Tuesday, April 3, 2018

More on Super Black Market Clash

Something and nothing, but worth sharing for the anoraks out there …

Last week, when I posted a review of Super Black Market Clash, I noted that the band was responsible for “some exceptional and perfectly conceived album covers, and Super Black Market Clash is an excellent example of that, its imagery suiting the album’s largely rebellious content perfectly”… but I actually had no idea of the history behind that particular sleeve. This week, rather coincidently, some info popped up in my Twitter feed which helped to fill in a few blanks (h/t @thatpommybloke): the photo features longtime band associate Don Letts (Big Audio Dynamite, The Slits) approaching police during the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival, which was noteworthy for serious confrontation between revellers and police ...

The pic below superimposes the album sleeve into a current day photo of the exact location where all the action took place.  

More on this from Wiki:
In 1976, police had been expecting hostility due to what they deemed as trouble the year before. Consequently, after discovering pickpockets in the crowd, police took a heavy-handed approach against the large congregation of blacks and it became "no-man's land". The 1600 strong police force violently broke up the carnival, resulting in the arrest of 60 people.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Classic Album Review: The Clash - Super Black Market Clash (1980/1993)

Super Black Market Clash is basically an expanded version of 1980’s Black Market Clash 10” EP release, and essentially it’s a compilation album incorporating many of the band’s b-sides, rarities, remixes, plus other odds and sods. It covers a five-year time frame (1977-82), and as it tends to avoid the more obvious stuff, it results in a celebration of some of the band’s more unheralded moments.

Another consequence of this almost random approach is that we get a wide range of styles and perhaps the album’s biggest achievement is to successfully showcase the band’s extraordinary versatility. No bad thing.

So much so, it’s actually like a rough guide - a compacted version - to The Clash; from their earliest punk-edged incarnation as found on ‘1977’ (the flipside to ‘White Riot’), and ‘Capital Radio Two’, to the ska flavours of the Maytal’s cover ‘Pressure Drop’, the whitened urban soul of ‘The Magnificent Dance’ and Booker T’s ‘Time Is Tight’, the mid-album dub peaks of ‘Justice Tonight’ and ‘Robber Dub’, right through to the closer, ‘Mustapha Dance’, which is a remix of the 1982 single ‘Rock The Casbah’, this remains fairly eclectic yet still utterly compelling stuff.

And whatever else you can say about The Clash, love 'em or hate 'em, possibly even a bit of both if you’re anything like me, the band deserve plaudits for some exceptional and perfectly conceived album covers, and Super Black Market Clash is an excellent example of that, its imagery suiting the album’s largely rebellious content perfectly.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Classic Album Review: The Clash - London Calling (1979)

Forget about The Clash’s punk roots, by the time London Calling came out in 1979, the band had evolved considerably, and the result was this masterclass in cross-genre pollination. Not that the band had moved on entirely, or abandoned its core ethos; it's simply the case that collectively, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon, had improved markedly as musicians, and as a unit, and were thus better able to get their message across in a tighter and far more emphatic fashion.

While punk had started to encounter credibility issues, The Clash were evidently quite determined to be taken seriously, and in many respects, London Calling, with its underlying political posturing and unashamedly direct social commentary, established a template that many a post-punk contender would seek to adopt or emulate over the course of the following decade.
What should also be recalled is that the band were still a few years away from fully breaking through in the USA at this stage, and despite the album essentially being conceived in the States, London Calling retains a sense of Englishness that by default or by design still defined them. Make no mistake, even if they’d given this album a different title, the content would still evoke imagery of dark/wet grimy back streets, multicultural high-rise housing estates, rampant social injustice, and varying degrees of street violence.
When Combat Rock came out some three years later, with its plethora of US-chart breaking hit singles and stadium anthems, much of that tone and character was long gone and The Clash were headed for mainstream glory, concert tours, and extravagant pay days galore. It might be said, for all of their eventual popularity on the New World side of the Atlantic, by the time they belatedly achieved it, The Clash had already lost the very edge and points of difference that made the band so vital in the first place. It is hardly surprising a somewhat painful split was just around the corner.
So London Calling captures the true essence of The Clash, and any newcomer should start right here. The raw energy of the highly charged and almost threatening title track opens the album and that track itself remains perhaps the best example of what made the band so special. But look out too for the universal rockabilly influences on ‘Brand New Cadillac’. The ever-present Jamaican reggae vibes of ‘Guns Of Brixton’, ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, and ‘Revolution Rock’. The similarly political overtones on the otherwise catchy ‘Spanish Bombs’. The simple funk of closer ‘Train In Vain’. Plus, what is, in my opinion, the album’s coup de grace, ‘Clampdown’, one of the best anti-working-for-the-man anthems ever committed to vinyl.
And all of that, before I even start to tell you how truly great that album cover is …

