming out of his old army jacket, which he used to drunkenly brandish in our direction of an evening.

Then we went Newmarket and bought a computer game (the complete Doom..the early ones, still the best PC game ever…end of story…I used to sit upstairs in the Box office at 3am with all the lights out, Roach Motel’s Wild Luv coming up from downstairs, all the lights off, the speakers on full, playing this….scared out of my wits) and came back.

The trains were dirty, uncomfortable and about half full and I think Isabella lost interest until I took her to Singapore and showed her a real public transport system….fast, clean, efficient and regular...everything Auckland’s system is not. And it actually goes places….

I love public transport and use it when I can. I like all subway stations (apart from the one in the South Bronx that Harry Russell and I got off at by mistake in 1990) and some buses. I always took the bus when living in London, upstairs with a walkman - I used to get the #159 from my front door in West Hampstead to my work in Norwood…enough time to read the Guardian or The Independent from cover to cover and do the crossword on the return with the added bonus of the London vista. I remember being stuck upstairs for hours surrounded by gridlock and cops the day the Libyans shot the WPC, and I’ll always associate Jah Wobble / Francois K / Holgar Czukay & The Edge’s mesmerising Snake Charmer with the lower part of Regent Street as that was where it kicked in for the first time.

That’s one of those records that seems to revisit me every few years. I never quite leave it. Quite a combination that lot…I think The Edge is one of those wasted talents. His earlier stuff (I mean his contributions to the first couple of U2 albums) had its moments and I guess the fact that he could contribute to a record like this (although maybe their mutual label, Island, when it used to be an adventurous indie, advised him it was a good credibility move..these things happen in A&R) means something. But to me U2 stopped being vaguely interesting, became an ever increasing self parody about album three and stifled the previously intriguing and astounding Brian Eno. I’ve always liked Jah Wobble too. I like the way that a completely untrained and musically illiterate bass player could revolutionise popular music in such a way...and he did…anyone who thinks that the first two PIL albums didn’t change the musical landscape forever, in so many different ways and so many different genres……………

Sadly we seem to have come to a place where people like this are no longer allowed by larger record companies (big indies like Island and Virgin…majors ceased allowing things like this many years back and have never done so in US) to make records like this. Richard Branson may be your classic offensive upper class English twat, but, all credit, he did allow so many acts to indulge their whims and without that you would never have had records like Metal Box or the first Human League album or all those Front Line albums or all those heinous Gong & Henry Cow records for that matter. Then again, it was a time when Joy Division and, indeed, The Screaming Meemees (thank you) banged their way to number one in the pop charts without a moments airplay. I guess the torch, as the majors gobbled up and neutered any large indies has been passed to the thousands of struggling little labels who continue to push the envelope. Just go and look at the releases on a site like Piccadilly and tell me music isn’t alive and well. It inspires.

Yeah, so as I said, I like public transport. Here in Bali we have these cute little bus type things called Bemos…a couple of thousand Rupiah and you get taken places…efficiently, regularly, but not comfortably, what with the roads, the motorbikes and the fact these things are not designed for a six foot bulĂ©. But you can’t have it all….

Tunes today: Gangstarr-Take it Personal…fifteen years on / Oasis-Guess God Thinks I’m Abel…a great song…what Oasis really meant really hit me in a pub in Burnham near Slough in 96..I was pissed as a newt and for the last hour before we got tossed out EVERY bloody song on the juke was Oasis & every bloody person in that pub, young and old, knew every bloody word / The Casuals- Jesamine..big cheesy song for me when I was a young teen and I found it again on Paul Weller’s wonderful Under The Influence collection. There are so many things I’d want to thank Paul Weller for and this just adds to the list……/ The Jam-Liza Radley

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Stupid White Men again...

It’s not easy getting the gist of a political situation when you are a few thousand miles away from the action and the news media is as patently useless as it is in New Zealand. The NZ Herald is a one eyed waste of space and I read with some bemusement its piece in the weekend about political bias in the media. Today of course, on form, they provide the people of Auckland with a non-story about how crime figures are much worse than we are led to believe…no political bias in printing a story like that, as lacking substance as it is if you read it, so close to an election. What a rag it really is. The Fairfax site looks like it was put together by an intermediate school class as a term project. TVNZ is …well….even on a reasonable link its so overflashed or whatever it is, that its unviewable for the first few minutes. I tend to open it then head off to another site on another tab until it settles down.

Thank god for Scoop….I love the Lyndon Hood thing I found today and Selwyn Manning’s op piece on Brash’s most recent race card speech is a must read. In earlier times those of the same ilk as Brash a few thousand miles away used a system called Apartheid for their self perceived uppity darky problems. Brash has a far more efficient system planned…he’s simply going to abolish Maori. With a few swipes of the GGs pen he can cut Maori health, crime, and any other problem. They simply don’t exist...they are assimilated. Sadly any fool who has spent any time in urban NZ, outside a few gildered towers can see the idiocy in this. Walk through any street in Auckland and Hamilton outside the National Party’s strongholds and tell me urban Maori are happily assimilated into NZ (read: white) society. It’s ignorant nonsense. I guess anyone who listens to Brash and nods their head in agreement almost deserves what they get, but New Zealand as a nation doesn’t deserve the pain and anguish Brash’s policies inevitably must bring. For me, there is an upside, a project I’ve been approached to work on has, inherently, some element of Maori music, its history and its direction. Whilst this is only a part of the project, it’s an important element and a part which is going to cause most headaches…happily I will be able to forget that element if Brash abolishes the Maori race….so perhaps I should put my hand up as a stupid old white man and vote National for a perceived self interest as so many others seem to be.

