Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Ben Jennings 27.12.16 

It is fair to say that 2016 has been a rotter. From the macro-political and geological events that will shape lives for a long time to come, to the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, Phife Dawg, George Michael, Leonard Cohen, and other luminaries, it has been a massive drag that we'll all be glad to see the back of.

But it can't all suck, and I for one have heard a lot of new music this year that I love. So, in the spirit of looking back fondly where we can, and looking forward to something better, the theme for the last music club of 2016 will be your favourite tunes from this year. Two tracks and a celebration of what's good in bad times.


Such a nice way to move into the silly season and towards the end of the year, Music Club's end of year round-up never fails to throw up a few gems.

Haken - The Architect
I started with a whopper - 15 minutes of technical prog math-rock. The Architect is definitely in my top 5 most played tracks of the year, and I think because of that, and how I play it while working, I lost perspective of how long it is and how it would likely lose even the most dedicated Music Club attendee. This was a toughie for the group, and did make me change my second choice, but it is a great track, and I think everyone there appreciated it for its technical and ambitious delivery. The album, Affinity, did win Angry Metal Guy's prestigious album of the month in April, but apart from this track, I wasn't enthused. I feel like the album may need several listens to get my head around; regardless, this track is a definite stand-out, requiring just a little patience.

Zeal & Ardor - Devil is Fine
After the described 15 tough minutes of track one, I changed my mind of track two from my definite favourite track of the year (honourable mention below) to this ridiculously ambitious and unique option from one-man-multi-national-bedroom-band Zeal & Ardor. Z&A has lit up several respected Internet music review peddling sites with this brief (25 minutes) combobulation of black metal, gospel blues and chain-gang hymns. I don't know if it should be described as avant garde, experimental or just wanky, but it's pretty darn catchy for something so out-there, and is sure to feature on a number of end of year best of's. There is an element of novelty value here, but also there's a heap of quality, especially in the vocals - I believe he performed the vocals throughout. He's recently signed a record deal which means this album, also called Devil is Fine, is to be re-released in February, and it'll be very interesting to see where Mr. Zeal and Ardor goes from here. Definitely worth checking out at only 3 minutes long!

Honourable mention :- at the risk of angering the Music Club powers-that-be, I couldn't let the year end without mentioning my favourite track - Black Autumn, White Spring by Uada. After 15 minutes of prog, I felt 9 and a half minutes of black metal was too much to inflict on the good people of Music Club, but if you haven't got enough options from all the other great recommendations on here, have at this, and stick out for the climactic conclusion to this fantastic track.


What an interesting time we find ourselves in: 2016 has been great for music but absolute arse in many other respects. We blithely swipe pointless images on expensive gorilla glass whilst the last remaining gorillas have their habitats felled - the mass extinction continues apace. Vacuous celebrities sell banality while intolerance rises and the confederacy of dunces inaugurates. The Anthropocene is starting to bite and no further posturing nor politicising will have any material effect on what's coming our way. The corporate takeover of daily life tightened its grip and RedFoo released an album so obscene that worldwide culture withered in its wake. It's time for some heavy hitting musical catharsis!...

The Vision Bleak - Into the Unknown.

A rousing song by this German duo that provides catchy melodies and riffs to rouse the spirit; chest beating choruses with gothic lyrics, which remind us that we'll never be the same again. I read somewhere that the genre pendants put them down as Horror Metal, but that just sounds like reductive hogwash to me. They remind me of mid-period Paradise Lost, The Mission and other hard rocking outfits with new romantic sensibilities. A great album that I've been coming back to often and this track is a strong contender for my favourite song of the year.

Cult of Luna - The Wreck of S.S. Needle.

From the masterful Mariner, this song shines amidst a solid selection. I loved their previous album, Vertikal but can't get enough of the addition of Julie Christmas (apt, mais non?). She has all the bile, anger and contempt required for these tempestuous times. The way she sounds unhinged, cute yet murderous in one line of a song is pretty amazing. The backdrop of dark and foreboding textures mesmerise then pulverise. The ship's going down; They are playing this song on the deck; I am organising my deckchair to get closer to the action. Best album of the year.


