R E V I E W
Mike Alpha Xray – Protect The Drive, Give ‘Em The Cut! - LP
By Arpie Shirehorse
Kirikiriroa Hamilton, like most of Aotearoa’s urban centres, is plagued by a plethora of covers bands most weekends. CBD main strips up and down the land resonate to more-or-less the same setlists accompanied by great New Zealanders ‘cutting loose’ to familiar versions of songs they’ve no doubt been listening to on the radio in work throughout the week. Nothing wrong with this of course, each to their own, and lest we forget not all covers bands are cut from the same cloth - a prime example of which feature in the image below. Yes, I know they are a tribute band, and I'm sure there is a subtle difference but LOOK AT THEM!!! Complaints on a postcard to IDGAF, PO Box 999, Dargaville St, Portugal.
The more discerning punters among us will not be darkening the doors of such establishments of course, oh no sirree, give them something authentic and interesting to mull please, like, oh I don’t know, a Latvian emo-jazzfuzz-jangle band playing for one night only on their DIY world tour supported by several local oiks at the town dive bar alongside approx. 17 other ponderous people ANY day of the week.
Well, my fellow emo-jazzfuzz-janglists, has Mike Alpha Xray’s got the covers album for you! This debut full-length release proves for once and for all that, rather than fear 'the cover', we should open our minds to greater things and embrace it with not just open arms but open everything. Before we go any further, I’ll just get it out of the way now - Protect The Drive, Give ‘Em The Cut! (henceforth known as PTDGETC!) is fucking brilliant.
It is a vast understatement to say that the song collection is eclectic, in fact it is, to all intents and purposes, utterly ludicrous, but it works like a charm. The feel/quality of the recordings knits it all together beautifully, and that is no mean feat when you consider the album serves up versions of ‘When I Grow Up’ from Matilda The Musical alongside Radiohead’s ‘The National Anthem’, and local chancers Bitter Defeat's ‘Pressure’. It works so well and yet makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and that I think is part of the appeal.
PTDGETC! is a gem of a listen from woe to go, and while every song has umpteen reasons to fall in love with it, perhaps the most astounding track is the opening track, a mariachi version of The Mutton Birds ‘Dominion Road’. It, like all the tracks on this album, takes on a whole new life, galaxies away from the original, but make complete sense. What’s more, the arrangements, the layers and the clever musical tricks that pepper the whole album are very, very clever indeed.
It’s hard to believe that this is Mike’s first release ever, and I’m sure that he did not set out to create a work of such an astounding nature. But he has, and you deserve to treat yourself and listen to it at least once all the way through. Roll on LP #2!