M U S I C
Ghosts of Electricity
‘Trolls’ is the upcoming album by former Hamilton, now Auckland-based band, ‘Ghosts of Electricity’.
Ghosts of Electricity has been described in recent times as 'white collar punk', and many of the songs on the album are as riff heavy, short, and fast-paced, as that description suggests. However, rather than having political, anti-establishment lyrical themes aimed at fighting 'the man', which could perhaps be seen as easy pickings in New Zealand currently, the band seem to be largely inward looking, perhaps in a way not too thematically dissimilar to much of the Ramones catalogue. For example, the album starts with the track ‘Saturday Night’; how many punk songs bemoan the ground-hoggishness of “another Saturday night”, have a gothesque opening lyric lamenting “indescribable loneliness”, or that reflect on crying while reading poetry? Another rowdy track is ‘I Met a Man’, which seemingly deals with other insecurities, and so on.
Musically, there is also variability in the album. ‘I Think I’m Okay’ sounds influenced by London Calling-era The Clash, while ‘Between the Lines’ is more of a ballad. One of the highlights, differing greatly from the rest of the album both musically and thematically, is ‘On the Beach’, where the positivity suddenly and unexpectedly shines through. It is far less rowdy, and dare I say more pop, than the other tracks, and it is lovely little song.
If you are already a fan of Ghosts of Electricity, you will already be familiar with ‘Pohuktukawa’, which is a re-recording of a song released twice previously by the band. But Pohuktukawa is a ripper of a song, and I can’t blame them at all for recycling it here. What previously had vocals that sounded somewhat comedic, reminiscent perhaps of something by early King Missile, on this album has a far greater feeling of seriousness. At only a touch over a minute, I wish it were longer. A re-recording of ‘Guatemala’, also from the bands 2013 ‘Don’t Try’ EP, is also included here.
Overall, ‘Trolls’ contains twelve great tracks, including some that really stand out. I highly recommend you give it a listen. Ian Duggan
** Ghosts of Electricity play Nivara Lounge on Oct 16th with Rumpus Room, Tidal Control + Special Guests **
R E V I E W
Retrospective Review: Discordia Concors: Various Artists
By Ian Duggan
With the recent release of a compilation of ‘80s Hamilton music, ‘Hamiltune’, I thought this a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I consider Hamilton’s best compilation. This is, as such, not so much a review as a love letter to something fondly remembered from my past. Released on 28 September 1993, ‘Discordia Concors’ provided a retrospective of what was Hamilton’s recent musical history, featuring songs recorded between 1985 and 1993. Although covering roughly the same time range of the aforementioned ‘Hamiltune’, the compilation could not be more different.
The album starts brilliantly. The opener is the perfect pop of ‘Take This That Way’ by Watershed, darlings of the Hamilton music scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. This song doesn’t just pass the test of time, it aces it. This was a Hamilton band destined for greatness, and how they did not become world famous in New Zealand, or beyond, I will never understand.
Following this is the early Romantic Andes song ‘Anaconda Funky Limbo’, with its instantly memorable chorus of “Bob Marley used to sing this song, and now white boys sing it too”. Certainly less sophisticated than their later songs, such as the brilliant 'Long Slow Trip to the Moon’ from their 1996 EP ‘Rocket’, this track does highlight why the Romantic Andes were so fun (and popular) live. Nostalgia? Hell yes!
Dribbly Cat Attraction is up next with ‘Vulnerable Sheds’, experimental, yet with a full sound centred around Grant Brodie’s keyboards and Stefan Neville’s vocals. Incredibly creative, the band was more than the sum of its parts, and also could have been world famous had they had stayed together.
The ‘art rock’ songs of the ‘80s are high among other highlights. Huge Industrial Artsnob’s ‘Trains’, recorded in 1986, is a spoken-word poetry piece over a keyboard driven track, which despite its age never seems to gets old. In a similar vein is 1985s ‘Miner’s Song’ by Hitlers Kock, utilising Philip Larkin’s 1969 poem ‘The Explosion’ read over a driving casiotone, violin and percussion track. These are simply brilliant, and I would argue are truly among the best of all ‘Hamiltunes’ from the ‘80s.
