Absolute Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

THE FLAMING LIPS CONSIDERED (2017): White punks on dope

16 Jan 2017  |  3 min read

It was the costumes and huge balloons really, wasn't it? Flaming Lips – the vehicle of Wayne Coyne – proved that even at the height of post-grunge seriousness in the Nineties you were allowed to be silly and have fun. And he always looked like he was. But Flaming Lips had been around a long time — they started in the early Eighties — before their dreamy,... > Read more

PJ HARVEY CONSIDERED (2016): All killer and no Polly filler

12 Dec 2016  |  2 min read

When she first emerged under her own name in the early Nineties with the album Dry we called her “PJ Harvey”, because “Polly” seemed rather too familiar for someone so tightly wound and sharply poetic. And because Dry's follow-up Rid of Me was called “the best miserable album of all time” by Q magazine. She changed over time, but even in 2001... > Read more

JON HERINGTON PROFILED (2016): Ain't 'bout that adult entertainment, surely?

9 Dec 2016  |  4 min read

Chances are you've heard – and perhaps even seen – guitarist Jon Herington but never heard his name. Born on the Jersey Shore, Herington took his high school band into opened for the biggest local name (Bruce Springsteen, if you are uncertain) but subsequently slipped sideways into jazz . . . all of which was a solid background for what he has been doing since '99.... > Read more

Caroline Yes

THE ROLLING STONES, AGAIN (2016): Goin' back home to the blues

2 Dec 2016  |  4 min read  |  6

The massive screen in the lobby of the cinema complex was screening footage from the Rolling Stones' 2016 concert in Havana, rendering the lines on Keith Richards' face like deep scars on an alien landscape. Many in the crowd shuffling towards the next blow 'em blockbuster stopped and stared, most in silence. And then on the screen a drone flew over the Stones' audience and two... > Read more

Everybody Knows About My Good Thing

RAY COLUMBUS REMEMBERED (2016): The modfather forever young

30 Nov 2016  |  3 min read

Although Ray Columbus – who died in November 2016 in Auckland, age 71 – will go into the history books as the first New Zealand entertainer to have a number one single overseas (She's Mod with the Invaders in 1964, which topped the Australian charts), when he received his Order of the British Empire (OBE) in '74 it was for his long and diverse career in many aspects of New... > Read more

THE VOLUME EXHIBITION IN AUCKLAND: Exit through the gift shop

21 Nov 2016  |  3 min read  |  2

Because I was involved in the exhibition Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa currently running at the museum in Auckland – 60 years of popular music from 50s rock'n'roll to Lorde – people sometimes ask what I'm most pleased about. Well, I say, the fact that Volume exists at all is very pleasing . . . But aside from Chris Knox's famous TEAC tape recorder, the huge... > Read more

Jesus I Was Evil, by Darcy Clay

THE TURTLES REVISITED (2016): Sometimes it ain't them babe

21 Nov 2016  |  6 min read

It hasn't been uncommon for musicians or bands to hide behind another name. The Beatles briefly flirted with the idea for an album before they ran out of energy for it (“We're Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band . . .”) and in the early Seventies the late Leon Russell recorded a very credible country album as Hank Wilson. And, although it was obviously Russell, Hank was... > Read more

Grim Reaper of Love

CROWDED HOUSE REISSUED (2016): The lights from a distant son

14 Nov 2016  |  12 min read

When Crowded House play their reunion concerts in Sydney next week (Nov 24 – 26) it will be 30 years since their self-titled debut album and 20 since their famous farewell on the same steps of the Sydney Opera House. It won't be exactly the same Crowded House of course with the suicide of Paul Hester in 2005, and it isn't their first reunion, there was one a decade ago when... > Read more

Don't Dream It's Over (home demo)

ENGLISH NOT BE SUNG HERE (2016): Collected pop in unfamiliar tongues

7 Nov 2016  |  4 min read

Here's a thought which rarely occurs to native speakers of English: What does this language sound like to people who don't speak it? It's just a jumble of odd sounding syllables and vowels, most of which have no equivalent in their language. That may account for something like the woman in the clip attempting to sing a song she knows by Mariah Carey. It is written by Pete Ham and... > Read more

Ru Guo Mei You Ni, by Karen Mok

MOSE ALLISON REVISITED (2016): When a young man walked by . . .

