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Tori Amos
The Beach Boys
Beastie Boys
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Elvin Bishop
Frank Black
The Black Crowes
Bloodhound Gang
Bow Wow Wow
David Bowie
The Brainchilds
James Brown
Kate Bush
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David Byrne
Eliza Carthy
Nick Cave &
The Bad Seeds

The Chemical

The Clash
Deborah Conway
Elvis Costello
Graham Coxon
The Cranberries
Julee Cruise
The Cure
The Dandy Warhols
Miles Davies
Nick Drake
Duran Duran
Brian Eno
The Factory
Fine Young Cannibals
Neil Finn
The Flaming Lips
Neil Finn
The Front Lawn
Fur Patrol
Nelly Furtado
Macy Gray
Groove Armada
P.J. Harvey
Headless Chickens
Helicopter Girl
Billie Holiday
The Jam
Jane's Addiction
Janis Joplin
Elton John
Kaiser Chiefs
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Chris Knox
k.d. lang
Led Zeppelin
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Massive Attack
Alanis Morissette
No Doubt
Sinead O'Connor
Pet Shop Boys
Pink Floyd
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Iggy Pop
Elvis Presley
The Prodigy
Otis Redding
The Rolling Stones
Roxy Music
Bic Runga
The Rutles
Secret Machines
The Selecter
Skunk Anansie
Paul Simon
Six Volts
Smashing Pumpkins
The Smiths
Sonic Youth
The Stone Roses
Talking Heads
Tall Dwarfs
The Velvet Underground
The Verve
The Vines
Tom Waits
The Wannadies
The Willowz
Frank Zappa
The Zutons

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That’s How Strong My Love Is -Otis Redding
Otis Redding’s contribution to music history has been somewhat distorted by his premature death in 1967. If he were still alive he would be in the same company as Al Green and Ray Charles and probably be appearing at Grammy shows accompanied by Isaac Hayes. Like Billy Holly his back catalogue is now infused with the kind of sadness that appeals to bedsit listeners and shy, cigarette-fugged longskirted bohemians. From 1965’s ‘The Great Otis Sings Soul Ballads’.

Freshmint –Regurgitator
Ah –now, Regurgitator are great, but I don’t know how popular they are outside of Australia. They come over as a kind of vulgar Talking Heads, or an intellectual Bloodhound Gang. This jaunty single reflects their usual lyrical preoccupation with celebrity culture and the decay of society and is from 1999’s ‘…Art’, which warns “actual product may not match expectations” on the cover.

Bittersweet Me –R.E.M.
One of the best songs from 1996’s uncompromising and unpopular ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’. This album is bleak and rather long but contains some excellent and thoughtful songs. R.E.M. were briefly in vogue again after the release of a new Greatest Hits, but they appear to have squandered this goodwill with the mopeful 'Around The Sun'.top of page

Ventilator Blues -The Rolling Stones
One of the murky, swampy songs from 1972’s ‘Exile On Main Street’ which has provided a blueprint for the sound of so many American bands. Judged by common consensus to be their last truly great album, ‘Exile’ was recorded in France for tax reasons. It’s still a revelation for those who have only heard ‘40 Licks’ or their ‘90s output.

Ladytron –Roxy Music
A song where Brian Ferry comes over all cool and detached while Brian Eno goes tinky-tonk-bleep-bleep kerangg. No wonder he had to go. Covered by Thom Yorke for the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, a film I have discovered is best suited for playing repeatedly on video in the background while helping a girlfriend assemble a dress made out of chocolate and bamboo. The life of a cartoonist is short but merry. From 1972’s ‘Roxy Music’.

Hey –Bic Runga
Most people in the Northern Hemisphere (and that is most of you, I’ve read the statistics for this site) will know Bic (pronounced ‘Beck') Runga from her appearances at Lilith Fair and on soundtracks. I was lucky enough to attend an intimate (150 people) performance of her new album some time ago at Bodega, which is one of those tiny legendary performance places which has been closed by road developments –in this case, a motorway extension which is going through a derelict but undeniably historical part of my home city. I didn’t like the new album at all when it came out –this stuff is much better live with just a guitar and drum kit. “Hey’ is a plaintive track from her first album, 1997’s ‘Drive’.

