Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Few people could have been more surprised than Graeme Jefferies when his album Canary in a Coalmine scraped into the top 20 charts for New Zealand albums for a week in late August.
How it managed that is a mystery, especially in the absence of reviews. It may be that this by Elsewhere was the only one.
Whatever, it was a pleasure to see it there, albeit briefly.
Jefferies (who with brother Peter was in Nocturnal Projections and This Kind of Punishment way back) has been one of the more persistent, productive and interesting New Zealand musicians.
In his detailed and highly readable memoir Time Flowing backwards (2018) he writes of so much time as a musician in Britain, various places in Europe and a trip to Russia.
He enjoyed a hit in Germany when one of his songs featured in a top-five film at the box office and reached a huge audience.
Jefferies is a real self-starter – I don't think he's had any kind of grant or solicited for funds – and in recent years he's taken charge of his vast back-catalogue (some of it under his own name, others as the Cakekitchen) and been releasing it on vinyl.
When we reviewed a couple of his vinyl releases earlier this year we said we'd draw attention to I'm Not Listening to Your Station when it became available on vinyl.
And now it has, on black vinyl with an insert lyric sheet and notes on each song.
This collection scoops up 10 pieces – demos and finished songs, NP and TKP and Cakekitchen material sometimes repurposed – mostly from the Eighties (and among those appearing are Robert Key and Craig Mason).
The opener title track is slice of propulsive quasi-krautrock/New Order drone dating from NP days but never recorded by them. Jefferies resurrected it (with Key) and overdubbed the bass line. It's high energy period-piece pop which sets the album up nicely with the hook “where are we going to go now?”.
Backwards into his earlier catalogue as it happens, which makes the title of the memoir even more apt.
Elsewhere there is the disconcerting, multiple-part Street Signs Back to White with a mad free-form psychedelic breakdown and chaos (nope, won't be played on your station), the piano ballad Here's to No More Sad Goodbyes on which he plays everything (including the left-field strings which pick it up, and which is dedicated to Marlene Dietrich) and the wiry guitar pop of The Tenant.
A real highpoint is the elegant and simple Robinson Crusoe which was a TKP song here recorded on Chris Knox's famous four-track, also a piano and strings piece.
That Jefferies wrote all of these and plays just about every instrument reminds you of what a talent he possesses.
His sometimes strange, multi-tracked vocals have become his aural signature and may not immediately appeal . . . but start with Robinson Crusoe, Things Too Hot to Taste (also piano and strings) or the pastoral The Departure Lounge right at the end and let them sink in.
You'll be back for more.
It's a more interesting station.
Get the vinyl of this through Southbound -- released October 27 – and let's also chart this one for Graeme if we can.
You can hear and buy this album (download or vinyl) at bandcamp here
Time Flowing Backwards is through Mosaic Press here