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Gig Review: Pitch Black, San Fran, Wellington, 16 March 2018

Last Friday night, local electro dub fiends Pitch Black checked into Wellington’s San Fran venue for the second leg of the duo’s three-date Sonic Portal tour. It was a long overdue return to the capital for Mike Hodgson and Paddy Free, after Wellington missed out on the late 2016/early 2017 - mostly festival - dates that passed for the Filtered Senses (album release) tour.
A Sandwiches (club) gig in the capital of roughly a decade ago is still spoken about in glowing terms by all who attended (yours truly included), so it was little surprise to discover the San Fran venue almost full upon my relatively early 9.30pm arrival. Wellington dubheads and dance music aficionados clearly have long memories … though, of course, the short-term stuff may be more of a challenge. Whatever the case, this one carried the secondary billing of being a 21st party, with Pitch Black celebrating 21 years of being at the cutting edge of the local dub and electronica scene, and a cursory glance around the venue confirmed that it would just as likely have been years, if not a decade or two, since the last occasion many of these early doors punters had attended any kind of 21st celebration (that of their own children notwithstanding).
Free & Hodgson, dub fiends ...
Pitch Black had been playing around half an hour before I arrived, easing the crowd into the night with what they called their “downbeat set”, which meant a lot of gentle swaying and head bobbing, as our dynamic duo filled the room with layer upon layer of ethereal texture and languid bass-driven technicolour soundscapes. That continued for another half hour or so before we had the pleasure of Wellington’s own DJ Ludus (aka Emma Bernard) for company while our party hosts took a well-earned refreshment break.
Ludus was a perfect fit for this gig, and a swelling of the dancefloor during her mostly minimal ambient set – is minimal ambient a thing in genre-speak? – suggests she bought her own rather large following with her. It would certainly account for the injection of a few younger faces into the crowd, many of whom would scarcely have been out of nappies when Pitch Black unleashed its debut album, Futureproof, on an unsuspecting world 20-odd years ago.
When Pitch Black returned an hour later, the bpm factor and energy levels were upped significantly as they launched into what they call their “pumping set” with all the vigour of men half their age. It was around this point I realised it was going to be virtually impossible to review this (or any other) Pitch Black gig in any orthodox kind of way. The duo’s modus operandi is to continually fuck with the heads of their audience by blending and mashing together various tracks from different albums all at the same time. At no one point can it be said “oh, this is ‘The Gatherer’ …” or “this is from Rude Mechanicals”, because at no one single point are we being exposed to one single track. It’s a method that serves them well at giant outdoor festivals across the globe, and it is one that served them equally well at San Fran last Friday night.
Suffice to say Messrs Hodgson and Free covered a fair portion of their illustrious back catalogue as the night progressed into the wee small hours and we zig-zagged back and forth between albums. And they did so with some gusto. If they bypassed Wellington last time around, they were clearly keen to make it up to us, something they achieved with ease, and more …
If I have a complaint, and it’s probably more of an observation given the limitations of the venue, it’s that the visual feast I’ve always associated Pitch Black gigs with in the past simply wasn’t there this time. There was a backdrop with a multitude of FX and far-out visuals etc, but the lighting was relatively ineffective and the whole thing (visually) just failed to hit the heights I’ve come to expect. Having said that, San Fran can’t be faulted for its sound, which was crisp and clear, and there was a moment during the second set when I swear that bass was travelling straight through my chest.
I can’t wait for the next one, just don’t make us wait so long next time, eh fellas?

