Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Night Local: Shihad - Pacifier

Hey, and welcome to another May, another NZ Music Month. You know the drill. There's gonna be a viidjio.

And look, it's not a very imaginative pick this week. Another Shihad video, another one from The General Electric and another single. But dammit, it's a great one from one of our best bands who are getting a lot of airplay at the Monkeyhouse this week. I want to play this live one day.

Here's Shihad's Pacifier, recorded in 1999 and apparently written for Jon Toogood's friend Aaron Tokona of Weta/Cairo Knife Fight.  A bit of a family favourite, and even quite playable on a ukulele:

It's also a cool video, even if this one really needs to be in high definition. Yes, it's a Clockwork Orange pastiche, a bit like the Blur one, or the Rob Zombie one, but different because it's ours.

That's all I have, really. See you next Friday with another video!


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dancing on a Friday Night

The Darkness with Push Push
The Hunter Lounge, VUW 20/4/2017

I have for a very long time wanted to see The Darkess live. I didn't really think it would ever happen of course - the band split up in the late Nineties, only visited NZ once for a Big Day Out, and even when the reunion happened and then the Going Down Under Tour was announced last year, I didn't ever envisage myself being anywhere close to seeing them perform. Two missed chances with Iron Maiden have been geat teachers; but despite all avenues being exhausted with fellow audience-goers (one even at the eleventh hour), I went, I saw, and I believed.

It wasn't without its misgivings - a University venue meant the the whole student experience of crushing crowds, sticky floors and shuffling with eyes darting on either side waiting for an errant elbow to the head, was the order of the day. Strange how you forget the weird pehenomenon that is the front four rows of a standing gig quietly and mysteriously getting taller as the main act approaches. I haven't been in that sort of crowd since my own varsity days, and I didn't miss it.

But I'm so very glad I also didn't miss this experience. After a loose, fun and nostalgic warm up by Push Push, the main act was not tardy in fronting up - and front up they most certainly did. The Darkness are seasoned, but not yet venerable. Justin Hawkins has the energy of Jagger and the quick cheeky wit (and some of the look) of Russel Brand, and the band overall was tight, punchy and focussed. Brother Dan Hawkins lived up to his reputation s the quiet one, both siblings sharing guitar leads while bassist Frankie Poullain looked like the coolest man in Wellington as he would have had to have been, dressed in a polo neck, waistcoat and lounge suit. They opened with a reliable blinder - Black Shuck - and had me in the palm of their hands for the rest of the evening. Almost all of debut album Permission to Land was played, with a sprinkiling of new tracks including, curiously, what sounded like Hot Legs' Prima Donna - a few surpises and very few quiet bits, all lapped up by a fuller crowd than I'd anticipated. I don't think I've thrown so many goats, bawled out so many bawdy lyrics or - dear lord - danced. Ever. That just was never a Dunedin thing, I swear.

Well, I called it dancing. It was more jumping up and down on the spot - less pogo and matched with a decorous attempt to keep my arms close to my body (above my head for most of the time, though - it was really that kind of a gig), and on more than one occasion I was quietly grateful nobody I knew was there to see me. The soles and heels of my feet paid me back the next day (and I regretted not picking up a tee shirt on the way out); it's a young man's game. But hey, I had a literal brush with greatness when Hawkins, zipped up in his purple faux-cheetah-lined jumpsuit soloed past me on the shoulders of a roadie during their lengthy encore of Love on the Rocks With No Ice and I left feeling very very happy.

"Tell your freinds and families... we'll be back!" Justin Hawkins called out as they left the stage somewhere close to midnight. I hope the next time won't be too far away, and was already envying Christchurch its show the next night.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Swede Emotion

I love winter. Winter and Autumn. I adore Sortumn and its changing light, but the other two are okay also. Winter, especially; it's when I was born, where I come from, and where I'm at. The cold seasons are license to warm one's self and seek comfort. A toasty house with an open fire (best shut the drapes or the heat will escape), the golden promise of houselight in the dark (seriously - the curtains. Close them!), and winter food.

We're spoiled for all year round produce. It seems wrong to be having avocadoes and tomatoes near mid-winter, but I don't think I could do without either. And then there's the mid-year fruit and vegetables whose sweetness is made by colder mornings. Sprouts, parsnips, and the swede:

Food carries memories of comfort. I'd go to war for my Gran's corned beef recipe, or her steamed ginger pudding with custard the consistency of thickened cream. Such things to brace one's self when our world is farthest from the sun. I've always loved parsnips, and when straying from discipline can render them ambrosiac in a nutmeggy garlic gratin. I hated brussels sprouts with the rest of my generation until I was turned onto them at dinner with my first serious girlfriend and her parents.

