Starting today the inmates are running the asylum. You'll remember I challenged people to Right This Blog! With that in mind welcome: KEN
What's Simon's star sign?
Blue I guess?
Right now, Little Feat. Of all time, Fleetwood Mac (in all its different versions).
Describe yourself in three words.
Larger than life.
What should a girl never do on a first date?
Admit to being into "just whatever is on the radio".
Who would you rather hang out with - Harry, Ron or Hermione?
Fleetwood Mac. Who knew?
It takes a special kind of person to persist with rock writing. You work from the inside, cultivating relationships with artists and record companies, getting your name on the door at gigs and being pleasant to important people while pretending to be objective.
Or, you're Simon Sweetman.
I don't know about you but Sweetman first caught my eye, glowering in the grim turdpile of daily rock hackery, as a man merciless enough to give Dane Rumble half a star. That takes balls. Not that Dane Rumble deserves any of the four and half remaining stars he might have aspired to, but the DomPost is an environment where three stars typically constitutes a towelling.
A brutal disregard of local sensitivities seemed to come easy to this guy. It's a characteristic that carries with it a whiff of troll. However, by the time I got around to discovering his blog I became aware that, if that is the case, then a surprising number of people are peering under his bridge.
I learned many things from his readers. I learned that he is a douche. I learned that he is just a drummer in a crappy covers band. I discovered that many people would like to see him make an album half as good as the self-evident masterpiece (possibly by Dane Rumble) that he just hosed down in the Entertainment section. Who of us, indeed, would not like to see him make that album? I also learned that for every fanboy he has reduced to blubbering, there are half a dozen people who enjoyed the takedown.
I was most startled to discover that he doesn't pour scorn on everything. His support for hard-working, terminally unfashionable perennials like Paul Ubana Jones and Darren Watson is touching. His tolerance of Phil Collins is touchingly bonkers, and I suspect his admiration of Crowded House exceeds mine. For all his cheerful dismissal of barbecue reggae, he likes Trinity Roots. Really, he enjoys and supports an awful lot of unambiguously good music.
I started to stalk him on Twitter. If you follow him, he'll follow you back in an instant. His tweeting of the name of each record as he listens to it, along with a steady diet of YouTube links and the occasional DVD, reveals a level of cultural consumption that would give most of us indigestion.
I unearthed his interest in professional wrestling. Why does he follow a sport that consists of grown men competing to see who's best at getting the other guy to feign discomfort? I wondered if it helped him cultivate a sense of menace, in case he should meet Barnaby Weir from The Black Seeds down a dark alley one night. (Barnaby is, of course, pleasant and cheerful to a fault and couldn't cut a fearsome figure in a dark alley if he carried a machete. But then he may well have Mu with him. Mu could.)
New Zealanders pride themselves on being honest and straightforward, but the truth is, most of us balk at complaining. If the Fish of the Day is lousy, the only person not to hear about it is the maitre d'. So much of a relentlessly positive vibe surrounds local music that we've set aside an entire month in which to patronise it. That's great and all, but shouldn't someone be providing a little perspective? As a service? Hurrah for Midnight Youth winning over the A&R guys, but to me they're artless plodders as exportable as fire blight. And they're not alone.
If you're going to praise Opshop to the skies, you're not leaving much headroom for Jakob or SJD or Coco Solid. Yet by giving Dane Rumble half a star, you make your genuine enthusiasm for Dave Dobbyn or Eru Dangerspiel palpable, don't you?
Which returns us to Simon Sweetman and who, or what, he is. He's a writer, I guess. Not a flashy prose stylist; he's too functional for that. As a critic he's less an analyst than a careful scorekeeper. What commends him, though, is thoroughness, knowledge, consistency and, most important, an ability to answer solely to music. He's constructed a weird internet netherworld where local music twerps congregate, using him as their giant, ginger sounding board.
Being into Blog on the Tracks is a little like being into jazz. It takes a while to get what's going on, but it's usually worth it in the end. So in the time-honoured style, fellow readers, I'll solicit your five cents' worth. Are you a barbecue reggae fan? Are you Dane Rumble's mother? Is Sweetman a menace to society or a necessary evil, like All Bran? Or do you, secretly, love the scrapping?
I'm thinking of putting out a record soon myself. Will I give it to Simon? Will I f**k.
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