Saturday, December 18, 2010

ZB Albums of the Year and a Blondie/Pretender Review

I do the music reviews every Saturday on Newstalk ZB. It's a mainstream review programme so you won't find anything edgy on it but for what it's worth here are my picks for Albums of the Year from ZB.

New and noteworthy. The Naked and Famous Passive Me, Aggressive You and Kids of 88. 2 Kiwi bands who could take over the world with a new form of disco punk. Honourable mentions to Julia Deans Modern Fables and Anika Moa Love in Motion for songcraft.

It's been a great year for Kiwi Pop with Opshop and Dane Rumble releasing mega selling professional records.

But the best Kiwi album by far was The Phoenix Foundation’s Buffalo. The kiwi album I’ve played the most. The sound of summer in Wellington. Samuel Scott has a voice and a way with a line that is timeless.


Best in Popular Music

Last year it was Lady Gaga and her influence carried on this year. But the rise of Adam Lambert with For Your Entertainment is something. His concert was amazing and his voice is truly awesome. And his fans are nuts. A YouTube recording of my ZB review got posted on a fansite and within a week there was over 3000 views. Of a review!! He’s a keeper

Special mention to late albums from Eminem and Kanye West, who have shown that rap is not braindead as long as it’s in the hands of people who have lived a little.

But the single of the year comes from the pop album of the year in commercial terms. It has to be Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. I haven’t met anyone who is not uplifted by Katy’s song about being young and gorgeous in skin tight jeans.

Best in Grown Up Music

For grown ups I’m very fond of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy. Less rootsy than Raising Sand and more rock n roll and I didn’t mind that a bit.

The 2 saddest records of the year were Neil Diamond’s Dreams. The ultimate loners CD. And the final American Recordings from Johnny Cash which was the sound of a dead man gurgling from beyond and put a chill down my body the first time I played it.

Great albums I never reviewed but should have

The National, High Violet. Somber. Brooding. Beautiful.

Vampire Weekend, Contra. Smart intelligent rock pop that borrows from South Africa and Connecticut and everywhere in between.

And Canada’s Arcade Fire, The Suburbs. The sound of hissing lawns past. Bruce Springsteen but not in a V8 but in a 95 Honda Civic.

But finally 2 reissues could be the albums of the year as they got me loving the music all over again.

The Stones Exile on Mainstreet. Debauched 70’s classic which made me feel as though I was born too late.

Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town. Reissued a fortnight ago. As a young punk I hated Bruce. Now with the benefit of hindsight I realize he was doing just the same as the punks and raging against the hard economic and social times.

The re-issue also includes the album The Promise. A double CD of 21 songs that didn’t make the cut for Darkness and yet are so good that The Promise could be the best album this year even if it was recorded more than 30 years ago. The upbeat coda to the downbeat record of the 70s.


There's been some criticism of the reviews of Blondie and The Pretenders. People seem to think the papers send fans to the gigs who then write fawning reviews. So for the record, some of my thoughts

#1 The Pretenders were definitely the headliner. The new songs from Break Up the Concrete stood up besides classics like Message of Love and snarly greats like Precious. Guitarist James Walbourne's solo work was inspired and had a unique sound and Kiwi bass player Nick Wilkinson was sinewy. In fact I think Chrissie has finally replaced James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon.

#2 Chrissie's voice was amazing. I loved the way she hitched up her skinny jeans at the end of each song. I definitely would.

#3 The sound mix for Blondie was terrible. Clem Burke's amazing drum performance was buried and I understand there was a bass on stage but I couldn't hear it.

#4 Guitarist Jim Kessler ruined songs with his hystrionically over worked wailings. When he put the guitar behind his back to play you knew he has no idea of the New York cool that Blondie brought to pop.

#5 Songs that reviewers thought were new were not new at all.

#6 Debbie sang great though the echoey mix made me think that we were listening to the monitor mix.

#7 Blondie's synth player was also on his own sick trip.

#8 Blondie's songs were pop masterpieces.

So all in all a good gig. Blondie was fun for the girls and their lit up cocktail glasses and their memories. The Pretenders were good for 2010 with a fabulous back catalogue. Though I would have been very happy to have heard Mystery Achievement or Private Life

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Confessions of a Virgin Talkback Host

And so I have become the shepherd of the misinformed and the misanthropic but also the hopeful and the caring. Talkback is everything it’s cracked up to be but also a continual surprise.

Filling in for Kerre Woodham recently on Newstalk ZB was an eye opener.

