Hard News by Russell Brown


Music! That one album

If you know me by now, you'll know that I'm not terribly good at lists and best-ofs. Around this time of year I am generally driven to a mild panic reading the annual rundowns by people who have been interrogating and placing in context every new release while I've been dancing in the kitchen to some retro disco business. How do they find the time?

But it did occur to me this week that there's one 2016 album that has sometimes just stopped me cold when I've played it. In part, I know, it's because I saw the movie, but Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Skeleton Tree is a remarkable and affecting work. And an awkward one. The initial writing and recording was carried out before the tragic death of Cave's son Arthur, and yet its themes of loss, grief and distance seem prophetic, inescapably so. How do you even address that as an artist?

In the film, One More Time with Feeling, Cave talks about having to give up the idea  of perfectly burnishing his work, and simply capturing what's there. There are lyrics that might not normally pass muster – you feel that in 'I Need You' Cave simply repeats to a line because he can't get to the next one – and more musically expert reviewers than me write about "unresolved chords", dissonance and melodies that don't map to the time signatures of the songs.

I think next month's shows by the band will be something special.


You'll be wanting some music for the summer. Can I recommend the digital version of Strut's brilliant Sun Ra compilation, Singles? It shares quite a number of tunes with the Evidence label's 1996 release The Singles, but it's more expansive and the tracks themselves are better-mastered. This is beautiful, soulful, natural music, ranging in style from doo-wop to space jazz. And it's affordable.

Singles is avaliable via the Strut Bandcamp for $NZ18 and on Bleep.com (if, like me, you want the 24-bit WAV) for a bit more. That's for 65 tracks.  Give yourself a treat.


A late-breaking treat: A Tribe Called Quest's We got it from Here: Thank You 4 Your Service, released last month, eight months after the death of Phife Dawg. It's a dense, complex, funny and meaningful record. I'll be listening to this a lot over summer.

Here are the remaining members performing 'Dis Generation' on Jimmy Kimmel Live:


In less happy news: on The Spinoff, Robyn Gallagher ponders the fact that only three releases by New Zealand artists made the national Top 40 this year. Three. Down from 39 in 2013. It's largely a consequence of the inevitable embrace of streaming figures in chart calculations. Essentially, the charts used to measure something active – actually going to a shop and handing over real money in the week of release – and now it's less active: passive, even.

Writes Robyn:

It’s sad. A major part of New Zealand’s cultural identity is withering. It seems a bit too much to dream of a return the golden years of the mid-2000s when the charts overflowed with local music, but we’ve got to have more than three New Zealand songs in the top 40.

So what’s the solution? Like a lot of media, the music industry has been shaken up by digital changes. Maybe it’s going to take a few years before the New Zealand scene adapts to the current stream-based music environment.

I'm not sure that's going to happen. I just don't think the national charts are going to be a place for local artists to manifest.

Well, most artists, anyway. I'm pretty sure that Lorde's long-awaited follow-up to Pure Heroine will do very well. And if this recent surprise guest appearance, singing Robyn's 'Hang With Me', is any evidence, stepping off the treadmill has been good for her voice:


I made a spur-of-the-moment decision on Monday evening to get and see Peaches play at the King's Arms. And damn I'm glad I did. It's a basic, portable show – just Peaches, her two dancers, some simple staging and a few costumes – but she didn't miss a cue all night. She's a pro, and it was energetic, funny, compelling and a lot of fun.

I got a little bit of video  too ...


This emerged from the void recently: The Sheets at the AUSA cafe in 1987. What a bunch of freaks. The YouTube caption reads: "The Sheets kick out the jams at the Uni Cafe for the M.U.S.H. fundraiser. Prince, Motorhead, Beastie Boys, Iggy Joy Division and more get put through the Sheets blender."


Equally mad but fresh-baked: the video for Hallelujah Picassos corporate protest song, 'Dirty Suits'.



Just a couple of party-starters. I'm not the world's biggest Steely Dan fan, but this is groovy (free download):

And an apparently rare 12" verson of Wild Cherry's only real hit (share to download):

And that's me for the year. Happily, it appears I have a new music post sponsor, so we'll be back on the weeky tip pretty soon. Cheers everyone.


Public Address founder "refutes" Word of the Year reports

Public Address founder Russell Brown today angrily denied that "post-truth" was the runaway winner of the site's annual Word of the Year poll.

When it was pointed out to Brown that he had in fact personally announced "post-truth" as the winner in an appearance with Guyon Espiner on RNZ National's Morning Report show only an hour beforehand, he responded:

"Exactly. That's what you'd expect from the lamestream media. When are we going to see some real journalism?"

Brown further denied that "Brexit" and "fake news" had taken second and third place respectively in the reader poll.

"I refute that," Brown said. "I refute that entirely. You don't even know how hard I'm refuting that. Really hard."

The 2016 result is the first in the history of the poll to show no New Zealand-derived word in the Top 10, a fact Brown characterised as evidence that the vote was "probably rigged". The closest local word was "skux", which missed out on the Top 10 by a mere two votes.

