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.

Guest Blog: Bore the world

07:33pm 18 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

We were sorta talking about how someone should look at just how bad the new version of Do They Know It's Christmas? is - on the back of yesterday's post. And then Andrew Paul Wood stepped up and offered to write that very post. And so here it is. That very post. Right here. Now. My thanks to him for a day off  as such. My best of the year list/s coming next week. Now it's over to Andrew...

It's the time of year that Bob Geldof trots out the one dire song that anybody under the age of 40 remembers him for, that Live Aid dreck Do They Know It's Christmas with its condescending colonial-occidental worldview and patronisingly stereotypical and inaccurate descriptions of Africa. Admittedly back in 1985 we were a bit more naïve and the Global Village was barely a twinkle in Marshall McLuhan's eye. Back then it was to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia (or, if you prefer, to buy ivory back scratchers for kleptocrats), but now that we can google Africa, the 40th incarnation of the song (back, as it is, like gastric reflux or Freddie Kruger) has been tweaked to raise money for Ebola in West Africa. Keeping in mind that even the Police Academy movies gave up with number seven, how does it stack up today?

[One Direction]
It's Christmas time there's no need to be afraid

I don't know about you but the thought of shopping malls filled with hopped-up children and endless repeats of "Snoopy's [effin] Christmas" fills me with the chill of existential dread. This terror is multiplied by several orders of magnitude by the words "one" and "direction" in close proximity, not least of all because it sounds like a Soviet era slogan one might be sent to the gulag for questioning.

[Ed Sheeran]
At Christmas time we let in light and we banish shade

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The biggest jerk in music for 2014

06:29am 18 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

While news and social media platforms - including right here at this website - did their best to take you as up close as possible to "the action" on Monday when a crazed gunman took a bunch of innocent people hostage in a Sydney café - resulting, after an hours-long stand-off in the deaths of two Australians who just got up and went to work that day as required - and John Key was typically deplorable in using the news, the very next day, to sell his version of protection (under a portfolio of paranoia and control) I think the single worst thing I've seen and heard since is the news (and, er, proof) that this chump made a song

I had never heard of former Australian Idol winner, Wes Carr, and wish that was still the case. And while at least one of you reading is getting ready to tell me that I'm helping him out by sharing his name and his song and the story around it I'm only doing so because I want to name and shame this guy as music's biggest jerk in 2014. Wes Carr

Obviously the competition includes U2 releasing their new album as malware and Kanye West breathing. Obviously the competition also includes Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner for allowing his publication to crown the aforementioned U2 album as 2014's best record. And to apparently be serious.

But this Wes Carr guy takes the trophy.

The song, for a start, is awful. It can barely stand up for seeming too close to those "go and get the guitar" parody moments from shows like The Office, or that classic episode of The Simpsons that so accurately lampooned this sick phenomenon when they had Sting sending all his love down the well.

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The best in podcasting

06:59am 17 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

Just recently Slate ran a list of the top 25 podcast episodes/moments to celebrate ten years of the medium. That list features some pretty great stuff - interviews and shows worth listening to, reminders of how far the format  has moved - from back when Ricky Gervais' gurning, grinning and goading ruled the medium to the latest sensation Serial. Which I'm suddenly hooked on - even though people are talking about it in the same hushed tones that precedes a recommendation of The Wire or Breaking Bad or Madmen as The. Best. Show. Ever. Serial

Marc Maron's WTF podcast has been top of the list and appointment listening for me since I first got addicted to listening to podcasts.

At some point I went off the show - Maron is frustrating, that's part of the fascination - and then just when I thought I was out he pulled me back in. His interviews with musicians can be amateur-hour excruciating. His interviews with comedians can be a little too in-crowd/-in-jokey for some. But at its best the show remains hypnotic - I'm pulled in. I want to see what he'll say. I want to hear what any of the guests might say. Need to find out who they are, where they've been, where they think they're going.

Maron's two-hour interview with old pal Louis CK was top of Slate's list - the number one podcast episode. Maron re-ran the piece (originally a two-parter, now available for free - Google that yourself - as a two-hour single episode) and it's still a fascinating listen. They cover a lot of ground; always in there is the tension between the two - a history that has been tinged by some professional (and personal) jealousy. WTF

I find myself returning to podcasts now for a bunch of reasons - perhaps chiefly because I'm a bit burnt out from a year of working through a lot of music. I find that music pulls me into my computer, ties me to the chair whereas a podcast frees me up - gets my nose out of a book for an hour or away from a screen. But I'm obviously addicted to listening and to listening-as-learning. Even though I welcome little bursts of silence.

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D'Angelo releases Black Messiah

06:27am 16 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

So, overnight - and finally - we have the new D'Angelo album. Soul/R'n'B's answer to/version of Chinese Democracy - just a decade and a half in the slow-cooker.

There were murmurs across the year, hints and hopes - D'Angelo back touring. A couple of filmed interviews and word from Questlove (producer/collaborator). Black Messiah

You can head to iTunes right now and buy Black Messiah - that's the new album (credited to Questlove and The Vanguard). Details are still arriving, a couple of early reviews are about online. But it's too early to say much about this album - it's taken over 14 years. It's not right to review it straight away. Even though everyone will be rushing to do so...deep in the bowels of the internet even James Griffin might be ditching his beloved ukes to think up some thoughts on this one, don't ya think? Nah, probably not...

Questlove is on the record. Also from Voodoo the bassist Pino Palladino is on the record (you might know him from this wonderful piece of work or from his work with - well, just about everyone: Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Adele, Erykah Badu, The Who, Tears for Fears, Go West, B.B. King, Nine Inch Nails...) Q-Tip is on the record. James Gadson (the legend behind the Bill Withers sound) is on the record.

I've listened to Black Messiah a few times already - right away it grabbed me. Because records like this are an event. Because you can hear the sound of Voodoo - a reminder of how ahead of its time that album was; how special, something that truly redefined a sound within music, created something that made a new genre and has gone on to have lasting impact.

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Dud and dumber albums of 2014

09:19am 15 Dec 2014

SIMON SWEETMAN

Alright, earlier in the year I told you about a bunch of the worst albums - that list was only up until May...then I spoke about the most disappointing albums of 2014 (these being records I had actually hoped would be good - Tweedy's solo album/project with his son, the latest from The Roots, the new Johnny Marr...)

So now it's time to complete the list for 2014.Thumbs Down

Here's the rest of the dud and dumber albums I had to listen to this year. (Click on the links for the full review of each album).

Neil Young, A Letter Home - a horrible gimmick.

Ben Watt, Hendra - this solo album from one of the minds behind Everything But The Girl is Nothing But The Worst.

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