Friday, March 31, 2006


Here's a link to a piece by old new leftie Tariq Ali who was in Karachi for the World Social Forum. It's about NGOs and WGOs (Western Governmental Organizations--ho de ho) and the pros and cons of 'civil society' under a military dictatorship. 'Civil Society' is a phrase bandied around a lot these days in the media, quite loosely in my opinion, to justify a few liberalizing gestures in states where political rights are heavily restricted. It's become a kind of alibi for the state when it introduces legislation that actually severely limits the civil/human rights of citizens. This situation has been exacerbated in recent years with the war on terror giving license to state machineries to act punitively against their people. General Musharraf has been patting himself on the back in public about the freedom he has 'granted' to the press and television networks to be critical of government policy. At the same time he has also used the War on Terror to harrass and jail critical voices and activists. Islamists and pro-Taliban types are not the only ones feeling the heat.


Thursday, March 30, 2006


Saddened to hear that Nikki Sudden, formerly of art noise-punk-post punk group Swell Maps, died in NYC last Sunday. He was 49. Cause of death has not been announced yet. Swell Maps were born in the early 1970s in Solihull, a rather drab middle class suburb of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. At the time, I lived a few miles away in Walsall. I lost track of Sudden's music many years ago, but still have Swell Maps' first single from 1977 on their own label Rather, which was distributed by Rough Trade records. 'Read about Seymour' is only 1 minute and 27 seconds long, and exemplifies the economy and DIY ethos of the punk aesthetic. It clatters and clangs and like many of the group's songs it threatens to collapse into chaos any moment but just manages to keep on trucking with the smell of an oily rag. I actually liked one of the two tracks on the B-side just as much: 'Ripped and Torn' (only 1 minute 45 secs) had this guitar sound which sounded like Status Quo. The lyrics were better than Quo though. I think a fanzine took the title as its name. It sounds soooo punk now. I think the nearest I got to dressing like a punk was ripping and tearing a sweater slightly on my way to a Stiff Little Fingers gig in Bradford. Anyhow, I remember my friend James Clubb buying the Maps' albums A Trip To Marineville and Jane From Occupied Europe. So I must have been listening to this stuff when I was about 15-16-17 years old. There were punkish tracks though at a more leisurely pace than your pogo type stuff. Some of them had great short guitar riffs, fatter sounding than The Buzzcocks, more like the Beatles on the White Album and that medley on Abbey Road. I've since read that Sudden, his brother Epic Soundtracks (great name), and Jowe Head were into the Stones and T. Rex. What's the aural equivalent of hindsight? They now also sound a bit like the psychedelic pastiche of The Soft Boys, the group that spawned Robyn Hitchock and Kimberley Rew who wrote 'Walking On Sunshine' and 'Going Down to Liverpool' for Katrina and the Waves & The Bangles respectively. I had a few Swell Maps singles which I must have sold at some time or other--Let's Build A Car & Real Shocks, for definite. The latter was covered effectively inna electrodiscodub stylee by The Soft Pink Truth AKA Drew Daniel from Matmos on his hommage to New Wave a couple of years ago. But Swell Maps also had another side to their character that consisted of long repetitive lo-fi instrumentals with few if any lyrics, especially on Jane From Occupied Europe. These were more difficult to listen to back then. They didn't have the shape and familiar guitar of the two or even three minute song. They just bashed along with the drummer getting quite sweaty. Some of them were quite droney, and tinny with lots of echo; other tracks sounded like hammers and saws in a muted Einsturzende Neubauten sorta way. I've only just read that the group were also into Can. I had no clue who Can were at that time and am still pretty ignorant of their work though I'm keen to investigate this group since I've read a lot about their influence. In my narrow teenage knowledge of Sounds more than the NME, I wasn't prepared for this more arty stuff yet. It wasn't until PiL came along with Metal Box in 1979 (or was it 1980?) that I began to appreciate the loosening of musical structure. I should have been more responsive to these alternatives since the ambient music in the house was my parents' Indian classical music, including the odd live act that would play all night in the living room. But that was background music. It took Metal Box, mushrooms and Gavin Smith lending me Greensleeves albums and 12" Discos with their reggae spatials to really open me up. Later when I was writing about music for the Michigan Daily in the late 80s, I snapped up a promo copy of a compilation album of Swell Maps work called Collision Time Revisited, released by Mute and Restless. Thurston Moore provided brief sleeve notes and recounted how he heard 'Read About Seymour' as 'this weird and foreign thing'. Moore also says that the band were 'a part of his upbringing' and he wished that he'd seen them. Alas, I also failed to witness them live. I remember from the descriptions of the varying personnel on their singles and album sleeves, and the snaps of them in what looked like a domestic bedroom studio, that I felt something of the aura of a bunch of musicians just hanging out, messing about, experimenting and having a lot of fun as they discovered the pleasure of creative collaboration and recorded it all. They probably took that vibe with them to the stage. Check out their albums which have been recently released. 'Midget Submarine' would make a great children's singalong standard. These days I seem to be writing a lot about musicians passing away.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The Israeli election is predicted to deliver a Yes for a shrinking Palestine in the West Bank and the extension of Gaza's tenure as a reservation for the natives.

