Label: Border Music
Tell me more: New Zealand has a strong tradition of reggae, roots and dub. Over the years, while reggae in its homeland Jamaica and in places like Britain has largely become dancehall, in Aotearoa it remains fairly true to its origins, often insterspersed with soul or even jazz.
Why the fek should I listen to this? Sometimes, modern reggae falls flat because the artist is trying too hard to be faithful to Bob Marley and other legends, or, conversely, they don’t respect the music enough. But Hikoikoi sound like they have mastered their art. Every track hits a high standard, but I will reserve a special mention for Prophetless, as it tackles how the rich are made and sustain their control: “From the profit of poor nations/ You built your foundations/ Leader puppets you employed them/ Leader puppets will destroy them.”
Tena rawa atu koe Eru for allowing me to hear this and Tiki Taane’s remix album, Flux.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? As it’s one of the albums of 2009, probably not.
Trivia: Much of Hikoikoi was recorded in an isolated boatshed in Hikoikoi Reserve (where the band took their name) in Petone, north of Wellington.
Who? Spinal Tap
Title: Back From The Dead
Label: The Label Industry
Tell me more: A pumped up to 11 special edition from rock’s most legendary legends. In 1984, the film This Is Spinal Tap was released and it was kinda popular. This is the soundtrack, updated with six extra songs and reworkings of the others as well as an hour-long DVD featuring the ageing trio explaining the “meanings” of each track and … AND … a pop-up diorama package that unveils three 12-inch action figures along with a pop-up Stonehenge (almost actual size).
Why the fek should I listen to this? From Cups and Cakes to the misogynistic cover of Smell the Glove, the film and its accompanying soundtrack cover the Tap’s gloriously inept career and comeback tour in the USA. Morrissey or Dylan could never have written lyrics such as “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo/ I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Jesus, if you don’t like the album, or the DVD, bin them .. cos it got a pop-up diorama action package! Oh bugger, Nigel Tufnel’s got caught in my shirt sleeve.
Trivia: Early video versions of the film had a special disclaimer inserted at the end stating that the band did not actually exist, for all the very stupid people in the world.
Who? Aleks and the Ramps
Title: Midnight Believer
Tell me more: Melbourne five-piece with one album, Pisces vs Aquarius (2007), behind them.
Why the fek should I listen to this? You’re probably familiar with Australia’s greatest musical talents – Rolf Harris, Slim Dusty, Peter Andre, the chap who plays Paul Robinson on Neighbours … but actually there’s some other guys and gals who make records. Among them The Ramps, who have a dark outlook on life (“Reading the result of your autopsy, I could swear that you were watching me”) matched by an equally dark sense of humour. And that comes out in the music on Midnight Believer, a mixture of at times uplifting indie rock, a la Walking the Garden, that has some gloriously disjointed riffs, and more sober moments, notably the first half of Circa 1992 Ideas before it suddenly becomes something of a pop song. Titles such as Destroy the Universe With Jazz Hands suggest they are either far from serious or completely bonkers.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Midnight Believer lacks enough ideas to sustain it for a whole album, and falls flat at certain points. Maybe a mini album may have been more appropriate.
Trivia: Their website lists individual band members functions including: snoring duck, Swiss cheese and extreme wheeze.
Who? Ido Tavori
Title: Rhythm Is A Beggar
Label: Love Poem records
Tell me more: Tavori, a British-based Israeli, is the founder of Love Poem records, an outlet for experimental, underground music.
Why the fek should I listen to this? Rhythm Is A Beggar expounds upon Tavori’s love of urban underground beats, stirring in lashings of hip-hop, downbeat and electronica. An intriguing 26-minute trawl through a genre that continues to mutate and develop.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? There are breaks in this love-in for some hip-hop lyricism which does not quite work on this kind of largely mellow and experimental album.
Trivia: Although the cover names the artist as Ido Tavori, the spine attributes the music to Ido Tavori & friends.
Who? The Undertones
Title: An Anthology
Tell me more: Two-disk trawl through the wonderful career of a wonderful Northern Ireland new wave band of the late 70s/ early 80s era. First disk is of singles, album tracks and b-sides. Second disk live tracks, demos, rehearsals and rough mixes.
Why the fek should I listen to this? Normally I try to avoid best ofs, but given that 27 of the 56 tracks here are from the vaults and there’s plenty of obscurities among the remainder, this is clearly an effort made with love and devotion. Also includes a neat booklet with a history lesson and details of where and when each track was recorded (though sadly not where released). Played to death by DJ John Peel, Teenage Kicks has become the girls and chocolate-fuelled adrenalin anthem for the ‘Tones but they possessed loftier ambitions and subsequently made scores of short bursts of fantastic pop classic. My Perfect Cousin may have been the first top 10 hit to mention table-football game Subbuteo.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? I was wary of the outtakes and whatever else they could find bonus disk, but I find the rough-and-ready quality of these straight-from-cassette recordings quite endearing. But I have to take issue with the chronology. Putting debut single Teenage Kicks among later, more seductive, tracks is bemusing. By the early 80s the Undertones had become more soulful, and there’s an ill-fitting feeling to those tracks following or preceeding rip-snorting punk-inspired singles.
Trivia: A reformed Undertones (minus Feargal Sharkey) sometimes play support act to a little-known outfit called Celtic FC at Parkhead these days.
Who? The Beautiful South
Tell me more: There are far more famous albums by the Beautiful South than this, but I chose this deliberately as it’s one of the latter works from the Hull band, released in 2006, when they’d lost their lustre and ability to sell albums by the vanload. Neither Gaze (2003) nor the collections of cover versions, Golddiggas Headnodders & Pholk Songs (2004) would be described as anything more than average.
Why the fek should I listen to this? Superbi has all the usual elements to a Beautiful South album – tales of lost and lost and the rain in Manchester. The opening track and The Cat Loves The Mouse sound like old South, catchy and captivating.
Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? The South were a pivotal band of the early 1990s but all albums since have struggled to match the brilliance of 0898 or Choke. The same can be said of the country-tinged Superbi but there are several highlights and it does grow after a few listens. Eight months after its release the band split up.
Trivia: In a recruitment drive reminiscent of the Human League signing up two schoolgirls after Phil Oakey saw them dance at a Sheffield disco, Jacqui Abbott was stacking shelves in a supermarket before being enlisted by Paul Heaton after he heard her sing at an after-show party.