I'd never tasted feijoas until I moved to the North Island, and then had them baked in a crumble while staying with friends. Nectar. We now have a tree of our own, which after a few years of coaxing and transplanting is finally yielding its fragrant green baubles, which will soon be big enough to make a pudding or batch of muffins.
The swede I ran hot and cold on with usually bad experiences (at a local restaurant served as a side diced, undercooked, and ultimately vomited out during a very long day at Shantytown when I was nine), but we made our peace in my teens when I could eat at least half a swede uncooked and still have room  for tea. Staying with an older cousin in Dunedin at fourteen my two friends and I shared a whole one the size of a lawn bowl while stomping up the hill to his flat and out of the approaching dusk.

These are things to look forward to, and meals to remember with a good wine or even a mead. I hadn't bought a swede for myself for years, but saw one in a local supermarket a couple of years ago and instantly had to have it. It's now a winter staple. Over the past few years another friend and I have found a whole new subject to talk about, swapping recopies and talking about baking and cooking.

Some people aren't fans of the mid-year cold snaps, wind and damp, but I've always loved it, and the taste of it. Probably always will.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pretty Ugly

So, this happened yesterday:

And of course this. And this is what happens when making sarcastic (and often very funny) trailer spoofs goes to your head. Plus, WTF The Independent?

 And so on.

Hair and Make Up is a technical category, so right off the bat a win in this category does not and should not have any relation to whether it's a good movie, or even a good movie gone bad. And, clearly, it's not a contest between this category and Best Actor, Best Picture or whatever. Jesus.

I remember watching the Lord of the Rings DVDs for the first time with commentary by Ngila Dickson's commentary, and being blown away by her insight as costume designer - the effect of lighting, weight, fabric dynamics, weathering, environment, wind, water, movement, the cut of cloth... so many elements that just weren't apparent to me watching the movies for however many times I'd seen them. 

There's a great and really informative article by the ever-reliable Andrew Dyce on ScreenRant which goes into the history of this still young Oscar category, what it actually means, and how a generally derided movie like Suicide Squad can earn not just a nomination but win the category. If the result frustrates, puzzles  or even interests you, you should check it out; there's defnitely more to this win than meets the eye, or merits the entitled whining.

As for me I'm happy for this pretty ugly little film and its band of well-designed misfits. Especially Killer Croc. Damn that's cool work. And congratulations to Squad's other Oscar winnerViola Davis too!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bloody Hell

Hello Readers.

Sorry, I've been somewhat distracted from my blog of late, and am currently working away to remedy this; so for a while things might go a bit wee-woo on the chronological front as time flows backwards over these pages. There'll be a return to normality, ollowing a short series of dainty wee posts here and there to tide things over.  Just go with it - there's bound to be a good story somewhere in there.



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Chilling for Christmas

It's Chriiistmaaaaas!

I hope you, dear Reader, are having a whale of a time, perhaps with friends and family, feasting, carousing, and drinking winters wolves from the harsh, bitter Northen Hemisphere midwinter. Brrr! I say. Brrr!!

Of course not Brrr. It's been a lovely balmy summer's weekend here at the Monkeyhouse with a blessing of rain on the Friday, a good sunny day's gardening on Saturday in anticipation of a family BBQ for Boxing Day. And as for Christmas Day, well!

Long-time readers of course will know that I have something of a bee in my bonnet about the Christmas musical fare. There are three kinds, ranging from the almost-too-appropriate (your actual Christmas carol about Jesus and whatnot), on-point songs about Christmas (Deck Those Halls, We Wish You A Messy Kwazmuss, and why does nobody sing Good King Wenceslas anymore? It's historical fact, people!) and then, hopefully somewhere in Hell where they belong, those seasonal pretenders which don't even attempt to reference Christmas at all but sneak in the door by virtue of being about ... snow (Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bell Rock and its accursed bob-sledding namesake.)

But look, I do like some well-chosen Christmas music, and the Simian household this year were left wandering the streets confused and bewildered when our friend Al wasn't able to produce an annual dedication to the Church of Snoopy this year. 

