Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

Happy Jakob Day!

01:32pm 16 Oct 2014


Today sees the release of the brand new album by Jakob, the band's first in eight years. Some of you correctly guessed that I was gushing about Jakob when I talked, earlier in the year, about Hearing The Very Best. I've had an advance copy of the album for quite a few months - I've listened to it more than I would normally (get to) listen to an album before reviewing. Sines

Also recently I spoke with the band's guitarist Jeff Boyle and if you haven't yet read the interview it's worth checking out, it takes in the huge story around the making of this album, a lot of false-starts.

Sines, the new Jakob album arrives some eight years after Solace. That's a great album - but Sines is a step up. Each time Jakob releases an album they reinvent the Jakob sound, they stay faithful - truthful - to the Jakob sound but they update it, refine it - re-define it. They improve and move forward. You would think this is what any band does - or hopes to do. But that's not often the case.

You can line up the Jakob albums and listen to them in a row and it's easy to work out the order that they arrived in, you can hear the improvements, refinements, the movement, maturity. You can feel it.

Sines is the band's very best album - and it is, I believe, the very best record they could make.

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The memories that come from ticket stubs

06:24am 16 Oct 2014


I've got a box of old ticket stubs, although I haven't kept all of the tickets from shows I've been to. For about a decade I didn't bother, just tossed them away.

I leave a few lying around to use as bookmarks - but I stopped keeping them, probably because when I started getting my name on the door, to review, it often meant no physical ticket. I think the aim, at one point, was to catalogue everything I went to - keep the ticket as a souvenir, a record of the event. 

This was before we could simply Google the setlist, even to a show 20 years old - or older. This was before I was writing about music every day - and several times during each day.

This was when, for a while there, I was actually keeping the tickets in a scrapbook.

I miss the tickets that were different shapes and sizes. Different colours.

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Turning (it) up

06:43am 15 Oct 2014


I found this quote just yesterday - "Inspiration is a word used by people who aren't really doing anything. I go into my office every day that I'm in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant". That's from Nick Cave. I like that. I certainly understand it. Today is a day where I'm required to do something in the vague shape of work - but I have nothing. I'm here though. I'm going to try.Neil Young

The best that I think I can do right now is point you in the direction of a wonderful collection of Neil Young covers that I found. Click that link and you can check out the album, even sample it yourself. It features a range of covers from Neil Young's first decade of work - an extraordinary decade of work as already captured on the Neil Young compilation, Decade. So many great songs - through various styles and in and out of bands.

Neil Young sure knows a lot about turning up to work even when there's no - or little - inspiration.

Some things on the horizon that I'll mention too - the release of Jimmy Page's visual autobiography, previously a limited edition now available as a general release. I flipped through this book last night, full review to come, but it is a beautiful book with some quite stunning photos. It takes you through the Led Zeppelin years but starts back when Page was a teen, working through The Yardbirds and the various sessions he played before that and then going on to show images from around his soundtrack and solo work, The Firm and his reconnecting with Robert Plant.
Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page
I'm also reading a book of Van Morrison's lyrics - this is due out here start of November. It's a selection rather than the full collection, it's probably only a third of his lyrics in total but already it's a reminder to head back to that catalogue of often extraordinary work. Some of the lyrics dance across the page, most remind you as you're reading them of that singular voice that allows them to really soar in their recorded versions.

I've also been working through Ry Cooder's recently released box-set of soundtrack work. If you've previously not bothered with his film scores, beyond perhaps Paris, Texas and/or Crossroads you need to check out some of the other fine work he served up in this role. Today's favourite is Johnny Handsome - have had the record for a few years, bought for a buck or something like that, such tasteful playing.

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Bands vs. DJs live

06:15am 14 Oct 2014


I'm sure we've had some version of this debate at some stage over the years - though I can't actually recall setting this up as a topic - but I want to pick up on some comments from a recent post about the Laneway line-up for 2015. In the thread there someone talks about Flying Lotus being an underwhelming live experience as it will simply be "a fellow pushing a few buttons on his laptop" and punters will be cheering "all that beat science out of a circuit board" and "his skills in pre-programming".

It was countered by another person providing the list of components that are used by Flying Lotus - and pointing out that there will obviously be a visual component, that many DJs/producers/beat-makers combine a set of pre-programmed/loop ideas with some live manipulation (via synths/midis/Ableton, sometimes even percussion or extra 'live' instrumentation) and the laptop button-pressing is only part of the experience.

Now even if the performer is simply standing there with a laptop and seemingly doing very little there can be something about experiencing particular music in a crowd, as part of a group of presumably like-minded people, or people all gathered at least because of an interest in that performer/producer. Or hopeful for something from the experience.

And, as was noted in these comments, stirring visuals often assist in the presentation of this music as a uniquely live experience.

It's true that sometimes the person in the audience has no idea what it actually takes to put on the show. It's true to that in many cases they do not care - the experience is about the energy, the vibe, the feel. This is true when talking about bands performing too, not just DJs.

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Marianne Faithfull's latest, a career highlight

06:22am 13 Oct 2014


I remember being a bit creeped out by the song Broken English when I was little kid, you'd hear it on the radio, and there was certainly something about it - I loved the hypnotic rhythm track. But the vocals - the delivery, what I could make out of the words - it was all a bit scary. A good kind of scary for the most part.Marianne

And then I got to know some of the story of Marianne Faithfull - or at least The History or Rock'n'Roll version, the Mrs Mick Jagger version, the stories from bios and documentaries concerning The Rolling Stones. It was also hard to believe she was the same person singing As Tears Go By. I guess, in so many ways, she wasn't at all the same person, but you know what I mean.

I couldn't tell you that I was any sort of Marianne Faithfull fanatic - but I loved that compilation, Faithfull. It was a perfect highlights set, a snapshot of a music career arguably on the fringes - a manufactured pop starlet, and then time off, a run through the jungle, the return from the wilderness - it backtracked from Broken English to As Tears Go By. You heard that wonderful anger in Why D'ya Do It? (my copy of the Broken English album has the song blanked-out and seven minutes of silence; the censored version) - and it was almost unsettling to then get to the angelic As Tears Go By after the rough journey through Tom Waits and Patti Smith covers.

Marianne Faithfull's music career has played second fiddle to the stories of her life, told brilliantly by her in her first memoir, backed up in a second memoir too - but the first one is the real dirt-dishing, wild-ride book. A wonderful rock'n'roll story.

I get the feeling that plenty of people think of her as some bit-part singer.

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