Monday, June 29, 2015

The continuing bodacious quest for most excellent rock music...

For those of you that came in late...

DJ DJ, DR Dr and myself are on a most excellent adventure. We're scouring the Internets, blogs, record shops, friends' music collections and anywhere else in search of new(ish) rock music that needs a wider audience. This quest stemmed from a discussion around the sad state of rock music as we saw it...or at least the difficulty for bands in getting any publicity in a market crowded with manufactured, auto-tuned drivel. So far we've looked at Vintage Trouble, Kingswood and Airbourne.

Today's recommendation is not really a new band. But I'd never heard of them and their new album is their first release since 2004.

Goatsnake are from LA, California. If you believe Wikipedia they are a doom metal band. I think there is much more to this release that that.

The album is called "Black Age Blues" and to me sounds like a mixture of early Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Monster Magnet and Soundgarden. The vocals are clear and easy to understand (no growling or screaming that I've heard thus far) and in amongst the brutal, sludgy guitars is a really cool bluesy harmonica. 

Here's a Spotify link to the entire album:

Goatsnake - Elevated Man -

Until next time, be excellent to each other.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Song of the Week #354

Coming up in episode #354...old tunes, new tunes, loud tunes, louder tunes, guitars and maybe a few political comments. Strap yourselves in.

Spotify link for all but one of the following songs:

Last week was grey, wet and a real downer. This week it seems as though normal programming resumed with blue skies, freezing mornings and smiles all round! As a result the madness of the 1000km per month cycling continues to be on track. That's assuming that I can ride about 30km before Tuesday and I can't see that being a problem! In reality I can make a start towards being back in "surplus" the way I was prior to my Vanuatu adventure.

Seasick Steve - Keep On Keepin' On (live) -

You have to love Air Vanuatu. They changed Zoë's flights home (there are three sequential flights to get from Pentecost to Australia). Not only did they just email her (how very useful, lucky Alison is monitoring her inbox) some changes, but the changes had the second and third connecting flights BEFORE the first one. There was every chance that she would've turned up at the airfield on the wrong day. That's a big problem when it's a rather long hike or an expensive truck ride. It's fixed now but really you have to wonder what level of thought went into the changes.

Canned Heat - On The Road Again -

As a result of my friendship with DJ TeeCeehe introduced me to American punk band The Dollyrots. I've played some of their track before here and if you like band like The Ramones, The Runaways or Good Charlotte then cue up some Dollyrots sonic mayhem! But last week DJ TeeCee and his prodigiously talented musical son were on tour with the band who were in turn out supporting Bowling for Soup. Like most people I know BFS from the song "1985" which is fantastic. As a result of seeing some tour photos and reading StalkerBook updates I headed to the Internets and tried out a whole swag of Bowling for Soup tunes. You should too; they are awesome! Here's a couple to whet your punk rock whistles!

Bowling for Soup - High School Never Ends -

Bowling for Soup - The Bitch Song -

Bowling for Soup - 1985 -

DJ Ducky pointed out that there is a huge David Bowie exhibition on in Melbourne at the moment. It's not going to any other Australian cities so fans will need to save their pennies to get there. It's on until the start of November and looks well worth the effort. Details here:

David Bowie - I'm Afraid of Americans -

Little May are described as a "Sydney Folk Trio". I'm really not sure about the folk moniker but there are three of them and they are from Sydney. It's more dreamy indie pop than the channeling of Dylan or Guthrie but it's still worth a listen. Here's a song released just over a week ago from them. If you like bands like First Aid Kit or The Clouds then this might be your kind of tune...

Little May - Home -

If you thought that was OK but you want a bit more of a beat then maybe The Mynabirds will be of interest. This one came out on Thursday and I like the vocal delivery which is still in the out of breath girly style but with a bit more power and depth. The lyrics are inspired by Kerouac I'm told. I haven't managed to finish "On The Road" at this stage so I'll take a real reviewers word for that. There's a good bass line that burbles and thumps along in places. I might be tempted to buy their album when it is released. Dreamy.

The Mynabirds - Wildfire -

I was going to write about flags, guns, marriage equality and the truth in this episode. But without wanting to take away from the importance of many current issues I think you can read about them elsewhere. What I say about the madness of worrying about flags, the lack of resources to enforce gun laws or the marriage equality debate isn't going to change anyone's mind. As for the truth, it seems to be a concept that our politicians are far too free and easy with. 