But amidst all the lazy Christmas covers album cash-ins, some  people do try, bless them. And even here in Aotearoa in 2016 there were attempts to create a localised Christmas song. Noble failures to hit number one, both TV3's Denis Marsh thingy and Air NZ's rather fun Julian Dennison/Ronan Keating Summer Wonderland gag. Summer Christmas is a hard chestnut to crack, and for me there were three contenders for this year's yuletide singalong:

So, in descending order of choice the songs were:

3. White Wine in the Sun - Tim Minchin

A modern Australian miracle, which featured on Al's Xmas Album from last year. It gets me nearly every time, but I'd not known about it before Al let me know about it (and I seemt o be the last person in the world to know it at all), so moving ever closer to home:

2. Michael Fay - Able Tasmans

Which isn't really a Christmas song, but does feature the chorus "It was Christmas Day, when Michael Fay gave his money away/And Jesus dont have a lot to say - we'd all forgotten his birthday"
It makes the list because it and its parent album hit the big 25 this year, and Lord knows, Hey Spinner is still a great listen, but not quite Christmassy enough (though very singable), so the number one is this:

1. Christmas Chimes - The Chills

Very local, very much on point, and maybe MAYBE a contender for this year's Al-bum, here's a fitting celebration of Christmas comforts for everyone, whatever your particular hemisphere, from Martin Phillipps' Dunedin ensemble.

This is a remastered version from the band's 1989 BBC sessions and was intended for an unrealised seasonal EP reputedly titled Silver Bells. There's still time, Marty! Do the album for next December and a NZ first!

In the mean-time, a very Merry Christmas to all of you at home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fourth Awakens

Rogue One, a Star Wars Story (d. Gareth Edwards, 2016) 

Well, I went and saw a new Star War tonight with my brother in law, as yet another installment in our 'due diligence' series of paternal gazumphing our boys' keenness to be part of the new Disney soft reboot shuffle. It was pretty good. Fantastic in places, a bit slow in others, a little wobbly in the plot department. Needed editing - particularly in the first half, where the movie was mainly concerned wth introducing its large cast and getting them to where they need to be in order that the main story begin.

The Star Wars universe was always classic Space Opera thanks to geography-busting hyperspace, but Rogue One's storytelling expediency has our heroes reach just where they need to be within five minutes of landing anywhere. Maybe, perhaps for the choppy first half, this is just as well, because it seems there are a lot of ducks to be set in a row in this movie before the action-packed second half gets into gear.

 That's a curious thing for this movie and its place in the Star Wars movieverse. I remember when Star Wars Insider magazine used to run a semi-regular column dedicated to readers who had found a friend who (gasp!) Had Never Seen Star Wars. That was... maybe fifteen years ago? In 2016 I think we should be able to decare that quest run to its logical conclusion. Nobody has not seen Star Wars now, surely. And yet despite its existence as a crowd-pleasing filler, Rogue One does go out of its way to explain, point out, and generally colour in the gaps for anyone who isn't already aware of the film's general story and maybe why there's no Wookie in this film.

Given that, this is (to me) the second attempt by filmmakers old enough to have at least lived through A New Hope's arrival in cinemas to pretty much tell the story from a different angle.
I suspect, in fact, that Rogue One is kin to The Force Awakens in both being irresistible attempts to re-tell A New Hope while 'improving' on the latter's limitations. A broader scope, greater diversity of races and species, more spectacle, a less lumbering baddie.

But once the story kicks in it does crack along, and though it's a well-worn observation, new droid K2SO is a fun addition - a sardonic and blackly comic foil with an intriguing hang-up. 

K2SO. Magnificent bastard.
K2SO is in places a practical effect, that approach so championed in SFX these days. There are of course two characters almost entirely reconstructed through CGI ... but as for finding our way out of Uncanny Valley, I think we're still not there, yet. But we've made good inroads, and maybe within five years we might actually be there. Suffice it to say, I think they really cracked it in A New Hope.

Should you see Rogue One? Yes, go and see it, and enjoy it. I was relieved that between the first trailer and the final cut some changes had been made. Not all reshoots need be a disaster, and it appears a different edit has done wonders to Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso, a character who really didn't appeal at all to me in those first teasers. The supporting cast are pretty good, and Ben Mendelsohn's Imperial foil a nice addition.

Still not sure whether I'm on board for Han Solo, though.