Saturday, December 09, 2006

i wish that I was born a thousand years ago

I bought my first record from ITunes….is an MP3 collection a record? Bugger it, I’m a stick in the mud old fella, and although I was corrected by my daughter, a record it still is to me, and always will be without apology. Now that NZ has its very own store I thought I should at least try it so that I have some sort of an idea of what the experience, and the store is like. I’m in no way a download novice. Quite the opposite, and, amongst other sites, I like both Beatport and Emusic a lot. They provide good music (and some crap of course) at a reasonable price (as does Apple). But they are also something that iTunes is not, after a few days experience, and that’s easy to use and attractive. Both look and feel far less amateurish than iTunes and that’s saying something as this is Apple for gods sake. Apple is not supposed to be facelessly corporate but iTunes is. I guess they forgot to ask Jonathan Ives whether the ITunes Store looked any good. Its both ugly and a bitch to get around and find music on. I like the way Emusic shows me a path forward. It’s a music addict’s site, a place that seems to offer me secret bits and pieces, hidden gems, if I just keep clicking, in the same way that the best record shops entice me just to flick through one more bin. Beatport is the same. ITunes on the other hand feels utterly corporate and its cluttered and confused, hard to find anything, dominated by greatest hits collections (so much for the long tail), and when you do find something there are no smart ways forward offered. It feels like a Wal-Mart. Still, like Wal-Mart, they have the market.

I bought Lou Reed’s Rock’n’Roll Animal live album from the early seventies. It was pure nostalgia I admit but I have a place in my heart for this album. Not only did I see him live, with bleached hair and attitude, about the time it was released but this album with its wall of sculptured guitar noise was the soundtrack to so many parties in the pre-punk years, and it’s tattooed into my mind. Lou Reed is, any interview with the man indicates, an obnoxious wanker. I like him a lot. He’s been everything a rock’n’roll artist should be…unpredictable, offensive and, in between, capable of producing many moments of sheer genius. That he is one of the most influential songwriters of the past fifty years is without question but I also love the un-listenable double album Metal Machine Music, not for what it sounded like but the fuck you to RCA it stood for. And it makes me wonder why recording artists are so damned nice these days. It feels like, and sounds like the backbone has been excised from popular music. It’s all too Brooke Fraser for me. Artists are meant to be difficult. Its no wonder music is not selling.

So it was Lou for me…my vinyl copy of Rock’n’Roll Animal on vinyl has been with me for close to thirty years, maybe more, and it’s a shitty old thin Pye pressing, the kind you can bend right around, from the old Paeroa factory. In a nostalgia free world I would’ve tossed it years ago, especially since BMG re-issued the album, nicely remastered about six years back. But Real Groovy for some reason saw fit to market a mid price import at close to sixty dollars. So they lost the sale.

Itunes on the other hand have it at $17, which is a snip, and now I have a listenable copy of Lou’s great cock rock, only a tiny bit bloated, masterpiece on my hard drive. And I can close my eyes and drift back to 1974 again and writhe with pleasure as it drops into Sweet Jane about three and a half minutes into the intro.

As an aside Peter Mac over at Dub dot dash has a bunch of New Zealand best ofs up, including mine, which was a bit of a cop out I guess as I touted an album to five to twenty five year old NZ indie tracks as the best NZ release of 2006. That’s more a case of not having heard half the tracks others are talking about, than anything else. But I can’t help but feeling that the lack of focus amongst all of we quotees indicates that, whilst the odd good record is being made at a grass roots level things are floundering quite substantially at any level beyond that. Over the past decades there has, year in year out, been some act or artist of interest or worth with obvious substantial forward momentum at any given time. That there isn’t right now is no indication that nothing is worthy happening it’s just a odd sense of ennui that I’ve never seen before in the industry. And it is a worry. I hope I’m wrong.

The NZ record that is getting a major buzz in the UK right now is the new Greg Churchill..which as he so rightly points out, like all his earlier records..including a UK pop chart entry..has had zero NZ on Air support (still that's what happens when you let people who have no idea about music, NZ radio programmers, near the selection process). After several plays on Pete Tong's incredibly influential Radio One show, its at number fifteen on the important DMC Buzz Chart. Makes yer proud....

