SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

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Beeps by Mike Caen
SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you don't like it") and so on, Elsewhere will every now and again do a quick sweep like this, in the same way it does IN BRIEF about international releases.

Comments will be brief.

Mike Caen: Mike Caen (mikecaen): Although a longtime resident in Australia where he plays, runs his own studio and was in Mental As Anything for a decade until two years ago, Caen probably still enjoys a reputation in New Zealand for his time in Streettalk and as part of the innovative collective of musicians in the early Eighties around Ivan Zagni (Caen was a member of Avant Garage and appeared on their self-titled album). This is his debut solo album and in these mature, crafted songs you can hear why others have picked up on Caen's work. There's a melodic ease about songs like Feel Like Letting Go, a solo-Lennon quality in places (Beeps which sounds filtered back from Oasis, Leave to Arrive, the Fifties-influenced Matter of Time) and he addresses issues of love (the wanting, the loss) in an adult way. In places his default position to an obvious rhyme (which means you can unfortunately predict) pulls a few songs back a notch, but otherwise this modest but well produced collection is undeniably classy (the folksy closer Foxgloves and Daisychains) . . . and doubtless source material for others. This is available from his website and digital outlets.

Moumou Timers: Sugar Hit (moumoutimers): And from out of Paekakariki they come, not denying their advanced years but also wrapping this second album in a cover which looks aimed at your sweet tooth. But be warned, this is fist-tight, impressively delivered sometimes blues-edged pop-rock, and singer Donna Hitchon not only has an assured attack but also a darkly threatening quality when required (The Raven Spy). And guitarist Mark Te One delivers nail hard and unerringly accurate solos. A great little band all round with memorable songs and the firepower (and restraint when required, the moody Treason) to deliver them. They play a lot of aces early and it's a pity they have the obligatory Kiwi reggae song on The Troubles, they could have dropped it and it would have been no loss. But if they are playing near you -- and I suspect unfortunately they don't travel far because they are strapped to day jobs -- then don't miss them. Certainly check this out at iTunes, Spotify etc.

Brilleaux: Pictures of the Queen (brilleaux) Named for the late Lee Brilleaux, frontman for the great British band Dr Feelgood, this terrific outfit from Tauranga hold the banner of r'n'b-based pub-rock high and two years ago their frontman/writer/guitarist Graham Clark wrote for Elsewhere about taking their British music back to its origins on a tour, and it paid off in spades. It certainly sounds like it inspired them all over again because here they belt through some excellent Clark originals (Ellas McDaniels about the great Bo Diddley) and A Certain Girl by Allen Toussaint which most graybeards know from the Yardbirds version (which they take to the cleaners). It isn't all white-knuckle: Hand Me Downs is a nice tribute to the idea that blues songs are exactly that (with Bruce Rowlands playing tasty mandolin) and while Strapped for Cash might rock out it has a great piano part by Tim Julian who lets a little Nawlins boogie into proceedings. Fact is though when Clark honks that harp and they are firing on all cylinders you know this is what they were born for. This was a wheel didn't need reinventing. Another must-see band when they play near you. At the time of this writing it isn't available at their website (their previous eight albums are) but it's there on iTunes. 

Dionysios: Who Am I Trying to Impress ( Dionysios is from London but lives now in Auckland so we will slip him in here. This is his two years-plus in the making debut which covers a lot of ground: the opener rides a bit of Sweet Jane, later there is acoustic finger-picking folksiness (Good Morning Blues, No Shadow), some folk-prog allusions (the medieval location of Curse of Mortlake), some brusque blues-rock (Child) and more. Too often his voice isn't strong enough or has the emotional scope the lyrics demand to carry many of these songs, but a few would go down well at folk clubs. I'd be surprised if I ever played it again, however. You can buy or stream it from his website here or numerous download sites.

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