47Soul – ‘Don’t care where you from’

I saw this band at Womad 2016, fabulous live performance. The band identifies itself as Palestinian, its 4 main members are from, or their parents were from, Palestine. Their music is a mix of traditional instruments and melody with a modern twist and beat. Hip hop influences them, a little bit of reggae – all sounding very middle eastern. The live shows involve the crowd with their take on traditional music, leading to traditional dancing  and not-so traditional. The band has not been around that long, relatively new, will be interesting to see how their music develops. This song is about their main principle/aim/hope/mission – don’t care where you from - if you like music, you like to dance, you want to join in, you want to have fun, you want to live life wholeheartedly.  Not uplifting, just stating the fact, don’t care where you form, come and join in.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – ‘Dark Necessities’
New album came out this year, around May I think. There has been a b it of break between albums for the RHCP and that break has been good for them, I reckon they have their groove and funk back. I love this song, the bass beat is fantastic and drives the song. You cannot listen to the song and not tap your feet, or, shake your hips, ahh, that beat. Funky. Flea still has it. Anthony’s voice is in fine form, he can sing very well when he wants, live and on the album. I find this song hopeful, of possibilities that may happen. And that beat and melody throughout the song, it lingers in your mind.



Gregory Alan Isakov - Liars (with Colorado Symphony)

My introduction to this musician was whilst listening to the RNZ National 1-4pm programme under the "Favourite Album" slot, they played a couple of songs from his album This Empty Northern Hemisphere.  I went ahead and purchased this album as a gift for someone else and have since spent 2016 digesting his music.  Born in J'burg, South Africa he immigrated to the United States as a child and was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I particularly enjoy the rich sound that the Symphony brings to this song, he's been one of my "finds" for this year and I've enjoyed undertaking significant life pondering whilst in the company of his music.

Strangers - Mirrorland

Fairly typical Australian (Sydney based) 4-piece rock band.  Not to be mistaken for "The Strangers" Australian or American versions around in the 60/70's.  I can't really attest that these guys are a favourite, but I came across this song via Spotify the week we met up for Music Club and I chucked them into my "to be investigated further" playlist.  Reasonably new on the scene, debut LP Persona Non Grata as released 2012, produced by Tom Larkin (of Shihad fame).  Toured Australia Nov-Dec 2016 as support for Birds of Tokyo.  As I delved into finding out a little more about this song I came across "Welcome to the Mirrorland" from Kingston Wall (psychedelic/progressive/acid rock) from Helsinki, complete tangent and lots of rat holes later, Mirrorland is about not being able to see anything positive in life. 

Reflecting on both songs they resonate, not from having those feelings myself but remembering that "to celebrate" doesn't mean we have to listen to cheerful music and from bad comes good in most instances, bad has a shelf life!



 It has been a funny old year... As alluded to in the preamble, there has been a significant shift in the illusion we call real life and yet in listening to the other club members I felt that I was less affected than some. I suspect that may be a symptom of my gap year... my doses of 'Intelligent Adult Conversation' have severely dwindled and I am well under the RDI... The upside of that is that it doesn't take much to cheer me up...

Cheery tune #1 is from the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. Having discovered these guys last month I also serendipitously found that amazon.co.jp publishes in english alongside their Japanese selections. Throw a credit card into that mix and a week or so later some physical media turns up that was everything you'd hoped it would be. I enjoy a lot about this tune... the beat, the rhythm and even the lyrics... which, while in English, seem not quite attached to each other... I'm just being picky really. Not every artwork has to tell a story.

The second choice started life as an innocent search for albums released in 2016. Of *course* there's a wikipedia page for that... Surprising how many artists I've come across who had released something this year. The offering from Lacuna Coil, one of my faves, was a bit dark... Die Antwoord, who are spectacular live, produced something angry... Even Rick Astley released something that I didn't bother to check out... there are some limits, or so I thought. I'd pretty much settled on a guy called Faderhead who is a German EBM type chappie however in my leadup blurb I casually mentioned that I'd also considered Redfoo... at which point, according to my distinct recollection, Christian expressed an interest in hearing this hitherto unknown artist. What then followed didn't quite lead to physical violence however even I, poor as I am at reading body language, was quite clearly being given a message by those assembled, and not a very pleasant one at that... Never mind. I am an adult and I live and die by my choices!

