“not a lot to
he says, as
he hides not
a lot. and
then she turns
lifts her eyes to meet
his and sees
he’s not hiding
have much left)
well after all
at least he
Amazing – I dodged Homegrown last year and it feels like so long ago that I was last there, out of place, wandering about – trying to fill the day, desperately hoping for something in the form of music, settling – because you have to – for a lot less. A lot of less.
Geez, it turned into one of those one-day shit-storms on Twitter; the 1-Day Sale of Angry Ranting.
DJ Sir-Vere didn’t like being singled out as the guy pressing play on American records (at a Kiwi event) and encouraging under-agers to get wasted, to say fuck this and fuck that; I tried calling him on a social-responsibility thing. Admittedly, it’s the Homegrown organisers – choosing Jim Beam as sponsor for an event that’s not entirely R-18 – that deserve the wrist-smack I spose.
Anyway, I still have the wristband from the event – no clues as to why. And the media pass. I never seem to get the shiny/cool Media Pass to an event I want to be at. I’m a big enough target at most shows I go to without some dorky MEDIA pass hanging from me. I think those things look so fucking stupid. They paint the media players in the worst light – trying to suck up to artists, and hang out backstage and look like someone with privileges. It suits most of the (other) media you see at an event like Homegrown. It sure doesn’t suit me. Mine – whenever I’m given them – hides in my pocket. I’m not trying to be the guy on stage, or the guy backstage. Just the person sent off to review some music, hoping – as always – that it’s great. Knowing that if it’s not it’s my job to say so.
Now, Homegrown 2015 awaits…I’m not sure I’m welcome. I’m certainly okay with that.
Stubs is an occasional feature here at Off The Tracks – looking back through the ticket-stub box and remembering how the show went down.
New Order, Brotherhood (1986)
There I was – in a bizarre love/hate triangle with the music of Joy Division and New Order, always liked the JD stuff, never cared for that much of the NO stuff. That’s just how it’s been. Look, I loved Blue Monday as soon as I heard it. I was just young. It was quite a revelation hearing that. But, mostly, I probably would have been happy just having a couple of best-of comps of the New Order material. Their first “comeback” album, Get Ready got a bit of play at the time but apart from that all I’ve ever had was compilations – Substance being the winner. And then just last week I go see Peter Hook playing some Joy Division stuff, but mostly New Order and I just fall in love with this stuff/remember that I have always kinda dug it – certainly I knew more of it than I probably realised going in. So it was off the next day to buy this. And then I’ll grab Low-Life when I see it. And one or two others probably now too…funny ol’ disease this, init?
Sample Track: Bizarre Love Triangle
The Vinyl Countdown is a document of every LP I listen to, brand new discoveries and old-old favourites; extremely pre-loved, previously abandoned or with the shrink-wrap having just been removed it’s all here at The Vinyl Countdown
Anthonie Tonnon is about to release Successor – his second full-lengther, his first as – officially – a solo artist. Previously he recorded/performed as either Tono or Tono & The Finance Company. The Finance Company’s musical insolvency was announced a couple of years ago now. So the songs on Successor have been worked up across live performances – some of them even caught on tape (for those that were looking). The new album is out this week, Friday. The album release tour kicks off on Thursday.
“It’s very much a change in process”, Tonnon explains. “I grew up with the idea that you’d make an album, and then – you know – get famous and tour behind it”, he breaks off in a chuckle. “But this record is a fair representation of how I’ve been touring” – he means the arrangements, the band sound, and also the fact that the material has had a chance to strut and fret its hour (and a half) on the stage already.
Since the break-up of The Finance Company Tonnon has toured New Zealand – as support act for international friends and as solo headliner. He’s performed on his own and with a band. And he’s taken his show not only on the road, but further afield.
