Andrew Paul Wood is a Christchurch-based writer, cultural critic and freelance curator. He writes for The Press, the Listener, Urbis, Architecture New Zealand, and a host of others. Recent work includes a translation into English of the New Zealand poems of German-Jewish poet Karl Wolfskehl, Under New Stars: Poems from the New Zealand Exile (Holloway, 2012, edited by Friedrich Voit), and a psychogeography of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes with photographer Doc Ross, Quietus: Observations of an Altered City (Analogue House, 2012). He has very nearly finished a PhD thesis on Canterbury painting in the 1990s and has a weekly slot talking about the arts on CTV’s Canterbury Life. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
I’ll be frank – I think most music today is shite. Sadly, the global music factory hasn’t worked out that if they continue to drown us in a cynical tsunami of subtopian plastic bilge, the people who actually have disposable income to spend on music are going to further and further retreat into the solipsism of the three ‘I’s: individual taste, illegal downloads, and iPods.
Sometime around the late 1990s, hip-hoppers took over the world, gave up any pretence of social protest and creative wordplay, and rapidly evolved into the kind of pretentiously kitschy cartoon capitalists that you used to only find in Soviet propaganda (but with top hats and fewer hos). The music isn’t even all that musical: more like a mangled chanting occasionally backed with hacked around bits of other people’s songs and tortured soul-esque melisma (that gospelly yodelling noise squeezed into every note that sounds like someone calling goats from the next valley).
Spotty skinny white boy rock is just as bad, trite, adolescent, etc, etc. The female counterparts to spotty skinny white boy rock are either the dubious post-feminist mass-produced rock chick and the female alt-folk or electropop singer-songwriter with bizarrely unnatural vocal mannerisms substituting for any actual singing ability. The latter, strangely popular with advertising execs, either sounds all little-girly twee or like Daisy Duck after ten packs of Galois. Just how Justin Beiber fits into all of this, I don’t know, but then I would need a lobotomy in order to listen to even one of the little rubber-faced goblin’s songs, and Gaga, I’m old enough to remember Madonna, piss off. I suppose that’s why the five albums I’m liking the most at the moment are often anachronistic.
1 – Nik Kershaw, The Best Of Nik Kershaw: I’ll cop some flack for this one, but consider the crispness of the production, the immaculate orchestration, the Cold War angst, the hair (sadly most of which is now gone). Back in the 80’s lyrics were meaningful or interesting, and Mr Kershaw’s especially so – even when he just left gibberish in as a gap filler as in one of my favourites, The Riddle. I still get a bit emotional at the scorchingly cool classic Wouldn’t It Be Good, the video for which anticipates the X-Files by many years. That legacy is enough to make me forgive Kershaw the abomination of producing the exquisitely execrable one hit wonder Chesney Hawkes.
2 – Chet Baker, The Best of Chet Baker Sings: Chet Baker (1929-1988) was a superlative jazz trumpeter and ethereal vocalist. Listening to him is like slowly consuming and savouring a square of caramello chocolate in the full knowledge taht it is the last piece in the world, probably while stroking a piece of velvet. Most people will know his My Funny Valentine (1954) but everything is worth listening to.
3 –V/A, Wig In A Box: Songs from & Inspired by Hedwig and the Angry Inch: I like camp – there I said it. I like Abba, Steps, Army of Lovers and stuff like that. If you’ve never banged along to Bohemian Rhapsody, I don’t want to know you. Wig In A Box is a tribute album by a number of amazing musicians and groups doing the songs from that heavily underrated musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Polyphonic Spree does the title track and They Might Be Giants cover one of my favourite songs The Long Grift . Also worth listening to is The Breeders cover of Wicked Little Town and Frank Black’s cover of Sugar Daddy.
4 – Mike Oldfield, Elements: The Best of Mike Oldfield: Forget Tubular Bells. Did you know he did the main theme for The Exorcist? I have two Oldfield albums I listen to over and over again, and those are The Songs of Distant Earth, and this one. Remember Moonlight Shadow? Best nostalgically interspersed with lashings of Kate Bush.
5 – V/A, The Strip Soundtrack: Let’s be honest, probably around 70% of all New Zealand music is feckin shite and thankfully almost entirely ephemeral and quickly forgotten because our music industry is tiny with a fatality rate equivalent to a weekend in Fallujah. Incidentally, that’s why TV shows like NZ Idol, New Zealand’s Got Talent (but not very much) and NZ X-Factor are such awful ideas – ideas on par with fighting a ground war in Asia or trusting emails from mysterious Nigerian bankers – because there is no infrastructure to support the careers of any winners. Anyway, if you wanted to introduce a foreign friend to a selection of kiwi pop without being deeply ashamed, you could do worse than the soundtrack to that rubbish TV show about an idiot lawyer and her troop of male strippers, The Strip: Che Fu, the feelers, Goodshirt, Greg Johnson, Phoenix Foundation, Goldenhorse, Stylus 77, and Cloudboy – it doesn’t make you want to puncture your eardrums with knitting needles.