Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

23rd January 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

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Music was my first love, and it will be my last ... Music of the future, and music of the past ... or, as half the radio stations in this town used to blare: "The best of the 60s, 70s and 80s!!" But no more, apparently - if Solid Gold FM is still heading bravely back to the future, the momentum of commercial broadcasting is, oddly enough, towards an accomodation with the 90s.

It's not just MTV and Channel Z, it's the bleedin' cricket on TV3, which has spent the whole summer serenading us with a bit out of the Prodigy's 'Firestarter' - and occasionally the whole "fuckin' instigator" to go with the highlights - every time there's a break. Weird.

The Prodg themselves rolled through town this past week, of course, without playing any cricket - although that Leeroy looks like he'd make a handy pace bowler. And it was good. I did hear someone on National Radio cite the Prodigy as evidence of the "dumbing down" of popular music - because they get up on stage and, quote "shout five words repeatedly and people love it".

Bzzzt! Wrong! Simple is not the same as dumb - and when you last catch more than five words of a song at the Supertop anyway? The Prodigy have recognised that. They've got one dimension on a good day, but what they do is to distill the excitement of a live concert down into a little bottle and shake it about with their thumbs over the top. Sometimes it's messy but that's all part of the fun.

The strangest moments in the Supertop? Well, Keith Flint and a huge bouncer dashing past me on the way to Keith shinnying up one of the big tent's poles was fairly odd. The piercing scream of the teeny girl next to me when Keith ran by was pretty interesting too. But nothing was stranger than all the teenies, in unison, squealing "Smack my bitch up!" along with the chorus of said controversial Prodg song.

What, the sociologist might ask, is going on here? A generation of young women who have been afforded all the benefits of a liberal education, singing along with a song about violence against women? Except it's not. Not as far as they're concerned - or according to anybody who gets it. Because if it were, they wouldn't be singing it, would they? Context is everything in the late 20th century.

And apart from anything else, what the hell else can you say to get a rise out of people in the 1990s? 20-odd years ago, Germaine Greer came here and got arrested for saying "bullshit" in public - and became an instant cause celebre. If she'd had beats, there would've been a rave. These days, she'd say "bullshit" and get nothing more onerous than an interview with Kim Hill.

Right now, I guess we can only thank the Goddess that nobody told dear old Sandra Coney the Prodigy were in town. I honestly have a great deal of respect for Coney, but sometimes she just seems to wish it was still the 70s. Her Sunday Star column this week declared that "Girl Power, as exemplified by the Spice Girls, has been diminished to a facile display of sauciness".

That's not entirely untrue, but Coney gets confused from there on in; declaring that young women should cover themselves up, put their tits away and "revisit" Greer's instructions on how to wank in public without anybody noticing. Righto - and perhaps a veil over the eyes too, then? Is this intended to be progressive advice?

What Coney may have failed to notice is that all this Spiciness is accompanied by something which would have been unthinkable in her day - the Girl Gang. No more schlepping around after your boyfriend, no hiding out in the wimminspace - just living large at the Prodigy, singing along with songs that don't mean what they seem.

Coney might well have been more at home in the company of Beck, the late 20th century gentlemen who also came and played and demonstrated that irony is always best when you really mean it. As he flicked through the Encyclopaedia of Popular Music onstage - one moment Hank Williams, the next Al Green; one moment Bob Dylan and the next LL Cool J - and decided that it'd have been pastiche if it hadn't been so real, and so born out of a love of it all.

It was kind of infectious. By the time I'd been to those two gigs on successive evenings I was feeling full up with music, and excited by it again. I went and traded some old CDs for some new ones; and wound up having a kind of epiphany between Janet Jackson, Schoolly D, Photek and the Saints, while I was doing the dishes. How 90s is that? I suppose I could even have tried for something better than an ephiphany, but even though I read 'The Female Eunuch' as a lad, I just couldn't remember Ms Greer's instructions.

By Monday, of course, it was the real world, and by Wednesday, Ben Harper was sold out anyway. The Confederation of the Chiefs od the United Tribes of New Zealand had a hui with Ngapuhi who - surprise! - passed on the message that they'd be deciding who had customary rights to their fish, thanks very much.

