Blog on the Tracks
I don't know if I have ever told you this but I'm a huge Daft Punk fan. I don't like everything that the group have done - but I like what they're about; enough to always want to check in.
Homework, the debut, arrived at a time when I was discovering a lot of dance music and it's been a favourite ever since. I reckon it's a classic from that age/era; it's held up well. Discovery I couldn't quite get on board with - I enjoyed revisiting it on vinyl recently but ultimately it's too camp-and pleased-with-itself for my liking. I guess I admire it - without actually liking it. If that's possible - if that even makes sense?
Discovery has been an important blueprint for cheeky and cheesy disco-laced pop and dance music across the past decade. And I'm not sure there's been anything overtly influenced by it that has in fact bettered it.
I kinda liked Human After All but only because at the time that it arrived it suggested more of Homework than Discovery; in fact it's equal doses of both without ever really getting close to either. But it was a good reminder that Daft Punk was out there, worth keeping tabs on.
Wellington's newest music venue isn't all that new - just new to me. Puppies (and yes, I hate the name - but that really doesn't matter) used to be called Happy. And then Happy fell on sad times and closed up so Ian Jorgensen - better known to most as Blink - reopened the bar as Puppies, reimagining it as a venue.
Happy/Puppies always had the stumbling block of a big pillar in the way (what is it with those and Wellington venues?). So Happy went from having a stage that nobody could see to making the stage the dance-floor/bar-floor and pushing everyone up on to the stage. It was cosy - but it made getting a drink difficult and meant you were part of the show whether you wanted to be or not.
So, first thing Blink has done with Puppies is put the stage back where it should be, angling it, putting it in the back corner so that the visibility is as good as can be - given those pesky poles.
The commitment is to making a venue - rather than a bar first and foremost. You can still get a drink and some food but you are there, hopefully, to see - and hear - the music.
So Blink kicked off the venue last year with the selling point being affordable gigs that started on time. A standard annoyance is turning up for 8 or 9pm for a gig that starts at 11 or midnight.
The highlight of Sydney's Vivid Festival (which starts next weekend and rolls through to mid-June) is surely Kraftwerk. The pioneering electronic/techno/synth/avant-garde/Krautrock/experimental group has been an influence across the last 30-40 years, over so many genres including indie-pop, hip-hop, electronica and various forms of dance music.
And for their headlining slot at Vivid the band is playing The Catalogue 12345678 shows - meaning across four nights, two shows a night, there is the chance to hear eight albums performed in their entirety. One per show. It starts with 1974's Autobahn on the Friday night at 7.30pm and on Monday, May 27 at 9.30pm the final album, 2003's Tour de France will be performed live.
In between there are shows in support of Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986) and The Mix (1991). The eight albums from the "classic" Kraftwerk period/sound/style.
Now not every single one of those albums is a classic - but, then again, what a line-up: Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express, The Man Machine and Computer World - probably in that order too (although maybe I'd slide Man Machine up ahead of Trans-Europe, maybe) are albums that have meant a lot to me.
I bought a few of the vinyl reissues the other year and readers of my Vinyl Countdown blog will know (perhaps) that I've already gassed on a wee bit about Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express and Computer World (well, if you didn't know already now the links are there).
The Kraftwerk records are indulgences - I approach them with an almost fetishist approach; certainly in the case of those recent vinyl reissues. Lovely things. And I make the point in one of my Vinyl Countdown posts (the Computer World one, in fact) that I never ever seem to listen to Kraftwerk with other people. I just assume other people like Kraftwerk and listen to the music - or don't. And, therefore, do not. It's never been something I've wanted to introduce people to. Or have a conversation about. And I don't wait around in record stores for the chance to chin-stroke and gas-bag about Kraftwerk. (Well, alright, I may have done that once).
Katy and I have a lot more TV theme tunes running around in our heads these days. One of us will catch the other singing "Raa Raa/you are/a noisy little lion!" and whoever is doing the singing will promptly get a good telling-off. I deserve a telling-off anytime I sing, of course. You see, I failed at a career as a musician and promptly became a music critic. It was all I could do. I'm surprised, given that's the inverse path, that there aren't more Kiwi singers writing columns. Perhaps there are? Anyway...
Raa Raa is one of Oscar's favourite TV shows. He shouts out "Ra Ra!" or - as he pronounces it.
"A-Wa Waa!" not so much because he desperately wants to watch the show all the way through but because he wants to have the television on. And he knows that Raa Raa is on the TV at some point during the day. His other favourite show is Peppa Pig. I might have talked him into that one (better theme tune - better show; shorter too, always a bonus with children's television programmes - the best episode of Peppa Pig, by miles, is the one where Mr Potato Comes to Town. Er, anyway...).
We don't watch all that much TV - at least not in real time. We watch things we've recorded - after Oscar goes to bed. We catch bits of the News here and there, often in and around dinner. And we'll rent a TV series on DVD from time to time - when we do get the time around blog-writing and work and study and parenting and the occasional fragment of our old life.
The current show we're getting hooked on is Justified. Took a recommendation from the bloke at the video store and gave it a shot. So far it's working out pretty good. But damn it's got a terrible theme song. This could have actually been a deal-breaker. But, in accordance with a good video store recommendation he did warn me that the show featured "the worst theme tune ever".
Last week the inmates were running the asylum. You'll remember that I asked people to Right This Blog! I asked for a "wildcard" too - in case one (or two) of the five chosen didn't front. I asked Joe The Boxer because his idea seemed to get rather cruelly voted down. Joe The Boxer delivered his wildcard blog. So here, to start this week, is one final Guest Blog, the last in 2013's Right This Blog! series...take it away, Mr. The Boxer...
Guest Blog: I have a question for you. Scroll through the list of band and artist names on your iPod. Roughly, what percentage of these bands or artists is from the USA or Britain? I had a quick look at mine (OK, I just spent the last 45 minutes counting them up and using an Excel spreadsheet to keep track and calculate percentages - I'm a massive dork).
I was pretty shocked when I realised that 80 per cent of my music came from these two areas of the world. I'm not sure if that would be higher, lower or about the same as the average music lover, but it did make me realise that the UK and USA really do dominate popular musical culture.
In the early 90s, these two musical powerhouses went through periods that managed to resonate enough in culture to be given names that will instantly recognisable to anyone reading this blog: Grunge and Britpop. But which of these two eras was better? This is what I've been spending way too much time trying to figure out. I have decided the best way to do this is to make up categories and figure out a winner for each one, then an overall winner at the end.
Before I get started, a few things I want to mention. I have to acknowledge the excellent John Harris book The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the demise of English Rock as a primary source, and also various friends of mine for helping to bounce some ideas around. I'm not including Radiohead in this, because they were never a Britpop band - they were a British band around at the same time as Britpop. In fact, Creep, with its alienation lyrics, loud/soft dynamic and crunchy guitar, was more of a prototypical grunge song. Pavement and Sonic Youth are out as well. And I'll avoid using the word "iconic" to describe anything, because, well, I just really hate that word. Does anyone else hate this word or is it just me? It really irritates me. Can everyone stop using it all the time? Can we all agree to stop using the word "iconic" to describe stuff?
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