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John Cale; Chinese Envoy (1982)

John Cale; Chinese Envoy (1982)

As with anyone who was there, I have a vivid memory of John Cale's show at the Gluepot back in September '83, and in fact I still have the poster ("Tickets sold! Limited door sales. Be early!") Cale's Sabotage/Live from '79 can't be topped for the sheer intensity he brings to material like the thrilling seven minute version of...

The Low Spark: Out in the Ozone (LowSpark)

The Low Spark: Out in the Ozone (LowSpark)

Dunno about you but I'd always rather hear the young, enthusiastic, overstated, lightly misguided, energetic debut from a band than being bored witless by their fourth album. Fact is though that in New Zealand few bands make it to number 4. So we take what we get, right? As I was going into my driveway the other day I saw a battered van...

The Magnetic Fields: Distortion (Nonesuch)

The Magnetic Fields: Distortion (Nonesuch)

Okay, this is wilful on the part of Magnetic Fields' mainman Stephin Merritt and myself. On his part because here the wunderkind of US pop-rock saturates everything in feedback and distortion (hence the album title) -- and on my part because this album won't be easy to find in New Zealand (if you wanted to, that is). But I include it here...

Stephen Malkmus and Jicks: Real Emotional Trash (UNSpin)

Stephen Malkmus and Jicks: Real Emotional Trash (UNSpin)

With guitar playing that slips from Blue Cheer's fuzzy density to Television's ethereal astral flights, lyrics that typically defy interpretation, and some of Neil Young's intensity this is quite some statement by the former Pavement frontman who here takes his tight band through everything from driving and economic prog-rock to almost...

An Emerald City, An Emerald City (Monkey Records)

An Emerald City, An Emerald City (Monkey Records)

This extraordinary four-track EP by an Auckland band which is long on instrumental elegance and very short on pretention is a diamond, and like a precious gem you can turn it many ways and appreciate different refractions. These swooning, grand and widescreen instrumentals have something in common with the great US band Explosions in the Sky...

Fripp and Eno: Beyond Even; 1992-2006 (Opal/Southbound)

Fripp and Eno: Beyond Even; 1992-2006 (Opal/Southbound)

As mentioned in the previous posting of the Travis and Fripp album, when guitarist Fripp got into the studio alongside musician-without-portfolio Brian Eno for the albums Evening Star and No Pussyfooting in the early 70s a particular magic was created. Not ambient music (that was to follow from Eno) but more like music as an emotional...

Lou Reed: Berlin (1973)

Lou Reed: Berlin (1973)

Right from the beginning -- aside from a short period as a jobbing songwriter for the Pickwick label in ‘64-’65 -- Lou Reed’s lyrics had a literary quality. With the Velvet Underground his songs would take the listener to an immediate location (“standing on the corner . . .”) or conjure up characters...

LOU REED'S BETWEEN THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION: Boxed for you in '92

LOU REED'S BETWEEN THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION: Boxed for you in '92

Blame Dylan for box sets. It was his Biograph in November ’85 (16 unreleased tracks among the 53 spread across five albums, later three CDs) which began things by reaching 33 on the American charts. Sure, there had been box sets before – but mostly for dead guys. Dylan and CDs together proved there was money in this...

SEDITION AND ALCHEMY: A BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN CALE BY TIM MITCHELL (2005): Opportunity knocked

SEDITION AND ALCHEMY: A BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN CALE BY TIM MITCHELL (2005): Opportunity knocked

John Cale, now 66, was an unlikely candidate for a career in heretical, innovative rock'n'roll. Born in a village in South Wales, he showed prodigy-like musical talent. At 13 he was the viola player in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, having started on piano and been a church organist. At grammar school he studied Berg, Schoenberg and...