Because that’s what it really comes down to….a government for, by and about stupid old white men, and a government for people who really don’t care if Brash would have unquestioningly sent their sons and daughters off to die in some foreign misadventure at the behest of a fundamentalist government, as long as they get the extra $40 in their pocket next week. And I don’t want any part of it… maybe its best I don’t know what is happening day to day as it scares the fuck out of me


Songs that did the trick today: Patti Labelle’s “Get Ready (Looking For Loving)” re-edited with love by the mighty Ron Hardy / Kerri Chandler’s ..Bar a Thym…favourite single of the year no question / E Dancer- Heavenly….Juan Atkin’s mix

Monday, August 29, 2005

I Hear Michael wouldn't be seen dead Hanging around with this lot...

I watched some sad git attempting to do a cover of Foreigners’ “Cold as Ice” on that appalling INXS thing the other night…or at least the bit I saw before I flicked the remote...poor old Michael Hutchens must be rotating on his belt…

I met him twice…once in Sydney in the very early eighties when he was playing some pub with the then unknown INXS and once in Cause Celebre when he asked me to remove the offending Kylie (his girlfriend at the time I think) album cover on the wall behind the DJ booth with a nail thru her head. Mr Perry, in the booth at the time, simply spun it on the nail and smiled…

Cover versions are a funny thing…totally pointless or intriguing with no middle ground. I discovered Richard Hell’s live remake of Allen Toussaint’s “Cruel Way To Go Down”, a song I love unconditionally in its original form, quite by accident when I was downloading “Love Comes in Spurts” (the usual case of acquiring again what I own several copies of...just not here, ok?) from Emusic and grabbed it. Big fan of Richard Hell’s work, in any media but I’d not heard his stab at this. It was on, the surface, an odd mix, the angular punk and the delirious big production of the original but it worked...angular metallic funk would, courtesy of the likes of the mighty Gang Of 4 (been playing the Damaged Goods EP a lot recently.. fuck me, “Armalite Rifle” is such a killer song) become the soundtrack of much of the late seventies and early eighties and Hell was such a torchbearer for those that headed in that direction, it made sense …..another one I found this week on the iPod by random was the live version of Barrett Strong’s “Money” by the Beatles. I guess it’s off an “Anthology” or something and I’ve heard it a dozen times or more without listening properly but the headphones give the song a focus. The Motown original is a jaunty thing that helped establish the label; the version on “With the Beatles” (my favourite Beatles album) takes it to another level, gives it a meaning it never had before. But the live take is something else altogether. The threat in the Lennon vocal is just plain vicious and implies, with menace, grievous bodily harm if he or she doesn’t hand over the cash. The Rolling Stones for all their cartoon satanic majesty in their day never sounded this threatening. Ever...

The other one I found a few days back was a delightful cover by The Mighty Diamonds of the Chi-lites “Stoned Out of My Mind” which gave the chi-soul classic a pleasant, but less ethereal, Caribbean sheen…dunno where or when it came from (it was just on the hard drive) but it worked for me.

Despite the perceived distance between the two, punk and funk always had a linkage. I remember talking with Kerry Buchanan about the joys of George Clinton back in 77 and it was never far from the surface. The disco’s dead thing was more about the travesties of “Do You Think I’m Sexy” and Olivia Newton John than black music per se….

The record that does my head in right now is the bloody Magic Numbers…seriously…what whingeing post James Taylor shite. I really tried after all the critical raves…but go away please, you make me ill…

I’m trying to push this back in the direction of the punk / funk thang so I can mention my favourite records right now. The Juan Maclean album “Less than Human” has been a long time coming, and indeed, one of the tracks, the killer white boy p-funk workout “Give Me Every Little Thing” has been around for several years…but, worth the wait? Yep indeed… I’ve been playing the mutha over and over for the past two weeks. It feels like Clinton meets Neu meets the first PIL album meets a scalpel. Far more ordered but from the same camp is the Lindstrom remix of the LCD’s “Tribulations” which is given a Moroder-ish twist that suits it perfectly, removing the cut’n’paste discoid feel of the original somewhat and taking it somewhere into somewhere into the European hinterland in the early eighties. There's a Tiga mix too which is more electro-by-numbers so I guess it will be big on George

The other tune I really like this week has no name…Tomorrowpeople’s unnamed demo hit me without warning…as did Andrew’s last two demos. Sharp without trying too hard and a lovely subtle swaying feel, almost an electro shuffle. Make a record, bro…..