It’s easy to have low expectations from night time talk but just as a sigh starts to build in your soul something marvelous happens.

Discussing why it’s best to transport bees at night with a tax agent suddenly turned into one of the more perspicacious economic assessments I’ve heard in a while. China’s stuffed, Europe’s stuffed and America’s been stuffed ever since the Marshall Plan set in force a fundamental shift in the world’s economy that no-one saw coming.

Meanwhile the government throws money at dodgy banks to keep the economy alive, while the IRD is going out of it’s way to close down small and medium businesses having a tough time in the recession.

That caller could see the long term effects of short term thinking, disappointingly most could not.

On the jailing of a 14 year old for shooting dead his cousin, most callers had no sympathy and said throw away the key and let him rot as though the grooming of Bailey Junior Kuariki never happened.

While the father’s actions in covering up the killing was seen as acceptable as blood is thicker than water and whanau is all. And no-one saw the double standard. To me the kid needed a second chance while the Dad was morally bankrupt and beyond redemption.

On the economy, the problem is apparently our productivity which will never match that of China’s. But no-one was prepared to forsake our lifestyle for that of a worker in Guangzhou.

Everyone agreed the government is spending more than it earns but no-one wanted to give back their tax cuts.

And everyone wanted a first world society but no-one knew how to do it when we’re just 4 million people effectively living in a very big house that’s really expensive to maintain.

Now, maybe I’m a strange kind of talkback host.

A liberal free marketeer and a laissez faire humanist. Or, in other words, a pragmatist.

But please we all know the problems, the real genius is in the answers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Drowning Underground

Things are not going so well at my house these days.

A terminally ill family member, a surly teenager and a grumpy tween and to cap it off I’m “between engagements”.

So when it was said this morning, in passing, that we could be in danger of falling into a pit of despair, we took a deep breath and counted our blessings.

A true pit of despair is the Pike River Mine.

As Tom Petty says, “the waiting is the hardest part”, and I feel for the loved ones, wanting resolution.  But the accounts of the 2 survivors also makes for despairing reading.

The explosion was not the raging firestorm of imagination, but more a compression wave followed by the swirling white deadly smoke of carbon monoxide.  Daniel Rockhouse (actual name) describes the gradual paralysis of carbon monoxide poisoning as being like the feeling of your foot going to sleep but over your entire body. 

It sounds to me as though the men were drowning.  Drowning 2 kilometres underground.  What hell is this?

And so the nation starts to demand more and more loudly that rescue attempts begin.  This is anger born of emotion and is understandable amongst relatives and close friends.  But Superintendant Gary Knowles, whose heart is breaking and anger simmering, does not need to be challenged again by people with nothing at stake but a headline.  Ultimately it’s been the right thing to do for the men underground.  Let’s blunder in there and set the whole thing off again?  I don’t think so.

Other questions will need to be asked.

3 days to find a spark free robot for reconnaissance?  Air samples flown to a distant town for analysis?  Repairs needed this year to ventilation fans as conditions underground were worse than expected?  The ventilation shaft itself only accessible by helicopter as the mine is under Conservation land?  Was this mine really prepared for the worst?

If things had gone well this year this mine would have produced 170 million dollars in exports.  Nowhere near the return of say, “The Hobbit”.  I wonder if Gerry Brownlee and the government still thinks mining the Conservation Estate will be our saviour or whether the events of this week, where 29 lives may have been lost searching for minimal returns, has changed his mind?

Monday, November 15, 2010

79 feet of "Whoa!!"

Oh.  My.  Goodness.

He’s back.

I don’t know how he does it each year but one day Whitcoulls in Queen Street is just a store and then the next it’s the home of Santazilla.

An army of elves erects the 79 foot high old fella in hours and suddenly you know, “It’s ON!”.

And strangely each year it seems to get a week earlier but there’s no denying that the Christmas season is here and nothing says it like Santazilla, who will be celebrated with the parade at the end of November.

Those with longer memories will know this is not his rightful home.  Santazilla was evicted from the old Farmer’s building 20 years ago this year.  

From 1960 he’d graced the old building but in 1990 the council took the building over.  Later it was reconfigured as the Heritage Hotel.  But as the building got a new life Santazilla was consigned to a waste land out of the city.

For those with memories longer than 20 years you knew it just wasn’t right.

There was a Christmas right of passage in those days.  Late night Friday.  Negotiating the 7 storey maze that was the Farmers Car Park (built in 1955)

Crossing the airbridge!  Like Star Wars or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Taking the overcrowded escalators to the playground on the top floor.  A massive tricycle dodgem track with bullies and victims alike.

