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Posts Tagged ‘Wellington’

I AM TERRIBLY excited to tell you all that the Wellington Central Library is to stock vinyl again from next month. Yes, it fucking is!!!

I saw the music chaps a couple of months ago sizing up the area and couldn’t quite believe my eyes: vinyl being loaned out at libraries once again? After 15 years away?!

This truly shows that vinyl is now THE main form of listening to music.

I do harbour some doubts though: given the condition some oafsome oiks leave a CD in after hiring it, I’m feaful of what condition the records will be when they are returned. I am confident that most people who take the records out are considerate and will treat them as they would their own. But it only takes a few selfish eejits to spoil it for the majority.

Wellington Libraries’ music man, Monty Masseurs (stop it, he is not a porn star) has gone out to Slow Boat records to carefully chose a good few hundred items for sensible folk to borrow.

See some of them in this promo clip the library has done itself:

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I EXPECTED THE unexpected from The Fall and got exactly what I, erm, expected.

Mark E. Smith is pop’s grumpy, eccentric old coot, a man giving a good impression of James Bolan appearing as Terry’s dad in the remake of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads. I also pictured him as the daft old git who has just come out of the betting shop and cadges you for five bucks so he can put on another horse.

On Sunday night this true English eccentric and his cohorts were playing a heaving, and typically ageing crowd, at the Bodega in Wellington. I imagined this being The Fall’s first time in New Zealand, and wasn’t going to do the research to usurp my uneducated claims, but I did overhear someone at the bar saying they saw The Fall in Christchurch in 1982, supported by The Clean. Now that would have a gig and three quarters.

Smith and co took a little time to get themselves sorted, and at 10.17 the first strains of Smith could be heard, without anyone being seen on stage. He was uttering words incoherently, a fine tradition he upheld for the entire gig, sometimes with two mics in his hands.

Crap photo courtesy of Craig Haggis

Crap photo courtesy of Craig Haggis

The Fall in 2015 comprises Peter Greenway (guitar), Keiron Melling (drums), Elena Poulou (keyboards,vocals), and David Spurr (bass). Once members would only be in for a short spell as Smith dispensed with their services as quickly as he did with his evening sandwich, but this unit appear to be in it for the long haul.

The first few songs I don’t recognise, partly because, I presume, The Fall are playing most of the current album, The Sub-Lingual Tablet, Smith being no great fan of his back catalogue. This album is so new I haven’t had a chance to subject my ears to it. As he hovered around the stage the Mancunian would occasionally fiddle with Greenway’s amp to boost the sound, with the guitarist then obliged at the end of the song to turn around and return it to normal.

The finest ten minutes comes in the shape of the rousing, clattering, boisterous Theme From Sparta FC, with a spectacular finale.

There’s a brief break before the mob return for a welcome take on the mini hit Mr Pharmacist, before they quickly disappear again, leaving an instrumental tape playing and all the expectation of a second encore, which doesn’t happen.

Then we all went home, passing a merchandise table that sold nothing more than the CD of Sub-Lingual Tablet, and the vinyl version of the same album. The glasses have never been rosy-tinted in the Smith household.

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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. But I have to confess that, after my experiences with inconsiderate cyclists, I now hoot just as I’m passing them in my car, hoping to  give them a jolt.

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.

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 God knows what it is today.

There are plans for alternative tunnels, which may well ease congestion in the tunnel and new Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown has put transport at the top of her hitlist, perhaps leading to such radical innovations as light rail in the city.

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

* This is a slightly revised version of an article posted in 2009.

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The Phoenix Foundation are a six-piece from the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, who are one for the tuned-in.

They’re not the attention-grabbing, headline-making, hype-spinning band that the country sometimes produces and, unlike some of those particular acts – chose your own from the list – are capable of making some Damn Good Pop Music.

Buffalo (EMI) is the latest example of a sound that’s captivating with a thoughtful touch. Please take a trip through the city’s Town belt and hill suburb of Mt Victoria on the opening track, Eventually, and take your brolly with you.

