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Archive for April, 2014

MAXIMO PARK were one of a raft of “post post-punk” bands who sprung up about a decade ago, and featured regularly in Art Rocker magazine.
The truth, however, is Maximo Park shared little in common with Bloc Party, the Young Knives, Franz Ferdinand, The Rakes, Lomax, The Futureheads et al. All had different influences, but they all had nice ties, sharp guitars and songs that would clock in under three and a half minutes, so were generally banded together.

The standard version

The standard version

They had an immense early single, Graffiti (“I’ll do graffiti if you sing to me in French”) and a dazzling debut album, A Certain Trigger, containing a clutch of hits and potential hits, such as Limassol and Going Missing.

 

So here we are, at album No.5, Too Much Information, a work that may lack the immediacy and thrust of Trigger, so requires more attention, and for that, an attention to detail. It’s an album that’s on location: singer and primary songwriter Paul Smith takes us to “near the Palace Hotel”, “on Princess Street where we used to meet”, and another hotel, this time on a Scottish island; he even takes us to a floodlit tennis court and the Observation Lounge of that Scottish hotel. Details and information are important to Smith, as the title mockingly suggests.
Unusually, the notes contain recommended reading, books by the likes of Alan Warner and Lydia Davis, the character in Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry.

The deluxe edition with a five-track EP

The deluxe edition with a five-track EP

Maximo Park hail from Newcastle, north-east England, a place where the accent is only understandable to the natives. Smith makes little attempt to disguise his accent on record, and it sounds all the better for it.
This is an album that has a storytelling thread, you’re working what is happening in that remote hotel, (Leave This Island), and questioning why people are playing sports at night (Midnight On The Hill).
This bookishness is reflected in Her Name Was Audre, who is lodged in the local library, on the rockiest of the 11 tracks. It concludes with Where We’re Going, one of those slumbersome tracks that bands tag on at the end of the album, as if it is too embarrassing to be any higher.
Let’s rewind. Give, Get, Take is the kind of opener you’d expect: confident, robust and entertaining. Second up, Brain Cells, is part-confessional, part inward looking, done to a cast-off Royksopp B-side. Leave This Island, as we’ve already discovered, is set in a remote area, and sounds like it would be the music being played in the car as a couple return home after a tense and relationship-defining weekend away.
The bookish tendencies and the considered lyrics give Too Much Information a certain gravitas; but this also kinds some basic faults. Musically, it sounds tired and insipid, other than Give, Get, Take and Her Name Was Audre. There are songs that look good on paper, but sound stodgy. But, as I said earlier, it requires patience, and this will bring rewards.

 

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Dammers that man

In an extraordinary move, the South African government is to present to Jerry Dammers the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo award for his 1984 hit Free Nelson Mandela and his campaign against the apartheid regime.
This, the government in Pretoria say, is to recognise the former Specials man “for his excellent musical contribution to the international Free Mandela Campaign and his involvement in the influential Artists Against Apartheid.”Special AKA
I couldn’t agree more. While Free Nelson Mandela, as a pop song, was never going to influence the racist regime in Pretoria, or their allies in the west, it helped stir the people’s consciousness and raise awareness of what was happening in South Africa. It was a big hit in Britain and No.1 in New Zealand, three years after the anti-Springbok protests that rocked the nation. Despite being banned in South Africa, it was circulated by cassette and become a sort of anthem for the freedom movement.

 
Artists Against Apartheid was mainly an American musicians group but Dammers formed the British wing. In this role he helped put together the 1986 anti-apartheid concert in London which attracted about 200,000 people, and the Nelson Mandela birthday concert at Wembley Stadium two years later, massive events, both on a physical and a cultural level.
Other non-South Africans to be honoured for their contribution to the anti-aparthied struggle include Richard Attenborough, Quincy Jones, and Danny Glover, who played Nelson Mandela in a TV movie.
Dammers was the man behind the Two-Tone label and the keyboardist and primary songwriter of multi-racial act The Specials, who infused the spirit and creativity of punk with the energy of ska. After their less than amicable breakup, Dammers formed The Special Aka, best known for Free Nelson Mandela, and they left behind one album, the under-rated In The Studio, which with its dark undertones and eerie keyboards marked a radical departure from The Specials. Dammers now leads The Spatial AKA Orchestra.

