Self-review and review of review

Self-Review and reviewing the review.

Self-review

Self-reviews are part of our life, an odious task that befalls us when we seek promotion. The tour?s over. We did well all things considered. Presenting live incarnations of difficult songs for the first time (?Wanting?, ?Paraphrasing Hitler? and a new song ?Pets?) in a five-piece format was a brave undertaking. Not because of five people inherently but the fact that due to geographical distance (Auckland/Dunedin) the first time we played these monsters together was at the sound check in Dunedin. ?Pets? has 39 different chords (and God only knows how many actual chord changes), changes key often over which the lead lines (in guitar and keys) have to be played note perfect in order to work. Most of the rest of the newer material is technically of a similar order. It is a testament to Stephen Small?s and Tom Healy?s ability and professionalism that these songs could be performed at all under the circumstances. As far as the bass was concerned, these songs were born on a computer for an intended studio environment and without the least consideration for live performance. The bass lines in any subsequent verse are not then the same as the first such that they require a lot more learning. Chris did fantastically well in this regard. We all had our moments, which was to be expected, but given the circumstances it was incredibly successful from a musical perspective. The whole package of Tono and the Finance Company, Simon Comber and the Verlaines was excellent and I will cherish the memory of it forever. Great songs, great singing and some excellent drinking.

 

Review of the review.

Ordinarily a band shrinks from a bad review, files it away and hopes that not too many people get to read it. I choose to do the opposite, disseminate the review even more widely by linking it through this blog,


http://www.realgroove.co.nz/Blog.aspx?id=323

 

and reviewing the review.

 

?Right from the get go things just weren't cricket, Graeme was working the door (!).?

 

Interesting. When a publican serves behind the bar at his own establishment it is considered normal, expected and even somewhat welcoming. Why is it that it is forbidden for a musician to act like a publican??presumably because such behaviour demystifies the musician. Part of the function of a traditional rock concert is essentially religious. People on a stage, dressed fantastically, otherworldly perhaps (say the band Kiss or alternately substitute a high priest in his robes and his similarly-dressed minions who help perform the service) who command a huge instrument of sound (PA, pipe organ, amounts to the same), in a huge arena (concert hall, cathedral), and who magically appear from and return to an inner sanctum to which the audience is not privy and where they believe these intermediaries converse with God (or their muse, one and the same). The audience?s smallness and the priest?s/rock star?s larger-than-life-ness commands more than the appreciation of music and poetry, it commands belief, supplication and idolisation. OK, if it is a religious experience Ms Beatson wants I?m sure Bishop Brian has some spare pews and there are plenty of musical artists out there who operate in this quasi-religious format. To tacitly assert it to be a universal standard (that I violated) misses the point. Alternative artists of all stripes resist the star codification, whether they be the Pixies (?dressed like four ordinary people? as one observer remarks on the documentary ?Gouge?) or Leonard Cohen introducing his backing musicians more than once (to deflect attention from himself somewhat) and skipping off stage in Wellington last year in a most un-star like manner. Incidentally we didn?t have roadies or guitar techs either and so the possibility of a grand entrance on stage was always going to be marred by me faffing about with cables, foot pedals, shifting amps and everything else. And what would Ms Beatson have made of the Christchurch gig, where in Tom?s absence (he had a wedding to attend) I played bass for Simon Comber (the headlining act playing bass for the support act? What is the world coming to!), 

 

?without a working stamp?

Guilty as charged, though disliking a concert on the basis of what amounts to a clerical error mystifies me.

 

?They were late, not taking the stage till 11:30.?

Guilty as charged.

 

?their greatest fall from grace, had to restart a song because they fell so badly out of time.?

 

Yes, we messed up the beginning of ?Paraphrasing Hitler? and started again, partly because Radio NZ was recording the show and there seemed little point in wasting the opportunity to get a good live version. It is one of the most challenging and difficult songs to play and we?re human. Given the long distance preparation and the difficulty, if I was offered the certainty that this would happen only once on the tour I would have gladly taken that before a single chord was strummed.

 

?Half the songs on their set list were from Corporate Moronic, which generally sounded like safe Crowded House B-Sides?

 

Really! For those not at the gig the songs from CM included ?Paratai Drive?, ?Paraphrasing Hitler?, ?They that Once were Eager fellas?, ?Wanting? and ?Rootless Cosmopolitan?. I can only wonder at what shallow patina of sound Ms Beatson was listening to that could pass as safe. Alternately, if anyone can point to a Crowded House song, b-side or otherwise, as vitriolic as Paratai Drive, that employs three-part counterpoint as that song does, has the word ?penis? in the lyrics (?Wanting?), or is as dissonant as ?Paraphrasing Hitler? I would be most interested to hear it (and I mean no disrespect to Crowded House in saying this?their song craft is as near beyond reproach as anyone?s. That their aesthetic is different to ours reflects badly on neither party, in fact Ms Beatson?s comments tars both of us negatively).

 

?Add to this the fact that they steadfastly refused to play ?Jimmy Jazz?

 

From the mouth of the average punter this would be na?ve (but understandable, and I respect the genuineness of the request). From the pen of a purported music journalist, it is flatly ignorant verging on childish. An uninformed punter might believe we have God-like powers such that we can open our mouths and a song simply appears. That is not their fault and I feel regret when we cannot comply. The unpalatable truth is that songs have to be rehearsed and a music journalist should know that. But take special note of the verb ?refused??implying we had the wherewithal to acquiesce to the request from the floor, but withheld it?I am sorry, but I am not prepared to let slander go unanswered. I could have played JJ badly on my own with possibly Darren making some fist of it. But Chris and Stephen wouldn?t have known what to do with themselves. A reviewer?s scorn at the pitiful result (had we tried) would have been most deserved. Scorn at our inability to acquiesce is not.

 

? . . . and deigned only a handful of times to play anything from their greatest hits album and you had the makings of a dire evening.?

 

My wife has just purchased a display cabinet, which houses all the Verlaines albums. There are 11 of them and upward of 130 songs. If we are to be pilloried for not being human jukeboxes then I will publish the set list of any subsequent gigs so that Ms Beatson can review the performance on the basis of song selection from her living room and not trouble herself with actually attending.

 

?Perhaps then they'll have some incentive to pander to the plebs and play the songs their fans want to hear.?

 

A mentality that in previous times yelled ?Judas? at the Royal Albert Hall. Next week we begin rehearsing songs for a new album to be recorded in May, and the problem of song selection and playing ?hits? will be exacerbated further. I will do my best to rotate the so-called ?hits? in future concerts, but in light of present productivity any substantial alteration of tactics is unlikely. My present fecundity is hard won territory born of a lifetime?s hard work. From this state of affairs I do not need ?saving?.

 

Here endeth the review of the review.

 

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