Be enchanted by by the child-friendly Flock of Hearts, be invigorated by Pot and singalong like a mad thing to the wonderfully fruity lyrics of Orange & Mango.

Buffalo is a gloriously simple record, one that is very New Zealand in its themes, but also sounds like it could traverse traditional musical snobbery and parochialism, and appeal to, say, indie fans in Manchester.

It’s the fourth album from a band that’s been around since the late 90s, and is garnering positive reviews from the national press.

The ride began with the debut album Horse Power in 2003, progressing through Pegasus (2005), and Happy Ending (2007) which was given a decent run when released on limited scale in the UK.

Before a gig in Wellington, as part of their national tour, I caught up with frontman Samuel Scott in one of the city’s cozy wee cafes.

How’s the tour going?

The tour’s been going great. We’ve just had a show at the Powerstation in Auckland which sold out. That’s pretty cool as that’s probably the biggest venue we’ve ever played at, so it felt like we were stepping up another level.

After this tour I believe you’re going to London?

Later in the year, that’s the plan. We did a soft release of Happy Ending last year, putting it out on iTunes and doing limited runs at Rough Trade stores and other independent stores. On the back of that it got great reviews, such as in The Independent newspaper, so we felt we should go back there and capitalise on that. Hopefully, we’ll get a record deal over there soon.

Tell me about the recording of Buffalo, as it was done a little bit differently.

Yeah, we did some of the initial recording work at our own studio so we had more time to mull over the first set of ideas but we also worked from those initial recordings, so in a way we turned what were kind of demos into finished recordings. On previous records we fussed over things in the studio and over-worked them. On this one I think we got it just right. It was definitely an un-angsty album to make and I think it sounds like our least angsty album to date.

It seems to have worked as the reviews have been pretty good.

Well, people have been either calling it our best album or our worst one. Personally, I think it’s got qualities that weren’t on the last album. Happy Ending has that extra level of professionalism and big kind of big radio-friendly rock tunes but Buffalo has a humble quality to it which I relate back to Horse Power, our first record, so it’s more of a continuation of what we were doing six/ seven years ago, sort of bedroom recording music, low-key and intimate. It’s very close to our heart in terms of the music we want to be making.

And I guess doing things here in Wellington and New Zealand is very different from how you would do those things in London and Europe?

We have a lot more time in Wellington, like what I was saying about recording in our own studio here. But finding the same kind of kind of facilities is almost impossible in London, people are actually recording in their bedrooms because that’s the only place they have to do something. The two cities are so different in so many spheres. I like London, there’s always things happening there but I mainly enjoyed London as a travelling musician. I don’t think I could live there for too long, it’s too fast. I’ve lived in Wellington all my life and there’s so much more for me to enjoy here.

And there’s a bit of a Wellington influence on Buffalo, for example there’s a line in the opening track, Eventually, about Mt Victoria, which obviously would mean little to people in Christchurch and Auckland but clearly means a lot to yourself.

Yeah, that song’s about going for a walk in the Town Belt around Wellington during stormy days, something I enjoy quite a lot, going out in the worst-possible day and actually embracing the awful weather in this town, such as what we’re having today (it was raining heavily – ed). Wellington doesn’t always influence the way we write but it does creep in.

Are you benefitting from downloads or suffering because of them?

We do okay sales wise, every record feels like it’s getting us to more people. We’re not particularly concerned with the shrinking of the CD market because as long as you keep innovating, things will pick up in some way that no-one has picked up on yet. And vinyl sales have picked up over the last couple of years, they make up a really tiny proportion of the market but they’ve gone up quite a lot and they appeal to people who like us, to a slightly older audience who want that high sound quality. And if it’s a download, they want a decent sound not a crappy MP3 from a file-sharing site.

And what about solo projects, I know the band members like to do their own thing outwith the Phoenix Foundation, are there any plans on the horizon?

Not from me at the moment. I’m just focused on the Phoenix Foundation and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to push Buffalo, and try and get it out there overseas. I’m already thinking of another Phoenix Foundation record before any solo project. I had a lot of fun doing those solo records and soundtracks but I’m really excited about the band again and being part of a group.

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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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