 

 

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I’ve previously blogged on how invaluable Record Store Day is to the music industry (see two previous blogs); it’s an excellent idea with the shops having DJs and acts instore, and even a sausage sizzle.
But I have to say that the pricing of some items left me a bit deflated afterwards. I appreciate that vinyl is costlier than CDs and that there will be a markup from items coming from overseas. But there was quite a disparity in pricing. At one store in Wellington the Joy Division EP, an Ideal for P1060884Living reissue, was being sold for $40 (£20), which for four tracks did seem a bit steep. Nevertheless, I had a budget and was under that at the time so paid for it. I was unhappy therefore to find the next day at another store that it was being sold for $17. This is a store that is able to buy bulk and sell on for less than most stores, but it was still a big difference.
It is also easy to get sucked into the ‘Record Store Day only release’ ethos. I got the new 7” single by The Phoenix Foundation, Bob Lennon John Dylan/ Asswipe for $20. Three days after Record Store Day an email was issued by Universal Music New Zealand announcing the release of the Tom’s Lunch EP, that included both the above tracks, plus three others.
This is on CD and all digital formats. Many fans will prefer these formats but the Phoenix Foundation do have a large fanbase that buy their material on vinyl, so they are effectively losing out on three tracks that fill out the EP, or spend up to obtain the full release.
Nonetheless, aside from these grips I can’t speak more highly of Record Store Day. It is an idea born of changing buying tastes but is also born of a commitment to vinyl and quality music.

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Some artefacts purloined from Slow Boat records and Rough Peel in Wellington, on Saturday. Altogether this pretty wee pile could have paid for the car registration and left me with enough for an AA membership. So, money well spent.

P1060882

The legendary Flying Nun release with The Chills, Sneaky Feelings, The Stones and the Verlaines. Choice.

Joy Division: An Ideal For Living EP. Say no more.

Joy Division: An Ideal For Living EP. Say no more.

The first band of Shayne Carter who later formed Straitjacket Fits. One of the first Flying Nun releases.

The first band of Shayne Carter who later formed Straitjacket Fits. One of the first Flying Nun releases.

One I really wasn't expecting to see. A collection of rarities, some of which I have heard, some I don't even know about. Not new, has been doing the rounds, but I saw this for the first time on Saturday.

One I really wasn’t expecting to see. A collection of rarities, some of which I have heard, some I don’t even know about. Not new, has been doing the rounds, but I saw this for the first time on Saturday.

Paul Weller double A-sided single. Like last year's special 7" issue I expect this to be a corker.

Paul Weller double A-sided single. Like last year’s special 7″ issue I expect this to be a corker.

A true punk classic, from 1978. Hearing this was being released after all these years made my knees wobble. Fantastic insert and postcard too.

A true punk classic, from 1978. Hearing this was being released after all these years made my knees wobble. Fantastic insert and postcard too.

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Porky the record hoover is looking forward to Record Store Day on Saturday. Immensely. It’s an event that fills up independent stores around the world, and offers vinyl collectors the chance to snap up items specifically released/ reissued for the event. If only it could be held every weekend.

Last year I couldn’t move for people in Slow Boat and Rough Peel records in Wellington, normally fairly sedate places on a Saturday afternoon. Even the record store out in Lower Hutt, Mint Music, reported a roaring trade. This album by The Scavengers is one of the many special releases.
Scavengers

As well as the special records being released – about 700 I have read, only some of which I guess will be available in the stores I will frequent – numerous bands will squeeze their equipment into a corner where the bargain bins normally are and perform a brief set.

As you’re probably aware, and the landing page provides a clue, Porky is a big vinyl fan. He bought his first record on the recommendation of his mother, at any age when he wasn’t old enough to realise that mother’s recommendations on cooking and how to deal with difficult children are worth listening to, but not their choices of music. For the record it as the Everly Brothers. Likesay, a long time ago.

My regular readers may also recall a series of articles about record stores old and new that we hold dear.

Check them out here … No.1, No.2, No.3

Porky’s record collection of possibly thousands of albums, 10″ EPs, singles and flexi disks, has stagnated due to the lack of new material being released in the format. Oh yeah, and he hasn’t had a record player for five years. I know, I can’t believe that either, but having moved around a bit it’s hard to haul it all around.

Since the turntable was installed in the lounge of the sty, all sorts of weird and wonderful shit have been spinning around and around and around. Cheap buys in charity shops, specially bought new singles from Real Groovy, new wave albums, and whatever else has built up in that time have finally been getting a good airing. At least they were ’till my young daughter tried to play the B-side of a record and scrunched the needle, requiring Porky to splash out on a new one.

All sorted and the thing is ready for more action after I spend money earmarked for food and the electricity bill on Saturday.

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