Oh, and The Others album I mentioned and which I’ve been asked about by more than a few is called Something Error Happens and their MySpace is here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Where the thin men stalk the streets / While the sane stay underground

So the report of the Iraq Study Group is out. And has been tossed around by the various pundits, on both sides of the spectrum (although the pro-war community increasingly only talks to itself or has shut up in shame). The nutters and the Murdoch media are labelling it a surrender for gods sake, as illustrated. One armchair general on the always enlightening Little Green Footballs complained that only 3000 had died in Iraqnam and the US and it's allies had taken bigger losses than before and won. All true of course. That is assuming of course that the other half a million dead (they are your allies, no?) are sub-human and not worthy of being counted. But I guess on LGF that assumption is a given. What actually astounds me is not what the group has come up with in its deliberations (which in terms of a way forward really isn’t much at all) but, rather, how long its taken and how much money and committee hours have been spent in order for these esteemed people to tell the US Government pretty much what the rest of us have known for years. Firstly that Iraq is a damned mess…that’s been on obvious outcome before the first tanks rolled over the border or the first cruise slammed into a market. Secondly that Bush and all his various agencies and military organisations have actively and knowingly lied about the extent of the mess for years. A swift daily look at this site is enough to know this. Thirdly, that Bush and his cabal are responsible for the mess.

I don't want to sound like an arrogant know it all saying we told you so but...yes we know that, and I can’t help but think that this post on Daily Kos really sums up the way many of us feel. I know I do. Whilst Bush, the President you elected, still sits in the White House we can’t take you seriously as a nation anymore.

Fear will not be enough when the whole world is convinced that America will not correct its current ways, and that the problem is not just the current administration.

And the message still hasn’t got through. The man in The White House (I used call him a buffoon but half a million dead goes somewhat beyond the description of buffoonery) is now trying to lay down the conditions under which he will talk to Iran and Syria. He really doesn’t get it. He, and his nation are no longer in any position to set the conditions for discussion…he should be on his knees begging for whatever assistance these nations can give. I don't particularly like the governments of those countries but the USA no longer has the moral authority to set conditions or make the rules. So another parallel to Vietnam becomes obvious,. Like Richard Nixon in the early seventies, and into Watergate, the President has become so self obsessed and deluded that any semblance of reality has disappeared from his world. He can’t see what everyone else can see.

And yet like Matt Tabbi in Rolling Stone, I can’t help that feel that the US political system is now so irredeemably corrupt that nothing will change

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You need coolin', baby / I'm not foolin',

Living in Indonesia…part 54….I’ve rattled and moaned about the service in New Zealand’s more pretentious places, god knows how many times, but Indonesia, in a particular Bali, operates differently. The term “service” can mean something else. Its a different consciousness. I’ve been told many times that it’s not worth complaining in a restaurant in this country and, unless you are in a select few establishments that’s absolutely true.

Take, for an example, the time I was in Kopi Bali’s Sanur cafe, famous for its extreme coffee creations. I’d had a mixed time there before when I’d found a piece of glass in my nasi and had simply been offered, begrudgingly, a 10% discount of my next bill. I swore I would not return. But I returned. By myself, as it happens as Brigid was in New Zealand doing something or other. I, without the restraint of the guilt I may have felt if she’d been there, indulged myself and ordered Eggs Benedict. Excellent…even after all this time I can still feel the anticipation.

After a wait and a coffee it arrived. It had a muffin, and two poached eggs. And it was covered in this brown separated mucky stuff. I have to be honest, I’ve eaten Eggs Benedict once or twice in the past…it’s a weakness I’ll happily admit to if pushed. But each and every time before this the telur-telur have been happily covered in a creamy hollandaise sauce. The thick, extra cholesterol and fat inducing stuff that doctors warn us against. That’s the way I’ve always been lead to believe I should expect it. And so it should have been this time. I called over the waiting staff, a young girl (who in all likelihood had absolutely no idea of the anticipation a Benny can arouse in a bulĂ© male) and said “what is this?”. It was, she said, Eggs Benedict, as ordered. I did not concur so she called the big boss over who said…”ini Eggs Benedict”. I explained that Eggs Benedict did not usually have a brown sludge over it. He looked bemused, smiled and started to walk away. Calling him back I explained I didn’t want it, wouldn’t accept it, and ordered something else, a banana pancake as I recall. It came, it was ok and I ate it. Twenty minutes later the bill came, with one banana pancake and one Eggs Benedict on it. There is a mistake said I, mistake said he, you ordered both…but I sent the eggs back...”that was your choice” he said. What you do with logic like that. My Indonesian dictionary seems not to have a word for logic, beyond one stolen from English, and that seems logical.

