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.