Saturday, October 29, 2005

Apa Kabar?

There is a song by the, would-have-been-forgotten-like-The-Simple-Image-if-it-wasn’t-for-Nature, NZ pop act from the sixties, The Formyula, called Home. Everyone has the odd killer song that lurks forever in your head, personal songs, and this is one of mine. I like it so much I put it on the Give it a Whirl Soundtrack. Recorded at Abbey Road in the late sixties whilst this lot were stuck in the greasy spoon hell that London can be on no budget, it was on the B side of Nature, which my sister bought. I borrowed it permanently for the flip after she moved on to her next pre-teen 45 and I still have it. The Formyula were also notable for having one of the best lyrics in NZ pop history:

People Turn on in Otaki / I wish you were here

Which of course is absolute nonsense, especially in the late sixties. Anyone who has ever been to Otaki knows that nothing of the sort happens there, although I suspect this refers to a long past music festival of the sort that used to spring up in surprised backwaters back then at a moments notice followed closely by the police and concerned TV crews and National Party politicians. Good lyric though and not a bad song.

The Formyula also had this annoying habit of running out of lyrics half way through a tune and finishing it with loads of la la las….

But, back on track, Home is a more confusing concept than ever for me right now. Ten days in Auckland in October made me feel like a tourist there, and yet, returning to Indonesia, where I am an alien, I felt at home. I was consumed by pangs of homesickness for this stricken paradise from the moment I hit Auckland. The expat scene here is scary…superficial, shallow, ugly and I want no part of it really. But what I am loving is an alternative quirky little scene I’ve discovered where Indonesia and the west meet as equals, where the cynicism I need to survive thrives and sparks. And I’ve got the systems in place to ease me through. Thanks to the good people at Globalxtreme I’m off dial up and on to broadband again…how the hell did the planet exist before fast internet. I have access to music and information and have a wireless network that allows me to sit in a bale by the pool and write this. Thank god….

And those wonderful surprise parcels have started arriving now and again. I opened the mailbox last week to a couple of things I’d not really expected.

The DVD collection of Elvis Costello’s videos is a mixed bag. I remember quite a few of these but not all and they veer between the sublime (Annabel Jankel’s animated Accidents Will Happen which uses the late Barney Bubbles’s graphics and was so profoundly influential; the strangely perverse Good Year for the Roses; I Wanna Be Loved, four minutes of people kissing EC’s head, which, I think, predates Godley & Crème’s Cry; and the simply lovely Veronica) and the plain ugly (Don Letts’ appalling Everyday I write The Book…such a great song, such a terrible video; and the Darryl Hall duet The Only Flame which is neither a great song or a great video). The rest often show their age but I admit to having a soft spot for the white background studio vids from the late seventies of the sort that TVNZ were still making until about 85.

The problem is that Elvis was never a great video performer and often looks forced, uncomfortable and clumsy (check him forced to dress as Satan..doncha love A&R men..) unlike the stage where he comes in to his own. Which is where this disc really works for me. The bonus stuff is a series of live TV performances of which my favourite has to be the slowed down No Dancing, from Tony Wilson’s So It Goes in 1977, where a young Costello plays it as a grinding country funk closer to his demos than the officially released take.

As the Indonesians say, baik.

The New Order singles collection, called, with their usual wit, Singles, is pretty firm evidence that they are and remain the second greatest British singles band ever. Unlike the earlier double, Substance, which may or may not still be available but is essential for that untouchable run of 12 inch singles from 1981 to 1987 (although some on here are not the original 12s), these are the tight 7” mixes and it is way better, and more up to date than the half baked compilations that London put out in the mid nineties when they did their reissues of the Factory material.

I guess New Order have a simple Formyula (sp..sorry puerile but I couldn’t help it) but it works, and works and works and I’d forgotten just how good some of those mid nineties singles were.

I also scammed a copy of the Paul Weller album, As is Now, whilst in New Zealand and I quite like it which is a pleasant surprise as I’ve not really got much from Paul, who used to be a bit of a hero, since Stanley Road and even then it was only a track or two. His best work was pre 86 and its been diminishing returns ever since, with the last few albums being increasingly dull and humourless rockist songs, which kinda saddened me, as it does when a hero falters. The Style Council and The Jam worked when they did when he matched a wry quirkiness, and an unashamed understanding of his place in the British pop masterplan, to counter the increasing self importance. Oh, and a more than a few killer tunes.

As Is Now is not perfect but it’s the closest thing our Paul has done to a consistently great album since Our Favourite Shop back in the early eighties and it’s a fine thing to have him back. Come On Lets Go sounds like an outtake from This is The Modern World, a much derided album at the time but one that has aged gracefully, and From the Floorboards Up likewise could’ve been one of those singles that followed that album. And Pan is simply lovely adult pop, as is The Pebble and the Boy...I like a good epic I do….

I live for new music but its warming to have the odd happy revisit from old buddies like this.

I love Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom’s Days Of Mars (on DFA who really are having a hell of a year with The Juan Maclean and LCD’s albums easily sitting in my most played albums), and I played repeatedly Rise off the DFA Comp #2..a big late night car record. That track opens this album which is fine as ten months on it still doesn’t drag. That said, I suspect this longplayer will sell about a dozen copies worldwide as it’s hardly accessible. Reviewers are and have been utterly confused by these guys which is as much as an indication as to why one should always treat any review with scepticism. Why review something you don’t understand. The words Vangelis and Jarre keep on jumping up as reference points but neither are appropriate. It you need a reference point look at either the first Fripp and Eno album No Pussyfooting, still a masterpiece, or the Eno associated No Wave movement of the early eighties in NYC. This record is more Arthur Russell than Jean Michel. Beautiful punk electronica, almost indefinably sensual.

Which brings me to Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, whose self titled album might take this from a different slant but the overall drift is the same, elegant electronic landscapes, often performed with more traditional instrumentation than DG & GR, by these two Norwegians but both albums are essentially from the same place and owe so much to the work of the aforementioned Eno, but also the hugely influential Western European pioneers of electronica, re-stating it in a contemporary fashion, which makes it sound dull, but its anything but. I guess if house / electronica or whatever tag you feel the need to apply, is going to go anywhere in 2006 then both albums are hopefully a signpost.

If anyone wants any indication of what went wrong with dance, look at the new DJ Magazine Top 100.

Oh dear.

Yep, and then there is Carl Craig’s remake / remodel of the no-longer-beatless Darkness originally on the wonderful Just Another Day EP i…real Paperclip people stuff, albeit without the disco loops. I quite liked the Radio Slave boot of the same track although it came from a different place and upset the bloody purists (which can’t be bad).

Today I had my hair cut by a guy who had a picture of Osama Bin Laden on his wall. He offered to razor me as well…I politely declined. I guess that’s living in Indonesia.