Thursday, March 22, 2007

so glad to be / your intimate friend

I’m currently in the thrall of four longplayers…..

James Holden..The Idiots Are Winning (Border Community)…..from late last year, but I’m a slow adopter in this case. I’m always a little scared about saying anything about an album like this. Partially because there are those who say it so much better; partially because, unlike say the Eddie Kendricks album below, what it is and what it sounds like eludes words; but mostly because of the accusations that one only likes a record like this, as someone said the other day to me, because it’s the right thing to like. This is also an album that confounds the theory that the album as a cohesive unit, either on or offline, is dead. With The Idiots are Winning, it most definitely is not dead. For better or worse, the tracks on this record simply don’t work in isolation of each other.

Can you dance to it…hell no, not unless you have three left feet (which may be me), but you can shiver with pleasure to the damned thing, and that’s the way to approach it I guess.

Sadly I’m flailing around trying to find words for this album, as I though I would ….. write... delete... write…. delete.

Ummmm….a majestic electronic album, from a producer I've never rated before (his early work is a bit big room cheesey and not me at all) and of its time, that doesn’t really sound like anything else….that will have to do.

LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver (DFA)….yes we all know it by now, but if any album illustrates a record that doesn’t need to exist as either a physical format or a cohesive “album” it’s this one. I play this a lot, two or three times a day right now and I have for a wee home, in the car, at the gym….and it ‘s one of those oh fuck yes albums (or collection of songs) from beginning to end. It may well end up as the best pop / rock / pop album of the year. Who cares if it wears it influences so brazenly…its pop and its mighty fine….oh fuck yes…I’ll get sick of this as an album fast, but there are songs that will stick for a very long time.

The Good the Band and The Queen (Parlophone / Honest Jons)….a record for old people but I’m an old person, so yes…..I like this a lot. Nobody under 35 should bother…it won’t make sense.

Eddie Kendricks..The Thin Man (Tamla)…. I’m a late comer to the joys of the ex-Temptation. Whilst I was furiously buying up funk albums in the pre-house eighties, I missed him. I bought other former Temps (Dennis Edwards, David Ruffin) and the band itself, but, for no other reason than his NZ sleeves looked shitty, not EK.

I have a single Motown Greatest Hits I bought from Real Groovy about 1990 (when they were further up Queen Street, 492 I think), and have long known the big disco tracks of course, but the depth of material on his actual albums escaped me until I found a copy of the Norman Harris produced He’s a Friend (“he” being the lord almighty in this case) some years back and fell in love with it in a very big way. But I had to live with it, and all the other solo albums I acquired subsequently, in the form of very, very battered vinyl copies. Which is fine, but a remastered copy of each, whilst there may only be a limited market for them, was what I really wanted. And, then, bang, there they were…two very limited remastered sets of the complete solo works of, perhaps, The Temptations finest voice (it’s a close call with Ruffin), and, without question the greatest male voice to grace the Motown empire during the seventies. Which is saying something when you look at the competition, but it’s true.

So with the appropriate cajoling I managed to acquire both (and somehow ended up with two of the second). I’ve not even delved into the first set yet but the second, listed here, is simply incredible. When I grew up in New Zealand in the seventies, black American albums got a rough deal. Unless they were infused with the unlikely radio hit then they were shoved out as second rate releases with shitty covers, and quickly deleted as if they were embarrassing. Nevertheless, in the mid seventies I acquired a fair few. But what that release pattern meant was that they were both hard to find in later years if you missed them the first time around, and when found, of terrible quality. So for me, albums like these are a rediscovery because they never sounded like this on those initial vinyl releases I’ve lived with in recent years.

I really don’t know if that make any sense, but the thing is the four and a bit albums on The Thin Man might sound familiar to me but this is like discovering these all over again. And what a joy it is, from the Harris produced Philly styled sensuality of those two middle albums in this set, to the two slightly rawer albums that bookend them (and the unreleased bits at the end). But the real thing that simply dominates these three CDs is that voice, that, almost celestial, fragile voice that says so much by saying so little. On tracks like Happy where he almost pulls back from the word as he sings it in the chorus, so that you find yourself afterwards if actually sang it or simply meant to. Or the way he can turn a lyric about wagging (Skippin’ Work Today) into four and half minutes of latent sexuality so effortlessly. Or that incredible vocal quiver in From Me To You….

I think I’ll live with this for a few weeks then delve into the first volume….

That there is, after so many years of digging, so much still for me to find never fails to amaze me.


On a completely different note, I’m really enjoying the new TVNZ on Demand site…..I even found a terrible old almost-interview with myself that I’d long forgotten existed.

Oh and head over to Peter Mac and read the wonderful Trevor Reekie Womad adventure. It explains why music will survive the music industry

Sunday, March 18, 2007

You can really learn a lot that way / It will change you in the middle of the day

I’m not supposed to be writing this. Its just hit Nyepi here in Bali, and as such, the use of all things like a laptop, or even a television are technically banned. But, being as how we have high walls, and I’m no Hindu, I guess I’ll type away and hope that the spirits and ghosts around our house don’t get too annoyed with a slightly irreverent bulĂ©..

The link above describes the day better than I could ever do, so that will suffice, and I only need to add that Nyepi provides a welcome rest from the relentless whirr of sepeda motor’s (motor cycles to most of you) past the front gate day and night. It does, however confuse the poor dogs somewhat, as they wait at the gate for someone too bark at….hour after hour. The ogah-ogahs (by the hundred) around the streets are still, after two years, something to behold, especially when the proud kiddies gather round their creations. Guy Fawkes? Bah…..

I bought myself a hair-clipper the other day. It made absolute sense. After all hair is not something I have a vast association with these days (or for many a year to be honest) and I like to keep it very, very short. God save me from comb overs, or, especially bald men with ponytails (or for that matter any men with ponytails (except the always wonderful Trevor Reekie who suits it perfectly)). We follicley challenged souls are always best to keep it as close to Gandhi as we dare, at the very least so we don’t offend those in visual range.

In the recent past I’ve trekked into Denpasar every few weeks for a trim. This was not enough though…in Auckland, courtesy of my old friend Trevor Potter, I received a complimentary Friday afternoon trim for years. I had a tame guy just up the jalan who spoke better English than I did Bahasa Indonesia (although I get by these days) for some months. When I say tame…I mean, my cut didn’t need explanation each time I visited…I sat..he cut. Not only that, he’d been to Ponsonby in my city of birth. Its very rare in Bali (or anywhere) to meet someone who’s actually walked the streets of my nest. Sadly he upped and got a job on another cruise liner so I was stuffed. I hunted around and found one guy who was ok, who charged the normal Rp6000, but the cut was a tad rough. And he didn't say a word...ever..

So I looked again and wandered into this cleanish looking place in off Jalan Sesatan, sat down, and said, with a smile….nomor satu. The guy, mid twenties-ish, said precisely two works back….you American?....tak, dari Sekandia Baru I said, and sat back as he began to cut. As he finished the trim he pulled out the cut-throat razor usually used in these parts to give a nice edge to a cut. I happened to glance up at the same time to see a huge portrait of the long missing Osama Bin Laden high on the wall above me, and then noticed a similar portrait on the barber’s t shirt, albeit very faded.

Ahhh..tidak mau, I quickly whispered, rising swiftly from my chair, and proffered a Rp10,000 note to cover the Rp5000 indicated on the door.

No change was offered back.

I bought myself a hair-clipper the other day…