“Island Syndrome”, he tells me. That’s what was behind the move to get up and go – to play Australia and America. “I just felt I had to go overseas – I love New Zealand but I grew up in a comfortable environment and my parents had never really travelled. I had this urge, I needed to get overseas. Also, I started making music around the time the internet seemed to be making big promises but not really delivering for musicians”. Another break for a chuckle. “There was a lot being said about streaming services, and touring, and how it was all going to work – but I remain a believer that the best way to connect is to put your music in front of somebody. To go to their town and play”.
Touring America has not only introduced him to an international label – and reciprocating tour buddies – it also introduced him to the idea of working up material on the road; confirmed that as a way forward.
“International touring showed me that you could go on the road with half a dozen new songs and see what happened – we’d see these bands that literally just had that, and then would jam and work up the material on stage. It’s very liberating in a sense, kinda scary, but a good way to create. It’s nice to have something you think is already formed, in a sense, when you then go to record it”.
Tonnon’s songwriting – story-songs, narrative – marries poetic imagery and observational humour to guitar-chugs. The new album features hints of the Krautrock feel The Phoenix Foundation has adapted (Railway Lines) and languid laments where it’s just the guitar and voice telling the tale (A Friend From Argentina). If it ever felt like a gimmick previously, quirky – nearly silly – now it’s a sound that’s all grown up. Serious, but never boring. The songs are surprises, still. There’s none of the awkwardness within the jangle now, the shoulders are smooth, these songs, along with their writer, have grown.
I have to ask if other writing has (ever) informed Tonnon’s approach to creating songs.
“I did a poetry course under Emma Neale, an amazing poet. And I liked that. It was very inspiring. I did a few English papers at uni in fact – but I was more into History. Right through high school and university I would say I was a better historian than I was a musician. And I think I came to writing – very much so, in terms of the craft of writing – through formal history essays. And that took me to journalism – I wrote for Otago University’s Critic magazine and when I moved to Auckland there were a few opportunities for more journalism, including some music writing. I found this interesting – but ultimately I was more interested in songwriting”.
Reading is still very important to Tonnon, a huge source of inspiration. He says the Longform website (a site dedicated to lengthy feature articles from the dying days of print media and new stories in the spirit of that “lost” long-form magazine feature style) has been a big influence – “just the idea of someone working on something, a story, for six months or a year and distilling it down to a few pages. Okay, sometimes it’s a very long read still, it might take me an hour or more but that’s still a year’s work for someone. The ability to give you all of the details you need and leave nothing out that is required”.
That, of course, is songwriting.
Cue discussion of Don McGlashan’s ability to tell you all about a relationship gone sour without actually having to tell you all of it or barely any of it in the opening lines of Dominion Road. And then a mention of Paul Kelly’s To Her Door.
Tonnon says Successor, just nine songs, but 42 minutes in total, is him “attempting some sort of long-form balladry – I’ve ditched the pop songs of Up Here For Dancing and moved on to this kind of ballad-form I reckon”. He’s right. But don’t be scared off by that description. These five and six-minute songs are jam-packed with ideas, and it is all about the narrative. There’s still plenty of angles within the guitar lines too.
“It’s exciting to have something driving the song – you’re writing a verse and when you can make a connection between the verses, some reason for the next verse to come in, that’s very inspiring for me”. He says A Friend From Argentina “even features a flashback”. He’s proud of that. You talk to Anthonie Tonnon about songwriting and the passion is there, it’s obvious. It’s very clear too that this is someone utterly focussed on following their own path. And so sure they’ll be learning forever. Never the teacher, always the student.
With just nine songs making the cut, Successor gives off the feel of an immaculate collection – cherry-picked, ripe and ready. All correct and accounted for. It also means there are a few songs leftover for a new project, the next record – or EP.
“I haven’t quite decided on that”, Tonnon says. “But definitely there’ll be something else, and there are already a few songs for whatever happens next”.
Right now it’s about the tour, the release of the album and then just enough time to get those pesky visas sorted to head over to America again, via Australia.