Shangri-La –The Rutles
Formed from bits of Monty Python and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, The Rutles performed immaculate pastiches of Beatles songs, so well conceived that several have appeared on Beatles bootlegs. ‘Shangri-La’ is an elaborate pastiche of ‘Hey Jude’ with bits of ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’. As a response to the Beatles ‘Anthology’ releases of the late ‘90s, the Rutles reformed in 1996 (minus Eric Idle) for ‘Archaeology’. The album is a strong collection of songs sung by Neil Innes in his nasal Lennon impersonation. top of page

Nowhere Again -Secret Machines
Like Doves, or a less charismatic Interpol, Secret Machines are slightly clinical, but their songs are intense, and their more obvious influences unusual and interesting. This song from 2004’s ‘Now Here Is Nowhere’ has the harried atmosphere of The Easybeat’s ‘Friday On My Mind’ as sung by Thom Yorke with Led Zeppelin drums. Or I could be under-intellectualising it.

On My Radio -The Selecter
A 1979 hit single for this interesting but now-obscure second-generation ska band, apparently still widely played at British parties. Never as cuddly as Madness, their brief run of angry, punchy hits include a demented version of the James Bond theme: “James Bond…the killa…”. Interest in them was piqued twenty years later when Basement Jaxx sampled this song for their 1999 hit ‘Same Old Show’. Undoubtedly No Doubt still wear their T-shirts.

The Cool, Cool River –Paul Simon
There’s been a lot of talk about Simon’s melding of ‘warm’ world music to his cool and dispassionate lyrics, with issues of exploitation and colonialism. As far as I’m concerned, Joni Mitchell did it first on ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ and David Byrne did it more successfully on every solo album since 1989. This is from 1989’s ‘Rhythm of the Saints’, a lower-key but less incongruous album than ‘Graceland’. It sounds a lot like Talking Heads.

Angie Baby –Six Volts
The Six Volts were a Wellington, New Zealand band from the early ‘90s when the local music scene was run on less than a shoestring and even the most talented bands languished unless they moved to Australia. Now, of course, there’s a lot more money sloshing around –unfortunately there’s the same amount of talent, which means it’s possible to become very famous in NZ while remaining utterly mediocre, as many bands discover five seconds after they triumphantly decamp to Melbourne. The Six Volts were brilliant, though, working with Don McGlashan before he was in ‘The Muttonbirds’ and eventually mutating into ‘The Brainchilds’. I think they now run a film & television soundtrack company, the offices of which are in the middle of the same motorway development which closed Bodega (see above). ‘Angie Baby’ is from their 1991 album ‘Stretch’ and is indescribably weird. If you can track it down over the Net I will be very impressed.

Hedonism –Skunk Anansie
A relatively understated song from 1996’s ‘Stoosh’ album. I think this single had the alarming video with Skin attached to the front of a speeding truck. Skunk Anansie were one of those hard, wiry British bands who never made it into the Noughties but left behind a small collection of post-grunge masterpieces, like loud, dark little oil paintings. If they were American the ex-members would be perfect candidates for those endlessly reconfiguring ‘supergroups’ such as Zwan and A Perfect Circle. Skin's released a solo album 'Fleshwounds' that's not bad, while their bass player is in 'Feeder'. top of page

What Do I Do Now? -Sleeper
Gorgeous miserablilism from the minor Britpop band fronted by Louise Wener, who was nearly as opinionated as The Smith’s Morrissey but much more widely slated. One of the first of many female-fronted British bands where the rest of the band members were somewhere in the background, anonymous and unloved. From 1996’s ‘The It Girl’, already a lifetime ago.