Cue: "Don't Fence Me In" by the Sons Of The Pioneers.

Some topical ointment from Billy Bragg, however.

In general I've preferred his love songs rather than the 'political' songs, though of course the categories are by no means exclusive. But you should definitely give a listen to a new tune about the war on terror Israel style.

You can download "The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie" about the young woman from Olympia, Washington who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. It borrows from Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", a song on The Times They Are A Changin' about a black barmaid who died after a wealthy Baltimore resident verbally abused and hit her with his cane because she didn't bring him his drink quickly enough.

Bragg's song was recorded in Ann Arbor and I don't know if it's jet lag, the whiff of a head cold, post-gig sore threat or just the vocal mellowness of age, but he sounds really gruff and deep, almost like Johnny Cash in the late 60s on those Talking Blues inherited from Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliot. Somehow I can take the straight-on, super direct lyrics because of that weariness in Bragg's voice. The despair offsets the mannered though effective cynicism of the Bob Dylan original.


One of the best collections of 1960s soul constantly on the player in the last couple of years is Candi Staton's work at the legendary Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, compiled by Honest Jon's of London. Saw this recent interview and story about the woes of Staton--alcoholism and a domineering manager-husband. But she found Jesus. Then Dave Crawford wrote a song about her life which she recorded in 1976 ('Young Hearts Run Free' is still one of the great disco tunes). And she was sampled on a British dance pop hit by the Source. She's now recorded a new album with songs by Bonnie Prince Billy, amongst others. Jesus Saves.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Don't you just hate it when people at parties, usually under the influence of alcohol, rip out the CD from the stereo, and don't bother to find the right case for it as they stick the next CD into the machine. They just put the abandoned disc in another completely inappropriate empty case or worse still, plonk it bare and exposed on the stack to gather dust or scratches. By the end of the night, the stack of jewel cases is riddled with naked CDs that have been exposed to the elements.


There is a dilemma in speaking or writing in the public sphere for or about a group of people even though you don't represent them (how can anyone?). But in these days of evil presidentes working for the clampdown, it's even more of an urgent issue. Whitey is too afraid, too ignorant, or has decided that media training for brown and black people is not that important. So you have to intercede when the vox pop of the 'community' is usually regressive crap from a few mouths that themselves can never encompass the breadth of opinion. Catch 22. Anvar Khan is a Scottish Pakistani who's found herself in that situation in the UK.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Here's an interview and story about Julien Temple's new film about the history of the Glastonbury music festival in Ingerland. Sounds promising. Looking forward to seeing it in the UK in late May if it's still on screens in Londinium. It might be a possibility for my new 2007 course Popular Music On Screen, though Wattstax is the current favourite for the concert film week.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Vijay Prasad with an excellent piece in his regular Letter From America about a UAE company's bid to take over some operations at US ports after buying out British company P & O. The political fallout and xenophobia are more evidence that the US has only wanted to export its own brand of globalization. Congress cares about US sovereignty but not the sovereignty of Iraq.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Victory, he says after three years of the War of Liberation. Sounds like something out of Milan Kundera's imagination. Been a while since I read The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Maybe time to dust those old paperbacks off.

