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.

Late Night's great musical guests and moments

02:32am 15 May 2015


The stories have started rolling in - here's the latest, about Ryan Adams playing a blinder, and before that there was Adam Sandler's cute wee ode and Pitchfork's decent summary of some of the musical highlights.David Letterman

David Letterman is about to step down from hosting a late night TV show - he was one of the pioneers, any of the new breed are copying the tweaks he made to the Johnny Carson model. Letterman has been doing it some 33 years. After next week we'll be left with the smiling nice guys only.

And that's fine. That might not matter at all to you - but as the tributes are already flowing it's been nice seeing special mention made of the music, the guests, the variety, the special performances, the idea that Letterman himself was very much a curator - before everyone started being referred to as a "Content Curator".

These days I only keep up with Letterman's show via clips online. I check out funny moments, key interviews and particular musical performances when someone else has pointed me to them; some other curator...well, sometimes I still watch the show.

But over the last 20 years there were times when Letterman's show was must-watch TV - and we didn't even get the good Letterman show on New Zealand television.

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The Faith No More reunion

07:27am 14 May 2015


In the next couple of days I'll be writing a review of the brand new Faith No More album, the band's "comeback" or "reunion" album; their first in close to two decades.

Usually when a band reunites and serves up the dreaded new material there's cause for concern. We all want our favourite bands to remain relevant - or recapture our imagination. We hope for the best. But sometimes you end up with the sort of thing as served, half-baked at best, by the Pixies.

Faith No More was one of my favourite bands for years. Still is. Always will be. And though I don't listen to the band's music all that much now - it's imprinted, ingrained, I carry it with me - I have fond memories of discovering all of their magic. From seeing their show in support of Angel Dust, one of my all-time favourite concerts through to catching them on the Album of the Year tour.Sol Invictus

I saw Faith No More three times in three different venues in the same city between 1993 and 1997. A different guitarist each time, I was with a different crowd of mates each time, the band had a new album to push each time. And all three gigs contained a different setlist and plenty of magic.

Faith No More ended up spawning a bunch of bands I loathed - you could feel the group's influence across nu-metal wannabes, and a few genre-pushing metal/rock acts.

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Music documentaries: a messy montage

11:33am 13 May 2015


I've told you this fact about myself before I'm sure, but I still go to the video store. I still call it the video store - even though I rent DVDs.

I go at least once a week, sometimes more. And I'm always on the hunt for documentaries, good, bad, I'll watch them all. Or at least it seems that way.

I rent comedies, horrors, dramas, new releases, old classic and cult films too. But I'll always check out a new music documentary.

But you know what - most music documentaries aren't that great. And especially the ones that get raved about.

The latest disappointment for me is Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (which is screening at cinemas, hasn't yet made it to the DVD store). I had to see this. I'm a Nirvana fan, and a music documentary fan, I had to see this. I also have a love-hate relationship with the film's director, or with his work rather. I didn't at all dig his Rolling Stones doco, Crossfire Hurricane, it did nothing new and just operated as a 50th Birthday present to/from the band. But I loved his film about Hollywood producer Robert Evans, The Kid Stays In The Picture.Montage of Heck

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Check out the new Boz Scaggs album

11:35am 12 May 2015


The selling point of the new album by Boz Scaggs, at least initially, was hearing Lucinda Williams sing Whispering Pines by The Band.

That's worth the price of admission alone. It is really good - as good as you'd figure, and the album's cover was pushing that fact, also mentioning a duet with Bonnie Raitt. She sounds as good as ever too. A Fool To Care

But the selling point very swiftly became the album itself, became Boz Scaggs' latest in a line of very strong albums over the last decade.

I knew about Boz growing up, Silk Degrees was everywhere, like Rumours or Frampton Comes Alive or Dark Side of the Moon. You saw it in record collections, your parents had it, other houses had it too. Singles on the radio...a run of hits over a few years...

And then suddenly Boz Scaggs was not cool. Or was deemed never cool.

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R.I.P. Jack Body

11:09am 11 May 2015


Very sad news overnight, Jack Body has died. The news wasn't - as such - a surprise. People knew that Jack was ill, that his time on this earth was coming to an end. But it is very sad news, here was a person who did so much, who gave so much - who was still, rightly, being celebrated. Jack Body

There will be many tributes - and deservedly. Jack Body was an important New Zealand musician, composer, photographer, writer and educator. In fact he will continue to be an important figure in New Zealand music, his teachings so widely loved and respected, his ethnomusicology studies so important. He has been credited with introducing the Gamelan to New Zealand.

I first heard about Body and learned of his extraordinary body of work through friends who had studied under him. Putting a name to a face and that name to music made me realise I had in fact heard some of his work already. The stories from friends - his influence so huge - made me want to hear more of his work.

JACK!I'm hearing more of those sorts of stories currently as I'm midway through this wonderful book, JACK! Celebrating Jack Body, Composer - it was timed as tribute-while-Jack-was-still-alive. He got to see the book's completion and release.

In fact, in a brief conversation with the book's publisher I was told, a week or two out from the book's release that Body had said it was likely he would have only weeks rather than months to live. He knew his time was coming to an end.

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