LOU REED'S MAGIC AND LOSS ALBUM OF 1992: Heart and soul

LOU REED'S MAGIC AND LOSS ALBUM OF 1992: Heart and soul

Some great rock albums have been inspired by death. Deaths of friends were at the heart of Neil Young’s bleak Tonight’s the Night, death of belief and the spirit fuelled John Lennon’s abrasive Plastic Ono Band album. In 1990 Lou Reed – with John Cale – took the death of friend Andy Warhol (1928-87) to craft the...

LA MONTE YOUNG: The master of minimalism, and more

LA MONTE YOUNG: The master of minimalism, and more

When John Cale went to New York from Wales in the early 60s it wasn’t with the intention of meeting up with Lou Reed to form the Velvet Underground, but to study under a pianist/composer who had literally been “born in a log cabin” in the small community of Bern, Idaho. By the late Sixties that composer, La Monte Young, was...

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, WHAT GOES ON (BOX SET, 1993): The velvet blueprint

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, WHAT GOES ON (BOX SET, 1993): The velvet blueprint

Most reviewers of this well-packaged, 57-track, three-disc set can’t help but comment on the overwrought essay by Clinton Walker who starts with superlatives, then works up to a screech. He sets up the customary and needless rock-crit comparisons (VU more street-damaged than the Beatles. So?) to advance the case that the Velvets...

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by JIM DeROGATIS: When the whip comes down

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE by JIM DeROGATIS: When the whip comes down

In 1976 the musician/producer and music theorist Brian Eno said to Punk magazine of New York’s the Velvet Underground: “I knew that they were going to be one of the most interesting groups and that there would be a time when it wouldn’t be the Beatles up there and then all these other groups down there. “It would be a...

The Renderers: Monsters and Miasma (Last Visible Dog)

The Renderers: Monsters and Miasma (Last Visible Dog)

Once known as “the only country band on Flying Nun" (Trail of Tears in 90, their sole album for the label), this on-going project of Brian and Maryrose Crook has progressively taken a darker and deeper path the past decade. These 10 songs owes debts to old murder ballads, the Velvet Underground and the Doors, acoustic Neil Young,...

LOU REED AND PATTI SMITH IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Patent pending

LOU REED AND PATTI SMITH IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Patent pending

When those archetypal New Yorkers Lou Reed and Patti Smith both released albums in the early days of 2000, it allowed anyone still interested in their careers the chance to consider their relative positions as they entered a new decade -- in fact a new century -- about 25 years (and more) on from their career defining best work. Neither of...

Songs: Songs (PopFrenzy/Rhythmethod)

Songs: Songs (PopFrenzy/Rhythmethod)

This young pop band out of Sydney come, not so much trailing influences but shoving them up ahead of them: variously they sound like nasal Dylan '65 doing early Velvets drone (Farmacy), the Bats jingle-jangle (Something to Believe In), the fuzzy end of the Clean (Oh No), more Velvets-in-Dunedin (Retreat) . . . And those are just the first...

THE BARGAIN BUY - David Bowie: Heroes/Lodger

THE BARGAIN BUY - David Bowie: Heroes/Lodger

David Bowie: Heroes/Lodger (EMI) While there's an easy case to make for Bowie's Low and Heroes albums to be in any Essential Elsewhere collection, Lodger from '79 -- his more difficult third album in "the Berlin trilogy" which he made with Brian Eno -- has always been overlooked or dismissed. Certainly it lacks that sudden...

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND; VANISHING POINT (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND; VANISHING POINT (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

Although this 90 minute film of the career of the Velvet Underground leaps in when Lou Reed met John Cale --as if nothing of consequence had happened in each of their lives prior to that -- what follows is an interesting (if much canvassed) doco about a band which changed the face of contemporary music. This chronological account is...

Lou Reed: Families (1979)

Lou Reed: Families (1979)

Lou Reed never strikes you as having a sentimental streak, but this song (from his album The Bells) is as nakedly autobiographical and pained as John Lennon's Mother. It is the sounds of a son who knows he has disappointed the family but equally realises there is no way back. Interesting too is the tone of regret and sadness at what has...