Al I can do is resort to a phrase that had a reasonable currency during my formative punk years in the seventies but seems to have slipped from use.....fuck off noddy...

I have had other terrible meals here, not least of which was the appalling one at the world famous Legian Hotel. Actually I’ve only eaten there twice and neither time was good. But the first time it was simply overpriced average food. The second time, not only was the food worse than overpriced but the service was less than average too. That, admittedly may have had something to do with the fact ¼ of the four guests at our table had been up for twenty four hours, was exceedingly drunk and was perusing the wine list again. Her boyfriend, the Australian style magazine publisher, managed to side step the issue with some skill. That we’d been placed in the out of the way table and were being completely ignored by all the waiting staff, may have had had a little to do with that. But that still didn’t excuse the substantially sub-Warung Indonesian dishes being hawked off at US$20 a pop.

The there was one of my favourite Indian places a couple of weeks back. We go there a lot. I love a good curry more than most anything (and despise a bad one). And this particular Indian, which shall remain unnamed…lets just call it The QT…is one of the two finest on this island (the other is the Clay Oven here in Sanur, with the best vindaloo I’ve tasted since the last time I was in Brick Lane).

Because we go there a lot we get a lot of attention from the staff. Too much at times to be honest, but thats ok. And the manager spends a little time with us each time too. On the last occasion he was extra attentive. Thanking us for our patronage and asking what they could do to improve it. As we talked a young guy came to the table and asked Brigid to fill in our names on a paper. It was, she smiled, a voucher for RP200,000 (about $22) for the restaurant. This was very generous she said and they smiled uneasily before rushing away for a conference. We agreed with each other that it was a nice thing for them to have done but commented that we’d spent a fair amount there over the past year or two.

Five minutes later the manager was back, effusively apologising and saying that there had been a terrible mistake and the voucher was incorrectly offered to us. It should have gone to table A, not table 8. We had no voucher and he sent the young man to apologise too.

We were gob smacked..totally. We’d not expected the voucher but having had it offered, it had been withdrawn five minutes later. The voucher itself was not important but it seemed incredible that this manager had thought that $22 was worth offending, and perhaps losing, some of his best customers. The man, who had spent so much time training his staff in the finer points of service had not been able to make that small jump in logic.

We will go back (the food is to good to not), and as a matter of principle, make a point of explaining that perhaps that was not the way to have handled the situation.

If this wasn’t Indonesia, I’d say, how odd and perhaps even be offended. But it’s Indonesia so I’ll smile and simply tell the story.

Monday, December 04, 2006

hey brother / you guessed / I'm a dude

Taken from my friend Ian Morris' web site..well worth a tour around...I had to post this...what is Peter doing to that mike? Damn they look young...did Peter know that thirty years later he'd be championing "funky house" to the masses....

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Searchin' for a note / pure and easy

Simply put, what a great year for music. The repeated obituaries for the music industry were clearly erroneous, clearly overstated. In real terms the record industry is in big big trouble, especially the old guard record companies and the world they know and live in. If any evidence of that beyond falling sales was needed, witness the thrashing around of Doug Morris, the head of Universal Music, in his attempts to blame the impending demise of the system as they know it on anyone but themselves.

Right now the ploughs are out digging up the playing field. What and where we will end up, I don’t know, but the likes of iTunes is only a way station on the way there. Ask me if five years and I may have a clue…

So, 2006, a vintage year for contemporary music, I think, but aren’t they all. That I still get excited at my ripe old age about new music makes me happy, but I think I would shrivel up and die without it. And it’s easier and easier to get hold of, courtesy of our electronic world, something that must seem like a cruel irony to the record companies who monopolised for so long by controlling the means of distribution. There is more music everywhere than there has ever been in my lifetime and more people are listening.

So to my personal picks for 2006 (and thats all they are..nothing definitive, just the things I've liked)…..

Firstly singles…and there were a few. There are singles by acts that I’ve included in the albums but will avoid here to prevent a double up.

Albums....actually not that many, partially because I’ve found myself listening to a lt of older albums, but partially because my focus is very clearly less albums than singles these days. A few of these acts released a few singles that would’ve made my above list (especially Anders Trentemoller) but are either on the album or, in his case, come as a bonus disc. Lucky…

Mixed albums….

Reissues and comps