On a recent record shopping expedition I picked up 'Cut the Cable', a novelty single by The Freda South Singers that served as the campaign song of the independent South Island campaign that was running in the late seventies. I recall my best friend's father being involved, in fact he may have even stood for parliament on that platform in the 1978 election. There's no info on-line about the campaign that I can find, but I do remember that their symbol was a rooster for some reason. The song itself is pretty terrible, typical of the "comedy" songs produced by radio station types (in this case Radio Avon in Christchurch). One of the arguments behind the independence campaign, and the subject of the song, was that the North Island was benefiting from the hydro-electric capacity of the South without paying it's way.

The hydro-electric angle leads me to two other campaign songs. 'Damn The Dam' is probably New Zealand's most successful ever protest song. Written by John Hanlon as part of the campaign against raising lake levels at Manapouri for a hydro-electric scheme the song got to number 5 in the charts in 1973. This song gained John a bit of a reputation as a nature boy, but the truth is a little different. Hanlon actually worked in advertising and the song originated as a commission for AHI, the manufacturers of Pink Batts, who would have preferred the government focus on insulation over further electricity generation.

With the widespread devatation that comes from flooding a valley it's no surprise that proposal for hydro-electric dams always attract opposition. Project Aqua was a proposed scheme that would have seen 6 powerstations built in the Waitaki Valley. The proposal was eventually abandoned in 2004, but not before Robert Scott, best known for his work in The Clean and The Bats picked up his guitar and lent his voice to the campaign with 'Project Aqua's Got to Go'

Download the Counting The Beat - Megawatt podcast

Also, check out previous epidodes featuring campaign and protest songs -
Rugby Was The Winner On The Day (blog and podcast)
Nuclear Free New Zealand (mp3)


Music Alliance Pact

This month sees the second Counting The Beat contribution to an exciting international initiative, the Music Alliance Pact. On a monthly basis music bloggers from around the globe select a track from their own country which is then posted collectively and simultaneously on those blogs - giving each nation's track international exposure. For this month's Counting The Beat contribution to this project we are proud to present 'Monkey Eats Bananas' by Princess Chelsea.

AMERICA – I Guess I’m Floating
Blind Man’s Colour – Jimmy Dove
Blind Man’s Colour came on our radar in late ‘08 with three excellent Animal Collective covers. With their debut album, Season Dreaming, coming out sometime in early ‘09 and Jimmy Dove as their first explosive single, they’ve got a good chance of becoming my favorite find of 2009 less than one month in. They’ve also got a free EP called Rainbow Faces which you can download from the band’s blog ( Jimmy Dove is a MAP exclusive mp3.

ARGENTINA – Zonaindie
Bicicletas – 11 y 20
We started the year listening non-stop to this brand new song by Bicicletas, a superb space-rock band that has been shaking the independent scene of Buenos Aires for some years now. 11 y 20 will be included in their forthcoming album Quema, which is released in March by Bingo! Records.

AUSTRALIA – Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
The Middle East – Blood
I feel like Arcade Fire comparisons have been overused in music reviews over the past whenever, so I’m going to do my best to not compare The Middle East to Montreal’s finest. It’s tough though, because this Townsville, Queensland collective do fit the criteria, at least initially – a large collection of musicians (at least six, possibly seven) who create dramatic and climactic folk-ish anthems.

BRAZIL – Meio Desligado
Guizado – Rinkisha
Created by Guilherme Mendonça, Guizado presents instrumental songs ranging from jazz, alternative rock and experimental electronica, always sounding avant-garde. Their first album, Punx, was acclaimed by critics (including the Brazilian Rolling Stone) as one of the best albums in 2008. As well as Mendonça, who is a well-known trumpeter in São Paulo’s underground music scene, Guizado is formed by Curumin, Ryan Batista and Régias Damasceno, musicians involved with some of the most creative artists of the Brazilian alternative scene. Rinkisha, a deep and melancholic song, sounds like John Frusciante playing with Tortoise.

CANADA – I(Heart)Music
Parachute Penguin – Your Crimes
Yes, their name is horrible. And yes, this song borrows rather liberally from The Killers. But despite both of those things, if Parachute Penguin’s forthcoming EP, due out in late February, is anywhere near as good as this (or any of the other tracks on the outstanding EP the band released back in the spring), then it won’t be long until the band is playing arenas around the world. Hopefully they’ll stay away from those feathered jackets, though.

CHILE – Super 45
Como Asesinar A Felipes – En Busca De Un Nuevo Sueño
Como Asesinar A Felipes (How To Kill Felipes) is the best way to understand what’s going on in Chilean hip hop music – cross-referenced music styles with deep and shocking lyrics. Former jazz musicians joined MC Koala Contreras and DJ Spacio to create an outstanding jazz-rap combo. Their self-titled album, released last year, has been described as the best Chilean album of the year by even mainstream media. And there is no doubt about it, no other band can take our minds, ears and bodies like Como Asesinar A Felipes have.