The Wallflowers - Lawyers, Guns and Money (Warren Zevon tribute) -

Somehow during the week I stumbled across a 2011 album by the Scorpions. Half of it is re-recordings of some of their classics and the other half contains covers. It's no secret that I enjoy a good cover version and these are pretty good. Scorpions have always been a good band who play well and have fantastic vocals. The album is called "Comeblack" and if you like melodic rock then fire up your internet connection and listen somewhere. They sound great for a band that have been kicking around since 1965...

Scorpions - Children of the Revolution -

Just a quick note for you guitar lovers out there. Yesterday I took delivery of a "Lil' Big Boost" pedal from John Kave Audio who are from Melbourne. John makes high quality hand made pedals and they are simply amazing. This one does one makes your guitar louder for playing solos. DJ Chief asked me to sort out something to boost the level of my solo work and this is the solution. I can't wait to plug in later on today and make a lot of noise! 

Have a great weekend,


"Get used to my face, I'm rockin' like Ace...", Too Much Rock & Roll, Rollins Band, 2001.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Song of the Week #353

I wrote down some thoughts during the week about my trip to Vanuatu. They are here if that kind of thing interests you:

Other than my family and a hot shower one of the main things I missed when I was away was my bike. It has been so wonderful (can you hear the sarcasm?) that the weather here in Canberra has been so wet that riding would've just been silly. Thankfully, today (Friday) the skies have cleared and I can ride again. I know that I could have ridden in the rain but there's a fine line between obsessed and stupid. Even with the trip away, being sick and the bad weather I should be able to maintain my average of 1000km per month as long as next week is mainly dry!

The Church - Already Yesterday -

In preparation for our gig on 31st July the band had a rather loud hit-out on Tuesday night. I must admit that with only a quick run through of the songs over the weekend I felt very underdone. However, there was plenty of energy then and it should be a very upbeat show. Check out the band's Facebook page here if you'd like more details; all welcome. Stay tuned for an announcement of a rather big gig in September...

Scorpions - Rock You Like A Hurricane -

Iron Maiden have just announced the impending release of a new studio album. "The Book of Souls" will be their first double album (other than live ones). It's a bit of a relief that there is even a new release since singer Bruce Dickinson has had cancer but is now apparently fine. September 24th isn't that far off.

Sign - Run To The Hills -

Neil Young was in the news recently asking Donald Trump NOT to use his song "Rockin' In The Free World" as part of his political campaign. Fair enough too. Neil has a pretty good track record of keeping his music to himself. That Trump is running in the first place probably plays into the hands of the Democrats. Surely even the most delusional American wouldn't want Donald as the President?

Neil Young - This Note's For You (live & acoustic) -

Ghost also have a new album ready for release late in August. Entitled "Meliora". The first single, "Cirice" is out now with a rather cool music video. See if you can spot which famous film the clip is based on...

It looks like Ghost have a new singer under all that makeup but who knows? The anonymity is a big part of their schtick and unlike KISS no-one knows who they are. Plenty of rumours abound but they are just that; rumours.

If you like a good action movie then I can heartily recommend the latest Mad Max film. It has plenty of nods to the old school movies and hanging around for the credits to see what all the characters are called is definitely worth the time. It was pretty cool to find out that Australian musician iOTA played the part of the "Doof Warrior". Hanging off the front of a huge semi trailer playing riffs on the guitar looks like fun! John Howard (not the ex-PM) as "The People Eater" was a real hoot. I just thought it was a bit sad that the actor chosen for Max wasn't an Aussie but then technically neither is Mel Gibson.

In 2013 I read a new release series of Star Wars comics. They were set between episodes IV and V and, well, they weren't all that great. The other day I had an email from the comic shop telling me that although that series had ended, Marvel comics had now started a new one and they'd put them aside for me as a result of my previous order. Well I'd just finished the book I was reading so I headed off to pick them up. Still set in the same time period these are much, much better! I'm not a comic reader at all but I'll stick with these ones. I guess it'll continue to ramp up as we wait patiently for the release of the new movie towards the end of this year.

