Sunday, August 30, 2009

You say you want a revolution

As most people would know it was recently the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival in 1969. I have the documentary on VHS (and remarkably still own a working video player), so thought I would break it out as I hadn't really watched it since my university days. It is a great movie, but right through the feeling that I got was:
a) Gosh the hippies were so earnest thinking peace and love could bring down Nixon;
b) We are so cynical now to think that it couldn't.

The documentary is fantastic. There are of course the classic performances from Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker (showcasing the invention of the air guitar). And some moments of unintended hilarity; Arlo Guthrie talking in hippie code "I was just rapping with the fuzz.. can you dig it?", the announcer trying to discourage people from taking the brown acid.

For me the best band there was The Who, for the shear fact that they didn't buy into the hippie ideal. They simply blow everyone else off the stage. At the time, Tommy had just been released and they were at the peak of their powers. To see Townsend playing so hard his fingers were bleeding, is the dictionary definition of rock'n'roll. Nothing was going to stop them that night. Not even Abbie Hoffman, the famous hippie radical, who ran on the stage and stole the mic for a polemic, got a smack to the head by Towshend's guitar for his troubles.



I can dig it... The next fucker who comes up on this stage is going to get fucking killed... Gold.

The documentary itself is a great snapshot of the hippie ideal, and while their hearts were mostly in the right place, it shows what an absolute sham most of it was. Free love mainly entailed guys wanting to have sex with women without committment. A large amount of the hippie dream was about getting high, which was bound to end in mindless ramblings and narcotic addictions.

To contrast how the hippie dream failed you only need to look at the video's below.

This:


Became this:


Indeed. Just over ten years later the same people at Woodstock and settled down and voted for Regan and were listening to some of the same bands playing pale versions of their former selves (including The Who).

Still, hindsight as they say is 20/20. At the time, it probably would have been amazing to be in such a worldwide movement, when so many things were turned on their head in such a short space of time. Youth culture now is so fractured, music is so commercial, it is hard to imagine their ever being another festival like it, much like there will never be another band as popular as the Beatles.

I guess, going back to my point before, it is a measure of how cynical we have become that some of these ideals are dimissed as 'hippie dreams'. And maybe that was the failing of the 60's generation, they failed to realise that given time they would settle down and become their parents. But once again in hindsight it is very easy to judge.

Thirty years later we had Woodstock '99, a festival marred by riots, violence, rape, overpriced commercialism, and Limp Bizkit. So which concert would I have rather gone to? Stupid question.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The making of a great compilation tape is a subtle art many do's and don'ts

I was talking to friends the other day about the ancient and long lost art of making a tape. This used to be something that I took great love in doing. And yes I have given a few tapes to girls in the past.... Indeed I used to make a tape for every month I was at university and right into 2004, when I still had and used a walkman.

But obviously I made the huge step up to a discman and finally, an ipod. While I live on ipod playlists, it just isn't the same feeling as making a tape; writing the songs out, not knowing how many songs would fit on the tape and really having to think about what would make the cut for the month of music I was listening to. And tapes couldn't be erased by an accidental delete of a playlist. But for a present for someone I decided to put together a CD of my (at this present time) all time favourite songs. Now I have limited time on this, bascially jut under 80 minutes (what can fill a full CD). These aren't songs I have on high rotate at this present time, but rather songs that I think truly mean something to me. By putting together this CD whoever the lucky person who gets this gift, it will be random, can listen to this music and hopefully either get turned onto some music they haven't heard, or better still find the music has some kind of positive effect on their life. Or they may hate it....
Either way I present 16 songs.

1. Teenage Riot - Sonic Youth
(Daydream nation)

The ultimate song of rebellion, this was released in the 80's as a rip on Reagan's dystopia, but is as fresh today as it was then. Anyone with a guitar, bass and drums and a tune can change the world.


