Sunday, August 31, 2008

300 up, and project 32

Listening to: Apropos of Nothing-Various Artists, and Its great when you're straight, yeah!-Black Grape.

300 up

This is Off-Black post number 300. Cool.

Project 32

Inspired by a conversation with Richard and Andrew at Janets last week.

To mark the 300th post of this erstwhile blog, and coincident with my 32nd birthday, I decided to survey my CD collection, pulling out every 32nd title, see what I got and discuss. While this could be potentially embarrassing in a blog context, I was intrigued by what I would find.

Firstly, a few notes about how my CD collection is organised.
It is ordered. It would be almost unmanageable otherwise. The order is thus:
Shihad (chronological), New Zealand artists (Alphabetised, individual artists chronolocical), rest of the world artists (alphabetised, artist chronological), soundtracks (alphabetised), miscellaneous compilations in no particular order.

Homemade compilations were excluded from the survey, as were any of Fi's discs. I didn't include any of the miscellaneous comps either.

Heres what was pulled out:
Right then. Onto the 'Discuss' part then. Rather than start at #32, I started at #1 for a sense of completeness.

Shihad-Beautiful Machine (2008)
At number one due to the way I arrange my CD collection is Shihads latest release. I like it a lot, even if it took me a few listens to get into. The mark of a good band I feel is that no two releases sound the same, and Shihad have certainly achieved that. With each album they have evolved their sound, and that can only be good. Once artist start releasing the same album again and again they get stale. It's not my favourite Shihad album (a title that swings back and forth between Love is the new hate and The General Electric), but it still a good piece of work. Favourite tracks? Hard to please and Bible and the Gun. It is already forming memory associations, notably being the CD I had on when I arrived for the Millionaire audition three weeks ago.

Age Pryor-Shank's Pony (2007)
Bought on the back of two standout tracks I don't want, and Summer, if I'm honest I'd have to say this isn't one of my favourite albums. The above two tracks are brilliant, but the rest feels a little bit too hip, too busy, too earnest, too ambitious. The title track drives me mental. Not to say this is a terrible album; it isn't, just not quite my bag. Good for long drives though.

Dimmer-I believe you are a star (2001)
Project of ex-Straightjacket Fits frontman Shayne Carter, Dimmer may have existed before this release, but this is the one that got peoples attention. I first noticed it when it was being used as background music between sets at Shihad gigs. I'm not so into the singles that came off it, having heard them a few too many times, but the moodier album tracks like pendulum, with its soft vocal and eerie guitar, are mint. Another excellent road trip CD.

HLAH-Blood on the Honky Tonk floor, Head like a hole 1991-2000 (2000)
What can I say about the almighty HLAH? I saw them live a few times back in the day, and they were easily one of the most entertaining stage acts I have ever seen. Sometimes described as 'Sludge Rock' their stylings varied from post metal to sampling and grease covers, to amped up country, always with an evident sense of humour. So many good songs. Favourites? 1 pound 2 pound, fish across face, cornbag, a crying shame, I'm on fire. Tragically this is the only HLAH release I own. I miss them heaps.

Shadows on a Flat Land-Various (1998)
From Canterbury in 1998 came this release. If I had to categorise it I'd say it was trip hop, but
I'm not sure where it falls other than 'good'. A guy named Jody Lloyd was behind this, who later went on to achieve success with Dark Tower (Baggy trousers anyone?). This is a much more introspective and moodier piece than the Dark Tower stuff, and was an important part of my soundtrack for the winter of 1998. Nothing is easily the standout single and one of the best expressions of break up angst I have heard

Its great when you're straight yeah!-Black Grape (1995)
I have Channel Z (RIP) to thank for this one. Out of the ashes of Madchester and the Happy Mondays came Black Grape. Channel Z used to play this song called get higher, notable for featuring a remixed Ronald and Nancy Reagan promoting drug use, and their own drugged up experiences. That song isn't actually from this album, it is from the following stupid stupid stupid. But, figuring out the artist, and picking up on the other tracks that the station played, led me to this release. I'm not sure how to describe the sound. Lots of samples, drums, guitars, horns occasionally. Favourite track? Kellys Heroes, with its titular movie sampling, and 'Jesus was Batman' refrain. I've never really gotten into this album in a being able to sing along with it way, but its good to bring out for an occasional listen, and doesn't appear to be aging much yet. Also notable for a certain someone being a complete dick about me not knowing the difference between Happy Mondays and Black Grape, at a time when both were completely new to me.