Here’s something I wrote about Pitch Black for NZ Musician some 18 months ago …

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Album Review: Marlon Williams - Make Way For Love (2018)

Marlon Williams is a difficult artist to categorise. His terrific voice and throwback musical style has seen him compared to the likes of Roy Orbison, Brian Wilson, Scott Walker, Richard Hawley, and Anohni. Plus a few other less obvious artists of a similar ilk. A recent Spinoff (website) profile even placed him in the same (local/New Zealand) realm as the great Maori show bands of the Fifties and Sixties. All of these reference points are certainly hard to argue with, if the evidence offered on Make Way For Love is anything to go by.

Officially, Make Way For Love is studio album number two for Williams, a follow-up to his eponymous debut of 2015, but there’s also been a live album (Live at La Niche, 2014), and during what might now be called his “early years”, he featured on a handful of releases as part of Christchurch band, The Unfaithful Ways. And not forgetting, of course, the highly acclaimed award-winning collaborative efforts he was involved in alongside local roots/country music luminary, Delaney Davidson.

It’s probably fair to say then, that at just 27 years of age, the Christchurch-born, Ngai Tahu descendant, has already crammed a whole heap of living into a relatively short timeframe. And that, in itself, is one of the key reasons Make Way For Love is such an absorbing piece of work. A broad range of life experiences helping to shape a compelling set of stories/lyrics, which nestle comfortably up against more obvious factors like his rather unique honey-drenched vocal delivery and beautifully crafted retro guitar-stylings.

There’s a couple of Davidson co-writes on the album, but mostly this is Williams baring his soul in the wake of his relationship break-up with Aldous Harding, who is no stranger to a bit of soul baring herself. In fact, heartbreak is easily the most prominent theme on the album, and one of the best tracks is a duet he performs alongside his ex-squeeze, ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’, which rather poignantly, was recorded after the relationship broke down.

Style-wise, retro-pop flavours rule throughout, and by that, I think I mean the strong influence of old-time crooning. But also in terms of instrumentation and song structure, with the majority of tunes ticking the unwritten three-to-four minute rule which tends to define pop music, be it retro, brand spanking new, or otherwise. Mostly, Williams keeps things simple and uncomplicated, which further emphasises the old-school elements at play.

Based on past listening, I had expected a far stronger country or bluegrass presence on Make Way For Love, and while it’s still there, and at the core of most things Williams does, it isn’t there in any in-yer-face kind of way, which ultimately means the whole thing defies any real genre-labelling. Which is pretty much where I came in …

Highlights: the aforementioned duet with Aldous Harding, the hook-laden ‘What’s Chasing You’, plus the title track/closer, which really does rather effortlessly invoke the spirit of those Maori show bands of yester-year.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Classic Album Review: Grace Jones - Island Life (1985)

With the phenomenon that is Grace Jones set to perform a couple of live shows in New Zealand this coming weekend, in Queenstown and in Auckland, it might be timely to take a look back at one of her blasts from the past …

At just ten tracks in length, Island Life is hardly the most comprehensive Grace Jones compilation out there, but it is close to perfect for my needs, and it contains her biggest hits from the 1977-1985 period. It is compact, concise, and places emphasis on quality over quantity. And the former fashion model-turned singer-turned actress-turned androgynous icon was at the absolute peak of her popularity when this was released in 1985, so it probably works as an ideal entry point for any newcomers.

Island Life showcases the full range of Ms Jones’ unique talents; pure funk in the form of ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, which has to be one of the most infectious tracks ever committed to black magic plastic. Uncomplicated disco in the shape of early hits ‘I Need A Man’ and ‘Do Or Die’. Shades of soulful reggae with ‘My Jamaican Guy’. Very Eighties high-gloss production values on ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ (produced by Trevor Horn, and reputedly stolen from the clutches of Frankie Goes To Hollywood). Plus outright weirdness on the hugely trippy ‘Walking In The Rain’.

Jones’ penchant for covers is another feature of this compilation. While we get passable takes on ‘La Vie En Rose’ and ‘Love Is The Drug’, it is her superb rendition of (The Pretenders’) ‘Private Life’ which impresses most. Taken from her 1982 album Living My Life, and sung with just the right amount of brooding intensity and sense of melodrama, it is more than a match for the original. Precisely the sort of thing Grace Jones excelled at, ‘Private Life’ just eclipses ‘Pull Up’ as my own favourite Jones moment.

