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Archive for January, 2014

Back in the 80s if you were growing up (or down) in Britain you could soothe your ears to the dulcet strains of Primal Scream, The Bodines, Shop Assistants, Mighty Mighty, Talulah Gosh and a multitude of 60s-influenced and fiercely independent acts from every corner of the islands.

And if you were in New Zealand durng the same dismal decade you would be blessed with the Dunedin Sound, Flying Nun and the Trick Mammoth parochial but rich scenes of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The Clean lead a charge of The Chills, Bird Nest Roys, the Double Happys et al, bands that were tuneful without being overtly twee as their counterparts in the UK may have been.

Trick Mammoth appear to have the best of both worlds; a Dunedin band but with flowers in their hair and various other parts of their body. A trio that’s not even a year old have just released their debut, Floristry on Fishrider records and Occultation recordings. Trick Mammoth is Millie Lovelock and Adrian Ng on vocals and guitars, and Sam Valentine on drums.

The opening tracks, Baltimore and Pinker Sea, have Lovelock’s dreamy voice at the forefront, but by the third Ng is sharing vocal duties, and takes on more of such responsibilities as the album progresses. It’s a combination I am unsure of; Lovelock alone gives a breathy atmosphere to Baltimore; Ng’s soft but forceful timbre is apt for Days of Being Wild, but sometimes I am left with the feeling that he should be doing this, and that she should do that, and maybe both of them should be doing the same thing. Or differently.

Trick Mammoth are strong believers in love, happiness, the beauty of flowers, the glory of youth and a deep devotion to music, and its role in the hearts and knees of the world’s pre-middle agers.

Baltimore is a classic, get-it-up-ya belter of an opener, but right at the end is its equal, Week End, where Ng and Lovelock become one, a trumpet of chorus-verse-chorus, and with Valentine’s steady drumming it glitters and shines like any post-2002 Belle and Sebastian single.

I am almost sounding effusive about Floristry, and perhaps I have become carried away. But there were moments when I tuned out, especially the first few songs of the ‘second side’ where Trick Mammoth lost momentum and seemed content to regurgitate the first four or five tracks. A little more diversity would not have gone amiss, but Floristry is certainly an entertaining addition to the welter of Dunedin product issued over the past three decades.

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The release of Motorhead‘s humpteenth studio album, Aftershock, provides Porky with the ideal opportunity to inform people (and other animals) that Lemmy and his mob are the only listenable hard rock band around . It’s a naughty way of dissing this outmoded, and generally tuneless, genre.
Porky’s exception is due to the tongue-in-cheek nature of Lemmy’s lyrics, and their knowledge of blues, 50’s rock’n’roll and even punk.Motorhead
It’s a din, still, but a glorious din at that.
Truth be though, the Motorhead modus operandi has been flogged to death and Aftershock is essentially the same chicken breast and cabbage that mother dished up last week. Throw on more salt and pepper and no-one will be complaining.
Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee hit the traps quick, the opener Heartbreaker being as loud and edgy as anything I’ve heard from them in decades, and it’s followed by the equally high-volume, fully-flavoured Coup de Grace. Lost Woman Blues is a detour from the ear-piercing, throat-burning deliveries of the first seven minutes and reveals the ‘Heads love of blues music, and the unique way they can incorporate it on the album.
Lemmy also has some of the best lines in rock’n’roll: “Don’t know what I did last night, but I sure did it good,” on the kick-ass charged-up Do You Believe, or “Give us the time, and we’ll do the crime,” on one of the standouts, Going to Mexico, a road tale that could suitably feature on Sons of Anarchy: The Movie.
Lemmy’s tale of a femme fatale on Queen of the Damned is a classic story of a woman scorned, and no man is a match: “Claws that are sharp, she’ll tear you apart/ Make you into food for the crows.”
The attitude is back, and if this was to be the final ever Motorhead album – an unlikely scenario even though Lemmy is of pensionable age – it would be an immense way to sign off.