Chisel-Cold Chisel (1991)
The first of Cold Chisels greatest hits collections, this happens to be the first full length CD I ever acquired. For essentially a lowest common denominator pub band, its incredible what these guys achieved. None of the members, including Jimmy Barnes, have produced anything like as good as the stuff on this disc since the band went south. The third verse of forever now always reminds me of my first girlfriend, and saturday night is eternally a reminder of good nights and good times. I don't have a lot of time for Khe Sanh though. Heard it too many times, and the pedant in me points out that no Australian units actually took part in the battle of the title.
Cold Chisel is I think a little tarred by its bogan rock image. The music is better than that, and deserves a bit more recognition. And there are few better f**k you's to the corporate rock industry than you got nothing I want.

More than This-The best of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music (1995)
Does anyone know where Roxy Music ends and Bryan Ferry begins? Easily dismissed as being MOR staples, that obscures the fact that there is some good music here. There is some pretentious art rock as well, but the good stuff outweighs that. This album has a few examples of songs where I love the verse but hate the chorus as well, so it is one that inevitably incurs a lot of skipping when I listen to it. I have been revisiting this one lately since same old scene was used in ashes to ashes, and reminding myself what I like about it. The big lush sound, and generally echoy and atmospheric production I think. I'm not so much into the earlier stuff, more the 80's material. Favourites? Dance away, slave to love, same old scene, more than this. Dance away always reminds me of a trip to Auckland in 1991, hearing it on the eternally bland northern motorway into the city.

Collected Works-Hunters And Collectors (1990)
An early Hunters and Collectors Best of (I'm not sure if they have any others). Has throw your arms around me and do you see what I see? on it. Part of a peculiarly Australian genre of 80's alternative guitar rock (not sure if that is literally true, but other similar sounding bands like The Church are australian), H+C has always been close to me, even if I didn't always realise it. I wish I'd been a bit younger, so I could have been into them in their prime. I like H+C, its does what it says on the tin music. You don't have to spends days figuring out the lyrics, or particular references or samples.

Everything is possible-The best of Living Colour (2003)
Notable for proving that you could play hard rock and not be white, Living Colour never quite lived up to the heights of their 1988 debut Vivid. This band has particular memories for me of the summer of 1988-89, and the transition from one school to another as intermediate became college. I would go hiking in the eastern hills on sunny days, with a radio in my bag. Living Colour was one if the bands I used to hear. That reminds me of the time when 91ZM was more than just a pop station. Favourites? Cult of personality, Nothingness.

Nirvana (best of) (2002)
The only Nirvana I own. Back at the time, I recall a certain divisiveness between Nirvana and Pearl Jam fans. As one of the latter, I couldn't really be one of the former. I'm smarter than that now, but when Nirvana were actually recording I didn't get them at all, didn't have much respect for them or Cobain. I still don't have a lot of respect for Cobain, and get kind of annoyed that the has joined the same league as Jim Morrison and Che Guevara, a T-shirt seller for teenagers who don't know much about the images they are wearing and think they are rebelling against something.
My Nirvana revelation came at Mountain Rock in 1996. Lithium was played on the PA between sets, and suddenly I realised that I liked it, and couldn't realise why I hadn't noticed it before. I'm still not that into Nirvana save for appreciating it for what it is, but some tracks I like, like lithium, in bloom, you know you're right, and come as you are (immortalised for me by a group of drunken students singing it on the Picton Ferry in 1992 "Come as you are, as you were, come anyway!").

Lost Dogs-Pearl Jam (2003)
Appropriately next to Nirvana in this list, Lost Dogs is a collection of B-sides and rarities that never made it onto albums. Interesting in that some of the b-sides are not the same recordings that were actually released. A lot of my favourite Pearl Jam songs are on here, down, alone, footsteps, wash, yellow ledbetter. Oddly, crowd favorite crazy mary is not. Like Shihad, Pearl Jam have never released the same album twice, and I am still a fan after all this time for that reason.

In the mode-Roni size reprazent (2000)
My first foray into Drum and Bass. Also another channel Z revelation. I couldn't play this album at work when I got it, as the sound reverberating around the room would give me headaches, which is probably a sign of class. Who told you was the single more heard, but dirty beats, with its unstoppable video, sold me on the album.

