Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I was in New Zealand for the last couple weeks because my Dad is from there and the USA family goes once a decade or so to visit the NZ family. I had no musical plans of any kind for the trip other than the music of the great outdoors (seriously), although 20 minutes after landing, when we were picking up our rental car, a guy came in wearing a Flying Nun T-shirt and I asked him if he was going to see any live music while he was there. He replied that he actually lived in Auckland and was dropping his car off, that his job was taking bands on tour for Flying Nun and others, that he only wears the T-shirt when everything else is in the laundry, and that he didn't really know of any crucial shows in the next couple weeks. I asked who was good on Flying Nun these days, apologizing that I didn't already know, and he said the Surf Friends, apologizing for the name, just that they were "two friends who love to surf and love The Clean." I can't tell if they're actual Flying Nun signees or not from the FN website, but that's who he said. So, at the end of the trip, after traversing the Bay of Islands, the Coromandel Peninsula, the heart of the Waikato, the surf mecca of Raglan, and more, when we made it back to Auckland for a few nights and a cousin's wedding, I broke down and went to Real Groovy, which is apparently the last Queen Street record store standing, to look for a Surf Friends 7-inch. It's true, the Korean food options on and around Queen were more impressive than the funky books-and-records-and-fliers cultural options that used to be on all the main drags, but we both know that all of those options are now on the digital drag, and there were a bunch of kids skateboarding amongst a game of street cricket at Aotea Square, so it was cool.

Surf Friends don't seem to have any vinyl out yet, and Real Groovy just had a couple of their CD EPs. I decided to listen to their music on the internet first because shit tends to be expensive in New Zealand. Real Groovy is a great store though, the Amoeba of Aotearoa, with a massive selection of (overpriced to a Yankee) records and books and movies and T-shirts and lots more. But the point of this story, and maybe every story, is that when we walked into the store, what should be blasting on the sound system but Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, specifically "Down By The River." Angelina said, "All this music, all around, and it's Neil Young on the stereo," and I said, "That's what it all comes around to. That's all you need." Sort of like the music of the great outdoors (seriously). We browsed until the stored closed, with no intention of buying anything, just to listen to Neil and the Horse because the record sounded so good.

A couple days later we were at the Auckland airport waiting for our 12-hour flight to Los Angeles. I had 15 NZ bucks left. Not much, so when I saw that the new issue of Mojo had feature articles on two of my Top 5 bands of all time, the Rolling Stones and Can, plus one on Todd Rundgren to boot, and that it was perfectly overpriced at $15.20 NZD, boom, I had my in-flight reading material. I'm thumbing through it at the gate, and there on page 58 they're asking PJ Harvey "what's the best thing you've heard all year," and what does she say but: "I really can't stop listening to Neil Young, particularly his first two solo albums [Neil Young and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere]. It's just doing something for my soul that my soul really needs, and I'm pretty much only listening to him. It's been about five months now (laughs)."

And THEN, when I get home to Chicago some 24 hours later, my facebook and twitter feeds are buzzing with the news of "Horse Back," a brand new 37-minute jam by Neil Young and Crazy Horse just posted on neilyoung.com. I'm listening to it right now for the second time. It's endless. It's what it all comes around to. It's kinda like the music of the great outdoors. And this kinda is too:

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