The Palace Of Wisdom

Biography

The Palace of Wisdom originated in 1999 when well established Christchurch rock’n’roller Ben Johnstone (Guitar/Backing Vocals – Hi-Tone Destroyers, The Incisions) got together with intimidating vocalist Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell, adding hooky guitar riffs to O’Connell’s hurricane force vocals. The resulting recording was released as part of the No Thanks To New Zealand On Air compilation in 2000. Matt Alien (Hi-Tone Destroyers, Black Panthers, Space Dust, Slavetrader) joined on drums, with the line-up complete by English bassist Ian Lloyd.

With Lloyd’s departure in late 2000, ALC5 (yet another Hi-Tone Destroyers member) joined the group on Bass, however after a year with the group he was also replaced, this time by the legendary Mick Elborado (Scorched Earth Policy, The Terminals, Gas, The Axemen, Drowning Is Easy etc), who became a mainstay in the group and is responsible for the bands huge, over-driven bass sound on the excellent Pills EP.

The group then started to rotated through a number of drummers with Nick Harte (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks, Black Albino, CM Ensemble, The Urinators) in February 2002, Tim MacDonald (The Incisions, Shocking Pinks) in March 2003, Simon Nunn (Steffan Van Soest Hit-Machine, The Undercurrents, Kate in the Lemon Tree, Weaponized, Hi-Tone Destroyers etc) in December 2003, and then Chris Andrews (a million lights, Mysterioball, Idols of Eve, Pop Hits City, O’Lovely) in November 2004.

This line-up was the longest of the group, though recordings from this era (which lasted almost 4 years) are limited to Stuck In The Suck. After a disastrous recording session at Christchurch’s MAINZ, and other internal issues – Mick Elborado left the group. Jared Kelly (The Pickups, Blue Moon) then joined in May 2008, with Andrews and Kelly switching instruments after their first practice.

2008 was a particularly important year for the group, recording the Common Threads EP with the lineup of O’Connell (Vocals), Johnstone (Guitar), Andrews (Bass) And Kelly (Drums) Before Stink Magnetic‘s Aiden Moody (Bad Evil, Grand Chancellors) joined as a 2nd guitarist, moving down from Palmerston North. This was an important change for the group as in late 2009 founding guitarist Ben Johnstone left to raise a family in Canada, and Moody took over his lead guitar duties.

Both Kelly and Andrews left for other towns in 2010, however Ox enlisted the help of drummer Michael Summerfield (The Undercurrents, Cowboy Machine), before Andrews rejoined in early 2011 on bass guitar. The group played the very last show at historic Lyttelton venue El Santo Porteno, just 2 days before the February 2011 earthquake. This disrupted the progress the group had been making, with guitarist Moody moving on to form surf group The Grand Chancellors.

The group resurfaced in early 2012 with Jared Kelly once again playing drums (replacing a departing Summerfield), with John Harris (Lonely Harris Club, Doctors, BnP) quickly establishing himself as their latest guitarist. Summerfield would eventually find himself back in the group after a hilarious stage moment at the (now bull-dozed) New Brighton Tavern which saw Kelly replaced mid-set by multi-instrumentalist Rhett Copland, and this line-up played quite a few shows over the next couple years.

Which Palace’s recorded output completely stagnant Ox formed a new group with guitarist Dave Branton named The Ruling Elite, which eventually picked up Andrews (switching to 2nd guitar). Eventually both groups began utilizing talented free-form drummer Rory ‘IRD’ Dalley – with the new group quickly writing and recording a whole swag of new recorded output, whilst Palace remains a tight live-act-only type of group.

Over the course of the last 15 years the group has played a string of high-profile support slots, including The Chills, The Datsuns and of particular note – US group Dead Moon, who the group cover (‘Unknown Passage’) and are of particular importance to vocalist O’Connell with their never-say-die attitude to Rock’n’Roll. The Palace of Wisdom’s set is augmented by a number of re-interpreted covers, often quite removed from the originals, or obscure in their origin – this includes The Great Unwashed‘s ‘Born in the Wrong Time’ (as ‘Sending Him Away’), and Joy Division’s ‘Sound of Music’.