Go on, you have to laugh :-)


Amongst everything else, my 2016 has seen friends and family been diagnosed with cancer. Aside from the physical ravages of cancer treatment and mortal danger cancer's victims find themselves in, one of the costs of cancer is personal sovereignty. Previously vivacious and independent people become patients who, as they lose their hair and their energy, become dependent on those around them. It's hard to watch and it must feel like losing oneself. 

Andrew Bird's 2016 album, Are You Serious, is largely about him getting married, having a kid, and moving from Chicago to LA. One of the elements of this was his wife's cancer treatment. My first selection, Puma, is named for something his wife said to him after her diagnosis: "I'm afraid people will think of me as a girl and not a puma." This bouncy pop song captures affirms self-identity and the bonds of love in trying times. 

As a whole, Lambchop's 2016 album Flotus is a meditation, where each track feels a lot like the last and Kurt Wagner's cryptic lyrics, normally sung in a crystal clear baritone, and smothered in filters and effects. Clocking in over 18 minutes, The Hustle is a quietly uplifting and powerful conclusion to the album. It's five minutes of loops before Wagner's voice comes in, sand effects, and begins to string out a simple song of love as the underlying music shifts without ever seeming to change. A gentle and insistent reverie which concludes on the edge of a dance floor, watching the crowd do the hustle. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


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The saxophone is a mighty powerful instrument that a musician must earn the right to use. Most keep it safely behind 'break only in emergency' glass and deploy it only briefly at the end of a final chorus, when nothing else will do.

John Coltrane, in contrast, starts with full intensity and holds its for fifteen captivating minutes in his free-jazz masterpiece, Transition.

John Coltrane died not long after recording that song, but his widow partnered up with one of John Coltrane's fellow saxophonists, Pharoah Sanders, and added the only instrument that can make saxophone more intense: the harp. In her spiritual jazz masterpiece, Journey in Satchidananda, an otherworldy state is vividly conjured.



The sax pervades Jazz, imbues melancholia in blues, provides downright dirtiness in funk and instills aphrodisiac qualities in romantic music from the eighties. But its reach is wider and more profound still:

My first tune is from Ishahn, former corpse painted front-man of the mighty Emperor. The second wave of Scandanavian black metal was pretty intense, but it was only in his solo work where he could push the envelope to truly terrify. Unleashing the sax over blast beats, tremolo riffs and throat shredding rasps is an act of devilishly brutal genius. He doesn't go half arsed and give the saxophonist a single motif or a brief phrase, he allows them to channel their inner evil Albert Ayler. A Grave Inversed from the album After will grab you by the proverbial Brasso'd nuts.

Tune number two comes from the marvellous Acoustic Ladyland. A great British band that took the jazz four piece format, applied attitude and went punk rock. I ended up listening to my three albums on regular rotation for the prior week, with the increasingly impossible task of selecting one song - I  got seriously stuck into them again, which is but one serendipitous side effect of Club. I selected Deckchair from Last Chance Disco that starts out all Stranglers and ends up all Black Flag. Re-unite and make me another album, god damn you!!


Supertramp, The Logical Song

My favourite sax solo in a pop song - the snarler in the middle. Also some poetic fluttering near the end, so don't fade out too soon! Famous for the sound (production) of the solo... nobody back then could figure out the studio wizardry required to get that distinctive sound. Turns out it was recorded in a small bathroom with hard surfaces everywhere and a microphone hanging over the door.


Frank Zappa, Joe's Garage

Classic, though probably best to fade out around 3.40, which is where the song proper ends. I thought of this track because you can hear the word 'saxophone' sung at 1.58, followed by a crazy arrangement of multiple saxes over the next 12 seconds. Zappa's work is filled with tricky arrangements like this that are easy to miss. And he used saxes to good effect on many records; I'm especially fond of the horn work by the Wazoo-era band from 1972.


David Bowie played the saxophone before the saxophone before the saxophone was uncool, and his death on January 10 marked the beginning of a very bad year. The lead off on Black Star -- released two days before and heavy with portent of his imminent demise -- uses the saxophone to subtle and remarkable effect. As it shifts through its movements, the saxophone, played not by Bowie but by Donny McCaslin, serves to unify the parts and also build throughout them, lending an air of strange menace to a song of strange genius.

