Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Search for the long forgotten Guitar Organ

I was corresponding with an Aussie geezer I know about classic cars, we both own rare Japanese models and we also happen to share the same taste in music. For what were essentially strangers 18 months ago we share a lot of common interests. He also plays guitar which I’ve started learning in February – not that that has deterred me starting a band! Anyway he said amongst his collection of equipment was a Vox Guitar Organ. “A what?” was my immediate reaction. So I raced off to You Tube and hey-presto this, in its entire splendor, is what the late 60’s Vox V251 ‘Guitar Organ’ is all about:

This was a way cool instrument that was probably conceptually compromised by the technology of the day. Basically it flopped and as far as I can establish big-name artists like Lennon, Stones did experiment with it’s nuances but none went on to employ the V251 as part of their sound. It’s still amazing, as well as an indictment on the lack of innovation in later-day guitar/music companies, no one else has developed a modern version. I know definitively Vox had them for-sale in Sydney, but what about New Zealand? Has anyone laid eyes on a Guitar-Organ on these shaky-isles? It would be so cool to give one of these strange hybrids a play. Imagine seeing a band with one in action! Coolest of cool.          

Monday, 27 June 2011

Five Random Questions New Zealand Music Commission needs to answer about the Outward Sound Scheme.

1.)   The scheme has been running for fix years, by my count close to 100 bands/artists have received assistance. Can the commission point to even a single group/artists that has gone on to taste global success as a direct result of their grant?

2.)   Why is it necessary to give groups multiple grants? Take Die Die Die! for example which has received funding in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Brooke Fraser 2006, 2007 and 2011.

3.)   Roughly 25 per cent of all the groups funded so far have broken-up. Is this good, to be expected?   

4.)   If a bands record sales falls, popularity wanes after receiving a grant are there any checks and balances in place to ask why? Take Goldenhorse for example. In 2002 their first album made number one in the N.Z Charts and their follow-up (2005) made number two. Yet their 3rd album peaked at just 38 and that came-out in 2007 a year after they received a Music Commission grant.

5.) Is the scheme income tested? Can’t for example Liam Finn (2008 and 2010) speak nicely to his old-man? Ladyhawke’s record company has an annual turnover of USD 6.0 billion, yet they come 'cap in hand' to the local-tax payers? 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Is the Alternative Music scene in New Zealand in a comatose state?

Name me the current top five albums by local artists in New Zealand? Go on take a guess, without taking a sneaky peek below. If you get two from five you’d be doing one better than me. The answers are rather spooky, an indictment of the ‘middle of the road’ vanilla flavour of Kiwi music purchasers (there’s a clue as to the five somewhere in there) I’m loathed to use the term ‘music lovers’ to people who buy this stuff. Be seated, I’m now going to give you the answers:

(1.) John Rowles ‘Hits and Love Songs’ (2.) Liam Finn ‘Fomo’ (3.) Denis Marsh ‘Maori Songbook’ (4.) Stan Walker ‘From the Inside Out’ (5.) Brooke Fraser ‘Flags’. Other Kiwi artists that have an album in the Top 40 include Ladi6, Avalanche City, Hayley Westenra and last of all on the list at 35th place Tiny Ruins (begins to start the process of losing the will to live)

It appears we are kidding ourselves if we think Kiwi’s give ‘a rats’ about local alternative music. What these stark stats indicate is the tribe that follows indie/alt bands appear to be vociferous and passionate – but comprise but a small percentage of the actual CD purchasers. Anecdotally it also appears the crew who are into say Thought Creature or Bang! Bang! Eche! are far more likely to burn-off a copy of their latest CD than say a suburban mum who sings along to her Warehouse copy of Hayley Westernra in the car.

I thought it was prudent to add some context to the situation by adding it’s no bloody better across the Tasman. Looking at their dire Top 40 it was obvious Aussies are equally blasé, impervious to ‘new’ music preferring the equivalent to eating at McDonalds than say an Indian vindaloo.