ENGLAND – The Daily Growl
Emmy The Great – We Almost Had A Baby
Although the wait for Emmy The Great’s debut album has been long enough to make it seem like an indie-folk-pop Chinese Democracy, the good news is that First Love is finally coming out on February 2. This track is the first single from the album, released at the end of last year.

GERMANY – Blogpartei
The Notwist – Good Lies
The Notwist is probably better known abroad than in Germany. They come from the Bavarian city of Weilheim, where other famous bands – partly with the same members – have their base, e.g. Console, Lali Puna and 13 & God. The Notwist sound is built on the characteristic voice of Markus Acher and the discreet electronic background constructed by Martin Gretschmann.

ICELAND – I Love Icelandic Music
Singapore Sling – Martian Arts
Singapore Sling is a darkly, neo-psychedelic, avant-garage band formed in Reykjavik in 2000 by singer-songwriter-guitarist Henrik Baldvin Björnsson and lead guitarist Einar Þór Kristjánsson. The band is often compared to The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine. Martian Arts is taken from their fourth album, Perversity, Desperation And Death, released last November on the new Icelandic label Microdot.

IRELAND – Nialler9
Gran Casino – One Chance
An intriguing upbeat rabble-rousing orchestral racket from a 13-piece Dublin band who have the horn for brass and blustery rock epics. Their debut Sun Music EP sounds like Arcade Fire jamming with Herbie Hancock.

ITALY – Polaroid
Arnoux – Today, A Rainy Day
Cascades, the debut album by Arnoux, blends melancholic synths and glitches with acoustic sounds and warm voices, portraying a delicate and touching liquid landscape.

NEW ZEALAND – Counting The Beat
Princess Chelsea – Monkey Eats Bananas
Every May in New Zealand is NZ Music Month. Album sales and radio airplay figures of Kiwi artists soar and there is a celebration of local musical talent. For the past two years NZ music magazine Real Groove has issued a CD in May titled The Sound of Young New Zealand. One of the standout tracks of the 2008 edition was Monkey Eats Bananas, a song so infectious I’ve driven members of my household mad with repeated plays, eventually awarding it Song of the Year in Counting The Beat. It’s silly but incredibly compelling. Xylophone, electric piano, a nonsense lyric that doesn’t kick in until two-thirds of the way through the song, all atop a great rolling bass line. Princess Chelsea is about to release her debut album and Monkey Eats Bananas will be the first single.

NORWAY – Eardrums
I Was A King – Weighing Anchor
I Was A King is one of the Norwegian bands I expect will do very well in 2009. Frontman Frode Stromstad has a unique gift of creating addictive melodies with distinctive roots to the 60s. Distorted through the sound of the 90s indie scene, the result is I Was A King. On their self-titled second album, which received a maximum score in Norway’s largest newspaper, the trio is helped by artists such as Emil Nikolaisen (Serena Maneesh), Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson) and Gary Olson (The Ladybug Transistor).

Turbopotamos – Terrorize You/Disco Flor
After a few demos had been circulated, the rumour was that a cool new sound had awoken the sleepy local scene. With the appearance of No Love, the second album from Turbopotamos in 2007, the rumour proved to be true. With their refreshing compositions, Turbopotamos have been plotting a path that took them on to the same bill as REM and Travis in Lima last November.

PORTUGAL – Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
The Weatherman – Chloe’s Hair
The Weatherman is Alexandre Monteiro, a resident of Oporto in the north of Portugal. Chloe’s Hair is the first single of his second album, Jamboree Park At The Milky Way, due in February, which he recorded with guest musicians. Besides being a musician, Alexandre runs his own independent record label, Poptones, and an arts collective company, Sublime. Thanks to The Weatherman, the MAP sites are the first in the world where Chloe’s Hair is downloadable for free. Obrigado.

ROMANIA – Babylon Noise
Les Elephants Bizarres – Have No Fear
Les Elephants Bizarres is an alternative band formed in 2007 in Bucharest. Not really like those big, apathetic creatures, these dancing, multi-coloured Elephants are a very fresh and vivid appearance in the Romanian music scene. Their concerts often stir up the audience and make them dance with their indie-pop-disco-punk motley sounds. You can download some of their other songs and watch live performances on their website (

SCOTLAND – The Pop Cop
Evan Crichton – Holiday Time
Glasgow-based Evan Crichton is a rare talent. He’s a singer whose songs have a timeless feel, perhaps because they are immaculately paced and seem to exist in a world and space all of their own. After a year-long absence, Evan has just returned to playing live with a full band set-up and the Scottish music scene is a better place for it. Holiday Time is taken from his debut record Bright Our Broken Days.