And then into the grotto to eyeball Santa and make your demands.

It was magical.  A magic that modern stores have not replicated.  A few years ago SkyTower built a grotto in the sky which was pretty good.  But these days a Santa just off the foodcourt of a mall just ain’t doing it. 

There has to be a journey.  There has to be a grotto.  Santa cannot be on display like some animal at the zoo.  You must stand before him.  Kid to God.  He must focus his twinkly eye on you.  Then you whisper your greatest wishes in his ear and only then can you trust he is making a promise to you and you alone.

Santazilla, meanwhile was rescued after 8 years in the wilderness and now proudly looks down on Queen Street.  But even he has fallen prey to a modern malaise.

The 21st Century Santazilla  has had cosmetic surgery.  The lazy winking eye was fixed.  The finger was made less lascivious.  But most shockingly Santazilla got a lip job, seemingly inspired by a blow up doll.

It made my heart break.  Be yourself big guy!  If you’re not immune to makeovers, what hope is there that the season will retain the old magic that has passed through generations?  

 Merry Christmas everybody

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ndovu wawili wakisongana, ziumiazo ni nyika!

“Ndovu wawili wakisongana, ziumiazo ni nyika. (When elephants jostle, what gets hurt is the grass)”

Not what I expected to come out of the Reserve Bank Governor’s mouth this week.

Alan Bollard used the old Swahili proverb to illustrate how small our economy’s boat is, tossed in the oceans of world currency fluctuation.  Metaphorically. We have to sit on our hands while the Fed prints notes and China refuses to devalue.  Again metaphorically.  Now he could have said,

“Maji ya moto hayachomi nyumba. (Swahili)
Hot water does not burn down the house. (English)”

Traditionally this Swahili proverb has been used to deny the effectiveness of the strenuous efforts of a lesser person against a greater or stronger one.

That would silence the people asking for the Reserve Bank to intervene.  Or at least confuse them long enough until the scenario stabilizes.

So, are we stuck up a wadi with no mitumbi (Swahili for log canoe, with outrigger)?

Not according to Big Chief Bollard as he says farmers are receiving record high commodity prices, helping to offset the pain of a high currency. So quietly quietly catchee monkey or as we say at our dinner table.

“Heri pazia kuliko bendera.
Better a curtain hanging motionless than a flag blowing in the wind.”

So, is the outbreak of the bacteria PSA (not the union) amongst the kiwifruit vines of New Zealand even more of a worry with 1.4 billion dollars of commodity exports now blowing in the wind?

“Nimeumwa na mbung'o. (Swahili)
I have been bitten by a tsetse fly. (English)”

Which means I’ve been bitten by a tsetse fly and it’s not pleasant.

So what do I think of Dr Bollard’s do nothing advice

Usimtukane kiongozi wa uwindaji jua halijatua. (Swahili)
Do not insult the hunting guide before the sun has set. (English)

Swahili safaris normally walk all day in burning sun and fraying tempers at the guide who has brought no game to your rifle. But don’t forget that at twilight just when it is getting dark, antelope and other animals will come out into the open to graze. If so, you, the hunter shoots the wild game and we all go home happy. The proverb emphasizes the importance of being patient and holding back your anger until the very end. One should hope in and trust any kind of guide, mentor or advisor until the day is completely over.


Or, if that doesn’t work for you, how bout some English proverbs like

“A peacock who sits on his tail is just another turkey”.

Or, “You can lead a fool to wisdom, but you can't make him think.”

And ultimately

“Man who scratches ass should not bite fingernails.”

And finally the elephant in the room

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Radiohead Jargonista comes clean.

Hello everybody.  My name is Andrew and I’ve been off air for 12 days now.

Things are different now.

I haven’t hit a post or crashed a vocal.  I haven’t cold rolled,  timed out, hot mixed or segued. 

I haven’t looked for a kicker.  I haven’t played anything off the wall or inserted into the log.  I haven’t touched an ad-lib, a phone-out or a liner. 

I haven’t thought about cume, TSL or share.  I haven’t worried about cold ends or fades or even worse a cold end with a fade.  

No NexGen, nor CRM.  No Powergold and definitely no Selector.  I’ve pulsed nothing; no macros to worry about and no network feeds at all. 

I haven’t worried about our lead, or our phoner and I haven’t said, “What’s our 8.10?”. I sure haven’t F8 Fade and Go’d.