It's hard to believe that Sheep, Dog and Wolf's Egospect was recorded by a 17 year old, in his bedroom, by himself. These elaborately layered instruments and vocals, set in arrangements that turn on a dime, came from the mind of Daniel McBride, one of the most unassuming people you could ever hope to meet. Even more remarkable, until recently the live show featured only a drummer (disclosure: my nephew Eddie) and Daniel, with a guitar, saxophone and other instruments run through a looping machine. Ablutophobia uses the sax(es) to full effect, working a song about filth and anxiety into a fever pitch.


Saxophone. The third leg of my 'Least Favourite Musical Instrument' trifecta ( Accordion(#2) and Bagpipes(#1), since you were wondering). Unfortunately, like most things people find distasteful, there is an element of morbid fascination in there as well... like videos on removing enormous blackheads (No! Don't! Look!). If nothing else, Music Club forces you to confront your likes and dislikes and one thing I realised was that I didn't really know that much about saxophones... the bagpipes can be irritating as soon as they produce sound... The accordion just doesn't keep very good company sometimes but the saxophone? It's a fairly modern instrument developed in 1840 by the eponymous Adolphe Sax and does pretty much what he designed it to do so what is my problem? I think it's just that I don't 'get' Jazz... lots of people love it, but it's not my thing so it really is just tarred by my antipathy to a genre. Not a very good reason when you think about it so let's give the Sax a chance!

Can't do Jazz... but if you take the same instruments and hop a couple of limbs over on the music tree you get to Ska... or everything Jazz isn't. I have a couple of Ska based albums but they're pretty much standard UK 80's 2-tone and while the sax is there it's subservient to the lyrics... what else is out there now? Lots! The first selection comes from the Venezuelan based Gypsy Ska Orquesta called La Demencia and it lives up to its name with the sax contributing it's fair share. It also has #2 in the trifecta so maybe there will be redemption there as well. The version in the link finishes at 4:32.


The second offering just made me laugh out loud when I saw and heard them. Following on from avoiding songs from the traditional or expected Ska sources (Jamaica or the UK of last century) I came across the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. A group of 10 or so Japanese musicians playing a form of music derived from R&B via the melting pot of The Carribean and Thatcher Britain... you can't make this stuff up! This song is called 'Olha pro ceu' and is a collaboration between TSPO (who look like Yakuza) and a Brazillian rapper called Emicida who starts the song in Portuguese and switches to Japanese part way through. A cultural mix'n'match if ever there was...


The saxophone; aka. the sax, old saxamaphone, saxosaurus sax, etcetera. An instrument I know very little about, having never handled, nor probably been within ten feet of one. An instrument I'm not very fond of neither; nothing grinds my gears more than a jazz sax solo. So this theme did stretch me, but also limited my options since the sax has only an occasional place in my playlist.

Béla Fleck & The Flecktones - Zona Mona
I was given Béla Fleck and The Flecktones eighth album, 2000's Outbound, by a friend over ten years ago and I come back to it about annually for a little fix of world jazz music. It's a great album, and won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. I regret I've never delved further into the music of Béla and his group of virtuoso musicians. Béla himself is an incredible banjo player and the saxophonist on this album is Jeff Coffin. The track I've picked is Zona Mona, the most saxaphoney on the album, but I would say is not one of the better tracks. So if you've yet to check out the Flecktones, I recommend listening to more than this one.

Shining - 21st Century Schizoid Man
My second choice is pretty out there, Shining's cover of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man, which was the last track on their breakthrough album, Blackjazz. As the album title indicates, this band merge black metal with jazz to produce and experimental, avant-garde sound that's definitely take-it-or-leave-it. I by-and-large take this album, although it's not as good as I want it to be. And their follow up is lacking something too. But there are certainly great moments on Blackjazz, and none more weird and sax-trippy than this cover.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

New Zealand Made

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Transit of Venus - Bitter Sweet Love

I discovered Transit of Venus when they played at the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2012. They performed an 84 minute long, rock-opera style live show in accompaniment to a screening of Nosferatu, the German expressionist silent horror film created in 1922. I bought the one EP they had on sale, Bitter Sweet Love, and it's been a regular accompaniment on any road trip I've gone on ever since.