Brown described Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi, who has yet to comment on the result, as a "sore loser".

The Public Address Word of the Year 2016

 1. Post-truth

2. Brexit

3. Fake news

4. Trumpocalypse

5. #BlackLivesMatter

6. 2016

7. Boaty McBoatface

8. Cockwomble

9. Bigly

10. RIP



"Winners," Brown said. "We like winners."

First to propose the Word of the Year is Deborah Russell, who receives:

A $100 voucher from La Boca Loca (can be used online)

The brilliant tea towel of her choice from Plum Jam Designs.

A Chromecast from Orcon.

First to propose words 2-5: Doug Hood, Felix Geiringer, Kathryn B and Donna Kebabette win an awesome teatowel of their choice from Plum Jam Designs

The first person drawn at random from the voters is Tim Miller, who receives:

A shit-hot Focus vape from The Hemp Store, value $199

A Chromecast from Orcon.

The second person drawn at random is Brent O'Meagher, who receives: 

A Trump hair chopping board (value $80)

A racy "things to say during sex" pillowcase ($10)

A pair of amusing Kimye socks ($20)

All courtesy Sensitive Boyfriend.

And a Chromecast from Orcon.

Also: Pilsner Urquell kindly chipped in some delicious Czech beer, but the nanny state says we can't give away alcohol as a prize, so that will go to Hadyn Green for his sterling work in making the voting forms for another year. 

Aaaand  ... Plum Jam!


2016: The arc of a year

The final episode of From Zero, my RNZ podcast series about New Zealanders and drugs, opens in New York City and concludes back home with the question: why can't we have the conversation we need to have about drug policy?

I've tried to give each of the seven episodes its own arc and I guess this last one mirrors the arc of my own personal year. Going to New York in April to cover the United Nations was a career highlight and it's fitting that I've been able to make good use of work I did there in tying up my final gig for 2016. The From Zero episode page includes video I shot in NYC and the video of Tuari Potiki's speech to the General Assembly, which still chokes me up when I watch it.

It's actually been a pretty good year. It's a fact of the kind of work I do that there are weeks and months where you're not sure how the mortgage will be paid, but when the work's been there it's largely been meaningful. I went from tweeting sceptically about the "meth contamination" panic to writing this story for Matters of Substance about what the hell went wrong there. I interviewed Dr Ben Goldacre, first in this epic for the website, then onstage in Auckland. I wrote the opening chapter for a book about what's happening with journalism in New Zealand. Public Address won a Canon Media Award. I got to wear an artist lanyard at Splore again. Toi Iti and I continued to explore what making a bicutural TV show means, and often as not found the answer in our personal chemistry.

An idea I had last year for a new iteration of the conscious-party concept that began with the Great Blend blossomed this year with a series of Orcon IRL events at Golden Dawn that seemed to be the right thing at the right time. It was a treat to work with Esther Macintyre, Leonie Haden and Charlotte Ryan as co-hosts, and with Matthew Crawley and Hugh Sundae on the production side. And I remain indebted to Quentin Reade at Orcon, who has been finding the budget to help me do interesting things for a long time now.

But the latter part of the year has really been all about From Zero. I'm deeply grateful to Tim Watkin for reading my prop, taking the punt and commissioning me to make the series. I continue to marvel at the editorial freedom I was offered in doing so. And I can barely express have much I've enjoyed working with Justin Gregory, the series' patient, creative and thoughtful executive producer.

The early work on From Zero took me out of my comfort zone a couple of times. The first was visiting Liz and Dennis Makalio in Cannons Creek, the place where they live and I'd never been before. And the second was the privilege of visiting Helen Kelly and conducting what would be her final interview. On both occasions, I was accompanied by Rebekah Parsons-King, RNZ's tireless video creator. People like Bex are the unsung heroes of evolving media organisations.

It's been a relatively quiet year for Public Address itself, in part because I've been waiting on the launch of Press Patron, Alex Clark's shared payments platform for blogs and independent websites. It would have been operating now if Alex hadn't been messed around on payment processing by one of the big banks, but it will launch early next year.

I'll invite those of you wonderful souls who already contribute to Public Address to move over to Press Patron, which will give you the tools to support other local websites too. I'm looking at 2017 – which will see Public Address turn 15 years old – as a refresh year. Ironically, I was so busy working in September that the 25th anniversary of the whole damn project – beginning with Hard News the 95bFM radio bulletin – just sort of slipped past.

To say that this year brought some disturbing trends is putting it mildly. Bigots have been emboldened, truth has been devalued and in some way that's not immediately transparent, the discourse has been polluted. I argued last week with an ostensibly left-wing person who had posted actual neo-Nazi material on Facebook. I wondered if Putin had won here, too.