What is happening to the place?

The short and simple solution to rectify the imbalance is to by more ‘good’ stuff. Send John Rowles back into his cryogenic freezer. Don’t eat for a day and instead splurge a few bucks on great new albums like say this one from Vorn.

Check-on their latest video below – it’s a real doozy.  


Is Dave Dobbyn morphing into Yoda?

Far be it from me to spread dispersions, I’ll let you ponder the possibility of conjoinment?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The N.Z Music Commission: Hand-up or Hand-out?

This week we learnt the recipients of The New Zealand Music Industry Commission 'international development grants'. The benefactors in their latest funding round were Ladyhawke, Electric Wire Hustle, Avalanche City, Tiny Ruins, The Earlybirds, Frequency Media Group, Parachute Arts Trust and Isaac Aesili. Ladyhawke got a cool 65K that one can only presume her own record company didn’t feel she was worthy of receiving? What the hell is going on here? Is New Zealand music that dire we need to get the Government to keep ‘Kiwis on the air’ of overseas TV’s and radios as well? Why do New Zealand taxpayers need to assist the marketing budgets multi-national record companies – which is essentially what these subsidies amount to? Ladyhawke is on the label Modular which is 50% owned by Universal Music one of the big four industry players. Universal has an annual turn-over of 6.0 billion U.S Dollars! What is so wrong with the free-market picking winners and losers in the global music market, rather than some grey-shoed, unkempt public servant from Wellington? Who is going to be accountable if these bands crash and burn? Will Public Servants soon start picking the New Zealand Top 40? They could automatically place N.Z Artists in the number one spot every week and we could all feel good about how well local music is doing. Wouldn’t it just be easy if we sent secretive teams of Kiwi public servants to the U.K and Europe to buy-up every N.Z record off the shelves and artificially drive that artist up the charts? Then again why bother traveling past Wellington. Why not spend grab a bundle of tax-payer sponsored credit cards and go on-line to iTunes and make say Tiny Ruins the number one selling group in say Germany? Subsidies are what started the economic rot in this country. We never seem to learn and think subsidies work. Show me one rock artist around the world that has succeeded thanks to state-support rather than share talent along with a record company that is willing to invest money into their careers, plus good management? 


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Now here's an idea that's come of age!

Looking at this old You Tube, if a clip from October 2009 can be termed as such, I wondered if there’s not ample room in the post-earthquake dust-settling ‘new’ Christchurch city plan, to cater for such performing places? What is so friggin’ wrong with bands doing a 30 minute lunchtime gig from a city balcony or rooftop, similarly a free Friday night concert? If ‘re-vitalising’ the inner-city is more than just a convenient local-body politicians wank-term then surely The Transistors offer inspiration in bucket loads for a vibrant city centre. They’d also like their $500 back.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The search for the lost unofficial Kiwi band-fan site

Unofficial Fan web-sites vary in quality, if not passion. From those where enough love and attention have been spent to make them superior to the official site, down to the ‘one weekend and a few old clippings’ placed on a free server with menacing pop-ups. Geocities and Tripod are the resting places of many an ‘ex’ site that have disappeared into the ether. Sadly there are only but a few stand-alone ‘fan’ sites dedicated to Kiwi bands. The Split Enz (slash Crowded House) site ‘Frenz’ is probably the granddaddy of them. It appears fans are now content with myspace format as a final resting place for a bands memoriam. I’m not. Myspace is very limited and its template stereotyped. There are never any nocks and crannies to explore. The effort required to run-up a myspace site is often reflective in its look and content. So again I yell to the southern winds “where are all the independent Kiwi band sites lurking?” Well here are a few ‘un-officials’ I can think-of worthy of a nosey and placement on your favourites:

Straightjacket Fits (incorporating other Carter projects, spin-offs)

Simon Griggs profiles Screaming Mee Mees, Suburban Reptiles, Proud Scum and dozens of others he knew and produced!