For Anthonie Tonnon it’s about doing the work. That now means taking the songs to the people, finding an audience for this work. It shouldn’t be hard. He’s shown great skills across previous releases. This, however, is his finest batch of songs. His best effort. A great new album – and he’s an excellent live performer.
Successor is out on Friday. Tonnon’s New Zealand tour dates are here.
Remember when you’d hear Cat Power sounding just a little bit southern gospel, just a little bit Hi Records soul – slightly sinewy-funk backbeat there too. But it was never quite believable, just a version of music-as-recovery-step, another step towards trying to be a pop star. Well – if you want to hear the correct version of that sound, a sound that sticks, you should hear the latest from Frazey Ford. It’s her first solo album in nearly a half-decade, but you know her (hopefully) from her work with The Be Good Tanyas – their recent career-highlights album a reminder of the magic that was summoned, with Ford so often the ringleader there.
Like Chan Marshall before her, Ford has in fact aimed for that Al Green/Hi Records sound by using some of those key players – but the result, this time, feels lived in and loved, not just tossed off as a that’ll-do sound and feel.
There’s something so very real about this – the heartbreak that Ford can summon with her voice, the country-soul grit and those back-in-the-saddle laidback grooves that aren’t ever quite country or soul but so happy, so perfectly, resting right in the middle.
A little scratch of Ford’s own guitar here and there, some of the very last work you’ll hear by the wonderful Teenie Hodges, and some calm, soothing horns (You’re Not Free) give this the feel of a Greatest Hits collection. Again, Cat Power was hoping for that, but had to title it to put the thought in your mind. This just flows, a set of no-filler songwriting, some of the best pieces Ford’s created – they all need her voice, and are built for that, around that. But they are imbued with this great energy from the Hi Records rhythm section.
If I’d had the chance to hear this in 2014 it would have been on my best of the year list. Only getting to it now ensures it’ll have a place in the collection for 2015 – and with its timeless feel it’s a record you’ll want to hear, well, forever. Magical stuff.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan was barely finished with the promotional trail behind his first book, Dad Is Fat when Food: A Love Story appeared. That’s because he’s – somewhat cleverly – worked out a good way to get paid here, to add to the merchandise of the annual CD/DVD in support of his comedy shows. Books. And Gaffigan’s PG-rated observational humour lends itself, perfectly, to the book treatment. Disguised as “essays” here we have his various bits on/around food.
Food’s a hot topic (er, sorry) for Gaffigan, it’s part of his routine always – and his Hot Pocket bit was one of the things that first got him noticed, pushed him up a level. He’s a great comedian, perfect timing, a unique approach – and Food: A Love Story is funnier than Dad is Fat. Probably the appeal is more universal too, where the first book was a parenting tome – and wanted to have a certain sensitivity to it as well as the mirth – Food is more concerned with collecting his various thoughts on a topic that everyone has some purchase on. Not just parents.
It’s simply funnier too – it feels like more of a book, even though it’s essentially a Greatest Hits, a themed compilation of tried and tested pieces. There’s enough supplemental material fleshing this out for those that have followed Gaffigan’s comedy through the many live albums and TV specials. There’s also the right amount here for first-timers – given this is a subject that should be of appeal to plenty who haven’t delved into Gaffigan’s comedy previously.
There’s a sharper tone here too – because Gaffigan approaches food with no angle of/on moral high ground. He’s a fan. A big fan of food. And fat enough to be able to make fat jokes – to add barbs to any of the bits and come across as the potential target of his own jokes rather than someone being cruel and cold.
At his best Gaffigan is a great comic – and his voice is so clear on the best pages here. It’s a very funny book, one I can imagine dipping back into. Regularly. Returning to this buffet of jokes.
Thursday, February 26
Peter Hook was the bassist in Joy Division and the band that formed from its ashes, New Order. That’s enough reason to want to see him – an icon from that post-punk/new-wave era. He’s running a decent covers-band now, The Light, featuring his son Jack covering for Hook on bass – occasionally Peter’s distinctive tones could be heard as almost an echo – his bass-guitar stance more like a lead guitarist’s or for that matter a soloist than the usual subdued bass role.