But what can you do other than keep on working? NZ On Air has granted Media Take another 20 weeks on air for 2017. It might be our last season – but I thought that this year, too. There has been interest in a book based on From Zero, which is something I'd love to do if it's financially practicable. I have an idea to take Orcon IRL to the next level. There are a couple of other things that aren't quite ready for talking about.

Most of all, I want to help my two autistic sons further into the world. They're talented – one makes videos and the other writes with style and auhority about video games – but they face challenges in even getting to try and do things most of us take for granted. New Zealand has become a harder place for people with disability. In this, as in all things, I'll have the love and support of Fiona. At my 40th birthday party, I burst into tears when she stood up and talked about our "23 year conversation". It's 37 years now, and we're still talking.

So anyway, thanks for reading this far, thanks for reading all year and thanks for any other way you might have supported the things I do. This won't be the last post for the year – there's a music post and a few other bits and pieces, and of course there's the announcement of the Public Address Word of the Year on Morning Report tomorrow. But I'm definitely winding down for what I think will be a well-earned rest. Cheers, everyone.


If you missed some or all of From Zero, no worries. All seven episodes will remain online for your summer listening pleasure. Look out also for some blog posts based on research and interviews conducted in the course of making the series.

Public Address Word of the Year 2016: Now Vote!

It's on! The discussion has been had, the words have been nominated, and now it is time to put them to a vote. I’ve trimmed the list of nominated words and phrases to a manageable size and, as usual, you are invited to rank your top three choices.

Even though we're doing this for the culture, there are prizes.

The first person to have proposed the Word of the Year will receive:

A $100 voucher from La Boca Loca (can be used online)

The brilliant tea towel of your choice from Plum Jam Designs.

A Chromecast from Orcon.

The first person drawn at random from the voters will receive:

A shit-hot Focus vape from The Hemp Store, value $199 (Possibly a little risque, but if you don't have any herbs needing vapourising, someone amongst your friends and family will. Stands to reason. It's harm reduction, bro!)

A Chromecast from Orcon.

The second person drawn at random will receive: 

A Trump hair chopping board (value $80)

A racy "things to say during sex" pillowcase ($10)

And a pair of amusing Kimye socks ($20)

All courtesy Sensitive Boyfriend.

PLUS: The people who first suggested the words ranked from 2 to 5 on the final list will win an awesome teatowel of their choice from Plum Jam Designs.

Thanks so much to our wonderful sponsors. NB: Pilsner Urquell kindly chipped in some delicious Czech beer, but the nanny state says we can't give away alcohol as a prize, so that will go to Hadyn Green for his sterling work in making the voting forms for another year. 

Aaaand  ... Plum Jam!


Public Address Word of the Year 2016

It’s that time again: the time to find the Public Address Word of the Year. And it really has been a hell of a year. Last year's top five – Quaxing, Red Peak, Twitterati, Ponytail, Campbell Live – was entirely of domestic provenance. Will this year, with its global cray, be different? 

As ever, the Word of the Year 2016 will unfold thus: in the discussion for this post, readers will nominate their favoured words or phrases. Then, after a couple of days of fussing and fighting, I will draw up a short list of nominated words for voting.

There is, of course, history here:

2014’s champ #dirtypolitics was the first hashtag to top the poll, beating out the wistful “at the end of the day”.

In 2013, “metadata” beat out the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year, “selfie”, in a final Top 10 that also included “Lorde and “berm”. (Disappointingly, Lorde did not then go on to record a hit single called ‘Berm’.)

In 2012, “brainfade", “Marmageddon” and “Planet Key” were the key words (and the the case of the winner, the John Key Word). To be honest, it wasn’t a great year for words. 

In 2011, the word “munted” found its its destiny – beating out popular memes “nek minnit” and “ghost chips” for the top slot.

In 2010, of course, Public Address readers bypassed the news and opted for a neologism – the great ungendered insult that was “twatcock”. In 2009, the list was dominated by words involving Michael Laws and an “h” and  in 2008, “credit crunch” came in ahead of “rofflenui”. In 2007, another coinage, “Te Qaeda” topped the poll and in 2006, the big word was “unbundled”.

How will 2015 shape up? Well, that’s up to you.

To recap, the process is this:

- Words are nominated in the discussion for this post. If you want to join in the discussion, you’ll need to register to comment, which will only take a minute. You can make more than one suggestion, but not just reel off all likely contenders in one comment, because that's not really fair. So you can only propose two words or phrases per comment. Try to make a brief argument for your proposed WOTY.

- Eventually, I’ll compile a list of finalists for voting.

- Everyone votes.

- We have a winner!

Did I mention prizes? There are prizes.

I'm usually able to offer a prize to (a) the first person to suggest the winning word or phrase and (b) a voter drawn at random all those who vote.

But this year, there has been a late and generous rush, so I'll work out over the next day or two exactly how it will fall – it looks like I'll be able to do two main prize packages and some smaller ones. Until then, huge thanks to:


The Hemp Store

Plum Jam Designs

La Boca Loca

Pilsner Urquell

Sensitive Boyfriend