In the last few years I've probably amounted a considerable archive of post 9-11 and Iraq War II music commentary. But a song Tom sent this week from NYC on one of his mix CDs Alabama Orphan Motorway is as exact about the present as any of those shattering tracks by DJ /Rupture and Mutamassik that collide middle eastern melodrama with hardcore junglist breaks and hip hop. It's been out a while I think (from the evidence of some google action--I know I'm behind the times) but this garage punk tune 'Monster Hospital' by Metric evokes the torture cells and 'extraordinary renditions' of Bush Jnr Inc. It replaces the Bobby Fuller Four's 'I Fought The Law' and it's coda of 'And the law won' with a female voice repeating 'I fought the war and the war won'. The Clash's straight cover of Fuller's tune is forgotten. Check out the lyrics below. Is Daddy Warbucks George Bush or the Enron bosses or Halliburton Cheney? Don't know Annie: The Musical well enough to hazard a more studied guess. God is also mentioned, since as Bobby Dylan noted forty plus years ago, He's on OUR side. That chorus repeated again and again sums up my sense of failure--is the anti-war movement now stymied by apathy? Are people so bored with the war in Iraq that only talk of civil war, torture photos and video beheadings can animate the tele-audience from the now routine violence. For this week, 'Monster Hospital' is 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. Another one to play on The Basement. You can download the ringtone somewhere. I've just got the CD track on repeat. Thank you for the guitar feedback. We need more power chords. Power Pop's Not Dead.

Metric 'Monster Hospital'

Bam shika bam shika boom boom bom

sha wang sha wang bam-------------not boom
sha wang sha wang boom
Bam shika bam shika boom boom boom
sha wang sha wang boom

Monster Hospital, can you please release me?
You hold my hands down, I've been bad.
You hold my arms down, I've been bad.
I've been bad, I've been bad.

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
but the war won

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won

Monster Movie, Daddy Warbucks up against Bobby Fuller
And he beat him hands down
lead in his head
they put a little lead in, in his head

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
but the war won

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
but the war won't stop for the love of God.

I fought the war
I fought the war but the war won

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won't stop for the love of God

I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won't stop for the love of God

I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won't stop for the love of God

I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won

I fought the war
I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won't stop for the love of God

I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won't stop for the love of God

I fought the war
I fought the war
But the war won!


Have grown fond of Mother's brand which is my introduction to Southern Indian pickles. Excellent one with stuffed round red chilly peppers which was sadly out of stock yesterday at the Spice Invaders/Khyber on Sandringham Road. The picture above is not the Spice Invaders but an empty shop in Newtown, Sydney that used to sell goods from Fiji, including deceit apparently! Khyber has offered the chance to try out some southern pickles made with green mangoes. I look forward to being in India during the mango season.


Pitchfork Media's album and singles review are annoying for their smugness and self-possession about music taste. But that comes with the territory of rock journalism in the US and UK. However, some of their columns and features are great. I like the monthly dancehall, grime/dubstep, and techno reports, and this week's feature is a piece about a polka DJ. But one of the best music pieces I've ever read is William Bowers' Big Fat iPod Diary, two parts (so far) of his Puritan Blister column. It follows the intrusion of the iPod into his life and the ways the mind and everyday behaviour work to deal with its presence. He's defenceless for the most part. Or was he just predisposed to accommodate the little thang that way. Makes me think about the way I cannot live without mine. Or I wouldn't be prepared to try.