ToV have been described as a mutable project band driven by Auckland based composer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kristie Addison. Unfortunately their output appears to be limited over the last couple of years, but I'm hopeful Kristie and the guys keep delivering their brand of up-tempo, raw and creative indie rock to NZ audiences.

The album is free to download on Bandcamp.

The All Seeing Hand - Clot

I've seen Wellington avant-garde threesome The All Seeing Hand several times live. Typically they put on a very extravagant live show - just have a look for videos of "The All Seeing Hand blob" to get an idea. Comprising of a drummer, DJ and throat singer, these guys are unique by any country's standards. Definitely an acquired taste, though very popular in Wellington (fitting in well with the arty, hipster scene of the city), they're well worth a try. This track is from their 2013 album, Mechatronics.

The album is 'name your price' on Bandcamp


Concord Dawn - Say Your Words (Ft Hollie)

Wellington used to have a truly fertile club scene, back in the day. Ahh yes, links with major London clubs saw luminaries of break beat, drum and bass, house and techno play to very small, yet equally ecstatic dance floors (Andy C, Stanton Warriors and Nick Warren to name but a few). Sub Nine and Sandwiches were bastions of the beat. Times have changed, and tastes, behaviours and attitudes are different. This tune was selected as an ode to those happy nights.

Hollie Smith is a Wellington based soul singer, with a lush and powerful voice. She's still releasing solo albums, but in 2005 she was lending her skills to the mighty Concord Dawn - an NZ based drum and bass duo that had their dub plates included on the best compilations and record bags of the day. I chose Say Your Words from the magnificent album, Chaos By Design. It's got soul, groove, emotion, a feckin massive drop, gnarly bass and mental breaks. Whoop!


 Rueben Bradley Trio - Clay Horror

You cannot live in Wellington without engaging with Jazz in one form or another. It doesn't matter what the response is, it's just everywhere! Busking on Cuba, In the corner of bars, On stages, On the Radioactive Jazz Show when running Sunday errands, Eating lunch, Drinking cocktails. Everywhere! The music school plays a big part in this rich syncopated tapestry. So, it seemed more than fitting to resolve this piece with a flourish from Rueben.

He's a drummer that fronts a trio and teaches percussion at the local music school. I've seen him play a number of times and enjoy his take on standards, but I love this album from 2015. It's a work of dark genius -a gothic jazz noir outing that hits the right spots. I love the addition of spoken word elements. The themes all come form Lovecraftian tales (the album is called Cthulu Rising) and are redolent of the mysterious forces that shaped an occult Victorian imagination. Love the artwork on the cover, too.


What is the better choice for a homegrown band than a group that has “Aotearoa” in its name? Well, I’m sure that music club members will bring heaps of exciting choices, but for now I’ll stick with “Latinaotearoa”.  This Auckland-based group writes and plays Latin music of various sorts – mostly happy and cheerful sunny rhythms to remind all of us that all we need is a long-long hot-hot summer!

You can see this musician every week smiling and playing music in all the different bars of Wellington. Pop in Afrika, Havana, Hashigo Zake, Viva Mexico, or Pan de Muerto – chances are high that Carlos Navae will be playing there. He is one of the friendliest persons I’ve ever met and I think this characteristic of his is well reflected in his music, the way how he performs, and his attitude towards people in general, and.. well … towards his audience.  Latin rhythms again –  experience life in all the different ways it presents itself,  keep smiling, be happy, and listen to Latin music!



In June 2009 Christ Knox suffered from a stroke. Knox is a key figure in New Zealand music, having been there at the founding of Flying Nun records and driven the vision of independence and weirdness that infuses a lot of the canon. An angry young man who sliced his arms up on stage and crafted beautiful pop songs that were then buried in a DIY maelstrom of fuzz and jangle, Knox grew into a cheerful yet angry middle-aged man who continued to bury beautiful pop songs in a DIY maelstrom of fuzz and drum machine loops. His 1995 album Songs of You and Me was the first New Zealand album I ever owned, bought for me by my brother, and I still credit it as a foundational album in my personal history of music appreciation: not because of anything to do with its New Zealandness but because it's one of the places where I learned that music doesn't have to "sound good" to be great.