2. Baba O'Riley - The Who
(Who's Next)

While CSI seems to have ripped the meaning out of some pretty amazing Who songs its great to sit back and just rock out to this song. The Who at their absolute peak


3. Keep the Car Running - Arcade Fire
(Neon Bible)

This is the newest song on my list. I find this song to have a similar feeling to Born to Run (see below), that is the feeling of moving on with your life and never looking back.

4. Common People - Pulp
(Different Class)

Social commentary at its finest. Jarvis Cocker has put down one of the best lines in "You will never understand how it feels to life with no meaning or control and nowhere left to go." For any politician who says the understand the people while sitting in their Epsom mansions. You will never have a clue.


5. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
(Born to Run)

For me, the most awe inspiring song I have heard. If I am ever feelign down I onyl have to put this song on and within moments I am jumping around punching the air.... Thanks Boss.


6. Rearviewmirror - Pearl Jam
(Vs)

My old teenage angst song. "I gather speed from you fucking with me." Enough said.

7. Clampdown - The Clash
(London Calling)

How The Clash could make such a anti fascist song drawn from history into such an upbeat song still amazes me.

8. Love will tear us apart - Joy Division
(Single)

Similar to the Clash, I am struck by how Joy Division could set such dark and depressing lyrics into such an upbeat song, which makes you want to dance around the room.

9. Here comes the sun - The Beatles
(Abbey Road)

"it seems like years since it's been clear. Here comes the sun and I say it's alright...."



10. Protection - Massive Attack
(Protection)

It sounds cheesy but this song always makes me want to be strong for my better half. "You can change the way she feels you could put your arms around her."



11. The man who sold the world - Nirvana
(Unplugged in New York)

It takes a truly great band to be able to take a good song by a truly great artist and make it better. But that is what Cobain did here.

12. Jenny - Sleater-Kinney
(Dig me out)

They can't all be uplifting, this is probably one of the most harrowing break up song's written. "Didn't we almost have it, didn't you want it?"

13. This is a low - Blur
(Parklife)

This, for me, typfies the genius of Damon Albarn and Blur. Being able to turn the shipping forecast into a song about love and depression will always continue to amaze me. Plus Graham Coxons guitar. Perfection.

14. God only knows - The Beach Boys
(Pet Sounds)

Like here comes the sun, a song of true beauty, with just enough menalcholy to make it that much more interesting.

15. This is the one - The Stone Roses
(The Stone Roses)

My favourite song of all time. That is all.

16. Find the River - R.E.M
(Automatic for the people)

This sound's morbid but this is the song I want played at my funeral. Not because it is sad but because it sums up, well, life. "The ocean is the rivers goal..." we are all here on that river, we will go fast, slow, take many bends but in the end we will all get to the ocean.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Is it better to burn out than to fade away?

You can't really go anywhere this weekend without running into wall to wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Some say it is tragic, but there was a certain inevitability to it. And it's a funny feeling really.

For me (and no jokes are intended) he was a symbol of my childhood. I think for anyone that was born between about 1970 and 1985 he was your first music idol. One of the first music video's I remember was Bad. One of the first Cd's I got was Dangerous, which got thrashed for a good period of time. I don't think people who were born after that period truly can imagine what a superstar he was at the time. I heard it said that imagine how much attention Britney spears gets. And now imagine she was talented. That was Micheal Jackson.

Of course not long after he was dogged by controversy of his private life. That's all been said and gone over a million times. I had serious doubts about him, but really we will never know. He was raised in the glare of stardom, and that he became one of the only child stars to actually become more famous is testament enough. But, again, it raises questions about the media and the notion of celebrity. It the end it seems as though he was a seriously talented but disturbed man.

And his music. I mentioned about loving his music as a child. Much of his music lost it's meaning for me when I became a teenager. Was his death as tragic as John Lennon? Not for me. Even though John Lennon died before I was born, his music has had much more of an effect on my life than Michael Jackson's. The Jackson Five had some classic Motown hits such as I want you back, and, in my opinion, two classic albums Off the Wall and Thriller. Bad was hit and miss, and by Dangerous (apart from being a personal childhood favourite), the rot had well and truly. He had fallen from being the epitome of cool, to being a bizarre, self promoting, demagogue sailing giant statues of himself down the Thames. By the mid nineties he was increasingly irrelevant, while a slew of younger RnB stars borrowed from him on their way to stardom (Justin Timberlake I am looking at you).