The James O'Brien, the boat used by the confederation to catch all that customary snapper, was seized by fisheries officials, but you have to wonder how this issue could have been allowed to stagger along for five years without resolution - and then have John Luxton put in charge of it. Luxton seems so out of tune with the issue here that you have to wonder if it's deliberate. Maybe there's a right wing plot to have relations degenerate to the point that progress on Treaty issues actually halts and goes in to reverse.

Hopefully not. That would be a little bit too much like Northern Ireland for anybody's liking. And we never want to get to that point. As mindless tit-for-tat killings roll reflexively on in the face of peace talks, it is all too clear what the problem is. The whole process is run by thugs, for thugs.

Did you see the senior Protestant terrorists Mo Mowlan went to visit at the Maze? They looked like the worst sort of meatheads. Imagine if you didn't just have to dodge oafs like that on a Saturday night out - imagine if they were effectively running your country. Imagine if that went on for decades.

Some local oafs did get their just desserts in Christchurch this week, when a judge slapped them in jail for a month on charges of harassing an African immigrant. They were lucky they didn't get more, but one of their skinhead mates didn't think so and cut up rough with some cops at the court. He was shut up with perhaps the only piece of police brutality of which I have not only approved but positively admired. A lightning-quick hand to the throat and Mr Self-Styled Nazi Skinhead was flat on his back waving his little booties in the air. Love ya work.

The same can not be said for the very stupid police person who sent out an extremely unflattering notice about missing Marlborough teenager Olivia Hope, to marina and yacht clubs the length of the nation. Apparently, some of the less strong statements about her character were that she was "spoiled and emotional". The rest of it was not the sort of stuff you'd want said in public about what is very probably a dead girl.

So who got the blame? The New Zealand Herald for breaking the story, according to the cop in charge of the inquiry. Rubbish. It was a legitimate story of police stupidity, and the Herald did not publish any of the more offensive statements.

Not so unfortunately, the Waikato Times, which, having been scooped one day, thought it might be clever to publish the whole notice the next. Wrong. It wasn't clever; it was lame. I'll refrain from any sweeping statements about Hamilton, out of charity if nothing else.

Still, whatever you might say about Hamilton, its local government could not possibly be worse than Auckland's. This week, it emerged that the Auckland Regional Council had returned all the $100,000 deposits paid by companies interested in building and running a light rail system in the region. Why? Nobody could say, really. Where's light rail at now? No one really knows. Why does this seem awfully familiar?

A big up, however, to Brian Rudman in the Herald, who correctly pointed out that the sum the Auckland City Council admitted having poured down the dunny in connection with Britomart had managed to jump from $10 million just before Christmas to $14 million this week. What, he asked, did the council do on its holidays?

It's probably worth pointing out, too, that $14 million is about double the budget for the original, pre-Britomart plan to upgrade the bus station and put in railway lines - which would have been finished and in use by now. Can you say "fiasco"?

Some people might have been tempted to use the F-word in connection with the New Zealand cricket team's adventures in Australia this summer, but I won't hear of it. For all the disasters, we actually appear to be putting together a reasonably convincing team of talented young players. Probably.

Whatever, the victory over Australia this week, marked out by that excellent captain's century by Stephen Fleming, was something special. I don't know if Fleming or any of the others still like the odd toke, but they'd have been welcome to a bong on me after breaking that weird hoodoo that Aussies have had on us for five years. And, sweetest of all, it was Shane Warne who coughed up the winning runs. It's not over till the fat lad bowls a wide, right?

Anyway, you probably won't hear me next week because, for purely professional reasons, I'll be spending four days at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. I'll be staying at a hotel which has 2267 rooms, 17 restaurants, four tennis courts and six golf courses and I'm actually struggling to get my head around it all, I'm not ashamed to admit.

I suspect there'll be no sauciness, nothing much in terms of rock 'n' roll, and, worst of all, in the circumstances, not a skerrick in the way of drugs. But I will survive. Probably


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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