But best of all.  I’VE USED NO JARGON!

I am a recovering Radiohead.

There almost has to be a Red Cross for rehabilitating Radioheads like me and so many others.

Little aid packages that arrive packed with promo pranks like branded slippers or Rubiks cubes with a Sky channel on each face.  

Some free albums you don’t want, but your brother in law will gladly receive and lots and lots of pens.  

Some tickets for Robin Gibb to give to your mum and a stress ball from the NZRU for when a beer bottle lands on you head at Eden Park.

A NZ Music Month T shirt for next summer’s house painting project.

And right at the bottom a memo saying that corridor cricket and smoking on the street is banned and the next time your car is found in a visitor’s car park you WILL receive a warning letter.

My name is Andrew and I am 12 days clean and everything is fine.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bogans, Bottles and Bad News

So, bottles have been falling out of the air at Eden Park again.

Not for the first time and not the last. 

Anyone who has been on the terraces through One Day Cricket Internationals know that things fall out of the air all the time that would surprise Jim Hickey.  Once, at an Australian game, a giant Pink Panther flew through the air, narrowly missing me but taking out the bikini clad girl in front and spilling her drink, too!

Brian Rudman reports in the Herald this morning of grapefruit wars, and nothing stings like ice from 100 foot up.  Combine that with the guy next door urinating on your feet and the rivers of vomit that has it’s source somewhere 20 rows up and then you know you’re at a classic Eden Park event.

So the weekend’s aerial bombardment is nothing new except that it normally doesn’t happen during the winter codes.  And that’s only because the games aren’t long enough to get truly stonkered to a point where throwing projectiles randomly in the air in a crowded environment seems like a rational thing to do.

So, obviously that’s the end of double headers. And Mexican waves.

But I worry in the aftermath of the league lagering that Eden Park is going to adopt an even worse alcohol delivery system.

Years ago in America a spectator suffered an horrific head injury after a full bottle of booze landed on his bonce from somewhere behind.  Lawyers were called and the club and stadium held to account.  In their defence they claimed they had no control of the chucker, nor control of the projectile’s trajectory.  Days of responsibility ducking evidence was presented.

Throughout the spectator’s lawyer remain silent, contesting nothing, but with a brown paper bag in front of him.  And when he finally came to give his submissions he stood and said, “This would have prevented my client’s injury”, and he lifted the brown paper bag to reveal…

A paper cup.

And that’s how bottles and cans left the stadia of America.

Eden Park currently has the plastic bottle option with a limit of 4.  It makes for ease of service.  Hand over your 20 bucks, get 4 drinks.  (As we all chant at anyone taking forever with a complex drinks order, “TAKE 4 AND F%$# OFF!”.)   

The bottles are resealable and fit in a pocket.  They’re light and recyclable and cause no injury as long as you drink all the contents first, and who wouldn’t ‘cos you don’t waste a good beer. 

Well, this weekend we found out that league fans do. So thanks to the idiots who did throw the full ones we may very well see the paper cup next year.

Paper cups are a nightmare.  It takes an age to fill each order as anyone who was at Laneways this year will tell you.

But the big problem is spillage.  Spillage in transportation. Spillage on your lap by the dickhead trying to get to his seat.  Spillage by foot as you cheer a try.  Paper cup beer means rivers of spillage.

I’m sure we won’t see dry stadia next year as Heineken is a major sponsor, but after this weekend’s fiasco I have a horrible feeling the stadia will be very wet.  Sopping, in fact.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bicycle Bores

Yes.  I am a bicycle bore. 

I’m not a hipster with a fixed gear.  I’m not a prancing pony with team gear and a 10K bike.  I’m not 2 thighs on a bike who likes to boast that I did 200k before breakfast but I’ll do my proper endurance ride this weekend.

I’m just a 40 something with 2 bikes,  my commuter and my racer and I like to pull out 40ks every now and then to pretend I’m fighting off the grave. And I like to head out for a couple of hours and just get lost.

I’ve always been a cyclist but now trends have caught up.  The bike porno that is Torpedo 7 and the thrill of picking up Gordon MacCauleys bike and marveling at how light it is.

But I like to think of myself as being David Byrne, after David Byrne became David Byrne :the bike nut.

In his book “The Bicycle Diaries”, David tells of biking the world on his sit up straight, foldaway bike.  It's a great book that you can pop in and out of and he crystallizes what I love about bikes.