If I was being a pedant or suffering a severe bout of bookish tendencies (something I can’t deny), then I might complain that there was no room on this album for ‘Nipple To The Bottle’ (also off Living My Life), or the title track off the 1980 album, Warm Leatherette, or indeed, further covers from her classic 1981 release, Nightclubbing – perhaps ‘Use Me’, ‘Demolition Man’, and Iggy Pop’s title track itself. But hey, it’s probably churlish to moan too much in this instance, this is just fine as it is.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Porky Post ... Classic Album Review: The Stooges - Fun House (1970)

Another outing for Porky, looking back at a classic album just two years shy of its 50th birthday …

I am a strong believer in music coming to the listener, rather than the individual seeking out the music.

My personal tastes have shipped and shaped over the decades. I’m now at an age that I should be appreciating Dylan, Neil Young, and Fleetwood Mac, but thank Buddha that’s never occurred.

Conversely, I am these days an aficionado of more robust, deranged, and frankly unloveable sounds than in my youth, when tweedom and indie ruled. I listened to Can in my mid-20s but couldn’t stomach them. But, now ... I understand.

Many years ago I bought The Stooges’ second album, Fun House, on CD at the same time as I got (the debut) The Stooges. But the gnarly, snarly nature of Fun House just didn’t resonate with me – the songs were too long and there wasn’t an ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, so I ended up giving it away. Sacrilege, I know.

I now have this bastard on vinyl and I’ve played it a lot over the past year. It’s got to me.
It kicks into action with ‘Down On The Street’, a blistering, bruising face-off with the devil in which Iggy Pop hollers words that skimp on the thinking and focus on the stinking: “Down on the street where the faces shine/ Floatin' around, I'm a real low mind/ See a pretty thing/ Ain't no wall/ See a pretty thing/ It ain't no wall.”
It’s the riffs that matter here and they are ear-bleedingly brilliant, amounting to a near four-minute battering of the senses.
‘Loose’ is a true rock’n’roll song; a hark back to the debut classic, while retaining a connection to their soul brothers, MC5. It has a brief but memorable chorus: “I’ll stick it deep inside/ I’ll stick it deep inside/ Cause I’m loose.” Make of that what you will.
While the Stooges were releasing this, David Bowie was in a whole different stratosphere. In 1969 the Londoner released his second solo album, the self-titled David Bowie, which included the radio-friendly ‘Space Oddity’. He appeared on course for a career as an intriguing but slightly kooky singer-songwriter. In late 1970 Bowie’s first bona fide hit album The Man Who Sold The World was issued in America (and six months later in the UK). Bowie had beefed up his sound, but his voice remained fey and there were no comparisons between the soon-to-be-superstar and The Stooges. And yet, in 1976, Bowie and Iggy Pop would unite to work on two Iggy albums released in 1977, and in return the American sang backing vocals on Low in the same year. But back in 1970 it would seem inconceivable that such a team-up could be possible.
Not when you had a track like ‘TV Eye’. The third track on Fun House is a dad-fucking rollercoaster of a four-minute ride. Listening now, with punk having bludgeoned its way through the youth consciousness, it’s impossible to comprehend just how out there this would have sounded at the time, and the rest of the album for that matter. Imagine. In the mid-60s there were The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Small Faces and Hendrix, to name just a few. All pushed the envelope in some way or another but musically the bass levels were kept at modest levels. That all changed in 1969 when MC5 thrashed away to ‘Kick Out The Jams’ and The Stooges gifted the world ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, the ultimate punk song in a non-punk era.
Then there’s ‘Dirt’, which is slow, bluesy and meandering. It’s almost a dirge, almost a pop song; in a way it’s The Stooges lowering the pace, but the grungy, existential guitars and discordant drums take it elsewhere.
Flip over to ‘1970’, a natural successor to ‘1969’ from the debut. Such a shame there was no Stooges album in 1971, what could they have done there? Both songs have a tribal hypnotic rhythm that repeats to the point of mild torture, but the newer track is more frantic.

The opening line is a potent one: “Out of my mind on Saturday night/ Ninteen-seventy rollin' in sight/ Radio burnin' up above/ Beautiful baby, feed my love all night.”