I have always thought that if Micheal Jackson had died after Thriller or Bad he would truly be remembered as the most famous musician of all time, leaving at the peak of his fame. But this was a human being and as much as we want to gloss over the subsequent bizarre behaviour, we cannot. So while, like Neil Young said, Its better to burn out than to fade away, unfortunately Micheal Jackson did fade away, but his music never will (unfortunately that means we will might have to hear Heal the World again.....)

So kids I present Micheal Jackson, when he was all that was cool.

So very cool


Should have kept the afro... and the nose... and the skin....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Live feeds - How I loathe thee

I was watching this clip from Media 7 recently, and it got me started on one of my bugbears in the media here.



Namely, live feeds or crosses. You cannot get through the first twenty minutes of the news on TVNZ or TV3 without crossing live to a 'breaking story'. Even if there is absolutely nothing happening where the reporter is, there will always be a young boffin (good god I'm the youngest curmudgeon around) straight out of journalism school on the ground talking about 'what the feeling is' etc etc. Grrr. What happened to putting together a proper report so you can get a proper story rather than just standing someone and talking to someone live in a studio.

Example 1 (as shown the the clip above): last month when swine flu first hit New Zealand, on a Sunday night they had a report for TVNZ standing outside Rangitoto College at 6pm in the dark. Who was in the school. No one!

Example 2: Two weeks ago both TVNZ and TV3 put two poor reporters out in the middle of a storm hitting Wellington. One looked as though hypothermia was setting in.

While I think in some cases it is important to be where the news is (the David Bain trial being one) . Do we need to have reporters standing by passing cars when talking about accidents. I wouldn't think so. Far better to actually spend more time investigating the story.

News, particularly television, seems to be obsessed with getting in their first or getting the scoop on a story. For example tonight John Campbell mentioned that "I watched David Bain supporters watch the verdict first on TV3." Shameless. Similar to those short lived "we don't just read the news, we get it," with newsreaders emoting with long dramatic pauses about being in Lebanon, or ANZAC day parades. Once again shameless.

I understand we live in a fast paced world with information at our fingertips, but do we need to hear our newsreaders to name drop themselves. And do we need pointless live crosses to people 'on the scene'. arent TVNZ and TV3 meant to be saving money?

Shooting. Fish. In. A. Barrel:




(sorry for the quality)

And this just in......

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saw things so much clearer

Pearl Jam. Where to start. I can't actually believe that I have got this far and haven't posted anything about this band. Because pure and simple they are my favourite. They may not always be on my most played list, I might go for a long time without listening to a song. But to me every time I play Pearl Jam it feels like coming home.


Now I could write a Russian novel on Pearl Jam, it's history, meanings, top 100 songs etc. But I won't. What I will talk about is my personal relationship with the music. Now I don't mean that kind of personal, but rather how some songs have shaped my life.

I still remember the first time I even heard Pearl Jam. It was 1995 and I was in third form. Being a bit young to be right in the middle of the grunge explosion, Nirvana had already been and gone, and funnily enough grunge was already in its deaththrows.

It must have been an afternoon after school and on tv was I think the MTV music awards and they kept playing this song, (which turned out to be Jeremy). When I heard that chorus, and you must remember prior to this I was listening to Michael Jackson, I was blown away. I had never heard anything like it. I remember after that seeing commercials on tv advertising Ten, strange as it was a full 3 or so years after it was released. But I couldn't get it out of my head. I had to have this album. I managed to persuade Mum to buy it for me (on cassette of course). I remember getting home and listening to those first atmospheric chords of Once and thinking, 'this sounds like Phil Collins.' Thankfully it wasn't. I turned turned the dial on the stereo up loud and took it all in. I don't think my adolescent brain could digest it all at once. At that moment my poor parents must have thought "oh god he's a teenager now". It is really no coincidence that I feel in love with rock music in my 13th year. The rest was history.