I knew that in Vanuatu I'd have a fair bit of free time so I took what I hoped would be a good book. I was inspired to read John Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath" after listening to Springsteen's song, "The Ghost of Tom Joad". I'm sure many of you had to read it at school but I didn't. I thought it was a great read. Maybe slow by today's disposable literature standards but I really enjoyed immersing myself in the way the story was told. It linked it pretty well with my study of the American South in terms of setting the scene of another part of America. If you haven't read it then I doubt you'd be disappointed. America in the book is nothing like Vanuatu but some of the feelings of dust, dirt and a hard life did resonate slightly. My copy is a bit bruised and battered now after being in and out of a backpack, read in huts, airports, planes and on the seawall but I guess that just adds character.

Bruce Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad (solo/acoustic) -

Oh look....the sky is blue! I'd forgotten what that looked like. Anyone would think we were living through a Scottish Summer.

That's all,


"I just wanna shake, shake, shake...", Shake It Off, Screaming Females (T Swizzle cover),, June 2015. Betcha didn't expect that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mi bin go long Vanuatu.

From 1st until 12th of June this year I was lucky enough to go to Vanuatu. I won't say it was a holiday per se but it certainly wasn't work.

As most readers will be aware, my daughter Zoë is there volunteering as part of a gap year. She was there during Cyclone Pam and returned as soon as she could afterwards to continue her work.

There were three main parts to the adventure.
  • getting to Vanuata and Port Vila
  • a week on the island of Pentecost
  • getting home
Flying from Australia to Vanuatu is easy but the airfares fluctuate wildly. In the end I booked through the Air Vanuatu website and chose my dates based on the flights. There are only two flights a week in and out of Pentecost so that meant that I ended up with a day in Port Vila either side of that.

Port Vila is only about 3 hours flight from Sydney. Tack onto that my 3 hour bus ride to the airport and it was a relatively long day. Getting out of Australia takes ages. Getting in is relatively quick.

I was in Port Vila in the morning and had plenty of time to look around and get my bearings. I also picked up a local mobile phone and SIM as the cost (about AU$22) was well worth it in terms of avoiding global roaming charges.

I won't say I enjoyed Port Vila all that much. It's a town very much in the throes of rebuilding post-cyclone. People were friendly though. Everyone spoke English to me so I didn't really have a chance to test out my Bislama.

Flying to Pentecost on the Wednesday meant flying Port Vila to Santo, changing to a very small plane (Twin Otter) and on to Sara Airfield on Pentecost. It's a spectacular landing on a grass strip on the side of a hill.

Pentecost is a remote island. Quite how remote I'm not sure how to describe. No running water, no electricity, no sewerage, no TV, very little radio and a subsistence lifestyle. It's one of the best places I've ever been in my life.

Atavtabanga School is about an hour's drive from the airfield. Only 4WDs survive here and they are few and far between. Riding on the tray standing up is a great way to see the country. The track was terrifying in places.

Seeing Zoë at the school was fantastic. It's as if she's always been there. I stayed with her and her host family who coped really well with me I thought! They laughed at and encouraged my Bislama, understood when I initially struggled with the food, and generally made me feel like part of the family. The daily wash in a bucket of cold water is a culture shock I can assure you.

Food in Pentecost is mainly root crops supplemented by rice. We ate a lot of sweet potato, taro and island cabbage. In terms of meat they eat a lot of chicken. I saw pigs tie up all over the place but I assume that they are reserved for special celebrations. There are small "shops" here and there that sell a range of items but the majority of food is grown. Mostly the shops sell lollies to the kids and some tinned food. We had baked beans and two minute noodles with our dinner one night and it was fantastic!

I was fortunate enough to talk to a lot of the locals, do a little bit of work with some students and just generally soak in the feel of the place. The weather was fantastic. It's "winter" in Vanuatu which means about 26 degrees Celsius and no rain!

On the Friday morning we got a ride on another truck for just over an hour to Level School. Level is where Zoë was during the cyclone. One of the main motivators behind my trip was to thank the people there for their care. Level is an amazing place and our family there are great. It's hard to know if I've ever felt the way they made me feel; instantly welcomed by one and all. They were so pleased to see Zoë again and the fact that her volunteering partner Ally could come along too was really good.

There was much activity at Level as they are building a new school office (with concrete blocks and a real roof), water tanks have been delivered and the Nakamal is also being rebuilt. It was interesting to see that some of the older students had begin work themselves on a new classroom.

Michael took us up the hill to where their Church is and also where the helicopter landed. The Church is still half destroyed and they'll fix that up when some of the other building work is done. It's still in use. The area where the helicopter landed really isn't very big. I have a photo of everyone waving as Zoë took off and now one of me standing in the same spot!