The title track is the longest, at just under eight minutes, but well worth the effort. Steve Mackay’s saxophone adds to the raucous, late-night-jam feel.
But this is tame sat alongside (or chronologically just before) the album closer ‘L.A. Blues’, a totally chaotic blitz that takes some stiff drinks before being listenable for its entirety. It’s registered as an instrumental because Iggy just shouts and screams like some sort of rabid wolf. It has to have been one of the first truly out there sonic cacophonies of noise that today would be described as experimental. It’s like watching a car crash video: you are appalled but can’t take your eyes away.

Which in a way is apt description of the experience of listening to the entire album.
The Stooges crashed and burned thereafter. Drugs and more drugs didn’t do them any favours; there was one more album*, Raw Power, and the live compilation Metallic K.O. which heralded new tracks such as ‘Rich Bitch’, which would have made for a phenomenal mid-70s album, but sadly those tracks only exist only in non-produced form.
(*Two inferior post-millennium albums notwithstanding - Ed)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Album Review: Various - Heed The Call! Whakarongo, Nga Tamariki (2017)

Growing up in New Zealand as a young child in the 1970s, my memories of local music are pretty limited, but it always felt as though the decade could be split into two clear and very distinctive halves.

In the first half of the decade I can recall television shows such as Happen Inn and New Faces, and it seemed to me that most of the music being produced here was either very saccharine, or mostly derivative of what was happening on the pop charts internationally. In fact, many of the more high profile homegrown artists - Bunny Walters, Craig Scott, Ray Woolf, Suzanne, et al - were covering or copying exactly what was happening overseas, and it was simply being repackaged for the local market by the major record companies. There were exceptions to this “rule”, naturally.
By the second half of the decade, the local pub-rock circuit had started to offer us a number of bands with fiercely original material; the likes of Dragon, Hello Sailor, Th’ Dudes, and Mi-Sex. Right at the end of the decade, the arrival of punk and new wave - see Suburban Reptiles, Spelling Mistakes, the Scavengers, plus others - ensured the game was changing for the better.

My point being … there never seemed to be a lot else beyond those categories. There was nothing in the middle. It was either the covers and crooners of the earliest vintage, or the edgy rockers of later years. And of course, there was the island that was early Split Enz. I can’t ever recall - beyond a couple of Mark Williams hits - there being much in the way of locally-produced disco, soul, or funk. Sure, that stuff was all over the charts in the mid-to-late 1970s, mostly within the “singles” realm, but not a lot of it came from these shores.

At least that was my perception, and if we didn’t see locally-produced disco and funk music charting on any regular basis, that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t being made. It just wasn’t being produced by the majors or distributed in any vast quantity. And if it wasn’t on the charts, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t being played in one or two of the more progressive nightclubs of the era. Not that I’d know, really … I was just as likely eating peanut butter sandwiches out of a plastic Partridge Family lunchbox at the time.

Which is where Heed the Call! (Whakarongo, Nga Tamariki) comes in. A brand new compilation album (released in December 2017) that showcases “17 Prime Soul, Funk and Disco Cuts” specifically from the Aotearoa of my childhood and early teenage years. Not that we called it Aotearoa back then either. It was still plain old New Zealand, mostly white, colonial, and largely rural …

It’s a terrific collection, lovingly compiled by the history-savvy Alan Perrott and John Baker, with my version being the CD (sadly, not vinyl), one that I had to order after the limited initial production run sold out in a matter of days. I don’t think anybody could have realistically anticipated the level of demand for this album. I certainly hadn’t.

One of the album’s highlights arrives right at the very start, with ‘Voodoo Lady’, a Dalvanius and The Fascinations tune that has so much fluoro disco bling oozing from it, you’ll probably need to wear a pair of dark glasses just to listen to it. Preferably a Bootsy-esque gold-framed pair.

Following on from that scene-setter, we’re introduced to Collision, with a James Brown-defying funktastic ‘You Can Dance’. Truth is though, we’re already familiar with these guys; Dalvanius having used the core of this band on the opener, under the Fascinations moniker.