 

Members

  • Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell (Vocals, 1999-)
  • Ben Johnstone (Guitar, 1999-2009)
  • Matt ‘Alien’ Johnstone (Guitar, 1999-2002)
  • Ian Lloyd (Bass, 1999)
  • Alan ‘ALC5’ Cameron (Bass, 2000-2001)
  • Mick Elborado (Bass, 2001-2007)
  • Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson (Drums, 2002-2003)
  • Tim MacDonald (Drums, 2003)
  • Simon Nunn (Drums, 2003-2004)
  • Chris Andrews (Drums/Bass, 2004-2010, 2011-)
  • Jared Kelly (Bass/Drums, 2008-2010, 2012)
  • Rhett Copland (Drums, 2012)
  • Aiden Moody (Guitar, 2008-2010)
  • Michael Summerfield (Drums, 2010-2012)
  • John Harris (Guitar, 2010-)
  • Rory Dalley (Drums, 2015-)

Discography

  • The ‘P’ EP [2001 Self-Released]
  • Candy Pants [2002 Self-Released]
  • Pills EP [2003 Self-Released]
  • Stuck In The Suck [2006 Self-Released]
  • Burnside EP [2008 Self-Released]
  • Common Threads EP [2009 Self-Released]

    Links

  • MySpace
  • BandCamp
  • Facebook
  • LastFM
  • Photo’s on Flickr

Trucker

Waikato-based rock band caught somewhere between indie-rock (think Super-chunk) and early New York punk, based around singer-songwriter Jamie Stone. Trucker released the full-length debut Jude and had several bFM singles before calling it a day in 2001.

Along with Stone (Gat Vox), trucker contained (at one time or another) Stan Jagger (Gat), Dolf De Borst (aka Dolf Datsun) Paul Tregilgas (Drums), Terry Edwards (Drums), Paul Oakley (Bass), and Julian Smith (Gat). With Dolf’s success in the Datsuns, Trucker released a post-breakup 10″ EP, taken from their last session in 2001 and released it on the Datsuns’ own Hell Squad label.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Jude [1999?]
  • Wasted In Heave Ep [2004 Hell Squad]

See-Also

The Brunettes – Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks

2002, Lil’ Chief, LCR001

Sunny pop, sing-along melodies, and carefree grooves. Not something that pops up too often in New Zealand music, but The Brunettes pull it off with a slick, diverse album that I can imagine being a beach-party favorite this year (note to the American readers: it’s coming into summer in the southern hemisphere).

The Brunettes are a chirpy four-piece that’s sprung out of the Auckland rock’n’roll scene over the past couple of years, but would probably list the Grease soundtrack as a stronger influence than the MC5, unlike their hard-rocking compatriots The Datsuns and The Rock’n’Roll Machine. This is Belle And Sebastian for Phil Spector fans, classic hummable songs with the odd flourish of string orchestration (the title track), 60’s references (the utterly charming ‘Summer Love’) and exotica-styled percussion (marimba, etc.) throughout the album.

Boy / girl vocals add to the ‘Summer Love’ theme of the album with Heather sporting a smooth, girlish eloquence, whilst Jonathan could even be compared to slacker types – opening track ‘The Moon And June Stuff’ noting “..it’s no secret / that when I sing, I like to sound American” in a typically dismissive context. A remarkably accomplished sounding album recorded on a shoestring budget, the songs flow together majestically, guided by Heather’s tasty flashes of glockenspiel and Karl’s quirky, rolling percussion.

How apt that the album was picked up by capitol records, then. ‘Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks’ and its delightful, inquisitive double bass could be mistaken as a late 60’s Beach Boys recording. ‘Dancefloor’ even manages to squeeze in a couple of “Scooby-Dooby-Doo” and grease styled “Didi-Didi-Dit” vocal accompaniment – absolute ear candy for the young at heart. Later, ‘Super Eight’ builds a crescendo of violin and cello in the song’s climax, showcasing the bands smooth and almost opulent production flourishes.