 

 

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The Rifles’ debut No Love Lost was a sparkling platter that appealed to mods and artrockers alike, with its Jam-fuelled guitars and nervous energy. It had a definite nod to the Mod revival movement of 1979-80, but equally it stood out at a time when the Gang of Four’s earnest post-punk and Orange Juice were the flavour of the month.

Now the Rifles are firing again (ah, come on, you knew that was coming) with their fourth album, None The Wiser on Cooking Vinyl, which is Riflesincreasingly becoming a safety net for bands that have  may not appeal to major labels, but have a big enough following to justify their faith.

It contains the standard 60s-70s Rifles up-and-at-em riff-heavy rock’n’roll with Joel Stoker’s turbo-charged lyrical style, none more so than on the excellent, super-charged Heebie Jeebie. Go Lucky is a powerful prospective single as good as anything on that debut release. And Catch Her In The Rye is a fine opprtunity to tone the power down a tad, for a beautiful singalong.  You Win Some is a very British display of Californian laidback melodies. “You can’t have the world,” sings Stoker as he retells the familiar story of getting yourself back on your feet.

No-one is ever going to pretend the Rifles are treading new ground, quite the opposite, but what they do is immeasurably good, and None the Wiser is a cracking collection to wipe away those post-holiday blues.

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Another year is over and, as we do every year, here’s our favourite albums of the past 12 months. These are all ones Porky has reviewed, the exception being Hyperbubble and Manda Rin.

The House of Love made a very welcome return after an eight-year hiatus, She Paints Words In Red being their first release for boutique HoLlabel Cherry Red.
It begins, suitably, with a burst of guitars and Chadwick’s plaintive voice on A Baby Got Back On Its Feet. Meanwhile, on Hemingway, he sounds like he’s always done on more sedate tracks, Leonard Cohen attempting to do The Jam.
Other standouts include the reworked Purple Killer Rose, the guitar assault of Money Man, and Never Again which also rattles on at full pelt.
Nevertheless, She Paints Words In Red isn’t the assault on the senses their spiky debut was, nor is it alike any of the subsequent albums; it is it’s own man, a pleasant and joyful listen.

Less rock, more information may be the motto for Public Service Broadcasting as their debut album soars and floats, ably supported by plummy English accents from a bygone age.PBS
Inform – Educate – Entertain (Test Card recordings), is a sprightly set of tracks, relying heavily on samples, electronics as well guitars and drums. And a banjo.
Spitfire is an inspiring burst of shimmering guitars and beats that mingle deftly with samples from the war-based film The First of The Few. As the act’s name suggests, there’s a focus on using samples from public service footage of the past, such as the Conquest of Everest from the same year Hillary knocked the bastard off. The past meets the present, and PSB follow a fine tradition trawled in the 1980s by Big Audio Dynamite and Barmy Army/ Tackhead.

Fat Freddys Drops’ Blackbird is a more than an hour long, but, it has to be said, it is worthy of such longevity. Freddys
Many will pick up on particular styles and they mine their varied influences, including, of all bloody things, country music. An open mind and a willingness to spread the seeds far and wide is admirable. But if you listen to Blackbird with a view to picking up on the reggae, soul or even electronica sounds (Never Moving is slightly reminiscent of Neu!) you are missing the point. Today’s listeners are more attuned to the diversity and eclecticism of albums. That is why Blackbird will appeal to those who file Bob Marley and the Wailers alongside Led Zeppelin.

Niko Ne Zna make an almighty Gypsy/ Balkan cocktail that sounds neither contrived nor from a Serbian village, but Renegadecertainly closer to the latter. They are a curious live experience: the first time I saw them was when I walked into my favourite record store in Wellington (sadly gone) and they were heading my way while playing before facing shocked motorists outside.
Their unusual style (to Western ears and eyes anyway) transfers easily to Renegade Brass Bandits (Monkey records), 10 tracks of high energy Balkan buzz such as the energetic, frenzied Smoked Paprika but there are also more reflective numbers, like Ederlezi. Traditional tracks Kustino and Gankino mingle with the self-penned material.

