Vinyl Crackle - Out of Print 2

I was talking to someone about stereos the other day and we got on to talking about turntables. I love listening to vinyl but, like many people I suppose, the convenience of CDs and digital music, not to mention the busy fingers of the household toddler mean that I don't do it that often. However, the conversation prompted me to scramble around in the cupboard under the stairs to which my records have been banished by the toddler's mother and pull out a few gems. I then spent a great evening sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, headphones on. And since none of these records have been released on CD I made digital copies too.

The Hallelujah Picassos heyday was in the early to mid nineties when they released a couple of albums and EPs of their unique meld of hardcore, reggae and ska. Live the band were phenomenal, a high energy, punky-reggae party. Every time I saw them live I came away soaked with sweat, deaf and raving about how brilliant they were. My first encounter with the Picassos was a few years earlier when they had a song 'Clap Your Hands' included on a Pagan Records compilation Positive Vibrations. I saw a clip for it on Radio With Pictures, and although at that point they were still developing their sound I loved their brattishness and cheek as they leaped around, the song descending to thrash, the band all chanting "clap your hands, clap your hands, clap your hands . . . for jesus".

I've written before about how great the Crawlspace record store was. It was there that I picked up a limited edition 8" plastic lathe cut single by Trough, a duo from Palmerston North, who on the song 'Avondale race 10' play along to commentary of said horse race. Trust me, it's better than it sounds. Trough also released three other lathe cut singles but none of them matches the energy or originality of this song. Best NZ song about horses I can think of.

David Eggleton is probably best known to many New Zealanders as a book reviewer in The Listener. Also a prolific poet, Eggleton has collaborated with a number of musicians over the years to release three albums of his poetry set to music. Eggleton's poetry is all quick fire word play and commentary on NZ culture, politics and society delivered with a staccato rhythm . I think his 1987 album Wake Up is the best, but unfortunately it's vinyl only so I've included 'I Saw It In The NZ Herald' on the podcast. You can download the whole of his 1993 CD Poetry Demon here.

In 1986 Eggleton released a joint album with ?Fog which resulted in a short film clip that received a couple of plays on Radio With Pictures, but I remember them best for their 1985 EP, recorded without Eggleton, Fat Man With A Big Dork. The EP received a fair bit of student radio airplay at the time. The title track is a classic but I also really like 'Five Heads of State', which I've included below as a blog only exclusive.

David Mitchell and The Renderers are two of the artists appearing on I Hear The Devil Calling Me, a 1991 sampler of acts on the lo-fi Xpressway label. The compilation features 12 bands but it's only a 7" single so they only get around a minute each. Xpressway was a label set up by Bruce Russell of The Dead C from his Port Chalmers home that garnered a world-wide cult following in indie / experimental circles. In fact I Hear the Devil . . . was released on the American label Drag City.

Chris Knox has now notched up 30 years of music making, from his days with The Enemy through Toy Love to the Tall Dwarfs and his solo material and now The Nothing. And while he has long been recognised critically, it would be fair to say that commercial success has eluded Mr Knox. Hopefully the recent placement of one of his songs in an international TV commercial will bring some well-deserved financial reward. It is now more than half his career ago that Knox released 'Song for 1990', a satirical comment on the outbursts of patriotic self congratulation that marked New Zealand's sesqui year. This EP and a 1996 American re-issue as Songs From 1990 are long out of print, but there is a must-see clip of Knox performing the song live on Australian TV on the video page.

You might also want to check out an earlier episode featuring out of print records - Rare As Hens' Teeth

Download the Counting The Beat - Vinyl Crackle podcast


Kia Ora

Us New Zealanders generally like to think of ourselves as a pretty welcoming bunch. And music has played an important part in welcoming visitors round these parts for centuries with the karanga being the first part of the process of being called onto the marae.

The Maori phrase for welcome, Haere Mai was the title of a bilingual hit written by Sam Freedman and sung by Maori singer Daphne Walker in the 1950s. The song's now pretty familiar after being used on an TV ad campaign a few years back. It's anything but a traditional Maori song, with a Hawaiian guitar backing provided by Bill Wolfgramme and His Islanders, and if you check out the cover of the album that included the song, Maori Brown Eyes, you'll see a Hawaiian rather than a Maori scene.

Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it that convey the strongest message, even when what you say is as simple as "gidday". In the brilliant 'How You Doing?' the Front Lawn (Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair)  use the clumsy greetings and small talk of a chance encounter between two old schoolmates to convey a sense of the disillusion and melancholy of a descent into a suburban work-home-tv-sleep routine. While around the same period in the 1980s The Ponsonby DCs released G'Day Mate, a jaunty little horn driven number that demonstrates just how hollow, or even menacing, a greeting and expression of frienship can be. The song can be found on a self titled album re-released a few years ago. Incidentally the Ponsonby DCs have recently got back together following a 20 year break to record a second album which should be out this year. There are an American interview with Keith Dion from the Ponsonby DCs and a great short film, Workshort from The Front Lawn on the video page.

In the late 90s Ben and Greta, formerly the rhythm section of Fying Nun act Superette, recorded a bunch of catchy pop songs for the Arch Hill Records label. Most were never released which is a great shame because on the strength of 'Hello Hello', one of two songs available on Amplifier ,this duo could have achieved big things.

In contrast, Wendyhouse were never destined for anything other than cult status with a prolific release sheet including an album where the two musicans recorded an album on one channel each, with the listener having to choose to listen to one of the completely seperate albums on channel left or right. In amongst all the weirdness Wendyhouse have produced a wealth of witty and worthy songs over the years. A great place to start is the 1994 compilation Hot Action Plastic, which alonside the puns such as 'Fuck The Mall' includes songs like 'Hello, Goodnight' which use the simplest of instrumentation (a Casio keyboard and an xylophone) and ends up as a touching and pretty song contemplating our place in the world. (There are a selection of free downloads of Wendyhouse songs on the website of  Skirted Records)

On the podcast you'll also hear excerpts from 'Welcome' by International Observer, 'Welcome, Haere Mai' by Dub Asylum and 'Welcome to Our World' from John Grenell (must see video on the video page).

Download the Counting The Beat - Kia Ora podcast


New Releases Aug 08

This episode of Counting The Beat is a catch up on some  recent releases - from dance punk to country folk and a live release from some old favourites.

NZ seems to be undergoing a dance-punk revolution at the moment. The latest salvo comes from Wellington band Thought Creature who have a real knack with a bass-line, topped with post-punk surf guitar and vocals that are more yelped than sung. The band have been around for a while, releasing a self-titled four track EP in 2005 (available through Powertool records) but they've now released an album, Teleport Palace, that, along with a great live show are gaining them more of the attention they deserve.

Another band that deserve more attention are The Ribbon. They use guitar and sysnthesizers to create songs that build from minimalism to the dance floor. They have two songs available for download on their myspace page that are really growing on me. What  I recommend is that you listen to the music of  The Ribbon  as the soundtrack for the online artwork of one half of the duo, Luke Munn.

Flip Grater has just released her second album, The Be All and End All. Flip's debut album Cage For A Song showed both the quiet and aggresive sides of her songwriting, ranging from quiet country to P.J.Harvey like rockers. While she is talented at both it resulted in an album that seemed  disjointed. This release is far more cohesive, both in flow and in the way Flip has resolved the different elements of her songwriting. Her voice and acoustic guitar still lend the music a country / folk feel with a couple of numbers getting more edge, although more in a brooding than rocking way. She also avoids solo girl-with-a-guitar cliches with a subtle yet strong full band backing her symapathetically on many of the tracks. You'll find the video for the first single from this album on the video page.

One of the most striking releases of the year to date is Tells You To Fight, the debut album from Renee-Louise Carafice. The album's  an autobiographical song cycle detailing her hospitalisation for mental illness, so obviously  this isn't an album of cheery pop hits. In fact, Carafice is incredibly open and it can sometimes feel voyeuristic listening in on her  account in songs like 'The Girl Saint Sufferer' or 'Song For A Cruel German Psychiatrist Woman'. After winning a $25,000 Big Break cash prize Carafice spent time living in Chicago and worked on this album there. The album was recorded at Steve Albini’s legendary analog recording studio “Electrical Audio” in Chicago, USA. It was engineered by Nick Abbott (engineer of Crowded House, Goldenhorse, Pluto), produced by Ben King (Goldenhorse) and mastered at Skye Mastering in Scotland (Talk Talk, Madness). The result is stunning in every way, from Carafice's love-it-or-hate-it vocal delivery, the album art-work and the songs. You can purchase the album direct from Monkey Records. There are videos of one of her songs and an interview on the video page.

Finally, New Zealand music icons The Clean have just released a live album, Mashed, recorded on their 2007 NZ tour. As you would expect, it's excellent. Despite being around for 27 odd years The Clean still put on a great live show. To hear what they were like back in the day check out this live recording  from 1981.

Download the Counting The Beat -New Releases Aug 08 podcast