In the McCarthy era paranoid classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (remade several times), the aliens who replaced humans emerged from pods.


Got up with serious ambitions to finish a particular section of this chapter on sampling South Asian music--the boring bit before I get to the fun of Timbaland & Missy Elliot getting their freak on. But exercise was first. So hopped across the road before 8 am (not bad), jogged around the three pitches of Fowlds Park four times and then returned home to do some stretches and squats and press ups after guzzling a couple of pints of water. Very noble beginning to the day. Still doing penance for a long weekend of excess. Then I showered and checked emails and fiddled around trying to make an electro playlist on iTunes while Shuchi answered tons of film production phone calls. Her 5-day shoot begins next Tuesday.

I've had my mind on doing something with a ton of rice left over from last Thursday. I overestimated for a function so loads languished in the fridge. So waddya do with a UN consignment's worth of rice. You fry onions, garlic, ginger, green and red chillies, stick a load of biryani masala in it, fry till brown and then add vegetables and then the rice. Mix it really well so the rice takes up the masala and turns reddish brown. Did that and fired up a couple of sticks of incense to cut the chilli and fried onions in the air. I think the neighbouring cats that use our back garden as no-man's or no-cat's land were choking. I really did want to save that rice. Can't chuck it away. Shuchi couldn't eat a bite because it was too mirchi and the masala was kachcha (uncooked). I thought I'd seriously bhunafied the onions with it, but hey, I've never made a biryani from scratch. This was just a patch up job. Shuchi opted for opening a can of kumara & vegetable soup while I worked away on the biryani. It was OK but I felt compelled to eat it more because it shouldna go to waste. The seagulls and pukeku in Western Springs wouldn't go near this stuff, so dumping it for fowl was out of the question. I ate about 3 maybe 4 bowls of the stuff while surfing TV.

There wasn't any football on, but I managed to catch bits of the film Priest--male melodrama from Jimmy McGovern, Marlon Brando's Marc Antony's Lend Me Your Ears speech in Julius Caesar (fantastic) and the end of my alma mater University of Michigan's basketball game with Notre Dame where they won with a three pointer in the second overtime. I don't usually watch basketball but it was strange to see so much yellow in the Michigan crowd. It seems that the yellow is more prominent than the blue which was paramount in my day circa 1990.

Back to the biryani. It really made me lazy. Couldn't be arsed to move my arse. Just sat there surfing the television. It's also very humid here. We need a good rain. So the thickness of the air made me feel even more inert. That's an excuse I think. So much for that exercise. My carb intake has defeated me again. I think I'll lie down and nap. Another excuse: maybe it's the post-daylight savings melancholia that hits like jet lag after flying from Summer to Winter. Summer will soon be a distant memory. Looking at photos from January that seem like they were taken ages ago.

Will try and write a paragraph or three after I've dropped Shuchi at her pottery lesson in Onehunga. Must have some output. Must have some output. Must have some output.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Science Fiction author Octavia Butler died on February 25th after a fall outside her apartment. Here's Kodwo Eshun's obituary .

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


1. Walter Carlos--A Clockwork Orange (Theme)
2. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel--Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
3. Stereolab--With Friends Like These
4. Os Mutantes--Panis Et Circenses (Bread And Circuses)
5. Cassetteboy--Imagine etc.
6. MU--I Hate U
7. Mutamassik--War Booty
8. DJ /Rupture--High Resolution
9. Pharaohe Monch--Simon Says
10. Edan featuring Percee P--Torture Chamber
11. Coldcut featuring Mike Ladd--Everything Is Under Control
12. Cassetteboy--Impeachment etc.
13. Jackson & His Computer Band Featuring Mike Ladd--TV Dogs (Caathodica's Letter)
14. Go Home Productions--Marshall's Been Done To Death (Eminem vs. TV Themes)
15. Masterdon Committee--Get Off My Tip
16. Quasimoto--Bad Character
17. Ogden Nash--The Camel
18. Bud Powell, Fats Navarro, Sonny Rollins--Dance Of The Infidels
19. Jeru Tha Damaja--You Can't Stop The Prophet (Pete Rock Instrumental remix)
20. Bugs Bunny--Ah Shaddup


