Sunday, June 15, 2014


 Wellington city at night

Yes indeed, it was a confusing time at Music Club HQ. We deigned that Emma should select the theme because this was her last physical appearance before swanning off to address noble causes among warmer shores with less clothes. Declining the responsibility, our erstwhile one hit wonder, Catherine, decided to take the mantle. She decided on the theme of Cities. Then bailed.

First out of the trap this month is...


Entry 1
The song is Hungry Town from an album called Bonk by an Australian band called Big Pig... and that's important because those of you unfortunate enough to not grasp the depth of Antipodean vernacular will be saying "What's that got to do with cities?" It's simple enough, the antipodes of something is the opposite... so town becomes city and vice versa... ok, so maybe the humour isn't that deep either... but that's not the point.

The point is an Australian band from the late 80's whose main claims to fame were a) a lineup that played drums, percussion, percussion, drums, harmonica, keyboards, drums and drums and b) wore black butchers aprons on stage... Discogs lists them as Genre: Electronic but given that only one eighth of the group actually played something you could plug in I struggle with that description a bit. They only produced two albums before disbanding but they sure had some fun.

Entry 2
FGFC820 formed in 2004 by a couple of New York based DJ's. Style is Electronic/Industrial/EBM but being DJ's you can in theory actually dance to it... assuming you can dance in the first place, but I'm guessing writhing about in some semblance of time to it would be acceptable as well. Three albums to their credit to date, all themed around America's "War on Terror"... so no forseeable shortage of material there then...

The song is taken from their second album, Law & Ordnance, and is called 'Hello, Baghdad'.


 Deciding on a literal association of the urban built environment, I selected Two Banks of Four for my first offering. The song Skyline Over Rooftops from the album City Watching is an evocative beast. It suggests, through acid jazz laden bass lines and broken, groovy beats; late summer afternoon, gazing out over a busy east end of London from the melancholy shelter of your neglected high rise block of flats - a muffled city sound scape and a birds eye view. The melody and vocals paint a hazy vista, the lure of excitement on the near horizon yet some strange inertia that means the sun will set, the street lights will automatically flicker on and a police siren will rise and fade into the distance.

Cities are also redolent with hopes and dreams; Grasping the nettle and throwing yourself headlong into the hustle and bustle; Hedonism, promise and limitless possibilities. Combine that ethos with some 60's flair, a big swinging jazz ensemble and the enthusiasm of Mr Georgie Fame and you have his excellent tune, City Life. It's easy to go dystopian when thinking about cities, but this tune makes me want to book a table at Ronnie Scott's, light up a cigar, tap the foot between big swigs of whiskey and paint the town red.


For the theme of Cities (a great theme by the way), I went with a theme within a theme, that of live Irish traditionally-influenced tracks

The first is The City of Chicago by Christy Moore, who happens to be a Kildare man like myself. What better reason! Christy's live performances are legendary in Ireland although due to health issues they have become less frequent in the last 10 years (I've never seen him live unfortunately). This track is about the Famine, probably the toughest time in Irish history (1845-1852, approx. 1 million died & another million emigrated). It's about the hope and anguish felt by those who emigrated to America and how, despite their new lives in the big city, they remember fondly and with hurt their remote homelands.

My second choice is Rainy Day in Soho by The Pogues. Whether Shane McGowan is singing at his drunkest or least drunkest, more teeth endowed or less teeth endowed, tracks and performances like this show why he's held in such high regard as a song writer and performer. The track, originally produced by Elvis Costello, is a beautiful ballad about love past, present, and possibly lost. However I have found interesting arguments about the likelihood of some or all of the song being about alcohol, demonstrated in the references to the gingerlady and the measure of my dreams. Whatever the case, it's a beautiful song set in Soho, London.


Nantes – Beirut.

So the literal double-header; a band named after a city performing a song about a city; pretty easy pickings when apparently Beirut’s lead singer, Zach Condon has a self-professed fascination with city names.  Discovering Beirut was like discovering a whole new musical landscape filled with accordions, rich percussion and brass, creating a European/ Balkan/ Gypsy soundscape. Nantes has such a wistful sound and conjures up fantasies of roaming around Europe, consuming red wine while nursing a minor heart-break, from which one will recover after a slight period of reflective melancholy, before, hopefully, another   romance presents itself. 

No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn -The Beastie Boys.

A brilliant musical parody of the rock band touring lifestyle; partying hard from city to city (for some reason Motley Crue springs to mind). Although maybe not quite as anthemic as “Fight for your Right”, the guitar riffs and solo played by Slayer’s Kerry King make this one of the Beasties more legendary tracks. 


  Tracks: Joey Beltram – Energy Flash and Inner City – Good Life

 The dark-yet-soulful, pulsating industrial vibe of these tracks exemplifies what Detroit techno was and is all about. Unlike a lot of other urban genres in America, Detroit techno wasn’t from any kind of ghetto – it was produced by the kids of middle class African Americans who migrated to Detroit to work in (at the time) high tech industries. This may account for the futuristic quality of the music, as well as a discernable sense of displacement/alienation, though anyone reading this may take these sociological musings with a pinch of salt.


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