After the opening double whammy, the listening experience becomes a knee-buckling trip deep into the heart of what was quite clearly a vibrant, yet mostly underground scene. A journey that doesn’t really let up until we reach the breathy closing moments of the album finale, ‘Total Man’, by er, The Totals. Which is quite possibly that band’s only release.

Other highlights include a couple of Mark Williams’ tunes, ‘Disco Lady’ and ‘House For Sale’, something relatively rare from the bold and brassy 1860 Band, ‘That's The Kind Of Love I've Got For You’, plus Herb McQuay’s ‘Night People’.

Of the more commercially established artists to feature, Prince Tui Teka provides the title track, Tina Cross offers ‘You Can Do It’, and Golden Harvest is on hand with that always familiar Kiwi yacht-rock classic ‘I Need Your Love’, which is one of the few chart-bothering tracks included. Larry Morris shows up, after a spell in the clink, with ‘Who Do We Think We're Fooling’, while Ticket, a band I’ve always more readily associated with the rock genre, feature with ‘Mr Music’.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s work here from a few artists that I know very little about; the likes of the Johnny Rocco Band, (the) Inbetweens, Sonia & Skee, and the aforementioned Totals. Where the bloody hell have I been? I knew of the wholesome and religious Pink Family, who offer ‘Don't Give Your Life Away’, but I’d never actually heard their music.

Speaking of family, blood links might well be a theme; aside from the Pinks, there’s the Yandall Sisters (Adele, Mary, and Pauline) with ‘Sweet Inspiration’, and brotherly connections within Golden Harvest (the Kaukaus) and Collision (the Morgans). And of course, whanau was at the heart of, and often involved with, just about everything Dalvanius Prime and Prince Tui Teka ever did …

Heed The Call! is a fascinating compilation, and for the most part, a great listen. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s well worth the wait. Sure there’s some material that hasn’t aged all that well, and there’s a few sizable slabs of cheddar to be consumed, plus there’s a few covers or non-originals, but it’s a disco album, pulling the bulk of its content from the decade that taste forgot … so there’s your context right there.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Porky Post ... Album Review: Scotch Bonnet Presents Puffer's Choice (2016)

Welcoming back Porky, in a guest post capacity …

Reggae and Scotland haven’t had a great deal of history together. Thankfully, the Glasgow-based Mungo’s Hi-Fi has been doing its level-best to rectify that anomaly, on its own, and through the Scotch Bonnet label.

The label is largely a vehicle for Mungo’s but has also furnished a slew of choice reggae, dancehall and dub acts. Puffer’s Choice highlights many of those releases.

Being of Scottish stock myself, and a connoisseur of sounds that have originated from Jamaica, this compilation was a natural choice to buy from an Auckland store last year. There was a touch of the pot luck about the purchase; I was only aware of some of the acts, but given the roster it was clearly going to be a stab in the dark that hit the centre of the heart.

It begins with a rather unusual cover, Kraftwerk’s potty electro hit, ‘The Model’, performed by Prince Fatty; it’s the only track that doesn’t credit a sidekick, though Hollie Cook is the one adding the feminine vocals in place of the Teutonic timbre. This radically alters the nature of the original, making it sound more human and reversing the lyrics from “she’s a model” to “I’m a model”. You have to assume it met with the mercurial Germans’ approval, as permission would have needed to be sought from the writers to change the lyrics.

Rolling back the vibes, The Hempolics’ ‘Love To Sing’ is reworked by Mungo’s Hi Fi into a dancefloor heavyweight, with multiple verses from Solo Banton, complete with an early reggae intro.

Parly B’s contribution, with the assistance of Viktorious, ‘What A Ting’, rails against ethnic cleansing, calling out hypocrites and parasites alike, with a very 80s dancehall background.

There’s some booming bass and rapid-fire lyrics on Zeb & Scotty’s joint effort with Disrupt on the excellent ‘Jah Run Tings’. The first side wraps up with a remix of ‘Dub Invasion’ by the Led Piperz. Keeping the horn sample lifted from the classic King Tubby/Niney The Observer track, ‘Dubbing With the Observer’ which pilots the original version, this remix strips down the riddim to a simpler shuffle. “I know the kind of music that you want us to play, I know the kind of words you want me say… it’s a dub invasion, don’t take it lightly,” sings Solo Banton.