I found that cassette not too long ago at home, the packaging dog eared from me pouring over the liner notes and the artwork, trying to decipher the lyrics. I went out and bought all the other Pearl Jam albums. Vs still remains my favourite. It has an anger and a tightness that was really Pearl Jam at their peak.

It's funny now to look back at those times as Ten is re-released in a beautiful deluxe version. Indeed it has been not only remastered, but the entire album has been remixed by Brendan O'Brien on a separate disc. From the first few run throughs, the redux is, in my opinion, a superior and less dated sound than the original. The original mix has a bit of an 80's rock sound to it, too polished and sheeny for the music it contains. The remix is a lot more immediate and sounds a lot fresher than the original.

While listening to the redux I was thinking how different music can sound at different periods of your life. When I was an angst ridden teenager songs of anger, injustice and despair were a revelation. I would listen to a song like Black, a lament to unrequited or lost love, and think, this guy really knows how I feel. Embarrassing I know.

Now I am a (slightly) more better adjusted adult, I can't listen to the album in quite the same way. You can't relate in the same way to angst ridden songs when you are happily engaged and generally in a really spot in life. But then again Pearl Jam are no longer in that space either. They aren't trying to pass off their former glories by trying to force the angst. They stepped away from 'grunge' and, while it lost them a large amount of fans in the process, they have written some interesting music in the meantime. Indeed, No Code, Yield, Riot Act and Pearl Jam contain some of the most self affirming music written.

Take a song like Loveboat Captain (not the best name, but great song nonetheless) off 2003's Riot Act.
"And the young, they can lose hope cause they cant see beyond today,...
The wisdom that the old cant give away"

This is no longer the voice of the youth, but someone who has been through some hard times and made it out the otherside, and can now see the good in life.

Vedder explained the change quite well in an interview around the time of Yield
"What was rage in the past has become reflection. In the past we got really angry and we cried out against many things in our songs, and I think our message reached to people pretty well this way. But where do you go after that? I think when you become an adult you have to express your energy in a different way, more calm. That doesn't mean we forget the bad side of life, because it still appears in our songs. But what it's now exciting, a real challenge, is facing it from a more positive point of view, looking for a way to solve it. In the past we said: what a shit, this stinks, that sucks, everything sucks... Now it's time to say: stop, let's look for a solution, let's be positive."

I'm not sure if I have necessarily grown with Pearl Jam, or that at a slightly older age I can appreciate the positive in their later records. Whatever the case may be, I love both periods of their music. While I can no, longer relate directly to their older songs, the energy of their early shows is undeniable.

Take the Porch below from 1992 with Pearl Jam in all their grunge glory. This is a truly amazing performance, all the power of youth and exuberance, plus what looks like 100,000 people.

Pearl Jam now do things how they want to and seem to be all the happier for it. Naturally, some of the raw anger and energy has dissipated but it doesn't mean they have forgotten how to rock out.

Who knows, maybe they could be cool and retro again soon. Flannel seems to be making a comeback.... I am already starting to feel old.

(photos courtesy of www.pearljam.com)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How the mighty do fall....

And fall hard sometimes they do. Case in point: Chris Cornell. He is currently the definition of the the law of diminishing returns.

Now I am a big Soundgarden fan. Superunknown is one of my favorite albums of all time. His vocals are simply amazing for a rock singer, how he can hit those notes I will never know. See Flower below:



Soundgarden were one of the original Seattle bands that stuck around and made it big. They produced some incredibly heavy music, but in a way that wasn't clich├ęd like much of the hair metal 80's bands. They instead played Sabbath and Zeppelin infused heavy rock with increadible wailing vocals from Cornell. They produced 4 full length albums peaking with the afformentioned Superunknown, before and acrimonious split in 1996.