Appels & Oranjes -Smashing Pumpkins
1998’s ‘Adore’ is one of my favourite albums, although I didn’t like it at all until I’d listened to it about three times, and it was painful to see the Pumpkins shed their ‘Mellon Collie’ fanbase so thoroughly. This song has that strange New Order sound they adopted without their drummer. I’ve never liked ‘Machina / the machines of God’ despite repeated listenings, and anyone who’s come across ‘Machina II’ knows exactly why their record company refused to release it.

It’s cruel to focus on the decline and fall of the Smashing Pumpkins –they should be remembered for their glorious early-nineties peak, not the perplexing decline in quality after 1998 that culminated in the ultimate rock indignity: their record label refusing to release their final album. They were doing them a favour. Their first album is 1991’s ‘Gish’, an already excellent if moody set which introduced the world to the delights of Billy Corgan’s dread and creamy voice and er… whatever it was the rest of the band contributed. I understand Iha is highly regarded as a guitarist (his solo album ‘Let It Come Down’ is delightful) and Chamberlain was a valued drummer (they certainly made enough noise about his dismissal and reinstatement) but given Corgan’s habit of taping over his bandmate’s parts, it’s hard to know who you’re listening to without a degree in musicology. For example, did anyone but Corgan and Chamberlain play on 1993’s ‘Siamese Dream’? Anyway, Suffer from ‘Gish’ was sampled by Tricky on ‘Maxinquaye’ and Hummer from ‘Siamese’ features a wonderful liquid ambience and diamond-hard guitars. ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ deserves a place in rock history as one of the best double albums with the daftest title. There is notably less fat than on more famous double albums such as ‘The White Album’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’, and even the filler is very, very good. Hendrix features heavily in spirit on Thru The Eyes Of Rudy. This album made the band so popular that its B-sides were collected and released in 1996 in a box set as The Aeroplane Flies High, the title track of which is part tape collage and part slow guitar grind. ‘Siamese’ is the favourite album of pumpkins fans, ‘Mellon Collie’ the favourite of the general public. My favourite is ‘Adore’, released in 1998 to huge anticipation and a disappointment to nearly everyone as guitars were replaced by piano and Chamberlain was replaced with a drum machine. Tracks such as For Martha explore Corgan’s complicated relationship with his family, and any commercial accessibility was traded for mood and atmosphere. Hard to love until its fourth listen, ‘Adore’ was the last time the Pumpkins meant or said anything of value. 2000’s ‘MACHINA / The Machines Of God’ was dreadful and ‘Machina II’ even worse. This perplexing decline in quality is highlighted on the rarities album ‘Judas O’ which accompanied the greatest hits album ‘Rotten Apples’. Whereas the earlier rarities album ‘Pisces Iscariot’ was nearly as good as a ‘real’ album, ‘Judas O’ is woeful –except for 1998’s unreleased My Mistake, a mournful piano piece with an unusually croaky Corgan.

Unloveable –The Smiths
The Smiths are constantly lionised by music critics as one of Britain’s greatest bands, but Britain seems incapable of producing a band like them at the moment –and it seems so simple, as well…a combination of heartfelt and personal lyrics, and arresting, clear melodies. Stuff like this must come back into fashion sometime. The maudlin cult of personality around lead singer Morrissey prejudiced many people against liking this band at the time, but now they exist only as a collection of recordings it’s possible to appreciate the songs on their own without all that nonsense about daffodils, hearing aids and celibacy. From 1993’s excellent B-sides/rarities compilation ‘Louder Than Bombs’.

Skip Tracer -Sonic Youth
A sardonic description of teenage scenesters from 1995’s mid-period ‘Washing Machine’, an album which I recognise chiefly from its many T-shirts. Come to think of it, it sounds a lot like the Secret Machines…

Elephant Stone –The Stone Roses
From their eponymous 1989 debut album, which has suffered for more than a decade from the praise heaped upon it by music bores. Brilliant as it is (see?) it now sounds very much of its time. ‘The Second Coming’, which emerged five years later, when their time was well past, sounds more modern given the current vogue for Zep-influenced of page