He’s hooked on the liberation a bike provides; the speed and feel of flight.  And he is convinced that urban biking opens your eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population.

You’re slow enough to observe and yet fast enough to put a neighbourhood into a perspective.

And so I pulled out a 40k ride yesterday.  In under 2 hours.

First I exploded my lungs climbing Mt Eden, and played dodgems at the top with tour buses and Japanese schoolgirls in short skirts straight out of “Kill Bill”.  (Close the road, except for bikes and runners, and add a funicular, Len)

And then a burst down the bus lane of Mt Eden Road connecting with the bike lane beside the South Western Motorway.  8ks of uninterrupted 30+ riding.

Through Richardson Road and past the Masjid e Umar mosque.   

Men from the Horn and Africa slinking across the street in pristine white robes heading for the steaming coffee urn and hookah pipes set up outside the spice markets.

Later up Sandringham Road.

Through the village where the smell of Indian cooking hangs heavy and saris blow in the wind. 

And then past Edendale School

A brave new school.  But it is cowering behind massive security gates around it's perimeter.  Presumably designed to keep the theives and arsonists out, not the kids in

 It's these moments that make you love the bike.  You travel, you see.  But unlike a car you smell and you hear and you notice details.  And you love those pockets of Auckland that never existed for my parents and you marvel at how we've changed..

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Supacity: Yes we can, but not overnight.

The problem with revolutions is expectations.

With the Supacity (tm) now in place our expectations are at an all time high.  One voice for one city.  But for many, most importantly, no duplication, or make that octuplication.

One receptionist, not 8.  One finance department, not 8. One HR. One tea trolley for the mayor.

Think of the money we will save that will be spent on free swimming pools for all and Jonathon Franzen's latest on free loan at the library.

So it is with a groan of disappointment that we hear the rates are tipped to rise by up to 6 per cent in the Supacity (tm).  Expectations of efficiency dashed and the prospect of cost effective, little government out the window.

Sound familiar.

In America the election of Barack Obama brought expectation on steroids.  Here was a man to right the inequalities, bring healthcare to all, and being the world's democratic police while hopefully leaving taxes alone.

Quickly, though, the pathological hatred of big government amongst Americans has given rise to Tea Parties and even the liberals are restless.  The fact that laissez faire, market rules economies had to be saved by BIG government didn't even warrant a thank you note.  Barack is a squib.

So on Saturday the Jon Stewart organised Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear assembled on the National Mall in Washington D.C.  Estimates range from 200,00 to 6 billion using Glenn Beck Measurement (tm). And there amongst the signs was a beacon of reasonableness.

No not that one.


I like that one too.

Because I just love turtles.  They're fully self sufficient with debt free housing.

That's the one.  I don't mind contributing but I want the best service at the best price.

Supacity.  I'm going to let this ride but you're on warning.  My Expectations of Your Efficiencies are high.

Apropos of nothing at all.

Stephen Jones says the haka is boring.  You've being saying that for 23 years mate, so I suppose you know boring when you see it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Colonisation: The Hanging Gardens of Ponsonby

Soho Square, Ponsonby.  What a mess. 

In 2006 money was easy and plans were big for the former site of the Dominion yeast factory.  A small town was to be built with shops, apartments, cinemas and 1250 carparks delving deep 5 levels below the ground.  A very big hole was dug which the developers promptly fell into by the end of  2009.

The funny thing about outrages is how they ebb away.  While controversy over the use of the site raged throughout it’s development and continues now, the anger at it’s rot has dissipated.
Not so in March 2009 when locals invaded and made the site an art installation.  Grafitti reading, “I wish this was a swimming pool” inspiring an unique protest.  An urban beach party in fetid water.

But maybe signs are there that something might be happening again. I noticed this today.

Going to be a good summer

Then looking into to the crater caused by the eruption of cavalier optimism and borrowed money,  I was struck that while the developers and protestors have lost interest, nature had not. Clumps of Toe Toe grass (Cortaderia) have taken hold on the edges.  Plants that look like papyrus in the Nile have found purchase in the stagnant water and concrete floor.

The Dominion Yeast Company had been manufacturing yeast on the Pollen Street site from 1910 and perhaps the memory of spawning life is still in the scorched earth.  And looking at the growth above the retaining walls holding up Ponsonby Road I thought, “Let it grow!”.  Spread wild seeds and give the land back to nature until we can organize ourselves.

Let us grow our own “Hanging Garden of Babylon” in the detritus of greed and financial mismanagement