SINGAPORE – I’m Waking Up To...
I Am David Sparkle – Jaded Afghan
The curious name of Singaporean band I Am David Sparkle is a literal translation of a famous Malaysian disco singer in the 80s called M. Daud Kilau. Their music, however, shows only a hint of that nostalgia. In Jaded Afghan, taken from their second album This Is The New, a carefully woven ambience is animated by an intriguing blend of beats and bleeps that moves back and forth in time. For me, though, what most subtly drives this track forward in the end is the sound of a gently wandering guitar, lightly treading but hugely moving, with slightly darker rumblings underneath.

The Invisible Fish – Fallen
Once the male half of Bluedawn – Korea’s foremost folk/dream-pop duo – The Invisible Fish is now completely on his own. For those who know Bluedawn his music is still familiar, but he’s experimenting more and the songs are more personal. Not wanting to compromise with his new-found post-noise-folk sound, The Invisible Fish releases everything by himself and put out his second solo EP, Loss/Sleepless last month.

SPAIN – El Blog De La Nadadora
Saioa – Is It Possible
From our point of view, Saioa has changed the concept of the singer-songwriter. She comes from the Basque land and her debut album, Matrioska Heart, was released in 2008 on the small Spanish label Moonpalace ( Her songs follow a folk pattern with influences such as Low and Leonard Cohen.

SWEDEN – Swedesplease
The Bridal Shop – The Ideal State
I can’t say enough good things about The Bridal Shop. They perfectly meld the sounds of electronic pop of the 80s with shoegaze of the 90s and indie from the 00s. In other words they’re the complete package. Their Peruvian label (I know that’s kind of a weird locale for a Swedish group) Plastilina Records ( deserves kudos as well for releasing some of the best indie-pop this side of Cloudberry. This song is from the band’s mini-album, In Fragments, out in February.

To download all 21 songs in one file click here:


NZ? Isn't That Part of Australia? - Covering The Beat International Special

I don't know about you but I can't help but feel a slight flush of excitement when our little country is acknowledged overseas. I was in the US when David Lange resigned as PM, and I was quite impressed that the story was the lead in the World News section of the San Francisco Chronicle. And I remember once when watching an episode of the original Star Trek that when Captain Kirk and the crew beamed down to a strange alien planet it was clear that the scene had been filmed in a New Zealand section of some botanic gardens. They were surrounded by flax, toi toi and cabbage trees. Then just recently I was watching an episode of the TV series Weeds and was completely distracted from the plot when I heard some kiwi dub playing on the soundtrack.

Many NZ musicians have tried to make it overseas, but the reality of competing in a global market from the bottom of the earth means the successes are few. So it's nice when the musical and songwriting talent of our musicians is recognised overseas. In a bit of depature from the norm this episode of Counting The Beat features overseas artists- but performing New Zealand songs.

Two New Zealand artists who have received considerable overseas recognition are Crowded House and OMC. Both have also been covered, albeit in very different ways. OMC's worldwide hit, 'How Bizzare' has been given a lo-fi indie treatment (with ukelele!) by Montreal band, The Diskettes. And while there are many covers of Neil Finn and Crowded House tunes, one that stands out has to be Donny Osmond's cover of 'Don't Dream It's Over' - unfortunately it stands out for being bland, saccahrine and utterly beyond redemption. (See the video for the originals on the video page)

Marshall Crenshaw is a musician from Detroit, Michigan. He got his break playing John Lennon in the stage show Beatlemania, and he also played Buddy Holly in the film, La Bamba. His sound has been described as, clear, clean-lined, guitar-centered pop-rock with roots in classic soul music, British invasion songcraft and Burt Bacharach." So it was somewhat of a surprise when he covered a song by lo-fi Flying Nun band, Tall Dwarfs. The song appears on Crenshaw's 1991 album Life's Too Short.

Also from Detroit are The Dirtbombs, although rather than clear and clean-lined, they're distinctly rough, ready and dirty, fusing punk and soul with an unusual line-up of two drummers, two bassists and one guitar. Although they've released four albums they were originally conceived as a singles band and they still release a number of limited edition 7" records. These are often released in conjunction with tours, covering bands from the region being visited. The Dirtbombs recently toured New Zealand and recorded two covers of Ray Columbus and The Invaders, 'Kick Me' and 'The Crunch'. The single is yet to be released.

The Lemonheads 1988 album
Lick contained a couple of covers - well known songs like Suzanne Vega's 'Luka' and less well-known songs, that is outside of NZ punk rock circles, like Proud Scum's 'I Am A Rabbit', a song from the classic punk compilation AK79. If anything, The Lemonheads version is more raucous than Proud Scum's, showing the influence of American hardcore in the intervening years. (On the video page is an interview with Proud Scum recorded when they reformed for last years AK79 show)

What I'm looking forward to now is to see if any overseas musicians have a go at reinterpreting Scribe's massive US hit, 'Swing'. If they do I'll be sure to be it playing here on Counting The Beat.

Download the Counting The Beat - International Covers podcast

Previous cover specials:
Covering The Beat - Chills special (mp3)
Covering The Beat 2 (blog post and podcast)
Covering The Beat 3 (blog post and podcast)
Covering The Beat 4 (blog post and podcast)