Archive for May, 2009

The Tunnel

The Mt Victoria road tunnel was opened in 1931, an era when cars didn’t have seat belts or indicators, nor passengers really as only the wealthy could afford them.
It is the only real link (other than a couple of circuitous detours) connecting Wellington’s international airport and its populous eastern suburbs, and the city centre and everywhere north of it. It’s usually clogged with traffic and is not a pleasureable drive.

Hell, driving doesn’t compare to walking though. The ageing thoroughfare has a raised walkway along the side, with space enough for two skinny people walking extremely close together. One of them has to be no more than 5′ tall to avoid hitting their head against the slope.

It’s also used by cyclists who just slam past, not giving a toss if a pedestrian’s forced onto the waist-height wall, or thrown into the traffic below.
Walking through is a fucker enough with the pollution and incessant noise of traffic, then you’ve got this bizarre Wellington tradition: tooting the horn in the Mt Vic tunnel. That’s a bit of an ear-bleeder.

No-one can quite say what the reasoning behind this is but most drivers just seem to like the orchestral sound of the horn in this claustrophobic alleyway.
One day I’m going to walk through with a banner saying ‘toot if you’re an arsehole’.

Many people who walk through it, do so every day, the cost of the bus being prohibitive for a short journey to the other side and the only foot alternative being the steep climb over the forested Town Belt, which is a must-avoid at night.
Initial predictions, back in the late 20s, were for 4,000 cars per day. By 1995 it was 33,000 per working day and godknows what it is today.

I walked through the tunnel today, with my iPod playing Massive Attack at near full volume and I still could barely hear Morningson. My lungs need a good airing now.
Just thought I’d let you know, should you ever drive through.

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Who? Novalima

Title: Coba Coba

Label: Cumbancha

Tell me more: Latin rhythms from Peru. Peru? As a Scottish football fan the very word strikes fear into my heart, 31 years after the calamity in Argentina. I’ll say no more other than 3-1 defeat, when we were supposed to win the bloody World Cup, as Ally MacLeod told us often enough. Based in Lima (the clue’s in the band’s name), this four-piece, and their expansive guest-list of singers and musicians, have delved into the origins of the nation’s music, brought over by slaves, and introduced a fresh, modern shine.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Latin music is not the sole preserve of Cuba and Brazil, so free hugs to Novalima for highlighting what kind of music can come from the smaller Latin American countries. It’s laced with reggae, hip hop and folk to create a real melting pot of hot tunes.  The package provides background notes to each track and there’s an intriguing tale of how the debut album was recorded in 2002.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The desire to appeal to fans of rootsier music and also to those who like dance music means that, sometimes, the true spirit of the music is lost in a soiree of dance beats and production.


Who? Taniwha

Title: Snap Happy

Label: Jayrem records

Tell me more: Taniwha, the Maori name for a fabulous monster that resides in deep water, is Hinemoana Baker and Christine White, two renowned singers in their own right, in New Zealand.

Why the fek should I listen to this? For two individual performers, Baker and White work well on Snap Happy, which is a cohesive body of folk, pop tunes, and ballads with some tunes sung in Maori. I’d buy just for a track called Dumb White Girl and there’s a remarkable use of a Casiotone keyboard on Rest Home.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? If you get to the end of this column, you will appreciate why I personally have trouble coming to grips with this type of music.

Trivia: They use instruments acquired from a recycling station, including a cheese grater and steel wine rack, though the Casiotone keyboard cost $NZ1.


Who? Corey Harris

Title: Zion Crossroads

Label: Telarc

Tell me more: Build me a spliff and get me a tri-coloured beanie. Real reggae is back. Once the domain of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth et al, it’s now mutated  into the odious dancehall and played at the same pace as Usain Bolt runs. Zion Crossroads was first released in 2007 and has been given a new lease of life, presumably on account it was given bugger all publicity first time round.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Like the reggae of the 1970s, Harris turns to subjects close to his heart – the modern day slavery in a Sweatshop, the necessity of keeping an identity going to prevent the vultures “swooping down” (Keep Your Culture) and hailing an old rights campaigner, Walter Rodney. That flavoured smoke feels so nice with Crossroads playing in the background.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? That question doesn’t even merit an answer.


Who? Drive-By Truckers

Title: Brighter than Creation’s Dark

Label: New West records

Tell me more: Double-cd of Americana, split into four ‘sides’ a la an old vinyl record.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Country-tinged but with a feel of the Rolling Stones  (3 Dimes Down) and Neil Young (The Righteous Path). The tracks are stories. Daddy Needs a Drink hardly needs an explanation from me.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? I can’t fault the writing process: Poignant lyrics and beautifully-crafted words. But musically it’s crashed into that black hole called country music.

Attic dweller



Who? Motorhead

Title: Ace of Spades

Label: Sanctuary

Tell me more: I only have one heavy metal album: this. Though they have a fanbase of unwashed, long-haired rockers I would be reluctant to pigeon-hole them strictly as greasy metallers, as their appeal crosses over to punks and people who just like the amps cranked up to 11.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Ace of Spades was released in 1980 at the height of the band’s – and heavy metal’s – success. Screachy title track hit No.4 in the UK charts there’s other corkers in (We Are) The Road Crew, and Love Me Like a Reptile. Those two titles are fairly explanatory, but there’s subtelty, if a lack of seriousness therein. The CD version I have came out in 2005 and has a second disk of alternative versions, the b-side to …Spades and a session recorded for the BBC’s David ‘Kid’ Jensen at the time.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The best of the bunch they might be, but Motorhead could also be predictable, the crash, bang, wallop sound sometimes becoming tedious.

Trivia: Roadies, the bottom-feeders of rock’n’roll tours,  are usually berated by the band, while living off their cast-off drugs. The sleeve dedicates  (We Are) The Road Crew to various people who “helped, got drunk, humped gear, girls etc.” possibly the first ever paen to the proles who keep the tour rolling, with little reward in return, except the drugs, booze, chicks etc etc etc

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