Forward Thinking: Paying tribute to our metal gurus

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Shihad's frontman Jon Toogood gets amongst the crowd at the Big Day Out. Photo / NZ Herald
Shihad's frontman Jon Toogood gets amongst the crowd at the Big Day Out. Photo / NZ Herald

ITEM 1: New Zealand beats Australia easily in the music stakes if you ask me. Okay, apart from AC/DC, maybe INXS, and the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. And though we haven't had the world-wide success of Acca Dacca, and, um, Natalie Imbruglia, when it comes to integrity and uniqueness we - to use well known sports commentator Hilary Clinton's analogy - punch above our weight. Shihad is the perfect example of a rock band with their own distinct sound compared to the pub rock standard Australian bands trot out. Then there's Fat Freddy's Drop; original dub-for-the-masses pioneers Salmonella Dub (who were big in Oz once upon a time too); it was Scribe who heralded hip-hop across the Tasman in the mid-2000s; and Stan da man Walker took out Australian Idol in 2009.

Which is why it's a little galling that Australia has beaten us in acknowledging one of the most important yet underrated styles of music. Yes, the Aussies have introduced the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album category at their music awards for the first time - and it was won last week by Byron Bay metal act Parkway Drive.

They're a great band, but we have better and far more fearsome metal acts lurching around Aotearoa.

Bands like hardy perennials Subtract, the polished and pummelling Tainted (who supported Metallica in September), and the mightiest of all, Arc of Ascent, to name just a few.

And so, the time has come for a Best Hard Rock/Metal Album category to be introduced at the New Zealand Music Awards. In fact, we should go one further and restrict it to Best Metal, because we're not talking Shihad here (although Churn and Killjoy are weighty records), we're talking about a brutal slaughter of sound.

Just imagine if the category had taken its rightful place at this year's Tuis. Jon Toogood would have been the presenter up there opening the envelope excitedly: "And the winner of the inaugural best NZ metal album is ... Arc of Ascent for Circle of the Sun. F***** awesome, bro." Let's make it happen for next year then eh? The campaign starts here.

ITEM 2: I've never been a great one for lyrics. But I do appreciate a good turn of phrase in a song ("Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste" - Rolling Stones), something clever and sniping ("I guess it's time for you to hate me again" - Eminem), or something cute ("And it makes me feel so fine/I can't control my brain" - Weezer). But where do musicians get off - especially of late - being lyrically lame?

"Drinking champagne, going insane," holler Benji and Joel Madden on Good Charlotte's latest single Like It's Her Birthday; then there's our own singing lovely Annabel Fay's "Like a river, a river ... a river"; and most ridiculous of all is Katy Perry's "Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind" from Firework. Well, no Katy. A pink, helium-charged balloon perhaps? Yes. But a yellow plastic bag from Pak 'n Save? No.

Still, bad lyrics haven't stopped any of these songs being hits, and I'm a fine one to talk because I'm a fan of music that's devoid of discernible lyrics.

ITEM 3: After this week's fake Elvis album comes the fake Jacko. Or is it? Because it seems, depending on which side you're on - whether you profit from his posthumous releases or whether you've been struck off the will like his dad Joe - there are differing views on whether MJ's new single Breaking News is real or some cobbled together trickery from the archives. Who knows? But one thing his forthcoming album, Michael, does clear up is that, judging by the cover, he apparently was black. Who knew?

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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