Towards the end of the album, whilst still sticking to rather upbeat and kitsch musical backing, ‘End Of The Century’ is a darker, reflective love song featuring some tasty Spanish guitar and Jonathan’s strongest vocal performance. Pre-release single ‘Cotton Candy’ has Heather singing over fuzzy guitar, violins and piano and breaks from the kitsch feel of the rest of the album (especially during the rumbling, building ending). ‘Tell her’ though, is the most appropriate ending, a short, contemplative pet sounds like send-off with interlocking vocal harmonies and the obligatory spoken word breakdown very reminiscent of the best 60’s girl groups. Overall it is a fine ending to a fine album.

A truly fun soundtrack to many a summer getaway, holding hands, feeding ducks has come out of nowhere as a delightful album that should rightfully establish the Brunettes as one of New Zealand’s most promising pop outfits. At the very least, it’s a nice break from the electro-mad songs that glut the current charts.

The Datsuns – The Datsuns

2002, V2, V2CP143

With all the hoopla and excitement over the new gee-golly-gosh retro-cool selection of rock’n’roll revivalists going on – it must be hard on the bands that have been swinging this stuff for years, right’ well, in The Datsuns case, this kind of open ended publicity and hype came at just the right time – and they’re gonna ride it out for as long as they can. There aren’t many bands coming out of Cambridge, a small rural town just outside of Hamilton, New Zealand, you see. These four lads (who have all since taken on the last name ‘Datsun’- yeah just like the Ramones) have been creating a bit of a buzz locally and then nationwide over the past 7 years or so. Inspired by the mid 90s dirty-rock scene’s of Christchurch and Auckland, they’ve been practising their best ron asherton impressions, crazy stage antics and growing their hair out just hoping something like this would come true.

Two years ago things starting going right for these small town boys. They were touring the country as headliners with (Hamilton based rockers) the D4, and even managed a low-scale invasion of Japan through their own self-funding. With a reputation as possibly the best live band that New Zealand’s ever witnessed, the group headed state-side, playing the likes of the SWSX festival and toured extensively on both sides of the atlantic for over a year – catching many an important eye. It all compounded earlier this year when BBC iconoclast John Peel recorded a session with the boys, heaping praise and basically guaranteeing them record label interest. Since then the Brit press have been going crazy for the boys, with the nme touting them as (one of their many) ‘saviours of rock’n’roll’.

Even though they may not be as revolutionary as the hype-machine would lead you to believe, these four boys (standard format: 2 guitars, bass and drummer) put on an incredible live show, and their debut full length is a direct attempt at trying to capture some of that live energy. Recorded over 2 weeks in a small studio in London, it’s a very raw recording full of over the top solo’s, tremendous sing-a-long choruses and explosive guitar riffs. Jumping out of the gate with ‘Sitting The Pretty’ things get off to a fiery start reminiscent of old Wellington band Head Like A Hole, with lead singer Dolph Datsun pulling off some deadpan vocals snares over an ever revolving, churning guitar riff. ‘Motherfucker From Hell’ then sets in, a chugga-chugga rhythm guitar anthem set to the speed of sound. The song flies at an exceptional rate with Dolph screaming like a wild-man, which happens to be very representative of their live performance.

Its pretty obvious the songs are big, loud, and stupid – but they’re performed with so much vigor it doesn’t really matter. When ‘motherfucker..’ breaks down into the typical pause for the vocal conclusion – you can’t help but scream along. Though the songs may have a ‘dumb’ quality to them, they’re nothing short of brilliantly catchy.

