Absolute Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

BOB DYLAN: SPRINGTIME IN NEW YORK 1980- 1985, THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL 16 (2021): Five discs of outtakes, offcuts and clean cuts, kid

27 Sep 2021  |  9 min read

The early Eighties weren't the best time to be Bob Dylan, and not for anyone who'd had their head turned by him the mid-Sixties. Or in the mid-Seventies when he released that famous return-to-form album Blood on the Tracks. But after that latter highpoint there had been lesser returns. While they had their moments, neither Desire nor Street Legal (“utterly fake,” wrote Greil... > Read more

Seeing the Real You at Last (alternate take, 1985)

KAREN BLACK IN THE SEVENTIES (2021): The singer not the star

23 Sep 2021  |  3 min read

Karen Black had key roles in game-changing films in the late Sixties/early Seventies: a New Orleans hooker in Easy Rider; Jack Nicolson's working class, country music-loving girlfriend in Five Easy Pieces (she was Oscar-nominated for best supporting actress, won a Golden Globe and the New York Critics poll for it); and the object of affection in the messy Drive, He Said. In '75 she was the... > Read more

THE DESSNERS, BON IVER AND THE BIG RED MACHINE (2021): With a little help from their friends

19 Sep 2021  |  2 min read

The Dessner twins in the American band The National, certainly put themselves about a bit. Paris-based guitarist/producer Bryce is a Yale-graduate composer whose work has been performed by the Kronos Quartet, Paris' Ensemble Intercontemporain and various American orchestras. He's worked with Steve Reich, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood (the National sometimes referred to as... > Read more

PERE UBU, REISSUED AGAIN. AND NOW AGAIN? (2021) The roads more or less traveled

12 Sep 2021  |  1 min read

Because we have always been very keen on the outsider sound of Pere Ubu (and have interviewed their mainman David Thomas a couple of times, here and here), just four years ago we wrote at length about their vinyl box set Drive, He Said 1994-2002  – the third in a reissue series -- which included the albums Raygun Suitcase, Pennsylvania, St Arkansas and a collection of jams and... > Read more


11 Sep 2021  |  3 min read

The late Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones' drummer from their inception in 1962, was always a man apart. A jazz aficionado in the most enduring rock band of the past 60 years; poised and humble in a culture which often favours the dissolute and self-aggrandising; sometimes more detached than engaged; a car collector without driver's license . . . While others on... > Read more

LORDE. SOLAR AND STAR POWER (2021): Reflections in a jaded eye

5 Sep 2021  |  4 min read  |  2

In 1990, 74-year old Frank Sinatra wrote an open letter to George Michael who'd been interviewed for the Los Angeles Times' Calendar magazine where he was described as “the reluctant pop star” who “lives in hopes of reducing the strain of his celebrity status”. “My first reaction,” Sinatra wrote, “was he should thank... > Read more


29 Aug 2021  |  3 min read

Because guitar-driven rock is no longer the prevailing force it was from the late Sixties to the Britpop/grunge era and – coupled with an aging, monied demographic for whom the past was a more exciting country where music was better – we are witnessing a frequent phenomenon. To paraphrase George Melly whose 1970 book Revolt Into Style cast a critical eye over the Sixties... > Read more

Going Down to Golders Green

HIGHWAY 80s REVISITED (2021): Failsafe's alternatives to the alternative

27 Aug 2021  |  2 min read

Further to Failsafe Records' recent double CD/bandcamp release Accident Compilation: Alternative Music from Christchurch New Zealand 1980-1984 come two more such collections: the double CD Biding Our Time: New Zealand Alternative Music Compilation 1984-1986 and single disc, South: Alternative Music in Christchurch 1986-1987. The first of these – expanded from the download version... > Read more

Comfortable Chair, by Spatback

FARMYARD, AT AUDIOCULTURE (2021): Learning 'bout . . . stuff?

13 Aug 2021  |  1 min read

Wellington band Farmyard may have had a short career – just two albums in two years at the dawn of the 70s – but their progressive folk-rock and sometimes penetrating lyrics on their self-titled debut captured the mood of that changing time. The joy-filled and youthful optimism of early 60s, when teenagers put their parents' post-war generation behind... > Read more


11 Aug 2021  |  2 min read

When the McCartneys released their Ram album in 1971 – the only album given co-credit to Paul's wife Linda – the response was swift. John Lennon pronounced it “awful” and Ringo said, “I don't think there's a tune on it”, also adding he though McCartney had gone a bit weird. (This from a man who was there for Tomorrow Never Knows and Strawberry Fields... > Read more


