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.

Name My Band!

09:10am 09 Oct 2015


I've joined a new band, built from the parts of an old band I was in for a couple of years - but this is a new line-up, a new sound, and, well, world domination can wait - right now the aim is for a bit of fun once a week or fortnight or whatever with a bit of a rehearsal and we've done that enough now where we think we might be ready to play in public. We could share the bill with a more experienced band - we could jerk the curtain; be the opening act. We're capable of playing a 30-40 minute set. We've got some good covers to sprinkle through a set of originals. Band Names

It's country-ish and folk-ish, the line-up is bass, drums, acoustic guitar and vocals, clarinet and fiddle.

But we don't have a name.

We need a name before we have a gig - and I imagine we'll end up with whatever name we trial for that first gig. We'll perhaps not be entirely happy with it - but it'll stick. Or it will do. That'll be the first thing. Then it'll stick. That's often how band names work.

I don't have a secret stash of band names either.

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Delaney and Tami and Marlon...

11:59am 08 Oct 2015


Remember, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about - suddenly - being impressed by Delaney Davidson, about catching up all of a sudden. It was my aim to get along to his gig, but in the end that didn't happen, I was at home looking after the wee one that night. And that's just fine - family comes first. I get to see a lot of shows, I never mind if it's someone else's turn to go out, I'm happy at home when it's a case of not having to file a review. When Marlon Williams toured earlier in the year I was keen to see it, but so was Katy, we couldn't sort a sitter so I suggested she go to the gig, I'd have other opportunities surely. Plus, I'd seen Marlon before, he's good. And he's getting better all the time...Delaney

Anyway, I finally got around to reviewing the new Delaney Davidson album which I'm really loving; that kick-ass band. Man! And I knew that band, from the last Tami Neilson record, they'd worked wonders, which is not to sell Ms. Neilson short. In fact I raved about her album last year not once, but twice because it was a real revelation, I hadn't been that fussed with her previous albums, in fact I'd written a pretty savage review of one of them. The record had not done a thing for me. But that's not the story now. I like where she's at. She's got the voice, the shtick, the look, the style, the vibe - but most importantly between her, her producer/s and band, she's got the sound. The songs and the way they're arranged. It works. She's onto something. And it's something good.

Lightning doesn't often strike twice, but the brand new Tami Neilson album is something too. Really something. Read my review there, I'm trying to explain the album as if pondering it in real time, it can't be better than Dynamite! Surely not. But then, it is, or if not better, just different enough. That great group once again, that great sound. A voice that belts it out, that can do country-croon, the weepies, the balladry, but also the sultry, strutty, rocking-good bawlers and brawlers; there's a lot in these songs and Neilson's in command of a lot of different ways to say what she needs to say. She's also guided by a steady hand, a smart head when it comes to the production and arrangements. It's all immaculate. But also just dirty enough.Tami

So there's two great new Tami Neilson albums, a year and a bit apart. And a brand new Delaney Davidson album that's the business too. Also Marlon Williams' solo album, released a bit earlier this year, is one I've just kept playing over and over.

So good.

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Win Tickets to see Dave Mulcahy

07:38am 07 Oct 2015


I'm pretty excited about Retrospective: The Songs of Dave Mulcahy. You know Mulcahy's work, hopefully, from his time as part of The Jean-Paul Satre Experience (JPSE) and Superette. You might know, too, thatDave Mulcahy - Retrospective he's gone on to release music under a host of names and with several band/side-projects including the fantastic Mulchzoid and Sexy Animals to name just two others.

Later this month, Thursday, October 22, Mulcahy will be presenting an evening of his songs at the Wintergarden in Auckland (Civic Theatre). He'll be cherry-picking from past bands and current/ongoing projects (there's a brand new Mulchzoid album that I've yet to review but it's great on first listen).

Mulcahy has also created a special sampler-CD featuring songs that will appear in the show. This is a one-off event and the CD is the perfect introduction to the many musical worlds Mulcahy has operated in.

I have two prizes to offer today. Firstly, one lucky Auckland reader will win a double-pass to the show and a copy of the CD-sampler.

And for someone outside of Auckland, a reader unable to attend the show, there's a bonus prize: a copy of the CD-sampler.