Stop Making Sense-Talking Heads (1983)
Another band I am slightly too young for, and have been forced to rediscover though the back catalogue. It is something of glaring omission that girlfriend is better didn't make it on to their 1992 best of. This is a live album, more of a soundtrack to a concert movie really, but gives a real sense of being there (or at least imagining what it was like to be at a Talking Heads concert in LA in 1983). I remember listening to my sisters copy of this sometime in the early nineties and not quite getting it. Favourites? Girlfriend is better, this must be the place, once in a lifetime. Psycho Killer is also on here, memorably opening the album, but I won't hold that against it. Don't like Psycho Killer much.

U2-18 (2006)
Another hits collection, this time of 18 U2 singles. While the latter stuff can be patchy, the earlier material is still gold. Unfortunately, these are single mixes, with all that implies. Seriously, does anyone care if a song is 20 or 30 seconds longer? The album mix of New Years Day is only that much longer, and much better for it. Tracks like I will follow, pride, where the streets have no name and desire are the reasons I bought this one, despite having most of them on their source albums anyway. U2 have a lot of knockers, maybe deservedly, but again at least they are trying new material and not repeating themselves. Achtung Baby is one of the bravest albums ever released in terms of 'is this going to destroy our fanbase?'. Granted that was 17 years ago, and they haven't quite scaled the heights since, but while there is new material, there is always the chance of greatness.

Hype-Motion Picture soundtrack (1996)
A documentary into the rise and fall of grunge as it applied to Seattle, Hype is required viewing for anyone interested in the genre, or in the machinations of modern rock music in general. The sountrack was illuminating for me, in showing that there was much more to the scene than what made it into the to 40. It does have Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden on it, but also bunch of other artists that illuminate the scene as it was. Favourite track for me is throwaway by the Posies, with I say f**k by the Supersuckers fun as well. Also worth noting that since only two of the songs are over 4 minutes long, there are 22 on this CD, making it excellent value.

Interesting selection in the end. Is it representative though?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to me

Listening to: More than this-The best of Roxy music. Revisited after hearing 'Same old Scene' in the first episode of 'Ashes to Ashes' last week, and on Active the other day, and realising it is in fact quite good.

Birthday number 32, post number 299, watched the end of the 7th Olympics I can remember last night, stayed up too late, somewhat tired, 1000 odd days until the next ones start.

Without being too portentous, 32 feels like the last birthday of one phase, and 33 will be well into a new one (as well as being the title of a very good Smashing Pumpkins song).

Normal service will be resuming now that the games have finished. Unashamedly sentimentally, I love the Olympics. I love the human drama of people pushing themselves as hard as they can to achieve, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. I love the reactions of the winners, especially if they are overjoyed or weren't expected to. I like seeing people realise their dreams. I love being exposed to sports I would never normally make time for, and I love that unlike other world events, so many different disciplines are covered, even if they are occasionally wierd (I mean honestly, synchronised swimming?). I like being witness to great things, even if only by the proxy of television.

I tried very hard not to be cynical, and keep sport and politics separate this time (although I kept wondering if any comparisons could be made to the 1980 games), and I largely succeeded. I like the Olympics because it is generally so apolitical. There are the athletes, and there is the competition, and that is usually it. While there are negative things about the games (and not insignificant ones), at their best the Olympics are arguably one of the pinnacles of human achievement.

Right then, back to normal.

300th post up next. Hmmm, I wonder what I will do with it?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Listening to: Nothing right now but I have had 'This charming Man" by The Smiths in my head all day.

The 10,000 metre Marathon swim may not be pretty but it certainly has an epicness to it.

More medallic goodness for us today, including one for a Hutt Boy. Reprazent!

Monday, August 18, 2008


Listening to: an assortment of stuff off the hard drive. Lately though I have had "The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" stuck on high rotate in my head. Meh, there are worse songs.

Awesome I

All the cool lightning last week. E.g. from Thursday night:

Normally you would be able to see the lights of Wellington in that photo. Its out there somewhere.......

Awesome II
Super Saturday for the NZ sports people. For the overseas readers slideshow linky here, story linky here, and here

Going from no Olympic medals to five in a few hours, and I saw every one live as it happened. The twins performance was legendary, only outdone by Mahe Drysdale being an absolute and utter legend, destroying himself for a bronze, when he probably should have been in a hospital bed. Valerie Vili destroying her opposition in the shot put. And the AB's smoked the South Africans too. Also cool was Bolt's 100 metre win. Starts slowing down after 80 m, and still breaks the world record. How cool is that? And Phelps becoming the greatest was kinda fun to watch. Loving the Olympics.

Awesome III
More awesomer than all of the above, Senor Twotrees got hitched to the lovely Ms West End on Saturday. Wish I could have been there to celebrate like D3vo and Morgue.