That’s bugger all, eh?

More evidence of 'the passionless people' and a deeper societal malaise?  

Can you think of any sites to embellish this motley crew?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Ghost Wave; Is there life after Flying Nun?

Is possible to do a review on Ghost Wave without mentioning the ‘c’ word? I’m talking about The Clean of course. The Kilgour connection is bandied about like driftwood on a north Auckland beach and “yeah” I do hear the similarities but I also ear-wig Stone Roses in the mix as well. I mean it’s a way nice compliment to be compared to The Clean and The Stone Roses, and Ghost Wave are bloody good at the business of jangle psych pop (this is my blog and I’ll make up genres if I want to)  They also follow a noble line of other Kiwi bands employing the word ‘ghost’ in their moniker and confuse the fuck out of prospective record buyers. Ghostplane, Ghost Club and now Ghost Wave - in a small country like N.Z we need to set limits on collateral band names! The first album, more correctly an EP, called simply ‘Ghost Wave’ is out on Arch Hill and for a mere six Kiwi dollars (approx USD 4.50) you get seven songs. That’s frankly a steal given the quality of the compositions from this now four piece. When I first saw them they were a threesome but the extra fuzzy guitar certainly compliments their sound. Put it this way – if you like this song 'Sunsetter' you’ll like the rest.  

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Go on tell me Pikachunes aren’t plagiarising Ultravox!

Master Pikachune is certainly young enough to be in the backseat of the family Holden listening to mum and dad’s tape of Ultravox/Visage as they drove to Nelson on Christmas hol’s, that’s for sure.

Sing after me…….

“One of these songs is not like the other, one of these songs is just the same”

Exhibit A:

 Exhibit B:

Some of us are old enough to remember this shit!

PS: Does the song title refer to the expected letter from Ultravox/Visage's lawyers?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Welcome to the dark and murky world of Rabbit Goth!

In one foul swoop Donnie Darko managed to propel the humble bunny into some dark mysterious, mythical beast. So let’s look at the granddaddy of rabbit-goth and its video off-spring. Remember to be careful visiting hutches at night and constantly ask random people “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"  

Monday, 13 June 2011


WHITNEY HOUSTON - ‘I will always Love You’
Automatically replace the word ‘love’ with ‘hate’.

Makes you want to wretch it’s so sickly

ROD STEWART - ‘Downtown Train’
Brutally suffer someone else’s mid-life crisis.  

SHRIEKBACK - ‘Get Down Tonight’
The only spine in this bass-line is that of a jelly-fish

BLINK 182 - ‘Another Girl Another Planet’
Disney-Channel were on the production team.  

JOE COCKER – ‘You can leave your hat on’
Cocker takes a lot of stopping having spent 40 plus years making awful covers.   

FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS - ‘Ever Fallen in Love’
Pure unmitigated drivel from the band that also butchers ‘Suspicious Minds’  

The only one who went “whooo hoooo” was Robbie and the legion of schoolgirls in the front row.

PRONG - ‘Get a grip on yourself’
No listen to me – you get a grip on yourselves!

PHIL COLLINS – ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’
His cover of a Beatles masterpiece is like a kid with crayons interpreting Picasso. 

JOHN PAUL YOUNG and FALL OUT BOY-  ‘Love will tear us Apart’
Both serve-up in equal portions renditions which exude all the power and emotion of a wet face cloth.

You can be plagiarising passion-killers just for one day.

NO DOUBT – ‘It’s my Life’
Message to Mark Hollis; Sue the pricks!

Limp? You mean flaccid more like.  

UB40 CHRISSIE HYNDE – ‘I Got You Babe’
Not if I run quickly and block my ears at the same time.

They should have spelt it with an L behind the F.

SHAGGY and LUMIDEE – ‘Feel Like Making Love’
More likely to ruin your libido permanently with one listen.