People are there for the connection, to stand in the same room as one of the men who was there with Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. To be in the same breathing space as a man who had a hand in so many of those great pop singles from New Order, the band that didn’t even struggle on after the tragedy of Curtis’ suicide spelling the end of Joy Division but rather found their own fame, forging a new sound.
The main set is two New Order albums in their entirety, 1986’s Brotherhood and the previous year’s Low-Life. It’s a reminder of so many magic moments with songs like The Perfect Kiss and Bizarre Love Triangle arriving as perfect singalong anthems. Thriving still in this day and age.
The generous show started with Hook & The Light performing a set of Joy Division covers – a reminder of the visceral strength of these tunes, removed from the murky production of the albums they stand resplendent as get-you-in-the-mood rock songs.
It was a two and a half hour nostalgia-fest, packed with people clearly “there the first time”, a sea of tour t-shirts and fists pumping.
And it was made all the more remarkable given that Peter Hook really cannot sing. People were cheering who he used to be far more than who he actually is. Peter Hook & The Light is just a shadow of a man’s former self. But to see that shadow cast was what the people wanted.
This review appeared in The Dominion Post – I’ve reposted it here on Off The Tracks due to requests from people wanting to view it online
Peter Posa & His Golden Guitar, The White Rabbit And Other Tunes For Playboys (1963)
Every home should have a bit of Peter Posa right? Well – you might argue otherwise, as is your right, but I’ve always liked that particular type of hokey country/jazz/rock’n’roll guitar instrumentals – all good fun. The rinky-dink drums, the muted strings, the echo…I’ve always had a soft spot for Posa’s signature tune. But only recently bought the LP – a good find. It’s probably not hard to find, but I’m still glad it turned up for me when it did.
Sample Track: The White Rabbit
The Vinyl Countdown is a document of every LP I listen to, brand new discoveries and old-old favourites; extremely pre-loved, previously abandoned or with the shrink-wrap having just been removed it’s all here at The Vinyl Countdown
Director: Mike Myers
A&E IndieFilms/Nomoneyfun Films
Supermensch tells the story – well, part of the story – of Shep Gordon. He’s best known as manager of Alice Cooper. But he’s had a fascinating career in music management (Anne Murray, Blondie, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass) before moving on over into film producing too – and, so the story seems to go, he invented the idea of The Celebrity Chef.
So who – really – is Shep Gordon? And why has the guy who created Austin Powers made a documentary about him?
Well, Myers, creatively spent following the harrowing flop of his disastrous comedy, The Love Guru, sought solace in Shep’s world. He’d known Gordon since his top client Alice Cooper had a career-reviving cameo in Wayne’s World. Gordon’s become famous for his Hawaiian hideaway where he hosts parties that pull from all areas within the celebrity paradigm, he’s the host with the most. Myers took some time to get to know Shep better and to find himself. As a result he made this film.
It’s a fun walk through the amazing life/lives of a total chancer. Gordon is blessed with a gift of gab feature that had him talking his way into a music-managing career and then learning the skills on the job. His stories around breaking Alice Cooper are legendary.
He then worked out ways to make the safe and improbable country/folk superstar Anne Murray seem dangerous, or at least exciting.
There’s no denying the man has a real talent – an ability to spot ways to make things work.
But we are only ever given the celebratory version of events. We know this because Myers’ subtitle works as a disclaimer. We know this too because we see Gordon wearing a t-shirt that says No Head No Backstage Pass. There’s talk of sex and violence – but it’s muted. It’s a casual mention. You know that Gordon’s been involved with bad things – you just know it. You know it too because the film focuses on his spiritual rebirth as friend of The Dalai Lama, as convert to Buddhism. In fact if you didn’t know he was real already, you might think that Shep Gordon is the greatest mockumentary character ever.