Tropical Popsicle’s debut Dawn of Delight (Talitres) was surprisingly satisfying.Tropical
It is the kind of record that will garner all sort of reference points, from
1960s garage psych to The Horrors.
They’re a tight unit who I imagine would be mesmerising live with some drug-induced Len Lye-style psychedelic cut-and-paste footage playing on loop in the background. I can’t fault it really, and it is an album that could be played without resorting to the fast forward button. It really comes alive on Ghost Beacons which sounds like the Stone Roses meets Pink Floyd, with some immense, and enthralling guitar work. The Beach With No Footprints is dreamy pop-psych that captures the shoegazing tag the record label seems to appreciate.

Porky’s good friends at Fishrider Records unleashed a quiet classic with the debut album by The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do PopularPopular People.
The Hens are a four-piece who wear their Dunedin badges firmly on their lapels and shout out their love of all things Flying Nun and the requisite label/ city bands, namely The Chills, the Magick Heads et al.
There are Über-jangly guitars, playful drums and earnest basslines aplenty, with the delectable vocals of Penelope Esplin and Karl Bray. At nine tracks and 29 minutes long it isn’t one of those over-long efforts that the compact disk has encouraged. While there’s a distinct and discernible Mainland sound, Left It Out To Shine drips with English eccentricity and the 60s harmonies endlessly repeated that is the bootprint of Stereolab.

Dreadzone transcend genres and Escapades (Dubwiser records) is certainly a bag of birds.Dreadzone
Too Late features Mick Jones, ex of Big Audio Dynamite, and the song borrows the hook from the brilliant post-punk hit single Is Vic There? by Department S. They’re not a band I would have imagined being linked to Dreadzone, but the melding works.
Places has a summer feel and inspiring lyrics; portions of dub-heavy Next Generation hark back to their finest album, Second Light; I Love You Goodbye adapts samples and a ringing telephone quite cleverly; Rise Up pounds away mercilessly, and Fire In The Dark features a female Arabic voice sequenced by dance rhythms and has an insanely driving chant/chorus. This is the closest Dreadzone will get to Bristol.

Chris T-T’s ninth studio album, The Bear (Xtra Mile recordings) offers a refreshing take on the art of writing, with nods to the Kinks and Blur.The Bear The title track adopts the opening lines to PiL’s Rise, “I could be wrong, I could be right” before T-T quickly changes tune: “Well done John, marvellous insight, you think buying and selling your soul would be better/ well picture me giving a damn .. whatever”.
No icon is too big for T-T, and Jesus Christ hails a visionary and laments those who take his name in vain. Then there’s Paperback Kama Sutra, Bury Me With A Scarab and Idris Lung, music that should be for the masses, but won’t, as anything educational, challenging or even topical has long since been ditched in the too hard basket for music’s controllers. But the Hoodrats know a good thing or two, and The Bear is a heavyweight album, of intelligence and is the work of act that’s reaching a peak.

It was touch and go whether the self-titled release by Hyperbubble and Manda Rin on Pure Pop For Now People would even be considered Rinfor inclusion as it’s short and sweet; but it has six tracks that constitutes a mini-album in Porky’s view. This is a team-up between Texan technics Hyperbubble and Rin, formerly of Glasgow indie giants bis. That sounds like an ideal combo to me and on Geometry II there’s a cohesion and understanding even if it mainly relies on Rin intoning ‘Geometry’ at regular intervals.  This is catchy electro-pop with bouncy drums, multi-layered vocals, and a huge sense of fun.

Teenager Nick Raven is eager and persistent, badgering Porky for a review of his debut, and we’re glad he did.  Raven
Love & Lomography (Powertool records) is an album of craftsmanship, desire and passion. Tracks generally veer from the edgy, entrancing psychedelic efforts of Butterfly and Sitting & Laughing, with folkier moments such as Love and Drown. For an 18-year-old Raven has a worldy-wise head on his shoulders, and this reminds me a little of an acoustic Kasabian or the House of Love. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this kid.

 

Worst Album of the Year

No contest, really, it was by a country mile, The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, which we said about: “Listening to the disk is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. The opening track, I Should Live In Salt, is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km speed limit for its entirety.”

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