Boxers –Strawpeople
Strawpeople were an incredibly original duo who seemed to have the whole field of electronic music to themselves in New Zealand in the early ‘90s. They produced many classic songs characterised by marrying electronica to great guest singers, like a less dub-heavy and druggy Massive Attack. Common stuff now, but amazing at the time. The formula fell apart by their second or third album after one of the producers left to be replaced by Fiona McDonald, a competent singer (see ‘George’ by Headless Chickens) but on the whole not a very inspired songwriter (her only solo album cost Kiwi indie label Flying Nun a bomb and went absolutely nowhere.) The Strawpeople album she coproduced (1996’s ‘Vicarious’) has its moments, particularly the elegant, spiky and winsome ‘Boxers’, but pales against 1994’s magnificent ‘Broadcast’. Unfortunately 2000’s ‘No New Messages’ (minus McDonald) was worse. What a shame.

Every Monday Morning Comes –Suede
Time has not been kind to Suede. Their first two albums are saturated with an atmosphere which, like the best fiction and movies, allows you to temporarily immerse yourself in a self-contained universe. Other albums like this I can think of are Bowie’s Berlin albums (‘Low’ and “Heroes”) and UNKLE’s ‘Psyence Fiction’. Suede’s recent albums are still strong melodically but lack engagement. This song is from their 1997 B-sides compilation ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’, which is much stronger than most band’s A-sides compilations.

Suede were the first major band to emerge from the ‘90s Britpop scene, although they had little in common with Blur and Oasis, who sounded much more familiar to the public and soon overtook them. Suede were influenced more by Aladdin Sane-era Bowie than the Beatles or Kinks, and unfortunately soon discovered the limitations of this half-lit environment. Their first two albums are set in a wonderfully dank teenage nightlife filled with drugs and experimental sex. She’s Not Dead from their 1993 self-titled debut is one of the first of a long series of Suede songs describing the lives of specific women who are only just clinging onto life. 1994’s ‘Dog Man Star’ is a darker album, like The Clash recording a glam version of ‘Exile On Main Street’. This Hollywood Life features another Suede Girl suffocated by her environment and bad habits. Talented guitarist and co-writer Bernard Butler left halfway through this album and took much of Suede’s atmosphere with him, but it didn’t matter at the time because 1996’s ‘Coming Up’ sounded like greatest hits album, with singer Brett Anderson’s vocals processed to sound as if they were emerging from a plastic AM radio. Picnic By The Motorway extols the virtues of voyeurism and sniffing petrol but still sounds magnificent. ‘Sci-Fi Lullabies’ is one of the strongest B-side collections ever, with many songs that were even better then the singles they backed. These Are The Sad Songs from 1997 namechecks a dozen song titles to listen to in the dark. 1999’s ‘Head Music’ was highly anticipated but exposed the limitations of Suede’s world –there is only so much you can write about being young and taking drugs before you start repeating yourself. Brett Anderson had by now written too many songs where he sang “Sheeeee” and trilled “la la la” for the last half of the song, presumably after running out of things to say about depressed fashion models and junkies who are drawn to the sea. ‘Head Music’ was also three songs too long, although it does feature the transcendently mopey Down. 2002’s ‘A New Morning’ was better, with Anderson taking a more reporterly and optimistic view of a scene he had presumably grown out of. His voice is also more frayed, the affected tiredness of bored youth replaced with the genuine tiredness of a more experienced observer. In Lonely Girls he sings “Sometimes our lives are not what they seem /Sometimes things aren’t like they are in lifestyle magazines”. After a singles collection (appropriately titled ‘Singles’) that was it.

Freak Like You –Sugababes
I was in Palmerston North (a city similar to Utah, but with trees) a few weeks ago appearing in a vampire movie (as a vampire, naturally) and listening to this album on earphones brought a welcome gothic edge to my walks around the suburbs, which consist solely of houses, dairies (drugstores) and churches. Yes, it’s girly pop music, but the Gary Numan sample is so thoroughly evil… shame about the video, which was kind of obvious (the Sugababes hunting down men in nightclubs and subjecting them to unspeakable horrors). From 2002’s ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’.

