Nah Nah Nah Nah

I can’t help feel­ing that my last post was undu­ly harsh. You get that when you try to post when ter­ri­bly jet­lagged. I’m not good for at least 24 hours after a long flight, as those close to me will attest.

Not undu­ly rough on Soto, it deserved every word I wrote, not that they care as they seemed to be print­ing mon­ey if our last vis­it was evi­dence.

But a lit­tle harsh on Metro Mag­a­zine, which has its moments, usu­al­ly towards the back of the mag­a­zine. In par­tic­u­lar, I’ve always enjoyed Gary Steel’s music reviews. He’s one of that extra­or­di­nar­i­ly rare breed: a review­er that looks past the accom­pa­ny­ing press release and actu­al­ly writes about the record. Rare indeed, in fact I can only think of a cou­ple or three oth­ers in NZ of whom the same can be said, not least of whom is the affa­ble but very very read­able Grant Smithies (most great crit­ics, from expe­ri­ence, have a surly, often unpleas­ant demeanour, Grant runs against the grain, as indeed does Gary, and, anoth­er NZ writer of worth, John Rus­sell). I sus­pect that liv­ing in an iso­lat­ed place such as Nel­son, as does Grant; or Whangarei, as does John, gives one a more rea­son­able, less pres­sured, per­spec­tive on a records style or impact.

Simon Reynolds, he of the essen­tial Rip It Up and Fade Away post-punk analy­sis, wrote quite an inter­est­ing piece on the death of the music crit­ic a few months back. There is no direct link, but you can find it here if you dig a lit­tle.

I’m a lit­tle sad that the era of the great rock’n’roll crit­ics, the likes of Lester Bangs and Nick Kent (whose Dark Stuff is also absolute­ly essen­tial, even if it only had the Bri­an Wil­son sto­ry) is past, but to be hon­est they were always thin on the ground and for every Charles Shaar Mur­ray there were always a dozen churn em out hacks like Christi­gau or Marsh, or, for that mat­ter, self-absorbed scrib­blers of point­less ver­biage like Paul Mor­ley. The demise of the album (and I mean “the album” as in records deemed to be of great social and artis­tic import) has, of course, has­tened the end. The six­ties and sev­en­ties were dot­ted with impor­tant “albums” as such, records that still sit on store shelves and crossed all bound­aries, defy­ing any sub-genre. Indeed sub-gen­res and the sub-sub gen­res are a rel­a­tive­ly mod­ern phe­nom­e­non. The CD and the in the increas­ing niche-ifi­ca­tion of pop­u­lar music killed any pos­si­bil­i­ty that a record could attain such mass acclaim or esteem. I’m hav­ing trou­ble think­ing of the last genre-cross­ing impor­tant record in those terms. Thriller maybe? The new Dylan album was hailed as such by a few crusty old souls but you have to have your head stuck in the sand to think that Mod­ern Times has any real pres­ence beyond an age­ing audi­ence and a bunch of lost crit­ics liv­ing twen­ty years ago. That’s not to say it’s a bad record, but in Blood on the Tracks terms, it ain’t impor­tant.

But still, we can all play the crit­ic when we want. I’m no Nick Kent, I know that, but I like to too­dle on about the odd record (and I recog­nise that my taste can be a lit­tle odd­er than most, not many peo­ple lis­ten to Ger­man min­i­mal tech­no, British bub­blegum or NZ gui­tar noise with­in the breadth of three songs, but that’s not an unusu­al mix for me I’m hap­py to say). So, a too­dle we will go and this is what I’m lik­ing a lot this week, both old and new:

Gui­do Schnieder – Focus On (Pok­er Flat): I didn’t pay for this, it arrived in the mail a few weeks back unan­nounced and got put to one side as I trav­elled here and there (I’ve done Bali, Bangkok, Auck­land and Jakar­ta this month and it takes it out of you so a lit­tle Ger­man min­i­mal doesn’t get a look-in), so it took a while, but good things etc, etc. I love the dense (in a min­i­mal way) dark throb­bi­ness of this a lot. It slips and slides all over the place like the bas­tard lovechild of Hol­gar Czukay and Arthur Rus­sell, in his nut­ti­er moments. It’s all dis­co any­way….

I:Cube – Acid Tablet: acid lives, still, in the heart of a few French veterans…playing this one over and over and over and over. Is that sad?

Var­i­ous – You Bet­ter Believe It Soul Vol2 (Warn­er): I find it mind bog­gling just how many obscure, not just good, but phe­nom­e­nal soul and dis­co records from the six­ties, sev­en­ties, and eight­ies, exist in the vaults of the major labels. Warn­ers UK have issued, in the past five years or so, some twen­ty com­pi­la­tions like this, under var­i­ous titles with almost no crossover, and almost all are essen­tial pur­chas­es. This, like the first in the series, is just a beau­ti­ful­ly pack­aged and anno­tat­ed col­lec­tion of sweet soul clas­sics that you’ve prob­a­bly nev­er heard before. That’s all.

Lau­rent Gar­nier – Ret­ro­spec­tive (F Comm): I love just about every­thing Lau­rent has done, so it’s rather spe­cial to get a swag of it all tied togeth­er rather neat­ly on one dou­ble album, with a bunch of new record­ings and unre­leased stuff, although it would’ve been rather nice to have had the orig­i­nal record­ing of Acid Eif­fel as well as the new live take, which is nice, but, y’know, it’s not quite the same. Fussy bas­tard I am. Well wicked….

Giles Peter­son and Patrick Forge – Sun­day After­noon at Ding­walls (Ether0: CD 1 is the won­der­ful­ly crazy jazz and CD 2 is the soul. Sun­day After­noons in Bali more like … love the pack­ag­ing too. Although I wasn’t a part of this scene, I feel an affin­i­ty as we were try­ing to do sim­i­lar things on the oth­er side of the world at the same time.

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