‘Lady’ is another anthem-like number, with one hell of a catchy chorus. Excellent rhythm work from Phil (Guitar) And Matt (Drums) really drive the song, with the band wearing their Stooges influence on their sleeve. Both ‘Harmonic Generator’ and their new leadoff single ‘In Love’ sound like Mick Ronson for the 90s. Dolph leads the chorus-heavy slower numbers with boyish backing vocals from the rest of the boys, displaying their talent for glam-styled sing-a-longs, as well. The guitar is kept simple, the drumming is primal, and the vocals are right at the front.

Of course you can’t review such a guitar-focused band without measuring up the lead guitarists performance – and Christian is one of the best rockers out there. He keeps things tight, holding rock-steady to the rhythm of each song, but at every opportune moment pulls of some of the most stunning lead breaks i’ve heard since rock originally went out of favor! Mixing equal parts MC5 and the Stooges (always keeping things clean — i’d doubt if a single effect were used in the album) it’s his powerful lead and driving rhythm that truly makes the album – no other outfit in the current crop of revivalists can match the intensity of his guitar work.

With ‘Fink For The Man’ (a local favorite and original pre-album single) Dolph manages to show he can certainly play too, with tasty opening and break down bass riffs and yet another catchy chorus. His vocals verge on exploding, showing an AC/DC influence as they strain to allow the screaming to come forth. The song builds to boiling point with tremendous performances all round – an excellent recreation of their standard showstopper.

If these guys keep performing with this kind of fire and conviction, i could imagine the world of rock being a little more pleasant to be around. They rock hard and fast and damn the stylistic similarities, because they have as much energy and explosive tendencies that even the stooges themselves showed back in their heyday.

The D4 – 6Twenty

2001, Flying Nun, FNCD449

The garage rock explosion of recent times has given way to the world again discovering rock’n’roll outside the borders of the United States. After Japanese outfit Guitar Wolf got everyone pumped up all those years back, the Hives have shown that even without the hype, great rock’n’roll can sell, with their lead-off singles entering the charts worldwide backed by the truly American sounds of the White Stripes and latecomers the Strokes. Meanwhile in New Zealand, the garage rock scene has been prominent since the early 90’s. In Christchurch, bands like the Hi-Tone Destroyers, The Black Panthers and Thee Strap-Ons had already formed and released a substantial body of work before The D4 and the Datsuns (of Cambridge) had even penned a song.

But that’s just made their impact seem more explosive. In a short period of time, both bands have been trust into the limelight of the New Zealand rock scene, and have earned their reputations as New Zealand’s best live acts.

6Twenty is the fruit of the D4’s past 2 years of relentless touring. It’s a tight, punchy collection of party songs that jump out at you with more venom than the Strokes have even been able to muster. The album jumps out at with Andrew WK style song titles (luckily no reflection on the contents of the album itself) – the bustling ‘Rock’N’Roll Motherfucker’ opens at a hundred miles per hour and the pace never succumbs. Sure it’s cliched, but the d4 put in the kind of energy Iggy Pop would have been proud to front.

The second track, “Party”, rolls off with a manic agility test drum-roll before the killer bassline kicks in. The song fluctuates between twin vocalist breakdowns, and phased guitar attacks to ends the track in a true party atmosphere before their debut hit “Come On!” winds up blasting your eardrums. Another scorching bassline and confident, punchy guitar – you know you’re onto a winner with this album. Only the choice covers of the Scavengers classic “Mysterex” and the Japanese outfit guitar wolf’s “Invader Ace” break the run of great original material.

Probably best compared to the Hives, The D4 have developed an album that sounds like a pounding live performance with a thin mix of guitar and thick bass with simple but deadly drumming propelling the band to near bursting point, the way a rock’n’roll album should sound.

Both Jimmy and Dion are skilled vocalists, choosing the sing-song approach of vocal treatments, and even harmonizing to their wailing guitar sounds and each other on tracks like the dynamic “running on empty”. The album doesn’t give way to slower numbers as the white stripes have recently employed, choosing to go the hard way, but still sneaking in complimentary organ vibes on “ladies man” and “little baby”.

