Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

Beer with me...

08:21am 05 Feb 2016


Beer and music - we're told, so often, they go together. The craft beer fellas have all aligned themselves with music, sponsoring gigs, even naming beers after bands. And anyone with a rock'n'roll story of a gig from 20 or 30 years ago often adds in some yarn about being boozed, sozzled, tipsy...or if they weren't someone was, the band on stage perhaps, or everyone else in the bar. Perhaps it was so cheap that it just crept up on you. There was no salted-caramel beer flavours then...only if you were super-hammered might you end up with butter in your scotch...Blackout

We put up with late stage times on school nights because the only way the model works - if it even works - is for the bar to get in some time selling beer first (and then after).

We put up with hefty prices - or moan about them while still consuming.

We put up with impaired performances.

We put up with a lot - because of beer and its impact on music.

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Some new (old) podcasts...

11:18am 04 Feb 2016


I'm back on the hunt for new (old) podcasts to listen to. And I'm back listening to a few already as it happens. It's nice to walk around headphone-free, take in a few of nature's sounds - but I'm still a bit of a sucker to that zombie-stroll, white chord connected to my phone...

That said I can't really be bothered listening to music these days. If I'm out and about or even sometimes when working or before drifting off to sleep I'm (most often) on the listening end of a podcast.

I have my own podcast - and maybe that's part of the drive to listen to more examples of the form.

In fact just yesterday I uploaded the most recent episode - # 14, my chat with Emily Writes.

It's about blogging, writing, journalism - the divide between them, the connections. We talk about ugly/angry comments and how to deal with the hopelessly stupid among you...we talk about why we do what we do. It's a good chat. (But then I would say that).

But the two new podcasts I've found in the last few weeks are not particularly new, just new to me. I add them to my regulars now (alongside Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing, Marc Maron's WTF, Pip Adam's Better Off Read and one or two others...)Criminal

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That Dirty, No-Good Ben Harper Guy

01:05pm 03 Feb 2016


Ben Harper would rather finish his new album than play a show for his fans. That's the message - that should be the take-home from today's announcement he's postponing his New Zealand shows.

Ben Harper fans will rejoice - because there'll be new music to hear (eventually) and their man can do what he likes. But when we're told constantly that the key to survival in music is playing live and satiating your fans - and there's no money in records/no one cares about albums anymore the only logical explanation for this is that Ben Harper cares more for himself than his fans. And doesn't mind his fans knowing that.

If you read the story you'll see his "appeal is becoming more selective" too. The Wellington show, now rescheduled for December - along with other New Zealand dates, has been moved to a smaller venue.

The Christchurch gig has been canned altogether.

So we'll have another round of Christchurch residents disappointed, announcing that they're always missing out. I'm considering moving to Christchurch so that I'm not in the same city as Ben Harper. (I'm not much of a Ben Harper fan).

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Dave Stewart is releasing his memoir

09:35am 02 Feb 2016


I'm always on the lookout for what I hope will be a great rock'n'roll read - a great new music memoir. And though I've still got a few stacked up from last year to get through I'm excited to hear about the upcoming release of Dave Stewart's Memoir, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This - A Life In Music.

He must have some stories.Dave Stewart's Memoir

And what a huge talent.

Like most people I learned about Dave Stewart because he was one half of the Eurythmics. One of the best pop groups of the 1980s - a wonderful set of albums and a near-flawless collection of singles. Whenever you think the Eurythmics are done-to-death go back to their very earliest work or pick out some of the album tracks from around the hits, listen to the best bits of their "comeback"...there's (still) gold in them there hills...

Stewart appeared, in the videos and singles, to be taking a backseat - Annie Lennox was such a force. But Stewart of course was co-writer, arranger, producer; essentially the band's director both visually and musically.

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My new favourite Heartbreak Ballad

10:05am 01 Feb 2016



I'm having a chat on the radio today - Jesse Mulligan's Afternoons show - my first time for the year reviewing music on the radio. There's something very different, and enjoyable, about talking about music rather than writing it down. My reviews, the aim anyway, has always been to facilitate a conversation, state a point of view, welcome feedback, criticism, alternative opinions...but there's something very enjoyable - as a break from that I guess - in having an actual chat with someone. In this case Mr Mulligan is the facilitator, and he's very good too. I've had a few chats with him on-air and it's always enjoyable.

By way of slight teaser one of the albums I'll be talking about today is The Cactus Blossoms' You're Dreaming. And this is currently my new favourite album - these beautiful songs of heartbreak, slow, lonesome blue - you'd almost believe this was an unearthing of a previously unreleased Everly Brothers or LouvinThe Cactus Blossoms Brothers record. Shades of Roy Orbison and, well, I guess Chris Isaak...that sort of thing.

Thev've built their own originals from parts of the past; there are one or two upbeat numbers - a bit of a train rhythm here, some honky-tonkin' there - but for the most part it's the heartbreak ballads that best showcase the harmonies, the melodies, the effortless conjuring...

I've found my new favourite heartbreak ballad in If I Can't Win. It has hints of Bob Dylan and Don Gibson and other old favourites. (My second favourite heartbreak ballad - and thanks for asking - is Queen of Them All also by the Cactus Blossoms, and also on this record).

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