1. DJ Pantshead & The Evolution Control Committee--Yugoslavia
2. Laibach--Sympathy For The Devil
3. The Human League--Circus Of Death
4. Plasticman--Shallow Grave
5. Heaven 17--(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang
6. Ladytron--Destroy Everything You Touch
7. Ryuichi Sakamoto--Anger (Rare Force 2 Meg Mix)
8. Muslimgauze--Last Mosque of Herzegovina
9. Fela Kuti--Coffin For Head Of State
10. Bauhaus--Bela Lugosi's Dead

Friday, March 10, 2006


Just Shoot Me
19.02.06 nz

1. The Louvin Brothers—Don’t Let Them Take The Bible Out Of Our School Rooms
2. Willie Nelson—Mamma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
3. Porter Waggoner & Dolly Parton—The Dark End Of The Street
4. The Magnetic Fields—Papa Was A Rodeo
5. Vaughn Monroe—Ghost Riders In The Sky
6. Hank Williams & The Drifting Cowboys—I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
7. Webb Pierce—There Stands The Glass
8. Faron Young—It’s Four In The Morning
9. George Jones—If Drinking Don’t Kill Me
10. Becky Hobbs—Jones On The Jukebox
11. Hank Thompson—Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
12. Lucinda Williams—Passionate Kisses
13. George Strait—All My Ex’s Live In Texas
14. Alan Jackson—If Dallas Was In Tennessee
15. Ernest Tubb—Lonesome 77-203
16. Kitty Wells—Crying Steel Guitar Waltz
17. CocoRosie—By Your Side
18. The Carter Family—Single Girl, Married Girl
19. Six Organs Of Admittance—Elk River
20. Townes Van Zandt—Waiting Around To Die
21. Smog—Dress Sexy At My Funeral
22. Dezurik Sisters—Go To Sleep My Darling
23. Roy Acuff—Just Inside The Pearly Gates
24. Hank Williams & The Drifting Cowboys—I’ll Have A New Body
25. Negativland—Gun And The Bible
26. Loretta Lynn—Your Squaw Is On The Warpath


Don’t Mess With Texas
13.02.06 nz

1. Barbara Mandrell & George Jones—I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool (live)
2. Roy Acuff & The Smoky Mountain Boys—We Live In Two Different Worlds
3. The Stanley Brothers—Rank Strangers To Me
4. Johnny Cash—Talking In Vietnam Blues
5. Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps—Race With The Devil
6. Charlie Feathers—Can’t Hardly Stand It
7. The Louvin Brothers—Cash On The Barrelhead
8. Willie Nelson—Me And Paul
9. Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys—The Blackboard Of My Heart
10. The Flying Burrito Brothers—The Dark End Of The Street
11. Ernest Tubb—Waltz Across Texas
12. George Strait—Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
13. Bonnie Prince Billy—You Will Miss Me When I Burn
14. Girls Of The Golden West—Round-Up Time in Texas
15. Sly & The Family Stone—Spaced Cowboy
16. Buck 65—Riverbed Part 6
17. Boards of Canada—Dayvan Cowboy
18. Devendra Banhart—Houses
19. Godspeed You Black Emperor—The Dead Flag Blues Part 1
20. Godspeed You Black Emperor—The Dead Flag Blues Part 2
21. Godspeed You Black Emperor—The Dead Flag Blues Part 3
22. Kitty Wells—Searching For A Soldier’s Grave
23. Cat Power—He Was A Friend Of Mine

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Just drove up New North Road through Mt Albert in the dark and was reminded yet again how awful New Zealand drivers can be. Many complain about 'Asian drivers', but every day I encounter some non-Asian dude/dudette confident in the belief that you only indicate when you're turning into another street. A lane change doesn't warrant the effort to move your right hand a few centimetres. Click click click. Learn to love that sound.