Myers’ film is a lovely off-beat tribute that just happens to be delivered as gushing love-letter. But it’s certainly worth watching. There’s a charm to Gordon. There’s also a great sadness there, some spiritual bankruptcy that he’s recovered from, started over. The new leaf doesn’t make his exploits from the past any less interesting.
And the charm of the film is that we are never really concerned with the idea that there’s another side of the story – a darkness that’s being avoided. That’s a subtle deception Shep Gordon would have been proud to orchestrate.
There was a time when I was respected. I never got hit up for blocking doors. They were always opening – or being opened for me. I never had to listen to crap like that. I mean, who ever heard of a fire-exit being blocked. As soon as they cry “fire” you’re gone right? Man, I musta lived too long. Lived here too long that’s for sure.
Back when I was first knocking around these parts, everything was great. No wucking forries, I used to say. Geddit? Haha, no wucking forries. Oh yeah, me and me mates used to have a good ole laugh eh. Not now though eh, everyone’s so uptight. Pressing bloody buttons all day and night. They got those bloody phones you tap into. Pressing the buttons, I see people wandering along the street, nattering away to each other, while still keying things into these bloody phones. They must be calling people far away, with fucking long phone numbers. Otherwise you see people with the phone to their ear, and they’re the ones not talking. Just walking. Strutting along, over-coat over-priced and blowing behind them. They’re parading along, with this bloody little toy phone glued to their bloody ear, as if their only cares in the world are lighting a smoke, carrying a phone, holding a briefcase, and not breaking a sweat.
Might not be so bad if those were their only cares, eh.
Still I’m the one that bouncer’s telling off for going into the club. I’ll tell you what it was, he was telling me off for standing in front of that fire-exit, cos he didn’t want me in there. He knew he’d get to me. Bunch o’ bullshit. He just didn’t want me in there. Ageism is fucking cruel. Especially in this day and, er, age.
As with January it’s about just getting back into it. Slowly, slowly…still February served up at least two albums I’m sure will be on my End of the Year Best list – or there’ll have to be something truly magical to knock them off. So not as many rave-reviews as has been the case in some of the months last year, but that’s probably more due to me slowly, but surely getting (back) into it…
Click on this link to be taken to a summary of all the best reviews I wrote for the month of February, 2015. By best I mean not just positive but the rave reviews, the albums I reckon are worth hearing; worth having.
You’ll find reissues, compilations, EPs and live albums – as well as full-length studio releases. Most of the material here was released in 2014/15 but in some cases it was released in 2013 and only made it to me this year – or I only (finally) got to it this year.
The Knick [Original Series Soundtrack]
I’ve yet to see the TV show – and hey, I’ll get right to that. But meanwhile I’ve been caught up in the soundtrack, a return to the pairing of Cliff Martinez (composer) and Steve Soderbergh (writer/director/producer). They’ve worked so well together previously, one of the great director/composer teams, an intuitive relationship. Here Martinez is in his usual wonderful form and you’ll hear bits and pieces taken from ideas that trace around the Cluster/Eno tropes, it’s not too dissimilar to moments from the Gone Girl soundtrack too; Martinez though, has this way where he can touch on the nearly-schmaltz in that Craig Armstrong way (Not Leaving This Circus) before returning, so swiftly, seamlessly, to that Trent Reznor-edged version of ominous and brooding (Call Me Dad).
It’s made all the more remarkable here – given these are, for the most part, shorter cues, for TV scenes. One of the lesser discussed but certainly crucial ways in which this golden era of TV has been allowed to shine has been through the use of music. The Sopranos, Mad Men, so many others – a good set of source tunes and the right kind of menacing score. It’s a big part in creating that small screen magic.
Martinez’s score for this TV show sits alongside his finest works for cinema. It makes me want to see the series, knowing that there’ll be something to enjoy instantly – this music. Anything else would be a bonus. And given I’ve been sitting with this music – outside and away from the series – for some six months or so now it’s certainly fair to say that this exists, and deserves to, on its own as album away from the images and story that have inspired it.