As Flying Nun has had its influence in the US, so has Chris Knox. After the stroke, his friends got together and released a tribute album of covers. In addition to a shopping list of New Zealand musicians, Stroke got together luminaries from the States, including Jeff Mangum and the soon to be deceased Jay Reatard. A standout track, both because it reveals Knox's songcraft while sounding as if it were penned by the man covering it, is Bill Callahan's version of Lapse.

New Zealand music often seems to get reduced to either the national identify affirming adult oriented pop of the likes of Neil Finn, Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn or the Flying Nun oeuvre that sits at odds with that tradition. Of course these are pillars of New Zealand music, but there are others. One of those is bogan rock. From the early days of Shihad to the pub anthems of the Exponents and the parody that crossed the line of Deja Voodoo, there is a New Zealand music that revels in being loud and not all that clever. Rather than being influential on American college radio, this is New Zealand music that looks towards the States, and reflects it back in a way that doesn't quite fit. Head Like A Hole is very much a part of this tradition. Here, all sideburns and cowboy hats, they cover Springsteen's classic I'm On Fire.


There’s not much background available on the song however there is information on the band. Hailing from Christchurch, where I grew up, the Feelers were the pioneers of the kiwi music industry.
They were formed in 1993 and started out busking on the streets. Today they have sold more albums locally than any other NZ band. Some key members of the band include James Reid, who is one of New Zealand’s most successful song writers and musicians. His debut performance was at age 4 on his father’s knee. He has written over twenty Top 20 hits and ten Top ten hits. Andrew Lynch is another key member who is an awarded-winning instrumentalist who was born in London in the same room where Jimi Hendrix passed away. His dabbling in the occult can be seen from his shamanistic tattoos, his signatures on press-shots and has also mastered the secret Freemason handshake which may be attribute to his success.


Dane Rumble started out with a band called Fast Crew and then went solo after the group disbanded in 2009. 3 of his songs made the NZ Top 10 and 6 songs were in the Top 20. Cruel was certified platinum with sales over 15,000. It is a rather cheerful breakup song. Why his music isn’t more widely listened is a puzzle to me. Dane’s style is influence by Kanye West and he even has his own line of jewellery!


'Block of Wood' by The Bats

I lived far away when the Dunedin Sound got going, and knew very little of NZ pop music. But I did get to hear The Bats and The Clean on uni radio, and Rodney Bingenheimer played them both on his KROQ radio show. (Digression: the doco "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" about Rodney is essential viewing for music fans.) This particular song is catchy and features the jangly guitar I associate with The Bats, with an unusual violin part to give it texture. Still sounds fresh to my ears. Beach Boys meet drone meet alienation?

'Finders Keepers' by Troubled Mind

I'm not old enough to remember the psychedelic era, but have enjoyed heaps of music coming out of San Francisco in the sixties and seventies. A lot of it sounds pretty dated, I admit, and it probably helps to be stoned to listen to much of it.  But I love the organ-heavy sound and songs with a strong groove... as in: groovy, man! The sound spread around the world, including to NZ. I can imagine people in NZ back then finding psych records in the shops and saying, "Why don't we have a go at that?" Far away from the cultural churn, they could focus on the sound and DIY impulses. This song takes a silly child's saying and transforms it into a dance number that needs no chemical accompaniment. I know nothing about the band, but they contribute two of the best tracks to the first NZ psych compilation "A Day in "y Mind's Mind", which is really good. There are four volumes in total... surely there isn't enough material for more?


I don't often explore NZ music, so was keen to see what surprises this music club would throw up. I was so keen for surprise that I chose first a song suggested by a colleague, a song I had never heard before. A nice Wellington take on the recent (last few years) electropop trend.

