Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe I’m Amazed…..

Yesterday morning I made caught the Garuda flight from Denpasar to Yogyakarta in central Java. Nothing to special in that really. I came back on the late evening flight and arrived back about ten at night to a friendly but quiet Bali. I’ve done it a few times in recent months and I guess what was once quite an adventure has become rather ordinary. Alan Whicker…remember him? I used to love him on the telly when I was a lad…all walk shorts and knotted hankies…I could never figure out whether he was gay or not, not that it was any of my business and not that it mattered in any way it simply was one of those things you wonder…I still don’t know and it still doesn’t matter at all…once said, quite recently actually (I thought he was long dead and there he is popping up in the Guardian pushing his new book), that the first time you arrive in a town you should write down every thing that astounds you because the next day it starts to become ordinary and everyday. And that’s the way with Jogja, the first time I visited, less than a year ago, I took about 75 photographs, and walked, somewhat warily keeping to the busy roads, rather gob smacked.

It’s not Grey Lynn.

That’s all gone now, I’ve spent the best part of a year in this country, speak a little of the language, and although I’ll always be foreign, I’m not a stranger in my mind.

Yesterday I had five hours to kill and did a walk through the markets and the back alleys of central Jogja which I enjoyed more than I expected to. I found a street the length of K Road that sells only pirate DVDs and CDs and to honest, I bought a couple of CDs…a Santana CD with every track they’d ever released pre 1990 on MP3, simply because I wanted to format shift Soul Sacrifice off the first album from the vinyl I own to digital..it was NZ$0.80 for the lot…mea Culpa! I love the Department stores full of Xmas glitter above Muslim shawl displays, the dozens of bent over old men, backs long ruined, down dirty gangs weighing precious stones and the groups of giggling school girls that could be anywhere on the planet if it wasn’t for that cheeky Indonesian grin that you see everywhere here and nowhere else. Some of the awe came back

And Garuda..yep, it’s a flight like any other Garuda flight which means it really isn’t like any other. The runway at Jogja International Airport is a piece of work and you tend to bounce around and across it rather randomly but you get there. The woman next to me was down praying feverishly to her god. I’d rather put my faith in the maintenance crews but that’s a not a comforting thought on this 737, which had life jacket instructions in Russian stencilled on the back of the seats. I guess they were stripped from an Il-18 or something back in the day. The broken ashtrays were superglued shut. I once flew business class on Garuda for six hours with every light on the plane. It was the middle of the night and the inflight entertainment system crashed at the same time. It rocks your faith in any systems, the completion of any of those rather important checklists that may or may not be in required before take off. The crew seemed to have no idea what exactly to do and smiled before hiding. But Indonesia comes with a degree of acceptance of these things.

On the other hand, trying to explain to a Muslim cabin crew that the wine is corked is fun too.

As usual I killed the hour and a half with a book and the iPod and decided to listen to Neil Diamond’s 12 Songs as I’d been given a copy. To be honest I had found it rather hard to get enthused about it but there is that Rick Rubin factor. The spectre of Rick riding to the rescue of some American icon who had lost their way and were ripe for the Rubin touch; whose careers are saved by his rekindling what was always there but had been smothered by the machine, is part of the contemporary US rock’n’roll wisdom.

He did it, rather successfully, to Johnny Cash. But Neil Diamond is no Johnny Cash and I was right to have reservations. Diamond has some fine songs to his credit, he was quite a Brill factory tunesmith, although never quite in the Goffin-King league, and had his moments. Unfortunately his moments were all more or less over by 1970. I’ve yet to see any one list Neil’s post 1970 killers. Since then his high points have been an album about a bloody seagull, a massively successful double live album of his pre ’70 highpoints and a duet with the odious Barbara Streisand complaining about a lack of flowers.

A record company person who knows more than most of us told me some time back that Neil smokes so much puff these days that its all something of a vague mystery to him anyway.

And a mystery to me..why am I writing about a Neil Diamond record?????

So the Neil Diamond thingy is bound to get Grammies and it’s already had critical plaudits everywhere…critics love this sort of shit, but shit is what it mostly is. Mostly…I’m On to You is ok in an average sort of barroom way, as is We. The rest shudders under its self important affected unpretentiousness and I’ve done the only decent thing and recovered the space on the hard drive for a better purpose.

And I got rid of the Sony BMG spyware.

Lots of old people made “comeback” records in 2005. Some were ok…like, and I though I’d never say this, but the Rolling bloody Stones who had one killer song (Rain Fall Down complete with an Ashley Beedle edit) even if the rest was a bit naff, some were good, like the Paul Weller one which I played quite a few more times than I expected to, and two were great. New Order’s Waiting for The Siren’s Call is and was a great guitar pop record which dwarfed much of the new wave of British guitar pop; and Sir Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard which sounds like an old Beatles record, or at least a part of it. Bits and pieces sound like they were written for the Get Back sessions and then finished 35 years later. And songs like Anyway and How Kind of You are simply lovely songs and as good as anything he’s ever done. Or any pop musician for that matter, especially one in his mid sixties with more money than he could possibly ever know what to do with.

McCartney might have released a very large number of truly appalling records over the years, and as often as not been a prize twat, but I’ve got an unassailable soft spot for him. I mean he was a Beatle and they were the reason I ended up spending most of my life involved in popular (and peripherally popular) music.

Guilty pleasures…I’ve got a few…..

The killer record:

Terry Brookes featuring Aaron SoulCity Life (Carl Craig vocal mix) single of the year right now hands down. I don’t know where brothers Terry and Aaron are from, Europe I guess since this is on a Dutch label and Terry has released a couple of singles on European labels, but Carl Craig does something special again in a year when he’s done it over and over again. In the same way he nailed 2003 with Angola, right at the end of the year and redefined the tribal techno, this drags his sound back to Detroit circa 1993 when KMS were doing all those wonderful Chez Damier tracks and bangs Motown back into the mix, but a more contemporary Motown personified by the likes of Kem