Cornell embarked on a solo album (Euphoria Morning) which was very stripped down and a departure from the Soundgarden sound. It contained a few gems, although nowhere as good as his two previous solo soundtrack contributions Seasons (Singles) and Sunshower (Great Expectations).



He then made the bizarre decision of joining the members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. They subsequently made three albums together, which were quite frankly, rather bland. They subsequently broke up Rage became, comically, an unintentionally ironic relic by touring their greatest hits.

Cornell then released a fantastically average solo album, which was most notable for carrying a rather serious cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, as well as the theme song to the James Bond movie Casino Royale. He then went on tour with that fantastic bastion of alternative music: Linkin Park. I remember thinking at the time that Chris Cornell had hit rock bottom.

I was wrong



I mean what is he thinking? If it was 5 years ago and every blimmin song on the radio wasn't produced by Timbaland, it could (possibly) be seen as a departure. But plain and simple Chris Cornell has sold out. He is using auto-tune for god's sake. It is very, very, very sad to watch the downfall of a previously great singer, reduced to using the same techniques as Cher and Chris Brown. He has even sunk to chauvinistic lyrics.

Clearly, Cornell, while being the frontman of Soundgarden, was definately not the creative talent. I fail to see how he can come back after this.... I need to see this amazing performance to heal!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Northern Walkway

Myself and my better half decided to celebrate our national holiday by tackling the Northern Walkway here in Wellington.

And wow what a walk. We got the train out to Johnsonville (thankfully it was the first day it was running after a month and a bit of upgrading), and began the 16km trek. I imagined that climbing Mt Kaukau at the start would be the most difficult part of the walk. However, it was relatively simple and by the time we got to the top we were able to soak up the 360 degree vistas of Wellington. The scenery is truly breathtaking, we not only got to see Wellington in all its glory from the highest point, we also got views of the South Island. (Unless you are a master walker I would suggest going the way we did, its basically a climb straight up from Khandallah if you go from that side.)

We naively thought that this would be the hardest part of the walk. We were wrong. We descended straight down Mt Kaukau into Khandallah and down into the Nagio Gorge. This lead onto what was most definately the hardest part, clmbing from the bottom of the Nagio Gorge up to the top of Wadestown and the Tinakori hill. It's fair to say that by the time we got to the top we were fairly spent. Having said that there are some beautiful houses in Wadestown. Dreams are for free, the houses certainly are not.

Once we got to the Tionakori hill we had a closer view of the city of Wellington, and the near full stadium, complete with a crowd sung rendition of Wonderwall (England must have been playing). From there it was straight down into Thorndon and back home. All in all a beautiful walk and if you have a spare half day I definitely recommend it. The town belt walks around the city is one of the reasons I love Wellington so much. The fact that you don't even have to walk 45 mins and be right in amongst nature makes living here truly worthwhile.

Hopefully the memories of the views will far outweigh the sore legs we had the next day.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get of the bandwagon, put down the anvil

Well I have been slack but very busy.

Anywho, a few weeks ago now I ventured to the Town Hall to see the Arctic Monkeys. Now of course the Arctic Monkey's have a hell of a lot of hype behind them. Their debut album was the fastest selling debut of all time. Not to mention some massive hype generated by that giant musical tabloid known as the NME.

Despite the hype they have managed to release two cracking albums, with the second, Favorite Worst Nightmare, managing to break the second album curse and actually be slightly better than their debut.

I was therefore pretty interested to see how they would shape up live. I had seen reviews saying they are known for blowing through a set without barely a word to the crowd, or indeed a breath. Lets just say I didn't leave disappointed. The gig was at the Wellington Town Hall, which is a beautiful venue and is usually really good for sound. That night however, the sound was slightly below par. I could have been where I was standing, but despite this I proceeded to have my mind (and ears) blown.