THE EXIES – ‘Once in a Life Time’
They ate all the flesh off the corpse and then sucked the marrow from the bones.  

THE OFFSPRING – ‘Feelings’
If you had any feelings for the rest of humanity you would have never done it.

SAVE FERRIS – ‘Come on Eileen’
Even as kids did you guys have an imagination?  

Sunday, 12 June 2011


The Mint Chicks are of course sadly no more. I know a dead-band when I see one. They traveled off-shore to The West Coast of the U.S to find fame and fortune in the biggest bird-bath and ended-up imploding amongst sibling tensions at the beginning of last year (2010) Trying to cubby-hole The Mint Chicks was/is no easy task. My first impressions of ‘Octagon, Octagon, Octagon’ was I was listening to a jam session by the first line-up of XTC. Free flowing experimentation, in your face vocals, tight as a nats butthole rhythm section and that ‘taking the piss attitude.’ Well now their former guitarist Ruban Nielson (the one with the Joe 90 glasses) has come-up from his Portland basement studio with a new, three piece, band called Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The music Illuminati describe UMO (I’m way too too lazy to spell it out all the time) as psychedelic and sure there are such influences in the mix – but a friggin pysch band? Me thinks not. Listening to their videos on You Tube my palette detects as much Blur as say Can, Beatles as Dukes of The Stratosphear. Distinct characteristics of Haight Asbury in one song and not the next.  Now I’ve listened to their first offerings "do I prefer Ruban Nielsons solo project to The Mint Chicks?" Honesty call, on first impressions – no (see it wasn’t that hard to do) A large part of me wants to scream “Kiss and make-up with your bro would ya!?” But it’s early days and my jury of one is presently out. Memo to self: run UMO past number one son who was a huge Mint Chicks fan. Kiwi music history is littered with bands “that should have made-it” (notice the inverted commas) Straightjacket Fits and The Mint Chicks are two of bands that top my list of ‘if there was a God they should have been bigger than Lady GaGa’. This ramble isn’t to say I necessarily dislike UMO, it’s just that in the short-term at least I’m going to content myself with The Mint Chicks back catalogue and that dreaded imponderable of what could have been. Being a libertarian I’ll leave you to make your own mind-up on the merits of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I also won't feel bitter & twisted if they do happen to 'make it.' It's about bloody time a Kiwi band did.



Five Covers that are better than the original

                                      Patti Smith 'Because the Night'

Gary Jules 'Mad World'

                                             Johnny Cash 'Hurt'
Bauhaus 'Telegram Sam'

                                  Revolting Cocks 'Do you think I'm Sexy?'

More suggestions?

Brick-bats, even?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

WTF The Delltones do The Sex Pistols?!?

Every pondered just how low can music go nowadays?

Try a barber-shop version of ‘Pretty Vacant’  

There is tragic and there is ‘tragic.’

PS: Don't tell anyone, but I do dig their mustard shirts.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


I’ve been giving Bachelorettes third, possibly posthumous, album a thrashing in the car. It’s simply called ‘Bachelorette’ – so there’s no excuse for forgetting the album name or need for scraps of paper. I’ve always been a big softy for psychedelic music and when you fuse with modern electronica you’ll nearly always have me on the hook. It’s Bachelorettes whimsical nature, all created in your average garden variety Kiwi house by a single lovable individual called Annabel Alpers, that makes her/their concoctions so tasty. Beautifully layered vocals,  spacey seventies sounding synths. Think Air stuck in a studio with Bjork working on the soundtrack for a re-make of 'Barbarella'. Annabel is the person humanity should pick to greet the extraterrestrial invaders, armed only with her keyboards. Her music is truly galactic. Please come back to earth Annabel, all is forgiven. Footnote: Can't help but think Annabel may well have been better to have saved the name of her first album and used it more appropriately here. It was called rather ironically 'The End of Things.'