By the way, the 5-year census is upon us and the ethnicity category is causing confusion again. First I thought a little ironically that I would tick the 'New Zealand European' category since I'm British as well as being a New Zealander. Britain is, after all, part of Europe. I've probably got more experience of living in Europe than many New Zealanders who will tick this category. But I decided not to be a smart Alec even though I'd have loved to make the point questioning the conflation of 'European' and white. I'll leave that category for New Zealand white folks who dream about Europe or who are Kiwi or antipodean enough to not give a toss about belonging to Europe or Europeanness. I wonder how many white South Africans who have settled in New Zealand have called themselves New Zealand Europeans. Ethnicity seems to fluctuate between the colonial category of racialist biology and the notion of national origin. I saw that 'Indian' was an ethnic designation on the form. But in many news reports Muslims are now classed as an ethnic group. So ethnicity can be organized by religion which is cultural, though not nationally or racially defined. In the end, like many others, I just checked 'Other' and added: British Pakistani. I wasn't stupid enough to just write 'New Zealander' as some of the right-wing dumbo politicos suggested earlier this week in the media. This question in the census is, after all, designed to find out how the body politic of New Zealand has changed. It's trying to gauge how long it may take for the whites to be outnumbered, for that moment some Kiwis will look around and realize that New Zealand's gone dusky.


So pleased that Barcelona have just expunged Chelsea from the UEFA Champions League. A deceptively easy sidestep and crisp shot from Ronaldhino affirmed superiority though Chelski secured a jammy penalty in injury time. I'm sick of the Chelsea’s military platoon style of play, the tragic thespianism of Robben and Drogba, and most of all, the authoritarianism and lack of sportsmanship of their manager the Special One Jose Mourinho. They'll probably still win the Premiership but it would be nice to see them slip up there too. There's always the FA Cup though. To more trip-ups in the weeks to follow. I’d rather Arsenal did well in Europe. And that’s something coming from a Spurs fan.


I've got this other blog space with my friend Nick for our radio show The Basement which airs in Auckland every Saturday from 4-6 pm on Base 107.3 FM. However, that site has by default become a place only to publish our playlists. We're beginning to receive so much spam and the blogware is not very Mac friendly, so we haven't got very discursive. Therefore, I thought I'd finally begin my own blog.

When Nick and I began the radio programme in June 2004 I wanted to call it Topical Ointment because that sums up the approach I've had to making mixtapes and CDs for donkey's years. But Topical Ointment sounded a bit vague and Nick and I chose to go with The Basement instead, because it was more direct, was semantically linked to Base FM, and conjured up digging for audio material in a mysterious room or frequenting a really cool underground club.

I listen to loadsa music and compile tunes that capture my moods and thoughts about the intimate reality of my life in Auckland as well as working out my feelings about the wider world of culture and politics. I'm compelled to make these compilations at least once a fortnight. I don't do any fancy beat segues or overlaps just juxtapose carefully in a montage stylee. But I prefer the simple term 'mix' rather than 'compilation' which might more accurately describe the form. 'Compilation' sounds like there isn't any careful thought into how and what you put together to communicate something, just a slapdash assembly. But these playlists are considered and probably sum up my mindstate more than anything else. The different pieces of music speak to each other and cumulatively say a lot without me opening my mouth. Some songs yield new meanings in a different context. The mix is topical in its capture of the moment, and it's like ointment because it soothes me, keeps me ticking along. It's like a locally applied balm for the present, and I'm addicted to it. Sometimes it frames everything else going on. It may be an example of obsessive compulsive behaviour, but it's a small marginally creative thing I do for myself, but also share with others if they're interested. So the blog springs from the same well.