My second song was another NZ imitation of a popular international style. In this case, we're talking new wave/post-punk, that sort of thing -  pure 1981. I've always preferred Don't Fight it Marsha, It's Bigger than Both of Us to their other big single, There is No Depression in New Zealand, mostly because of the supreme danceability of the beat and jangly guitar.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


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Take the A Train

Well known amongst the classic jazz enthusiasts, Take the A train was written by Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington and his band/orchestra back in 1941. It is somewhat unusual for a bandleader to choose a signature opening song which is not their own composition and put it in the spotlight in this manner. The song however has lasted the test of time hence it was a good decision on the part of Duke Ellington to do so. Strayhorn and Ellington had an unusual relationship. In his autobiography, Ellington referred to Strayhorn as his right arm, his left arm and the eyes in the back of his head but claimed that Strayhorn was not his alter-ego.” Since 1941 this song has been played by many well-known jazz bands such as Charles Mingus’s sextet in 1964, Dave Brubeck in 1966, Manhattan Jazz Quintet in 2014. Over to the audience to pick their favourite rendition of this well-loved tune. 

Interstate Love Song by the Stone Temple Pilots

Here’s one of my favourite songs from my teenage years after picking up the electric guitar.
“Leaving on a southern train, only yesterday….” is the key reference to transport in this song and is repeated a number of times.
Lead singer Scott Welland wrote this song about his relationship troubles and his growing heroin addiction. The song is written from his fiancé’s perspective, with Weiland imagining her seeing right through his lies caused by his addiction. Welland promised to stay off drugs when they went to Atlanta to record Stone Temple Pilots' second album, Purple. He didn't keep that promise, but in phone calls, would tell Janina that everything was OK.

Despite the heavy topic, the song still sounds relatively cheerful which is not an uncommon thing in music!


Hilltop Hoods - Stopping All Stations

This track exemplifies how 'Adelaide' the Hilltop Hoods are. It's pretty straight forward really, I don't think I need to dwell on the conceptual profundity here. Stuff happens on trains, and that's very urban and hip-hoppy, and it's all a metaphor for life really, isn't it? No, probably not...

The Saw Doctors - N17

The Saw Doctors have been an Irish household name since the early 90's, having blasted the nation with anthemic tracks like "I Useta Lover" and "N17". The N17 is a road running into Galway through Mayo in the west of Ireland, and The Saw Doctors are from (and many of their songs reference) Tuam, a bustling village by which that road runs. The song is about the emigrant remembering his last trip leaving home on that road, and how he longs to be back on it returning home again. They certainly have a way with lyrics and I recommend you listen closely to the words of this and I Useta Lover.


Adrian Belew, "The Rail Song" (from Twang Bar King, 1982)

I tried figuring out what the metaphor of the train MEANS in this song. But it's probably not a metaphor at all, rather, a story of a kid who fell in love with trains and grows sad as an adult when they are abandoned. Actual train sounds echo the fading of rural rail travel. The guitar accents are still a bit dissonant but not full-on wacky like his work with Talking Heads, King Crimson, and Frank Zappa. Adrian put out a number of quirky pop records in the Eighties and Nineties. The first two reflected an obsession with the rhinoceros, goofy lyrics, and a very strong Beatles influence. (Including a ripping version of "I'm Down" to open this particular record!)

The Kinks, "Somebody Stole My Car" (from Phobia, 1993)

The last ever Kinks record as an actual band in the studio. Underappreciated and harder-edged than all its predecessors. This is a not particularly subtle comment on consumerism and city life - don't buy nice things, some jerk will just steal them and you'll be stuck with the debt for longer than the things themselves. Straight ahead rock, tasty style. (Would probably have been better as a single edit.) Cute surprise in the last 3 seconds evokes another famous car song....


I decided to go for a composition by Pogues, Drunken Boat, as my first track. This band and this song in particular are very dear for me - they've been with me since my teenage years, have made into my adult life, and I still enjoy listening to this band a lot (many bands from back in the day make me wince now when I hear them; emotions and moods they used to bring are somehow lost).  Drunken boat was on my "travel list" for ages,  so this song is linked for me once and forever  with anticipation of something new, different, not known yet, something exciting and amazing, something that makes you move and live faster. For me, sounds and lyrics of the song  always bring to life romanticised ideas about golden times of great maritime discoveries and brave,  devil-may-care adventurous explorers who sailed away equipped with the faith of God to the distant shores they even were not sure existed. The song smells like rum, dramas, high-lived passions, and black-and-white teenage values. Actually, the tune turns me into a 14 year boy - eager for all travels and marvels of this enormous, diverse and strikingly bright world!!