Later on Michael was off to the bank and I went along for a look. It was about a 20 minute walk. The bank is a Western Union outlet open 3 times a week. All the transactions take place using the mobile phone network I assume as the office had no power. I met quite a few people here including Nancy Teri who had been a nurse on Santo. Her English skills meant that everyone quickly knew my story! Then it turned out that she needed a letter delivered to her daughter in Vila. I volunteered to visit her and hand over the letter. Wow, I was instantly a family member! Nancy's husband is a Pastor and I heard about their Church and life on Pentecost. Pastor Willy also used to be a land-diver in the South of the island.

At Level I was invited into their brand new Nakamal (meeting place) to drink Kava and share stories with local men. Kava is never going to be high on my wishlist but it was an honour to be asked to join in. The conversation was pretty funny though with my brother Michael speaking English and pretty much everyone else their local language or Bislama. We got by and my Bislama improved very quickly!

We were able to hand over school supplies, seeds, clothing and some money to Level School. The money is to help kids stay in school. School isn't free and we wanted parents to be able to spend their money on rebuilding without having to sacrifice education.

Sadly we could only spend one night at Level. Saying goodbye in the morning was very emotional and I have a feeling I'll be back there before too long.

We travelled back to Atavtabanga, picked up the family and headed to Levusi (another hour) for the weekend. Zoë's host family are from Levusi and go there every weekend for church. Avenvene is part of Levusi that we were in and it is beautiful. Quite a few houses, lots of gardens (veggie gardens), guest accommodation for the Church there and of course the Church itself. I spent the afternoon meeting people, playing football with kids, reading a book and taking some photos. The pace of life on Pentecost really is very relaxed. There's no need to rush anything.

Church on Sunday was an amazing experience. Firstly, everyone is in their Sunday best, for the men that means long pants and a collared shirt. For women an Aelan (Island) dress or something similar. Kids are well turned out too. The service went for over 3 hours and there was more energy than at a football grand final. For a usually reserved people, the Ni-Vans really get into their Church service! Plenty of singing (all in English). The service was all in Bislama other than the Bible readings. I reckon I understood about 90%. But understanding a language and speaking it are two different things. I started to understand why a lot of locals can understand English but not say much in it. It didn't matter as I was always keen to speak in Bislama.

After lunch we headed back to Atavtabanga. Over the next couple of days I got to read to some school students as well as taking some out for games. That was a hoot. The language barrier was easily overcome with a couple of tennis balls, basic instructions and a lot of laughing. I also watched a lot of football (soccer) as the local young men train every weeknight at the school. These guys have serious skills. At the end of every session they have a match. They play hard but fair. I didn't see one harsh word exchanged or any foul play.

On Monday night the rain started. On Tuesday it got heavier and kept going. I stayed inside most of the day playing with the kids, reading and looking outside! I was starting to get worried about getting to the airfield on Wednesday morning. Zoë's father, Godden, told me that if the truck couldn't make it through we'd be walking. At this point I remembered Zoë mentioning that it was about a 4hr walk. Ouch. That evening we had a splendid farewell dinner and it was reaffirmed that I was part of their family.

I didn't get a lot of sleep listening to the rain. In the morning from about 6am we had no phone signal and thus no way to know if the truck was coming or indeed if the plane would be able to land or takeoff. I was packed and ready to hike. Luckily Zoë had a class from 9am so she missed the worst of my nervousness! At about 9.45am the phone network came up, the truck wasn't coming, the plane was, and so off we trekked!

Zoë and the Year 5 and 6 classes came out to wave goodbye which was very moving. It was really hard to walk up the hill and away and I'll admit I cried behind my sunglasses.

The 4 hour walk wasn't that at all. We were there in just under 2hrs. It certainly rained, the hills were big and there was plenty of mud. 4 year old Gordy walked the whole way with us!

Flying away from Pentecost in the mist was surreal and sad. In 20 minutes we landed in Santo and then life took a turn for the worse. Delays....7.5 hours of delays and then the flight to Port Vila was cancelled at about 10:30pm! We were eventually shuttled off to a hotel which turned out to be locked up and closed. Apart from one man from Guyana everyone else was a Ni-Van. Thankfully they looked after me and much later the hotel manager arrived to give us all rooms. A shower never felt so good. I'd felt quite sorry for everyone at Santo Airport who got too close to me!

