Richard Langston is a broadcaster, journalist, former TV3 reporter, and poet who in the 1980s edited the Dunedin music fanzine, Garage. Copies of ‘Garage’ can be read and heard (there’s podcasts) here. His latest poetry book, Things Lay in Pieces, can be bought here. Some of his poems can be read here. And here are five albums he’s living right now…
1 – The Puddle, Secret Holiday/Victory Blues: The Puddle is the singular songwriting talent of George Henderson who’s made few, if any, concessions to buckling under and living a ‘proper’ life. He’s one of our more notable ‘outsider’ musicians. He’s made music for 30 years – I first met him in Dunedin in the mid-80s when he was about to record his first EP for Flying Nun, and I was trying to get together the second issue of my fanzine Garage. The Puddle were then a wild and wildly erratic live presence – amid the mayhem, George would occasionally give the audience some respite with his warm, loping pastoral classic, Xmas in The Country. The first EP Pop Lib is now a collector’s piece, but he’s made his best music in recent years with a run of terrific albums, No Love – No Hate, The Shakespeare Monkey, Playboys in the Bush, and this one. These days he almost croons his dark-edged tales of love and failure. The albums are on the Fishrider label run by George’s brother, Ian. He started it to put out his brother’s music – he’s always believed – and music writers and radio stations from San Francisco to South Carolina to London now concur with him, George has never had such good reviews. Sometimes, to quote George, kisses, do indeed, taste like victory.
2 – The Pin Group, Ambivalence: It’s generally thought that Dunedin music inspired Roger Shepherd to start Flying Nun – but it was those dark, shit-kicking garage bands from Christchurch that supplied the initial inspiration: The Vacuum, The Builders, Victor Dimisich Band, and The Pin Group. Thirty years later PG are an obscurist’s delight – their early singles change hands for hundreds – and they are worth having for the Ronnie Van Hout covers alone. All of their slight output is on this vinyl reissue with a bonus 8-track CD. Much has been made of the influence of Joy Division – way too much if you ask me. (I hear more of the Velvet Underground). The Pin Group knew what they were about, and at the time they tore a lovely black hole in the faux pin-stripe fabric of Christchurch.
3 – Toy Love, Toy Love (Double LP): This is great because you get the singles, and Toy Love were a great singles band – the album had its moments without every quite attaining the heights. But with Rebel/Squeeze, Don’t Ask Me/Sheep, they most certainly did. I can still see the gleam of Chris Knox’s teeth when he used to sing them live – I remember standing inches from him at the Cook in Dunedin. He’d roar into the mic as the band swirled around him. Knox was a consummate performer who could by turns engage or goad. He always had front when front was akin to showing off and being too full of yourself. He didn’t give a frigg for small-town manners – he just went at it. His best and really innovative work lay in front of him with the Tall Dwarfs, but there’s Toy Love moments you can’t beat – aside from the singles – among the other gems is Pull Down the Shades. It’s there on side four. Go straight to it in the unlikely event you’ve never heard it. Turn it up. Bam. Iggy rides in Dunedin.
4 –David Kilgour, Left by Soft: Seldom would a week pass that I wouldn’t have something on the turntable by the Kilgour brothers. Lately it’s been The Clean’s Oddities (originally released on cassette in 1982) and this year released on vinyl by Texas label, 540. These 23 songs recorded in the practice room in the early 80s include alternative versions of classics – Getting Older, At The bottom, End of My Dream – as well as numerous obscurities, (a few might be regarded as for fans only). I love The Clean not just for their songs but their playfulness and their joy. You can always hear the later on David Kilgour’s numerous solo albums – the one he made with Sam Hunt’s poems, Falling Debris is a bloody beauty – as is Left by Soft from 2011 – the man is an alchemist who can smelt pain into a smile. Try Steel Arrow.
5 – Beastwars, Beastwars: Heavy metal was out when I was growing up in Dunedin. It was just too uncool – it was the music for bikers and people who didn’t wash. Beastwars are a metal band who do not smell. Live they’re the best theatre and noise I’ve heard for many a year. I have to declare an interest and say I know some of them. They own a lot of Flying Nun records which might be why the guitars are cool and restrained and interesting. The bottom end growls. The vocalist has borrowed the devil’s tonsils. I never thought a bunch of pussies could make such an unholy racket.