I Am –Suggs
What The Bloke From Madness Did Next: after an excellent initial solo album (1995’s ‘The Lone Ranger’) not much was heard from Suggs until Madness reformed. Before that came this zippy single, easily the best thing about the dire and disastrous ‘Avengers’ movie. From the 1998 of page

People Like Us -Talking Heads
Are we ever going to see a band like Tallking Heads again? Intellectual yet listenable, pretentious but fun, progressive yet danceable…one of my screensavers is a shot of them backstage at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame last year, sipping champagne and smiling at the camera like the past ten years of bitchiness and acrimony since they broke up never happened. Oh well. This song is from their 1986 social anthropology satire ‘True Stories’ and features steel guitar embellishments and painfully sincere lyrics. Or were those evil New Yorkers just taking the piss?

Talking Heads were an unusually intelligent band that broke up for the wrong reasons. The closest they’ve come to reconciliation was their brief performance in 2002 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame, when they thanked the organisers for giving the band a happy ending. Now remembered for a handful of excellent but unrepresentative ‘80s singles, their reissued albums are unlikely to find a market outside of people in their thirties, which is a shame. If you’re a fan of intelligent rock, avoid the Greatest Hits and go straight for their first five albums. They started out jittery and arty with ‘quirky’ but honest lyrics- very New York, very New Wave. Happy Day from 1977’s ‘Talking Heads 77’ has a tight rhythm section and David Byrne’s famously strained voice, this time sounding like a very white Al Green. 1978’s ‘More Sounds About Building And Food’ was produced by Brian Eno and resulted in such wonderfully weird songs as Found A Job, all about filming home videos as a form of marriage therapy. When, in a wonderful moment, the lyrics run out it gets even better. 1979’s ‘Fear of Music’ was their first album to experiment with world music –like Bowie, they put an oblique twist on their influences to create something new. The entire album is as dark as the industrial tread on the cover, and tracks like Drugs are a blur of antiseptic soundscapes, narcotic burblings and white-knuckled psychosis. If it was a person, it would be buried up to its neck in the subway. 1980’s ‘Remain In Light’ is also dark but funkier, the expanded band deriving the white-funk drive that propelled spin-off band Tom Tom Club. Songs like The Great Curve sound like a freaked New York tourist running pell-mell across an African savannah. After ‘Speaking In Tongues’ and the remarkable live album and film ‘Stop Making Sense’, Talking Heads slimmed back down from about eight members to the original four and produced 1985’s ‘Little Creatures’, a straightforward album with songs like And She Was, a vaguely country-folk single that sounds like a logical progression from the 1978 band. 1986’s ‘True Stories’ was quickly recorded to accompany the curious Midwest-bothering film of the same name, and included City Of Dreams, a wonderful steel guitar concoction. Sadly, 1988’s ‘Naked’ was a misstep, recorded in Paris with a large number of guest musicians who lent an expert world-music sheen to some truly dreadful songs. Their only awful album. They broke up acrimoniously in 1992 (see the David Byrne entry) and the recent release on CD of 1982’s forgotten live album ‘The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads’ was an unexpected but glorious surprise. Now go and listen to their albums!

Tall Dwarfs have been recording together in New Zealand since 1981, although Alec Bathgate and Chris Knox were previously in several short-lived bands including Toy Love. The duo’s lo-fi recordings have influenced Pavement and Sonic Youth, as has Knox’s extensive solo career. Their songs are characterised by their concise length, melodic strength and home studio atmosphere. They play all their instruments themselves with little outside participation, except for their International Tall Dwarfs project in 1997 where they solicited tapes from listeners all over the world to use as the basis for loops and backing tracks on their album ‘Stumpy’. Their first non-compilation album release was 1990’s ‘Weeville’, although their early EPs were collected together on 1987’s ‘Hello Cruel World’ and 1992’s ‘That’s The Long And The Short Of It’. This included the 1985 EP ‘That’s The Short And Long Of It’, featuring Burning Blue, a typically multi-layered fuzztoned tune with Knox’s heartfelt wailing, and the 1986 EP ‘Throw A Sickie’, featuring the beautiful melody of Come Inside. 1987’s ‘Dogma’ EP is included at the end of the 1991 album ‘Fork Songs’ and features the brief Beatlesque strum of Missed Again. 1994’s ‘3 EPs’ album contains Archaeopteryx, a demonstration of their love of live guitars and primitive drum machines, with a gorgeously cracked chorus from Knox. 1998’s ‘Fifty Flavours Of Glue’ has Just Do It!, a multicoloured Velvet Underground* ranter. Deodorant from 2002’s ‘The Sky Above, The Mud Below’ (their most recent album) was actually a single and sounds like something the Dandy Warhols and T-Rex could have cooked up.

