Looking for a silver scroll lining

Dave Dobbyn is a great guy, but now he's just getting greedy. Yet again he is one of five finalists announced last night for the Apra Silver Scroll Awards, New Zealand's top songwriting prize.

Dobbyn has won the Silver Scroll three times in its 40-year history - for You Oughta Be In Love (1987), Belle of the Ball (1993) and Beside You (1998).

But he has some stiff competition this year, including Geoff Maddock from Goldenhorse (Out of the Moon), Pluto (Long White Cross), Evermore (It's Too Late), and the Mint Chicks (Opium of the People).

"It's an honour ... I think the older I get the more honourable it seems," says Dobbyn, who remembers when the award ceremony was held during the day and "there might have been a sausage roll or two involved". Now it's one of the flashest nights on the local music calendar.

Dobbyn says Welcome Home - a song inspired by an anti-racism march in Christchurch - is better than any of his winning songs from the past.

He says all the marchers in Christchurch wanted was to be recognised as New Zealanders. "Which I think they have a right to do, and there's no better way to say it than, 'Welcome home, on behalf of the people of New Zealand'.

"Being fully aware of the consequences of singing a song like that makes it that much more special that I've been nominated. It's good to be self-aware and community-aware at the same time, and it's probably the first time I feel like I've done it."

With typical Dobbyn humour, he says he wrote the songs on Available Light, the album from which Welcome Home is taken, so Pakeha would have a few songs to sing on a marae.

"You know what it's like, you turn up at a marae and the locals have got it over you, singing a song after every reaction, and you try to keep up with a waiata - but we haven't got any. We're bloody hopeless at it as Pakeha."

Pluto guitarist Tim Arnold is also pretty chuffed about the band's nomination. Long White Cross was one of the last songs Pluto wrote for the album Pipeline Under the Ocean.

"We've been trying to write songs more as a band, and definitely on our next record they're coming from all of us. But that song was going back to how Milan [Borich, singer/guitarist] and myself used to write.

"We sat at his old place in this little studio. It started out as quite a slow, mournful piece, but we banged it out in about 2 1/2 hours."

For the past three years the Silver Scrolls have been dominated by hip-hop acts, with Scribe and P Money winning in 2004, Nesian Mystik in 2003 and Che Fu and Godfrey de Grut in 2002. But no hip-hop acts were finalists this year.

Also being announced on the night will be the 2005 Apra Maioha Award, for which the finalists are Hinemoana Baker (Puawai), Whirimako Black and Anituatua Black (Tini Whetu), and Rodger Cunningham (Hawaiki).

In the Sounz Contemporary Award, the finalists are Ross Harris (Labyrinth for tuba and orchestra), Jeroen Speak (Gu Ta), and Kenneth Young (Symphony No 2).

The Silver Scrolls will be held at the Auckland Town Hall on September 12.

SILVER SCROLLS - THE SONGS

Long White Cross - Tim Arnold, Milan Borich, Michael Franklin-Browne, Mike Hall, Matthias Jordan (Pluto)

Many would have picked first single Dance Stamina (the song that sounds like the Stone Roses) to be up for this award. But the sexy swagger of Long White Cross has a more unique Pluto feel to it.

Welcome Home - Dave Dobbyn

The singalong anthem from the veteran songsmith comes laden with heartstring-tugging New Zealand images in its message about race and republicanism. It might start out like Loyal part II, but it's got something smarter and tougher to say.

It's Too Late - Dann Hume, Jon Hume, Peter Hume (Evermore)

One of two songs that summed up the naivety and angst of the spoilt teens on American drama The OC. And it's about time the Feilding brothers were recognised in their home country.

Out of the Moon - Geoffrey Maddock (Goldenhorse)

Kirsten Morell might be feeling a bit left out that fellow Goldenhorse songwriter Geoff Maddock was recognised for this string-soaked effort. But luna love never sounded so lovely.

Opium of the People - Kody Nielson, Ruban Nielson (The Mint Chicks)

Despite the Marxist connotations of the title, this is a mellow song compared to the spastic and jerky noise the Auckland art school rockers are best known for. But it has a menacing mantra both lyrically and musically that gets into your head.

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