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.

Luna reforms - will visit NZ

10:03am 02 Jul 2015


Dean Wareham was born in Wellington. It took until 2010 for him to perform in the city of his birth. Since then he has returned to play a set of his Galaxie 500 material and this September he'll make his third visit to New Zealand inside five years - this time it's material from his other great band Luna.

Wareham's career is all class - two excellent solo albums (a mini-album/extended EP and then the full record) in the last 18 months or so, a must-read memoir, and then all of that material with Galaxie 500 and Luna. Outside of that there's been the records he's cut with his wife Britta Phillips (she's also part of Luna), including soundtrack work and even some cameos in films (including most recently a scene-stealing turn as a faith healer/spiritual guru in While We're Young - coming to the New Zealand International Film Festival and worth seeing).

Luna (which, for a time, featured New Zealand's Justin Harwood of The Chills and Tuatara) was in existence for over a decade - spanning the early 1990s through to the mid-00s, there are a dozen albums and EPs and the band's dreaming, space-pop sound was a continuation of Wareham's Velvet Underground fixation. There were some great covers from this band as well as Wareham's own songs.Dean Wareham

I'm pretty excited about the chance to see Wareham work through another of his musical guises, and Luna was the longest lasting musical project in the Wareham world, somewhere between his Galaxie music and the solo material, somewhere between the worlds of Pavement and The Go-Betweens, something worth hearing.

You've got a couple of months to get into the albums - if you're not already a fan. But I'd certainly recommend 2006's Best of Luna and the covers collection Lunafied. It's the best selection to prepare you - and either a reminder of one of the best kept secrets of the 90s or an introduction to a whole new world of music, the best of it stands up proud today; makes you wonder why they weren't bigger, better received, deemed more important.

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Love & Mercy is the best

09:31am 01 Jul 2015


Good news! Love & Mercy is amazing - and to think I was worried about how it might play out. Well, that was only because I care.

The Brian Wilson story has been an important part of Beach Boys appreciation for me, and I'm sure I'm not alone there. As a youngster I knew plenty of the band's "surf" music - and for a while I thought it ended there. In fact, it wasn't until I had my first music-store job that I got to know about the Pet Sounds-era and the music that came after. That was partly through the music - having access to the albums to play, and also because we customer-ordered a $100 book that turned up dog-eared, we couldn't sell it and so it sat behind the counter and became a great way to fill in the long, customer-less stretches of an evening (I worked night shift back in the days when spontaneous late-night CD-browsing and buying was, apparently, a thing).Love & Mercy

Actually, now I'm thinking about it, I wrote about how your parents can have a "Larkin" effect on your music listening if you, as I did, take their word for it - and in fact my folks wrote off The Beach Boys as merely a surf-pop novelty band. They had never looked into the music that followed those early hits (and while we're at it plenty of that early music is great) and so that had an impact on me.

Discovering Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile and Surf's Up and Holland and Carl And The Passions - "So Tough" (even bits of Light Album and M.I.U. Album felt like something very special. A new world to me. And I heard all of that at around the same time that I was hearing Brian Wilson's self-titled solo album and I Just Wasn't Made For These Times (also Orange Crate Art and Imagination) and even the song "Brian Wilson" by Barenaked Ladies (which Wilson would cover).

Soon there were more books, TV movies and documentaries, seeing the Mike Love-version of what was left of The Beach Boys, hearing Dennis Wilson's great Pacific Ocean Blue, and more books - and more music - and then, finally, I saw Brian Wilson perform his SMiLE show.

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The last 30 years of Eric Clapton’s career: Turgid

10:59am 30 Jun 2015


In a word. Well, lifeless. Or lazy. Uninspired. Dull. Meaningless. Take your pick I guess.

I was an Eric Clapton fan. Was.

On a good day I'm still happy with most of that first decade of work he did - I have a soft spot for his first solo album, I'm a fan of Cream, Derek & The Dominos, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie, his guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, his playing on the Doris Troy record and his time with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. I don't think anyone could argue that there was something special about his sound. I'm not saying he was the best. But he was one of the best. One of the most influential players.

By the time of the mid-70s all he wanted to do was be J.J. Cale so he covered a heap of Cale's tunes.

In 1990 I saw Eric Clapton live and it was one of the best shows ever, for what it symbolised, the start of my gig-going, and a chance, then, to see a hero - at the time when he was still a hero. I saw him again just under a decade ago, as work this time, a job, an assignment, and it was still pretty good. Because he favoured the Cream/Dominos material; it was Clapton looking back. You go to see his live show to hear the old hits. Forever-and-ever-Man

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Who is your favourite local bass player?

10:28am 29 Jun 2015


Many years ago we looked at favourite bass players - a fair enough topic to roll out one day on a music blog, and one we could revisited before now. We've certainly talked favourite drummers more than once, favourite guitarists too. And we got a good conversation going, back in the day, around favourite local drummers. It might be that I look for the drummer - do my best to listen in carefully there - but I certainly think New Zealand is blessed with some pretty incredible drumming talent (Wellington in particular, I feel).

But is it the same with bass players? I'm sure it is - I'm sure many of you think so and can name some of your favourites.

I thought about this because in his latest, guest post Jon McLeary of the Spines ran through the various bass players that have been in that band.Bass

That got me to thinking - so many good players right there, must be plenty of others you can think of.

I'm no huge TrinityRoots fan but I've always appreciated Rio Hemopo's sound - within the band and outside it too, he's created solo work, collaborated with plenty of other musicians. In fact I first heard him laying down a load of great funk covers...that and the earliest TrinityRoots material is what I remember. A great player.

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Film Festival time again: some great music films

11:54pm 25 Jun 2015


Another year, another crop of great music docs - the Film Festival program was launched last night and one of the exciting categories, always, is the music documentaries. This year sees another decent load.

Recently the Documentary Edge Festival showed a range of great films and on the music tip In My Father's House (not strictly about music but featuring a musician) and Heaven Adores You (about Elliott Smith) were highlights.

NZIFFThis year's New Zealand International Film Festival features plenty of great titles, and in the music-doco area there's one about the Roland TR-808; pioneering drum machine and a documentary about Amy Winehouse.  There are in fact plenty of highlights, a near embarrassment of riches.

The much talked-about, oft-stalled Wrecking Crew film will surely be one of the best-attended music films on offer this year. Then there's Lambert & Stamp which chronicles the rise of The Who via a pair or rock'n'roll footnotes. Mavis Staples gets the bio treatment and locally there's a look at the very clever Phil Dadson, the latest in a long line of music documentaries from the talented filmmaker Simon Ogston.

And a spotlight on Les Blank (who passed away in 2013) sees a handful of his music/travel documentaries. Blank's films take a look at music as something within a culture, they focus on musicians and music within the surrounds. And in particular his A Poem Is A Naked Person (completed over 40 years ago, withheld from exhibition until this year) seems like the must-see. Well, I say that, but I also want to check out Hot Pepper, his early-70s account of the work of the wonderful Clifton Chenier - the King of Zydeco.Deathgasm

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