John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

Born of its political era and John Cale's peculiarly damaged consciousness at the time, this menacing live recording captures an embittered spirit, a rare rage and a grim humour. As Mikal Gilmore noted in Rolling Stone at the time, the Sabotage/Live album this comes from is "without apology, and more importantly, without ideology,...

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music (1975)

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music (1975)

Metal Machine Music is the Lou Reed album that even many Lou fans haven't heard -- or did hear and said, "Never again". Many who bought this double album at the time (which now fetches absurd prices on-line) returned it because not only does Reed not sing on it, but it has no songs (there are four pieces, each around 16 minutes...

ANDY WARHOL'S LOOK: Glamour, Style, Fashion and Moron

ANDY WARHOL'S LOOK: Glamour, Style, Fashion and Moron

“People are always calling me a mirror and if a mirror looks into a mirror, what is there to see?” -- Andy Warhol. There's a scene in an Austin Powers movie in which the superspy and international man of mystery is in his London bachelor pad. Amid the iconography of the Swinging Sixties is a large multiple portrait...

Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

From the breathless pace he sets on this hard rocking album you'd never know that Escovedo out of Texas (formerly of Rank and File, a fellow traveller with John Dee Graham, co-writer with Chuck Prophet and now managed by Springsteen's Jon Landau) nearly died a few years ago. Such is the high regard he is held in by his peers that for a...

Laurie Anderson: Homeland (Nonesuch)

Laurie Anderson: Homeland (Nonesuch)

From the accompanying DVD, you sense this should have been a double CD for us to fully appreciate the long arc and nuances of this, Anderson's first album in a decade. Anderson's work is allusive rather than literal or descriptive, but in these often disturbing, melancholy and dislocated meditations on the state of her country,...

Aztec Camera: Jump (1988)

Aztec Camera: Jump (1988)

By the time of their third album Love in 1987, Aztec Camera out of Scotland had effectively become just singer-songwriter Roddy Frame and whoever he chose to work with. Love was their/his most successful UK album and the single Somewhere in My Heart lifted from it went to number 3 on the British charts. The 12" remix of that single...

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

It's hard to believe but in the same year as the Velvet Underground's debut album came out, David Bowie's new single was The Laughing Gnome, a gimmick song and another desperate step in trying to crack the charts. As this interesting doco makes clear, for many years Bowie was trying all kinds of tricks and tropes (from new clothes to new...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Velvet Underground; White Light White Heat/Velvet Underground and Nico

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Velvet Underground; White Light White Heat/Velvet Underground and Nico

Brian Eno once said that there would come a time when the Velvet Underground were discussed in the same breath as the Beatles with regard to their influence and importance. He said that when very few people in rock culture had really given serious consideration to this band out of New York which recalibrated the coordinates of rock music....

IGGY POP AND THE STOOGES, AGAIN: Loud, fast and out of control

IGGY POP AND THE STOOGES, AGAIN: Loud, fast and out of control

A few years ago, a cartoon in a rock magazine captured the essence of the Stooges. It showed a guy in headphones whose head had exploded and his friend in the other room saying over his shoulder, "So what do you think of the remastered version of Raw Power?" The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop, delivered that kind of sonic intensity on...

JOHN CALE INTERVIEWED (2005): Flipping the Velvet

JOHN CALE INTERVIEWED (2005): Flipping the Velvet

At the end of a digressive conversation with John Cale, I thank him for his time then add, "and I didn't even mention The Other Band". Cale -- Welsh, classically trained and fiercely intellectual -- lets go a baritone chuckle and says, "and thank you" -- then makes his escape, as if fearing inevitable questions about it may...

Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

When you see that John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, has produced an album you tend to take notice: he helmed the stunning debuts by Patti Smith, The Stooges and Modern Lovers, and down the decades has worked with Nico, Jennifer Warnes and Jesus Lizard. With singer-guitarist Escovedo he has a like-minded, dark-hearted spirit who...

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