Having the balls to open with a B-side showed that they aren't afraid to mix things up. The setlist was as follows
  • 'Da Frame 2R'
  • 'This House Is A Circus'
  • 'Still Take You Home'
  • 'The View From The Afternoon'
  • 'Dancing Shoes'
  • 'Dangerous Animals'
  • 'From The Ritz To The Rubble'
  • 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
  • 'Pretty Visitors'
  • 'Brianstorm'
  • 'When The Sun Goes Down'
  • 'Leave Before The Lights Come On'
  • 'Go-Kart'
  • 'Crying Lightning'
  • 'Fluorescent Adolescent'
  • 'Do Me A Favour'
Encore
  • 'Red Right Hand'
  • 'If You Were There, Beware'
They played three new songs, 'Dangerous Animals', 'Pretty Visitors' and 'Go Kart', which will be on there new album they are working on with Josh Holme from Queens of the Stone Age. You could definately see the Holme touch on the songs, quite a bit darker than their previous material.

The Monkeys did not dissapoint. Their was some banter between songs, but mainly it was all about the music. They didn't do the old "save the famous single until last", they played I bet you look good on the dancefloor right in the middle of the set, leaving their encore to be A Nick cave cover (pulled off quite well) and the lesser known If you were there, Beware as the last song.

Some of the songs sounded slightly looser than I hoped, but it was their first gig for over a year, so I will forgive them. Overall a top gig, and I am definately looking forward to the new album.
4.5/5

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Makara

Went, on a bit of a wim, for a drive out to Makara today. What a beautiful place. I had been there once before e few years back, but it was pretty wild and not very nice. Even though it wasn't so flash in the city today, it was actually really nice and calm out at Makara. I left my beloved and our friend on the shore and went on the ritual McCarthy 'lets have a good old explore' (thanks for bestowing that on me Dad). There is a gun emplacement right up the top, but I decided to turn back halfway, as I knew the other two would be saying "where in the hell is he"! For next time then.

It is an amazing view form up there though, beautiful views of the Malborough sounds, as well as Kapiti Island. Quite a sheer drop to the shore as well, and it certainly wasn't a good day to have a southeast breeze at the back! I was hoping to get some kind of view of where the wind farm is going out there, but from as far as I got you couldn't see anything.

All in all a good afternoon out. Makara is only about 30 minutes drive from the CBD and its quite a beautiful drive out so I thoroughly recommend it. Possibly not though if there is any kind of a westerly!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009: Bring it on!

Well it is 2009 already. As far as resolutions go, i'm not big on them but I do have a few 'goals' for the year (which you could argue is exactly the same as resolutions but I digress)...

Get married (!): Wow how quick the time goes, but it is now less than a year until I marry my beloved one. I honestly can't wait, and am really excited about hitting Europe again.

Getting fit and healthy: 2008 was really a year of two half's in that regard, but it finished quite well so this year I plan to keep it going.

Explore beautiful Wellington: There are so many amazing walks that I have already done, yet there are so many more to do. My next one to do is walking the wind turbine to the red rocks. I would also like to knock off the tinakori hill and make it up to the massey monument amongst other things.

Write more: I started this blog last year and it was a bit of a slow start but I aim to do it a bit more reguarly this year.

Read more: I tend to read a large amount of non-fiction in newpapers, and history, but I have quite a few good books I would like to get through.

There are a few more but that covers the main ones. It is going to be a frugal year of savings for us, which is fine, the things I have listed above are mainly free, with the exception of getting married!!!

To borrow a cliche 2009 looks to be a year of change for the world and New Zealand (hopefully not too much at home). We only have about a week and a half until old Commander Cookoo banana's goes into retirement and Barack Obama takes his place in the White House. An extremely momentous timen sure, but let's not expect too much too soon for Obama it will take a while for him to get his eye in.

But some good music beckons for the start to 2009, I'm off to the Arctic Monkeys this week at the town hall (a great venue) so I will report back soon, but I am looking forward to a crackin concert......