Who? Tommy Ill
Title: Tommy Ill
Tell me more: Ill has released three EPs of non-macho rap: Toast & Tea Kettles (2007), Matchsticks (2008) and Come Home Mr Ill (2009), the first on Empathy Recordings before his transfer to LOOP.
The Lowdown: Tommy boy could be New Zealand’s answer to Welsh hip-hop grates Goldie Looking Chain; a rapper without the hard-man posturing, egotism, chauvinism and opportunism of so many of his contemporaries. Au contraire Rodney, Ill’s debut is full of party tracks, packed with dry witticisms, and cheeky rhymes that drop various samples, including The Carpetbaggers, a sprightly instrumental made famous by the BBC’s Money Programme. Tommy Il the album features a track called A Robot, with a guest appearance by A Robot and is about A Robot (“he goes out at night and takes robot drugs”) . Alas, Tommy Ill seems to think he’s in California rather than Aotearoa judging by the vocal mannerisms and some of the things I’m hearing. Otherwise it’s fine for a rap album.
Anything else? Ill has been known at live shows to climb on furniture, and be given a piggyback around the stage by crew members.
Who? Chris Difford
Title: Cashmere If You Can
Label: Saturday Morning Music Club
Tell me more: I was being sent an email a minute by an over-eager promo company telling me about Difford’s new concept, releasing a single a week for ten weeks. Fans would subscribe to the Saturday Morning Music Club and receive a download of a track per week. Shades of the Wedding Present who released a single in every month of 1992 and had a hit in the British charts with each one, regardless of quality. Now Difford’s put all the tracks together on a CD.
The Lowdown: A wonderfully Squeezy title from a songwriter who keeps the curious English observational style very much alive. With the onus on creating singles rather than album tracks, Cashmere If You Can jumps from one joyous catchy singalong to another, with a few slowdowns tagged on. On Like I Did, Difford tells a familiar parental tale, of how kids do exactly what they did once: “He’s getting stoned (like I did), he plays bass (like I did), he lays in bed like I did, how can I complain.”
Meanwhile, Difford relates a story of a young man, who with some skinheads mugged an old lady, “just because we could” as well as some other stupid things done Back In The Day. Society is awash with vacuous lyrics and music, so it’s refreshing to hear tales of regret, of young men leaving their loved ones to go to war, and the problems of noise in a small house, sung by someone who’s not just observing society, but who has lived some of the tales he puts to tape.
Who? Robert Scott
Title: Ends Run Together
Label: Flying Nun
Tell me more: The captivating angle to this release isn’t the artist, who I will get back to, but the label. From 1981 Flying Nun was run on the hoof and despite the manner it operated – on enthusiasm rather than a business ethos – propelled numerous Kiwi bands into the stratosphere, from The Clean and the Chills to my own personal favourite Straitjacket Fits. Thankfully, after years of neglect, founder Roger Shepherd bought it back and has released albums by Grayson Gilmour and Die! Die! Die! (see last Lowdown). Hurrah and lashings of ginger beer and paeroa all round.
The Lowdown: For someone ingrained in the Flying Nun ethos, being responsible for many album covers, and an integral member of both The Bats and The Clean, it’s appropriate that the Nun revival continues with Robert Scott. Ends Run Together sometimes sounds like an appropriation of The Clean Bats, and on alternative listens appears like it has eschewed Scott’s past, as he performs the role of a man who’s creative urges may not always have got the release they should in previous bands. Now, he has an outlet for his own songs, ideas, loves, hates, instruments, etc. There is, therefore, chugging indie rock – opening track On The Lake – to pastoral folk (Days Run Together) and it all works beautifully as it usually does down in Dunedin.
Anything else? Also features Clean frontman David Kilgour and Lesley Paris, the former drummer of another Otago band, Look Blue, Go Purple.