We finally got out of Santo at about midday Thursday and back to Port Vila. I made the most of the afternoon delivering a letter for people on Pentecost, meeting up with Terry from Lattitude and visiting his community. Seeing Terry and his community work together to ensure that everyone benefits was something special. The 20 minute walk to and from town to get dinner nearly did me in and I slept well that night. Until we had to leave for the airport just after 5am!

Then back to Sydney, another bus ride and home.

That's a really condensed version of what happened but I reckon it's more than enough for you to read. I did keep a journal the whole time and it's quite detailed. One day I'll get it online.

People want to know if I'll go back and I have no doubt that I will. I've got three families on Pentecost and one in Vila who consider me one of their own. My aim is to be able to go back for a lot longer and help out in some way.

The best thing I did apart from going in the first place was to learn as much Bislama as I could and then be prepared to use it. It opened doors for me on Pentecost and helped me out a lot in Santo.

If I could go back today I probably would!

If you've read this far then you've done well!

Tankyu tumas!


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Song of the Week #352 (aka Ep. VI - Return of the Woozle)

Well here I am back in Canberra. The last two weeks have been nothing short of amazing. To say that I have been off the beaten track would be an understatement!

I'm not going to spend this episode telling you all that happened but I'll put some blog posts out during the next week or so with a fair bit of detail and some photos.

In short, the week I spent on Pentecost was a real eye opener. You have to understand that the people there live a very basic and remote existence. There is no running water anywhere, no power unless you have a solar panel, no radio reception in most places and the roads are tracks that 4WDs find challenging. The people were warm, welcoming and always happy to see and talk to me. The effort I had made in learning some Bislama was very much appreciated and in a couple of situations got me out of a sticky spot. Zoë is like a pig in mud. Her new school is a lot bigger than the old one and challenging in different ways. She is pretty much completely fluent in Bislama at this stage. We managed to visit her old school at Level and the welcome there was second to none. To be able to meet and thank the people that looked after Zoë in the cyclone was a very emotional experience. We were also able to hand over a range of supplies to them as well as some cash to help keep kids in school. The other thing we now know is how to help them into the future. I've also been adopted into three families so there's pretty much nowhere I can go on Pentecost without having a relative! I'll admit that leaving Zoë there was very hard but the two hour hike to the airfield in rain, mud and over some big hills gave me time to sort myself out! The next time I go I'm planning for an extended stay and to work in one of the schools if they'll have me.

I've been fortunate in the last 12 months to have my life changed by firstly the trip to Tingha and now to Pentecost. 

I must admit that the only music I listened to was on the plane to and from Sydney. I did muck around on the ukulele with Zoë and her family and of course, when we were at church for 3 hours I did a lot of singing! I was handed a guitar at one point and the only thing that they seemed to like at all that I could play was this...they like the reggae beat man!

Eric Clapton - Willie & The Hand Jive -

If you would like to know anything more about Vanuatu please drop me an email. It's very much open for tourists and they really need the money so get saving! You don't need to go bush like me but I can thoroughly recommend it. I know nothing about the resorts except that all the tourists on the plane home seemed very happy.

I had a look in the record shop yesterday at the new releases rack to see what I've missed in the last couple of weeks. A new Proclaimers album, one from The Darkness and a live Bob Marley CD/DVD  set both look worthy of further investigation. The Marley set was recorded in June 1980 by the Rockpalast folks in Germany.

Bob Marley (live) - Exodus / Redemption Song -

It's great to hear the Proclaimers rocking out on this track from the new album, "Let's Hear It For The Dogs". After one listen I can guarantee I'll be heading out before long to plonk down some cash for the LP.

The Proclaimers - You Built Me Up -

As for The Darkness, they never take themselves too seriously. The single from the album is equal parts Spinal Tap, Game of Thrones and Led Zep. Rock on!

The Darkness - Barbarian -

If you want to come along and see Junk Sculpture truly rock out then we're playing the Dirrum Dirrum Conference at Radford College on July 31st. It promises to be a VERY energetic show! More details to follow.

OK, speaking of that gig, I have new songs to go and learn before rehearsal on Tuesday evening so I'd better get on with it.

Thanks for all the kind messages about my trip.

Mi bin long go Pentecost. Mi hom wetem stret family blong mi. Mi glad tumas.


" in the love of the common people,
smiles from the heart of a family man...", Love of the Common People, Paul Young, 1983.