4 Nov 2016  |  3 min read  |  1

If you were ever bewildered how music can cross cultures and even oceans then you wouldn't go to the British blues boom of the early Sixties for answers. As the snooty BBC-styled radio host said of r'n'b (“or rock and roll”) in the parody of prog-rock on the National Lampoon album, Goodbye Pop, “Why is this indigenous, crude, powerful, black American music invariably... > Read more

Your Mind is on Vacation

JOHN SIMON INTERVIEWED (2016): Putting on the Waltz

3 Nov 2016  |  6 min read

The first thing you should say to John Simon – on the line from his home near Woodstock in upstate New York – is a sincere thank you. While his name might not be as familiar as many other record producers of the Sixties like Phil Spector, Tom Dowd and George Martin, Simon has a pretty big stake in the ground with songs and albums from that era. His beginnings were... > Read more

THE BAND'S LAST WALTZ REISSUED (2016): Another twirl on the dancefloor

31 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

When The Band decided to call it a day in 1976 they did it in style. Not just any group could call in Martin Scorsese to film their farewell concert at the Winterland in San Francisco, or have someone dress the set so elaborately. Billed as The Last Waltz, it was a helluva goodbye and among the guests on stage were Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Dr John, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, the... > Read more

JEANETTE JONES DISCOVERED (2016): Such a sweet mystery

30 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

Sixties r'n'b soul singer Jeanette Jones – if she is still alive – may be confused by the release of her debut album, more than 40 years after she abruptly ended her recording career. She may be even more surprised to learn there was an album at all. Because at the time, in 1969 to be exact, she only ever released one single. And even though there were only 1000 copies... > Read more

What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me

ROCK'N'ROLL, OVER BEETHOVEN? Where classical music enters pop

29 Oct 2016  |  3 min read

Although most pop and rock listeners might not think it so, many songwriters have drawn on classical music  . . . and not just for inspiration, but sometimes quite directly grabbing at the melodies. We're not talking about Deodata offering his electro-treatment of Strauss' Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Love Sculpture's flat-tack guitar workout on Sabre Dance (by Khachaturian), or... > Read more

Goodbye Cruel World, by James Darren

MILES FROM INDIA CONSIDERED (2016): Davis, in a sitar way

8 Oct 2016  |  4 min read

For very many decades there has been a profitable and important cross-cultural engagement between Western musicians and Indian artists. From the moment people heard George Harrison tentatively picking out a few notes on sitar for the Beatles' Norwegian Wood in 1965 – and unwittingly launching a raga-rock phase which dominated the late Sixties – the influence of Indian... > Read more

Miles From India

NORAH JONES CONSIDERED (2016): Old ways and a new day breaking

3 Oct 2016  |  2 min read

Because her debut album Come Away With Me of '02 sold over 25 million copies, smarter-than-thou folks and cynics wrote it off as polite MOR. But it was actually a canny distillation of country and cool jazz (her two reference points as a jazz pianist who grew up on Willie Nelson) and her forthcoming album Day Break – originals and covers of material by Duke Ellington, Horace... > Read more

FRANK ZAPPA RE-COLLECTED (2016): Dinner with the Don of Freakdom

26 Sep 2016  |  2 min read

Aside from being a composer and performer who crossed, or more correctly ignored, boundaries between musical genres – his catalogue includes everything from doo-wop to classical albums – Frank Zappa could deliver zinging one-liners. At one point in the late 60s when he looked like a typical longhaired flower-child drop-out acid freak, he was once asked, “What are... > Read more

Peaches En Regalia

THE PIXIES CONSIDERED (2016): Clearing the path to Nirvana

23 Sep 2016  |  1 min read

Apparently the man known as Black Francis (and later Frank Black) was obsessed with outer space but in '86 gave up the idea of coming to New Zealand to see Haley's Comet to form a band. Our loss was the world's gain because the band was the Pixies who inspired countless others in their first lifespan. They split in '93, reformed in '04 (although founder member/bassist Kim Deal quit in... > Read more

DAVID BECKER INTERVIEWED (2016): The work and the rewards

19 Sep 2016  |  11 min read

For an interviewer, the worst subject isn't the one who doesn't say much or even anything, because at least that can be turned into a funny story. The worst is the person who just goes on and on and on . . . Two-time Grammy-nominated American guitarist David Becker can certainly talk, but the saving grace is that he's very interesting, has enjoyed a real DIY career in which he... > Read more

That Man is a Legend

THE PYE AND PICCADILLY GIRLS (2016): They also serve who only stand and sing

5 Sep 2016  |  3 min read

Britain in the Sixties threw up a number of great female pop singers when the world's attention turned in that direction after the explosion of the Beatles. There were many talents like Cilla Black and Lulu – capable of an extraordinary range of emotion from heartache to nail-hard hammering – and Dusty Springfield (who grew from MOR ballads and pop into soulful depth... > Read more

Incense by Sheila Carter