Another perfect piece of pop on the album comes from Crown of Wild Myrtles ‘Underbelly’, while the wackiness of Wendyhouse’s ‘Suit Suit, Kill Kill’ provides a short but sweet (?!) killer of a track. The Postlethwaites ‘Broke’, with its chorus of ‘I’ve got no money’, Book of Martyrs bass and violin driven ‘The Man that Said’, and Pieces of Cod’s ‘Fall in a Hole’ all provide even yet further highlights. The list goes on…
As stated in the liner notes, ‘compilations, like people, are by their very nature diverse”. It would be rare for all songs on any compilation to be both creative and strong, or for the songs on them to stand up over twenty years after their release, but Discordia Concors has a pretty high strike rate on both counts. As in the Huge Industrial Artsnob song, this is “music to die to, music to cry to”. This is Hamilton music at its best, from a magical time in the cities musical history. On the merit of these songs, this was a period when Hamilton should have been revered in the same way that Manchester, Seattle or Dunedin was in their musical primes. Discordia Concors, I still love you.
R E V I E W
Hamiltune - Rockin' The Tron in the 80s
Reviewed by Ian Duggan
Hamiltune – Rockin’ the Tron in the 80’s is a compilation that has been released as a fundraising venture, with proceeds going towards the rebuild of the ‘Vilagrad Winery’, following the fire in late-June that destroyed around 70% of the premises. The album, produced by Phil Walsh and Zed Brookes for Doublebass Productions, provides an interesting record of Hamilton’s music from the 1980s and early 1990s.
Overall the compilation has a number of highlights. Some of the songs that best stand the test of time include Hoola Troupe’s ‘Smouldering’ and 3 Men Missing’s ‘Days on the Island’, both penned by Andrew Johnstone. Step Chant Unit’s ‘Painting Pictures’ is also included which, as far as I am aware, was Hamilton’s first charting single. Another song of interest is the 1984 single ‘Places’ by Echoes, composed by Mark Rimington, which the band played on the television show ‘Shazam!’ that year. Rimington went on to play the role of ‘Rocky’ in the 1986 production of the Rocky Horror Show, also starring Sir Rob Muldoon and Russell Crowe. As such, the compilation provides a great record of some of Hamilton’s music taonga, making it a worthy addition to the collections of anyone interested in the history of Hamilton bands. Beyond the historic value, there will also be significant nostalgic value for many who saw these bands play live in their prime.
Is it a perfect compilation? Probably not. But, it is difficult to be too critical. Firstly, the compilation has been impressively produced and released within the space of a month since the Vilagrad fire. While the inclusion of more than one song by some bands might be critisised, the inclusion of two songs by ‘Echoes’ can as easily be seen as one of the strengths of the compilation. The inclusion of two tracks by ‘Illegal Green’ can also be justified, being from a band that featured Jacob Nooyen, Vilagrad Winery's winemaker. While there are perhaps other bands that might have been included, their exclusion is perhaps because those bands did not have the same relationship with the Nooyen’s, the owners of Vilagrad Winery, while the rapid turnaround likely also has had an effect on the breadth of bands included. Nevertheless, the compilation was likely never intended as a definitive retrospective, and therefore perhaps should not be judged as one. My only genuine criticism is that, despite the title, there are a number of songs included that were written or recorded beyond the 1980s.
Overall, despite the misnomer, the producers have done an admirable job in providing an interesting collection of songs by Hamilton bands from the 1980s and early 1990s, and it does include some rare gems that are otherwise not readily available. And, as is its intention, it is providing funds for a worthy local cause. The compilation can be purchased from Doublebass Productions, by digital download or on CD: http://www.doublebass.co.nz/ Ian Duggan