Reasons to be cheerful – Part 25

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strong>We continue the occasional series wherein Winston expounds on things that currently make him happy. And two things made Winston extremely happy this week – two new local albums. Well, part-local. Half of one band is local and a quarter of the other band.

But the band that’s only a quarter local was recorded locally. And the other one recorded just down the road. That’s local enough for Winston...

132) Swamp Thing! We overdosed on coverage of Swamp Thing’s show last weekend at Mauao Performing Arts Centre. And with good reason. Swamp Thing rock! They’ve now released their third album ‘Let’s Get Live’, a double live set consisting of a CD and DVD, both recorded at a gig at the Okere Falls Store – it’s on the road to Rotorua – in the middle of last year.

Both previous Swampies’ albums were great but this improves upon them, acting as a sort of “greatest hits” set while demonstrating what a force the band are live.

Since they’re a duo, comprising Michael Barker on drums and vocals, and Grant Haua on vocals, you would think a live album would be sparser and possibly less satisfying, but in reality the opposite is true.

Grant indeed plays guitar and sings: his voice is as strong as I’ve ever heard it and his heavy-driving funky blues chops go from strength to strength. But Michael doesn’t just drum and sing. He also plays bass keyboard, piano, and an array of tonally-varied percussion (heard to great effect on the instrumental ‘Manza’). Add in some guest keyboards from Split Enz’s Eddie Rayner, and a little drum and guitar support from Evan Rangi Pope and you have the band’s fullest-sounding album so far.

It also showcases the extraordinary material they’ve written, not just standard blues tunes but a collection of solid hook-inflected radio-friendly blues-rock songs with a style as distinct as that other blues-influenced duo, the White Stripes.

There are classic blues themes (‘Can’t Eat’, ‘Good Woman’) and a side order of socially-conscious rockers, from Grant’s environmental ‘The Reckoning’ to Michael’s ‘Genius’, a song at once prescient, catchy, and ironic with its lyric: “It doesn’t take a genius to write a three-minute pop song”.

The DVD has a couple of different selections. The camera work and editing are mundane but it’s great to see the band in action, and there’s the delightful story of Michael meeting Nelson Mandela, inspiration for the song ‘Mr Nelson’.

All in all an excellent bit of work, highly recommended.  



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