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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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Sets, Disasteradio and Die! Die! Die!

There is a large mural painted on a wall which runs alongside Wallace Street in Mount Cook. This mural pays tribute to Ian Curtis, the troubled singer of Joy Division. Graeme Downes (of The Verlaines) once told an interviewer that Joy Division’s albums weren’t available in New Zealand stores until two years after Ian’s suicide. Despite this complication, the wall has constantly been repainted and maintained since its appearance shortly after Curtis’ tragic death in 1980. I walked past this mural on my way to the VBC & VUWSA organised orientation show at San Francisco Bathhouse last Wednesday, and couldn’t help but pause for a moment to remember his music and his far reaching influence. My thoughts turned to Curtis again just as Disasteradio was beginning his synth driven set when I asked myself:

“What would Ian Curtis have thought had he been here tonight?”

After all, Disasteradio’s dancey pop and chunky, synchronised drum machines owe as much to the pioneering work of New Order as to anyone else. Although Curtis never lived to see his band fully embrace synthesizers and drum machines, later interviews with his bandmates have revealed that it was his love of Kraftwerk that had led to the group taking its first steps towards what would later become a full-blown electronic evolution.

I suspect that Curtis might have at least smiled had he been standing beside me watching Disasteradio’s set. Perhaps he would have been impressed by the possibilities of the technology that we have at our disposal to create music in 2009. Despite everything written about Curtis, he certainly had a sense of humour, and I suspect the combination of goofy visuals and disco moves might have amused him. Who knows, he might even have had a bit of a dance himself.

What about Die! Die! Die! then? These children of Dunedin Sound played with great thrust and energy. Curtis might have been as captivated as I was by the dynamic guitar work and manic presence of frontman Andrew Watson. Meanwhile, Lachlan Anderson’s simple, yet driving basslines (which owe more to the Sex Pistols than to the melodic weaving of Peter Hook’s bass playing) helped Die!

Die! Die!’s tight live sound straddle the boundary between punk and post-punk in a way that is simultaneously original and pleasantly familiar.

I would hate to pigeonhole either Die! Die! Die! or Disasteradio as mere acolytes of Joy Division/New Order, when they clearly are not.

Rather, this exercise of remembrance serves to highlight the excellent quality and diversity of music that is being created in New Zealand’s underground. My comparison to Tony Wilson’s Manchester should be understood in terms that are primarily spiritual, rather than aesthetic. In Blink, New Zealand even has its own enthusiastically Wilsonesque figure, while the VBC themselves are now starting to make a significant contribution to the state of music in Wellington, thanks to their well organised events and enthusiastic support and promotion of local artists. Just as Graeme Downes once saw the benefits of New Zealand’s isolation as a source of musical inspiration and originality, he was also aware of the importance of musical heritage and influence. I am pleased to report that these fine traditions are being strongly upheld by a new generation of local artists and institutions in 2009.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Matthew McMatthew says:

    that’s one of the worst reviews i’ve read in a while. and it’s andrew wilson. surely you could’ve found that out relatively easily.

  2. Kim Wheatley says:

    Actually, it’s Anthony Wilson. Tony is short for Anthony, and that’s what everyone called him.

  3. jamessss says:

    yo kim, matts right
    die die die frontman = andrew wilson
    jammed

  4. Sets Fan says:

    Wheres any mention of Sets? That guy was the best thing about that show!

  5. Kim Wheatley says:

    Oh right. I see. We are talking about different people. Not sure how that happened, I guess I’m a moron. At least I didn’t get Tony Wilson’s name wrong though, now that would have been embarrassing! As for Sets, I only caught half of his last song, but apparently Andrew Wilson thinks he is the “most talented musician in NZ,” whatever that means? I guess none of us are perfect huh?

  6. jamessss says:

    sets is the most brutal artist to ever come from the depths of wanganui

  7. pedantic says:

    you mean ‘w”H”anganui’ get it right racist nazi jew hater

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