Recent Reviews

Here’s a collection of recent music reviews for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy.

Published in NZ Musician – April 2011

Barnaby Weir/Tarot Card Rock

I once discussed packaging with Black Seeds front man Barnaby Weir, on the impending release of the 2nd Fly My Pretties album.  Weir was adamant about the need to build a strong brand and to deliver a product “that people would want to treasure”.  Which is what he’s delivered here, with a gorgeous set of CD sized Tarot Cards replacing the usual liner notes – a tradition that harks back to classics like the Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and other albums of that era.  Apt, given the folky, sometimes twee, retro roots nature this new project and light years from the electronic sample mish mash Flash Harry (2003).  This one’s a nostalgic, easy-listening Cadillac ride down a hassle free country lane, the eight track blaring and a comfort at Memphis’s Sun Studios.

Penned by Weir and longtime sparring partner Craig Terris (Cassette), these songs are honest and unpretentious.  Opening the album, the title track unashamedly rips Springsteen’s ‘84 hit Dancing in the Dark before moving through to darker, bluesier, numbers (Let Me Slide).  There’s dalliances with gypsy tinged, pastoral odes (Replay in My Heart) and a grainy, true rocka I’m Coming Home to sign offToss in FMP relic Old Friend and some heartland collaborations with Dutch country outfit Rootsclub and you’ve got one satisfying blend, immaculately packaged.  Definitely a keeper.

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Published in NZ Musician – April 2011

The Tenderizers/Love Me Tender

Don’t judge this album by its naff cover alone.  On first look, glance you’d be forgiven thinking this was some weird pycho-billy rocker outfit.  Yet listening to John Newton’s Tenderizers, you’re more likely to think it’s a Roger Whittaker impersonator at a Jim Croce’ tribute concert.  Recent press has built up Newson as some kind of Kiwi version of Paul Kelly.  I wouldn’t go that far.  However, tracks like Weedkiller Waltz and Crosscut Saw are gorgeously layered back-country narratives with compelling lyrics and harmonies that creep slowly into the subconscious.  Clearly this is an album from the Mainland with bitter sweet pastoral vignettes like Heartache and Sorrow Girl’s town.  The latter, by the way features some pretty mean harps and nice grungy, bluesy guitars.  In Mr Fatboy Newson conjures up a lurid, small town melodrama with sleazy cat praying on all the unsuspecting at a local square dance.  Whittaker’s discovered Nick Cave, it seems.  But joking aside this, is a great collection, despite being sold woefully short by its packaging.  Well worth multiple listens.  

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Published in NZ Musician – April 2011

Ruby Fusion – Disciplinary Hearings

 Christchurch 4 piece Ruby Fusion describe themselves as Politico-Funk-Punk-Folk-Blues-Roots.  Right. On wax they’re somewhere between Coup D’ Tat and the Feelers. 

 This is first album proper following 2009’s patchy ‘First Broadcast’ ep.  Yet again, it seems the haste to get material down has hampered quality control.  The first five songs are rushed, poorly played and full of crass lyrics lacking any real poetry or style, especially the cheesy rock of Too much of a chore and potty mouthing of Smug.

Had I hit ‘stop’ I would’ve missed the two groovy 70’s slow burners Poor Blue and Call it Hope.  It’s all too obvious that Gwen Reynold’s and Michael Russell’s keen horn section was on fire that day.  Funky grinder Freeloader’s is a bit naïve, lyrically, but none the less a superb tune.  Nearly ¾s in, Attitude finally shows us what this band is good at – Good, crowd pleasing sing-alongs fired from the hip.  At last this band is sitting up straight at their desks! 

Although there’s plenty of punk attitude here, these guys are way too old for this juvenile behaviour. 

The beautifully jazzy Corporate Speak, with its deft and luscious instrumentals indicate the clear path this band should take, just find a better lyrics writer and grow some maturity glands. 

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Published in NZ Musician – Febraury 2011

The Kumpanee – The Kumpanee Ball

This is the bomb! I laughed right out loud!  It took me right back to the early concept hip hop of De La Soul and Cypress Hill.  Loosely based some surreal dream, the ‘Ball’ is madcap compilation of well crafted rhymes peppered  with some delicious Bro-fonk harmonies, jazzy rhythms and phatter- than- full- cream beats.  There’s some stunners like “That Girl”, which blatantly steals lines from Steve Miller’s “Fly like and Eagle” and and bounces higher than  a red rubber ball on asphalt.  Weaving between songs the short dialogue sequences could’ve be lifted from Waiti’s “Boy”.  But these three lads are no ‘eggs’.  The band’s name is a reference to the Maori Battalion ( ‘C’ Company) –  A fitting tribute to that legacy of waiata and camaraderie.  And it’s clear these guys are having fun.  Title track “Kumpanee Ball” is upbeat and funny, whilst “Liar” is a blatant dig at Eminem and a doff caps to Kingston Dancehall, simultaneously.  “Cookie Jar” reworks the line “who stole the Cookie from …” and will get under your skin in the first minute in.  Then there’s “No one Special” which reworks Randy Newman’s best Disney tunes.  Who’d a figured that’d work?   Every time I listen I hear something new – a sure sign that this is more than another tedious hip hop album. Keeping the content fresh, they reference all their heroes but never stoop to repetitive whines, jingles or annoying polygamist gansta rap.  Chur Bros!

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Published in NZ Musician – Febraury 2011

Dylan Storey – The Power Of Suggestion

Whether it be it necessity or a dogged decision to keep it close to home, Dylan Storey has embraced the DYI ethic hammer and tongs.  This, his fourth release, is once again tracked at his home studio in the Waitakeres.  Not that you’d know.  The production is clean and crisp, yet nicely understated.  No fancy producer trickery here.  A good chance for Storey to show off his collection of vintage guitars.  “Copy of a Copy” opens this 5 track ep with a slight alt-country feel, reminiscent of Wings and the Allman Bro.s before winding up to a heavier feel courtesy of bassist Brendan Turner and skins-man Scott Mason.  “River Song” and “The Morning” drop fuzz pedals, a crawling jazz bass and funky snares as the momentum builds and sit heavy on the memory, long after the embers have burnt out.  “Bold as Thieves” kicks in with deep Pixies style grunge riff, and closer “The Boss” wraps with a nice strum along.  Unlike earlier efforts, this one feels more cohesive and truer to Storey’s on stage persona as a troubadour and narrator, albeit a highly proficient rock’n’roll magpie.

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