With 12 songs, it’s considerably lengthier than the current crop of garage albums, but the d4 pull off just about perfect the formula with almost 40 minutes of attention-seeking go-getting rock. So, catch them while you can, before the nme gets a hold of them, because they are already garnering praise for their live shows in Britain.

The Datsuns

emerging out of hamilton in the mid 90s, originally as the more pop ‘trinket’, the datsuns soon became the epitome of raucous rock’n’roll. with the release of the ‘super-gyration’ single and a strong tour ethic, the band produced a fervent fan base. quite simply in the couple of years before their overseas success, the datsuns we’re the most explosive and primarily, most in-your-face-fun band in new zealand – maybe even the world.
sure it wasn’t original, but their huge riffs, sing-shout vocals, and ‘in-with’them approach to stage presence was something to behold. eventually the band became notorious as part of the rock’n’roll revival that built up in 2002 – they had been touring the united states and britain with the same kind of enthusiasm they displayed back home when journalistic interest took hold. signing to richard branson’s virgin offshoot (and home of fellow rock’n’rollers the white stripes) v2, they become a phenomena in new zealand, selling out show after show to increasingly manic audience, and further tightening their repertoire.
the self-titled debut was unfairly over-looked by most critics, mostly due to the entire hoopla involving the revival itself. what it represented was a raw, powerful collection of pure rock songs that was far more t-rex than ac/dc, but some critics didn’t see it that way. unfortunately, as they’ve become such a spectacle now, its a little hard to relate to the human side of their live performances, as playing on a big stage to a big crowd is a little different than mucking it in with 20 or so punters down the local.
2004 saw the band release their jean-paul jones (he of led zepplin fame) manning the decks for their sophomoric release, outta sight / outta mind, recorded at jacob studios in surrey.
discography
picks in bold

  • ‘super-gyration!’/’hoochie mama’ 7″ single [2000 hell-squad HS002]
  • ‘fink for the man’/’transistor’ 7″ single [2001 hell-squad HS003]
  • ‘lady’/’motherfucker from hell’ 7″ single [2001 hell-squad HS005]
  • ‘in love’/’little bruise’ 7″ single [2002 hell-squad HS007] rn
  • 2002 european tour 7″ single [2002 hell-squad HS008] rn
  • the datsuns [2002 in-fidelity IF001CD] rn
  • ‘harmonic generator’/’freeze sucker’ 7″ single [2002 hell-squad HS012]
  • ‘motherfucker from hell’ 7″ single [2003 hell-squad HS015]
  • outta sight / outta mind [2004 in-fidelity IF011CD]

recommended songs
download from mp3.co.nz

  • super-gyrationrn
  • motherfucker from hellrn
  • ladyrn

The Incisions – Let Terror Rain

2003, Self-Released

Wow, this is loud, caustic stuff.

The 2nd album from the ever-changing Christchurch 3-piece The Incisions blow the current crop of rock’n’roll revivalists out of the water. Its pure fire in a recording, scratchy, loud, abrasive and rude – more in the style of Japanese noise merchants Guitar Wolf or (particularly) Teengenrate than The Datsuns (who seem positively polished in comparison).

An excellent set of explosive songs fueled by the standard rock’n’roll metaphors (girl’s play a big part lyrically – with vocal duties split between Nick Heart and former Hi-Tone Destroyer, bassist Ben Johnstone), but maybe with something else a little special underneath the wall of feedback and grit.

From the very first blast of opener ‘Axis of evil’ – which actually mimics the driving and distorted bass rhythm of the Velvet Underground’s debauched ‘The gift’, the album feels like a homage to its musical heritage. And things don’t just stop there.

The album concludes with a number of acoustic based tracks, showcasing Heart’s vocal and guitar talents along with some excellent sugary sweet accompanying vocals from Mel Smith (reminiscent of The Brunettes merely for their shared Beach Boys influence).

It may not be hi-fidelity (tape noise and hiss drench the album), but it’s certainly a very distinctive and effective album – highly recommended.