So far so good.

The second half kicks off with a collaboration between veterans Sugar Minott and Daddy Freddy for the appropriately-titled ‘Raggamuffin Rock’. The boys trade verses and it comes out like a good cop/ bad cop interrogation; Minott’s lighter tones make you feel at home, lying on a comfortable sofa with a glass of Islay single malt to hand (or something a little mellower – Ed), but Freddy drags you out into the rain-soaked alley and hits you where it hurts. Strangely, it works.

‘Golden Rule’ gets together Naram behind the boards and Tenor Youthman on vocal duties. It’s a retro-infused ragga cut with a fat bass, and when Youthman sings “if you trouble trouble, trouble will trouble you,” it invokes the genius of 1970s Jamaican star Linval Thompson, who, to this writer, is up there with a certain Mr Marley.  

Mungo’s Hi Fi feature on one of the undoubted standouts, ‘Give Thanks To Jah’ with Mr Williamz spitting rhyme after rhyme on a song that fuses Smiley Culture with Alexei Sayle: “whether you drive Mitsubishi or you drive Honda, whether you drive Mercedes or you drive dem Beamer, and it don’t really matter you a bus passenger, whether you work 9 to 5 or you an entertainer, whether you a MC or selectah.”

The album winds up with Bim One’s collaboration with Macka B, ‘Don’t Stop The Sound’ which uses a thick, wobbling future roots vibe over frantic, auction-paced toasting, and the eerie ‘Dub Controller’ by OBM, which isn’t for the feint-hearted.

Puffer’s Choice is a neat compilation of great dancehall, dub, ragga, old school reggae: and there’s not a bagpipe or bodhran in earshot.

Want more Porky? ... go here

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gig Review: Cigarettes After Sex, Powerstation, Auckland, 8 January 2018

Happy 2018. It’s been a while, and things have been a bit slow around here lately. But I’ve been on holiday. I’ve been permanently drunk. And I’ve been growing a beard. I’m prepared to apologise for only one of these things.

I’ve also been up in Auckland. As recently as last week, in fact. Primarily for the Cigarettes After Sex gig at the Powerstation, and to take a sneaky peek at the recently relocated Real Groovy Records. I had intended to write a timely review, but in truth, more than a week later, I’m still not really sure how I feel about the gig.

On one hand it was quite lovely – flawlessly crafted pop tunes, played to an almost full venue by an immaculately presented clad-in-black band at the absolute peak of its powers. Everything was note perfect, intimate, and the dark and rather solemn stage aesthetic – lighting included – generally matched the sparse emo-flecked nature of the music on offer. The band’s set was pretty much its entire discography – twelve songs, plus a one song encore. The whole thing was blissfully unhurried. An exercise in subtle slowly building intensity. Peaking with masterful take on ‘Apocalypse’.

On the other hand, an entire discography, in this instance, amounts to a gig lasting just a few ticks over an hour. One solitary hour. With no support band on offer. With no new tunes unveiled. With barely a word spoken throughout the set. And that post-‘Apocalypse’ encore turned out to be an anti-climactic ‘Dreaming of You’, from the lesser spotted 2012 EP release. Bar some gentle swaying, nobody danced, and it was the sort of night where I kept waiting for something else to happen. A harsher critic might be moved to describe the whole event as being a little sterile and lifeless, even.

Whatever the case, I left the venue with a sense of needing more. A little bit like how a recovering nicotine addict might feel after having unsatisfactory sex. At the same time, Cigarettes After Sex delivered everything I could realistically expect from an ambient dream-pop outfit specialising in the delicate art of seduction. I knew exactly what the El Paso popsters offered before I bought tickets. I just blindly hoped for something more, so it’s pointless grumbling about it now.

At the very least, it had me thinking about how conditioned I’ve become to expect a more raucous live music experience – be it bold and funky, or in terms of pure raw rock n roll. I guess I just need more energy from a live band, whatever the genre. Or perhaps it’s just that unrealistic expectation is, without question, the mother of all disappointment.

I remain a fan, the band’s self-titled album was one of my stick-on favourites from 2017, and I can scarcely wait for any new recorded material. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be in any great hurry to buy concert tickets next time they visit this part of the world.