8 Aug 2021  |  2 min read

There's a wicked freeze-frame moment of Auckland's Space Waltz miming their single Out in the Street in 1974. Around the one minute mark, the band's singer-songwriter Alastair Riddell struts out of the dry ice – luscious long hair, mascara, lipstick, luxurious velvet shirt, silk pants, flamboyant scarf – then, close to the camera, lasciviously thrusts his overtly camp,... > Read more

I'VE BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN (2021): The song for all people and places

30 Jul 2021  |  <1 min read

It's a well-known fact -- as concertgoers will acknowledge -- that If you have a lyric which mentions a place the audience there will applaud like chimps on speed when you sing it . . . or (better?) you can change the place name to wherever you are and the audience will applaud like gorillas on P! Less cynically and more usefully . . . place names are easy rhymes. Here's a classic... > Read more

MID-YEAR REPORT: THE TOP 21 OF (2021): It's just an opinion. And that's a fact, Jack!

21 Jun 2021  |  8 min read  |  3

It's the end of term and the report cards are being written and sent to anxious folks at home. Here Elsewhere singles out excellence from the many dozens of albums we have written about so far this year. But note, these are only chosen from what we have actually reviewed: we heard more but didn't write about them. And we also didn't hear albums which are doubtless your favourites from... > Read more

RINGO ON RECORD IN THE PAST DECADE (2021): The remaking of a Starr

19 Jun 2021  |  8 min read

It is a remarkable thing to consider: Ringo Starr has been a solo artist about seven times longer than he was A Very Famous Beatle. It is also remarkable to observe, as we did in a previous article, that during the first few years of that solo career he was very successful springing an acclaimed if poor selling country album Beaucoups of Blues and knocking off top... > Read more

KITA, INTRODUCED (2021): The sophisticated pop-jazz continuum

7 Jun 2021  |  <1 min read

Wellington's KITA have had a steady upward trajectory since their formation 18 months ago which comes to fruition on their self-titled debut album.  They are Taiwan-born, Auckland-raised, soulful singer-songwriter Nikita Tu-Bryant who grew up on rock and R'n'B, studied jazz and has a mainline to intelligent lyrics; DJ, keyboardist and mini-Moog player Ed Zuccollo who worked with the... > Read more

TONY JOE WHITE and BLACK KEYS: (2021): Swamp smoke and black blues

31 May 2021  |  2 min read

Much like Jack White – the former White Stripe who has his Third Man label headquarters in Nashville -- the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach also has a label/studio, Easy Eye Sound, in Tennessee's capital. Between them, White and Auerbach have brought diverse and divergent sounds out of this hub of country music. Easy Eye's small but impressive catalogue includes... > Read more

BOB DYLAN AT 80 (2021): In this head the all-baffling brain . . .

24 May 2021  |  7 min read  |  1

In the many decades before he appropriated the line from Walt Whitman for his 2020 album Rough and Rowdy Ways, Bob Dylan lived out the idea and possibilities of “I contain multitudes”. In 2004 at age 65 he reflectively told Robert Hilburn, “There are many sides to us. And I wanted to follow them all.” Bob Dylan – the man who contains multitudes – has... > Read more

MARIANNE FAITHFULL AND WARREN ELLIS (2021): Time to cry and laugh about it all again

23 May 2021  |  2 min read

Two days after their founder Brian Jones' death in July 1969, the Rolling Stones headlined a free concert in London's Hyde Park where they stepped past their abortive foray into psychedelia (Their Satanic Majesties Request) and reinvented themselves in their dark world of Jumpin' Jack Flash. Wearing a pleated tunic over white pants, eye-shadowed Mick Jagger... > Read more

FAILSAFE RECORDS, REISSUED AND REMIXED (2021): Lodestone, touchstones and The Absolute Truth

19 May 2021  |  2 min read

In the Eighties and Nineties when New Zealand indie ears were attuned to Flying Nun, Propellor, Pagan and so on, Rob Mayes from Christchurch was fighting his corner with his Failsafe label which launched itself in the early Eighties with cassettes and EPs. As Simon Grigg and Dave Smith note in this audioculture article however, Mayes – like Pagan's Trevor Reekie – was astute at... > Read more

You Crawled, by Lils

MALCOLM BLACK REMEMBERED, IN HIS OWN WORDS (2021): Faith, hope and family

16 May 2021  |  3 min read

By Roger Shepherd's own account, his Flying Nun label released 75 albums, 78 EPs and 31 singles in its first decade to 1991. Amidst that landslide of vinyl (a new album every couple of months with singles and EPs in between) and the success of his praetorian vanguard – the Clean, Chills, Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings and others – some acts went past him: “Focus wasn't one of... > Read more