Absolute Elsewhere

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KAITIAKI RECORDS, STRAIGHT OUTTA WANAKA (2021): In the jungle, the mighty jungle . . .

14 Nov 2021  |  3 min read

About five months ago, the newly formed Jungle label Kaitiaki Records in Wanaka began its ambitious project of bringing distinctive local artists to attention through a series of EP releases on bandcamp. As label founder Tom Zeinoun says on the label's website: “Kaitiaki Records started off as an idea when I came down to Wanaka seeing all the great talent we have around here.... > Read more

ABBA IN THE 21st CENTURY (2021): On a voyage to nowhere

5 Nov 2021  |  5 min read

In the Abba museum in Stockholm, visitors can experience a disconcerting Dorian Gray moment. Here you stare into the twinkling eyes of the band who stand, life-size, as mute as wax and preserved just as they were at the height of their fame four decades ago. In a flip to the other side of Oscar Wilde's mirror we imagine the lustrous but reclusive Agnetha – now 71, blond hair flecked... > Read more


25 Oct 2021  |  4 min read

There are two ways of considering the Beatles recording sessions in January 1969 when, very much nudged by Paul McCartney, they convened – just months after The White Album had been released and two days into the new year – in a bleak Twickenham film studio to ostensibly rehearse, record and then perform an album of all new material. As an idea it was interesting, innovative and... > Read more

All Things Must Pass rehearsal

SHIHAD AND ALIEN WEAPONRY ALBUMS, REVIEWED (2021): Significant sound and fury?

23 Oct 2021  |  3 min read

It has been more than 15 years since Dave Dobbyn sang Welcome Home, a song that spoke to our better selves as a people prepared to make a space for new migrants, many of whom had come from dire situations and had been confronted by racism here. As he noted, “out here on the edge, the empire is fading by the day” and that erosion of loyalty to Britain and the Commonwealth has... > Read more

THE BEATLES' GET BACK BOOK (2021): The words around the music

18 Oct 2021  |  5 min read

As some wag noted on Facebook recently about the title of this large format hardback: “Did we ever leave?” We did not . . . Because the period these transcripts cover – January 1969 when the Beatles came together with the vague idea of being filmed recording an album and then performing it live somewhere – is replete with unfinished business. The resulting... > Read more

Across the Universal, rehearsal and jamming

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO, A TRIBUTE ALBUM (2021): Another look in the art-rock mirror

9 Oct 2021  |  4 min read

Has there even been an album whose cultural influence far outstripped it's commercial impact more than the debut by New York's Velvet Underground? Their 1967 The Velvet Underground & Nico – in that famously provocative banana cover by the band's champion and nominal “producer” Andy Warhol (a phallic pink banana revealed when the skin was peeled back) – arrived... > Read more

IT'S ALL IN THE GAME, CONSIDERED (2021): The singers and the song

6 Oct 2021  |  1 min read

In 1911 a guy called Charles Dawes -- who later became the US vice president -- wrote a very simple melody one afternoon at home and it was subsequently published as sheet music. It was entitled Melody in A Major. And it became very very popular indeed. But first let's talk about Dawes, baby. Born in 1865, he was of that type for whom everything was to be explored: he qualified... > Read more

DINNER WITH THE WAINWRIGHTS (2021): Loudon, Rufus and Martha giving thanks

4 Oct 2021  |  3 min read

American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III – among many hailed as “the new Dylan” in the early 70s – has never been short of subject matter, be it high-minded or mundane. He wrote and performed songs about national and social issues regularly for National Public Radio, but also explored being lonely on the road, groupies, the murder of John Lennon, his... > Read more

BOB DYLAN , CHANGING SOMEONE TO A TIGHT CONNECTION (2021): His songs they are a changin'

3 Oct 2021  |  3 min read

Once again an instalment of the on-going Bob Dylan Bootleg Series throws the spotlight on how he changes his songs, not just lyrics but arrangements and tone. The current Bootleg Series Springtime in New York offers yet more takes of his '83 song Someone's Got A Hold of My Heart (an outtake from the Infidels sessions) and what it became, Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My... > Read more

REB FOUNTAIN RETURNS (2021): Iris in the spotlight

2 Oct 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

Despite Covid-19 roadblocks – and it being the year of Benee and the Beths – for many 2020 belonged to Reb Fountain. She was nominated for three music awards (best album, solo artist and alternative artist) and her album, being self-titled, seemed to announce Fountain's emergence as a different kind of artist, and one signed to Flying Nun. With critically acclaimed previous... > Read more

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