*The VU have had a pervasive influence on New Zealand’s Flying Nun bands, and largely determined that distinctive and slightly odd ‘Kiwi’ sound that people associate with 'classic' NZ pop and rock songs... the sort of thing they play in Kiwi bars in London while undernourished expatriate graduates working in middle management weep into their imported Lion Brown. This sound has been thoroughly rejected by modern NZ bands in favour of a glossly but utterly anonymous international sheen, and you can call me Susan if it isn't so.

Over Me –Tricky
One of Tricky’s elaborate juxtapositions, the vocals of Ambersunshower and Hawkman competing with a vibe that keeps threatening to turn into Blondie’s ‘Call Me’. 2001’s ‘Blowback’ was an excellent album but nothing yet compares to 1995’s ‘Maxinquaye’, which practically created a new genre.

Oh Sweet Nuthin’ –The Velvet Underground
From their most mainstream album, 1970’s ‘Loaded’, when, fed up with commercial and critical obscurity, they tried to sound like everyone else and imploded messily. An inspiration to bands, poseurs and nihilists everywhere, although Lou really should have shut up after 1989…

Virtual World –The Verve
An unfocused reverie from the 1993 album ‘A Storm In Heaven’, back when they were ‘Verve’, before the US jazz label made them add ‘The’. Four years later they would hit their peak with ‘Urban Hymns’, and then…duets with Brian Wilson, anyone?top of page

Country Yard –The Vines
A lot slicker than the antics of their apparently brain-damaged frontsman make them appear. Even this relatively restrained song has frantic Barrett-like background yelps, and a lush harmonised chorus. From their 2002 album ‘Highly Evolved’.

I’m Still Here –Tom Waits
Unique for his voice and image –a kind of mad Victorian Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits can produce songs of ugly cacophony, demented wurlitzer frenzy, sideshow histrionics, Edward Hopper observations, and this beautifully weary, honest song from 2002’s ‘Alice’.

Don’t Like You –The Wannadies
Plaintive and chuntering Swede-pop from their 1999 album ‘Oh Yeah’, which I think was their last. Most of The Wannadies’ material has a wonderful demented drive, like an evil eight-year-old let out for the school holidays. ‘Oh Yeah’ is strangely charmless compared to ‘Bagsy Me’ and ‘Be a Girl’.

Something -The Willowz
Sounds like a raucous classic Flying Nun song from the '80s, also referencing The Who (‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere). Featured on their 2004 mini-album ‘The Willowz’ and also on the ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’ soundtrack, although I can’t remember what it underlined.

Planet Of My Dreams –Frank Zappa
This is a charming little song sung by Bob Harris which sounds like something from ‘Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life’ with a choir and piano. It is not a typical Zappa song. Zappa is indefensible, not for the density and range and sheer number of his recordings but for the wearying misogyny of his lyrics. I am always vaguely embarrassed when I hear these songs in public… although it seems that all of my friends who own a guitar can play ‘Bobby Brown Goes Down’. Don’t ask. From 1984’s ‘Them Or Us’.

Long Time Coming –The Zutons
An enigmatic band from Liverpool whose debut album ‘Who Killed The Zutons?’ is an enjoyable trawl through the sound of British Invasion bands. This brief song sounds a bit like The Animals.

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