Chur chur and a toast for absent friends to you both.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Waiting in the wings

Listening to: The Rising-Bruce Springsteen

Longer than usual break from bloggage, but I have been busy.

When you get up before dawn on a cold morning in Ohakune, your car can look like this (note wipers thoughtfully raised the night before to stop them freezing to the windscreen):
Ruapehu looks like this though, which compensates a little:
I left Ohakune at 0615 on Sunday, in order to be in central Wellington by 10.

For a gameshow audition.

The things I find myself doing............

I don't know if I am fulfilling destiny or anything, but when calls went out for participants for a New Zealand edition of 'Who wants to be a Millionaire', I was compelled to go.

Years of peers saying things like 'You should so go on "millionaire"' probably had something to do with it, but forever pondering a missed opportunity also played a part. After so long watching the show and wondering, I'm not even sure if it is solely about the money. A chance to go and give a shot and see how far I got, to see if I had what it takes (whatever that is), also played a part.

Although the money doesn't hurt.

Nice to know that if I get on I will get that shot though. This edition doesn't do the fastest finger first thing, which is good because I hate it. I like 'Millionaire' because you don't have to directly compete with anyone; its just you and the questions, and you are either good enough or not. Fastest finger detracts from that ideal.

The audition itself was fairly painless, although not exactly stress free. A mock millionaire style 30 question quiz provided the first hurdle. I got 22 out of 30, with the highest in the room being 26, and apparently the highest nationally so far 28. I was a bit disappointed, since I knew the right answers to three more questions, but second guessed myself to wrong ones.

The papers marked, a round of 'hands up if you got' ensued, the number of raised hands being counted. As the numbers came down things got somewhat tense. After the hands went up for 22, the counting stopped. Everyone who got less than that was thanked, and asked to try again another time. This eliminated probably two thirds of the attendees, only one of whom I knew. We filled a lecture theatre, so there was probably a couple of hundred or so to start with.

Those of us still in contention filled out forms, and waited for a short interview to assess our telegenicness. And waited and waited. I saw all the interviews, since I was interviewed last of all. Everyone was somewhat jaded by then, I hope it didn't hurt my chances. Very short interview done, I had my photo taken holding my candidate number, and that was it.

Now we wait to hear if we have what the producers are looking for.........

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Listening to: The Guards Themselves-Minuit

Direct from Chez Kelson, here is the news.

Sun comes out, may reappear tomorrow
In an unexpected move, the sun shone today for several hours, after a prolonged absence of nearly a fortnight. While the Sun itself could not be approached for comment, an enigmatic spokesperson known only as 'Annie' gave the impression that it would be coming out tomorrow as well.

House Book population decreases for the first time
In an extremely rare event, the recorded book population of the house decreased for the first time since records began in the 1970's (see image).
The upcoming Hutt News Book Fair, to be held at Belmont Memorial Hall on Saturday 9th August was cited as the reason. When asked why this bookfair and not others had prompted the decrease, the owner replied that as he is scheduled to be out of town on the fair date, he is extremely unlikely to encounter any of the donated books on sale, and hence unlikely to inadvertently repurchase them. As to how the books were selected, reasons given varied from owning similar titles, over familiarity, expectation/fulfilment gaps, and some being just plain not good enough for a reader of his ability and knowledge.

Experiments establish bicycle spray speed
In a series of experiments conducted over recent weeks, 30 kilometres per hour has been established as the critical velocity at which water picked up from a wet road surface by a mountain bike front tire will be sprayed far enough by centripetal force to affect the rider. At this speed water is projected far enough both vertically and horizontally from the top of the wheel to be encountered by the rider as they progress forward. This is usually detected as a spray of water onto the face and body. While this velocity is rarely approached on a level surface, it is routinely exceeded on a normal downhill excursion, leading to continued research into how it may be alleviated. Protective eyewear is already proving useful, as is a reduction in speed on rainy days.

Vehicles animal magnetism proved beyond doubt by recent photos
Recent photographs have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the household red convertible is indeed a Pussy Magnet (see images)

While feline attraction to the vehicle is no longer in question, the duration of the visit is open to conjecture, as the vehicle had been parked for over 24 hours at the time of the observations, with a corresponding length of time since any warmth had been generated by running the engine. Also possibly affecting visit duration is the vehicle's internal alarm sensor, which has been been known to deliver a series of loud warning noises prior to alarm activation when movement above the vehicle is detected.

More news as it comes to hand