My second track is quite different in style and sound from Pogues. The key reason behind the selection is the same - I much like baroque music, actually it's one of my favourite music styles (and I strongly suspect whatever topic for the music club was I would have found a way to sneak in one of the compositions!)  The track is Purcell's Fantasia upon a ground for 3 violins. I thought that imagination can transport you anywhere in no time, hence is the choice. For me baroque music is astonishingly beautiful, elaborated, and unique in delivering all the various emotions, moods, and nuances in a very subtle way….


The Smiths - There is A Light That Never Goes Out

I couldn't resist the transport tri-factor presented by The Smiths: Within the song, There is a Light That Never Goes Out - not one, not two, but three modes of transport are mentioned. The mellifluous, melancholy Mancunian presents us with the irresistible imagery of being driven around in a car by a loved one, pondering a gloriously dramatic finale to the relationship: Being crushed by double-decker bus or ran over by ten tonne truck are both noble ends to an affair. Although being simultaneously killed in a road accident is not the most appropriate thought experiment for every date you embark upon, the mind is an interesting machine that affords the opportunity to reflect upon your happiness in myriad situations. The higher state of contentedness of which Morrissey sings reminds the listener that simple pleasures are often the greatest, and life is too short - charming.

Galliano - Twyford Down

Transport is often looked upon as progress incarnate; an undiluted positive impact upon civilisation and the greatest method invented for exploiting the unlimited possibilities this planet presents. So, I decided to confound this meme and implore people to wake up from their concrete and bitumen bound reveries. In Galliano's The Plot Thickens, they create cool grooves to their conscientious lyrics and themes. The song Twyford Down is about the M3 road extension through the chalk hills and countryside, from London to the south-west coast. In pursuit of more efficient ways of getting people to holiday homes and consumer goods to shops from ports - it seems perfectly reasonable to bulldoze sites of natural beauty and historical significance (ancient woods and burial sites). It makes good economic sense. There will never be an end to building more roads, just so that more cars and trucks can be built to put upon them. This protest song is a lament to the unrecoverable; to the warped logic of getting us all from A to B quicker, by going backwards.


Music and cars is a classic combination. I love driving along the desert road a little too fast, singing along to some of my old favourites. Such as this song, about surviving a major crash on the highway. A perfect topic for a carefree highway singalong. Radiohead - Airbag

Music and travel through the cosmos is also a classic combination. Among the vast selection of songs about interstellar transport, literal and figurative, I chose one of the very finest. It puts the spirit in instant motion, even as the body is still.
Mahavishnu Orchestra - Celestial Terrestrial Commuters


Courtney Barnett's Dead Fox sketches out some loosely related elements of Australia's agricultural industry. She begins with brief vignette about a bourgeois desire to buy organic vegetables bumping up against the economic realities of life as a musician, before moving on to the network by which those vegetables are moved from farm to market. The Dead Fox is a Linton Fox truck, ubiquitous on Australian (and New Zealand) roads. As it tears up and down the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney, it leaves roadkill in its wake, terrifies other drivers, and, as bypasses are constructed to make its movement more efficiencies, contributes to the economic decline of small towns. Barnett, of course, can't help but draw attention to our own complicity in this -- the truck does all this of course to bring us the best price. 

The American west is, in the popular imagination, a place of freedom and lawlessness. In reality  its conquest was motivated by economic expansion, including the creation of vast cattle ranches in the South West. The Goodnight Loving trail (named, really, for Charlie Goodnight and Oliver Loving) was established in 1866 and ran from Fort Belknap in Texas to Fort Sumner in New Mexico until it was eventually extended through Colorado into Wyoming. The cowboys on this and other trails lived hard lives in the saddle, and eventually the drives took their physical toll. Utah Phillips' Goodnight Loving Trail is an ode to the cook on the wagon train, the discarded worker left to make food for the cowboys and contemplate the desert and his fate. Here, Tom Waits covers it in a solo show recorded for the radio in Denver, 1974.