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.