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Mental Notes is 40

11:37am 06 Oct 2015


I grew up listening to Split Enz. I'm not alone in this and I've told you all before. But, still, I think of Split Enz - often - as being one of the most significant cultural forces in my life. Beyond music, beyond a band. They were my Beatles in a way, and linked to Split Enz the solo careers and sideline projects and other bands from all of the members, the art of Phil Judd and the fact that Split Enz is a New Zealand group - the first New Zealand band I was aware of; it meant a lot to know that a group of people from this part of the world made music so great. It meant anyone could do it. We all know that's true - but it was the discovery of Split Enz's music, my parents' passion for it, that got me on the right track.

Then I found out that Phil Judd went to the same school as my mum, they knew each other, my brother's art teacher had taught Phil too; he had also introduced my brother to the music of Schnell-Fenster (in so many ways that meant as much to me as discovering Split Enz, though it could only come after, it took beginning with the Enz to know the weight and worth of Fenster). The Split Enz story just felt so important. It always has for me.

One day, after years of asking, emailing, working out a strategy - and a reason/pitch - I interviewed Phil Judd. It was a highlight of my time as a music journalist. Still is, still rates up there as one of the most important interviews for me. I planned a day off work. I was nervous. I knew he was fragile. It could all be over before it started. Instead I got 90 minutes and a career overview, I got to ask about the albums and songs I loved and the film soundtracks, and art, everything...

The chance to then talk to Tim Finn was more a case of the standard 15-minute plug-an- album/tour-interview but I was still pleased to have the chance. The music of Split Enz - and before that Split Ends; the music, then, of Phil Judd and Tim Finn, has forever had me Spellbound.

When I wrote On Song it made immediate sense to me to start with Crowded House's biggest hit and end with a slightly more obscure track by Split Enz. I was probably trying to say too many things, that Judd had influenced Neil Finn as much as Tim Finn had ever influenced Neil Finn, that one of New Zealand's great triumphs on the international stage (Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over) owed something to back when Split Enz was quirky and weird, and "arty" and being booed off the telly, and baffling crowds, but I liked the arc in reverse. That provided the only structure I needed to start writing. It gave me a belief in the book, another book about New Zealand music...
When I first heard Mental Notes my jaw dropped. I still have that reaction - it's 40 years old now. It's theSpellboundstarting point for the Split Enz that I grew up with, that I came to love and understand as the most important band New Zealand ever created. The early Enz is easy to gloss over now, the legacy points to Tim and Neil and their triumphs and competitiveness in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I love that version of the band - and it's madness to me when anyone writes that off as sell-out stuff, as the band becoming a mainstream pop act. But, I get lost in the weirdness and wonder of Mental Notes and the couple of albums that followed.

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Getting excited about Soulfest

11:14am 05 Oct 2015


The Labour Weekend Soulfest in Auckland is fast approaching. And just recently the timetable has been announced (see pic below right) it's a pretty fantastic line-up, seeing it all laid out like that. It flows well, not too many problems there in terms of crossover/double-ups, and there's time to see a little of everything - or very nearly. A day out at a festival is a long day of music so there's probably the chance to catch your breath and relax a bit too - one or two acts you might not be as interested in, or just head over to catch one of the DJ sets (an ongoing entrée - an alternative for when the main dish of the time is not to your taste).Soulfest Timetable

I guess I'm pretty excited about this year's Soulfest because it looks like I'm going to make it - I'll be happy just to see Kamasi Washington (reason enough to make the trip I reckon). I finally got around to writing a review of the album (having already declared it the best record of 2015; best meaning biggest - biggest, boldest effort). But if you don't believe me this live concert footage is a must-see/must-hear and the chance to see anything even vaguely resembling that has me sold on Soulfest.Soulfest Poster

The reformation of Black Star, a no doubt fun set from De La Soul (despite having seen them a bunch of times already) and shows by Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott - well, that's the deal right there. And I was enough of a Lauryn Hill fan (that first solo album particularly) to be curious at what she's going to offer.

There are a few names there that have me curious too (Eric Benet, Miguel, Charlie Wilson) - I know what they do, what they can offer, and though I'm not heading along specifically to see them I'm looking forward to what they might serve up, I'm interested, hopeful.

It feels like the perfect amount of music for a (long) day out. And a pretty much perfectly arranged line-up.

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