Album Review: Opposite Sex – High Drama LP

Fans of post-punk fuzz merchant’s, Opposite Sex, are going to find plenty to love on their latest outing, High Drama. Everything is here, just bigger. The eery effects of twisted powerlines on guitar are still here, but they come with the crunching of a car crash. The vocals still bite, and the drumming can swing between understated to raucous.  The opening track, Shoots Me Like a Knife, rockets out with Lucy Hunter’s singing, demanding and accusatory, buoyed along by frantic drumming from Tim Player. It’s a brilliant and caustic beginning to an album that takes the best things of 2016’s Hamlet and dials them up.

Hunter’s vocals are such an asset to the group; there is a lightness, even a sweetness to her voice that belies the strength in her lyrics. When paired with the cavalcade of screeching and droning that Reg Norris puts out on guitar, it’s the juxtaposition that creates an accessibility to the noisy and riotous instrumental. When the boys are left in charge of singing, like on Tumble Down/Mikhail, or the bass is heavier, it becomes darker again, a breathy horror sequence of peering around corners, which is exciting, though nerve-wrecking. Hunter pulls us back to safety.

The demo of Dick on a Throne from 2016 is up on Opposite Sex’s bandcamp page, but the album version is a huge step forward. Norris’ brimming guitar is a near perfect stage for Hunter’s delivery, lighting up her revulsion and letting it simmer. It’s that layering again, a casualness in her voice, and lyrics like, “Stop staring at your dick, its gross/Don’t tell me how to sit, its gross,” that adds a sense of humour in what becomes a black comedy. The song moves from skin scraping on concrete to fist pumping peaks.

The second half of the album perhaps doesn’t quite hold the magnitude of the first half. Owls Do Cry moves from sounding tried to nearly breaking apart, which is a helluva journey in eight or so minutes, but like Mondays, I don’t want to wake up that fast. Robotica is cute but doesn’t quite land as well as the opening track which is its best comparison point. Neither it, nor the beat poetry in a car crusher that is Nico, are must skip tracks, they’re just not to the same level as some others.

This slightly off-kilter, sonically diverse album is genuinely fantastic and frightening. It’s like seeing sparks flying in a petrol station and that excitement is what drives the album forward. There will be plenty people eagerly waiting on this album, but it’s those opposites that will draw in new listeners; those contraries in Hunter’s voice and lyrics, Norris’ guitar-cum-wrecking yard and Player’s nous in balancing them on top of smashing hi-hats and snares. A raw and visceral delight.

*Originally published by Hamilton Underground Press

Danger is my Family Name

Support is the most dangerous word

I know

We went to my Uncle’s Parole Board hearing

to offer it

He came home with GPS monitoring

and us

Every morning he’d say he’d find salvation or

a one bedroom flat

He mowed the same stretch of lawn until

it was dust.

I would drive him to appointments and he’d

always thank me,

Except in February, when the appointment

was a drug deal

Except in February, when he knifed the dealer

and ran

Except when he was screaming, “Drive, drive


He was quite polite.

Support is a dangerous word when you’re a key witness

against your family

Through my vaulted silence, he was still convicted,

sent back to Paremoremo.

Only then did my sister come forward to tell us

the very worst.

Her description was a daisy chain of wasps stinging

other wasps

so that by the end, her words were poison

before she’d even said them.

                                                                        *Originally published in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook

yellow and black wasp on white surface
Picture by James Wainscoat

Poem: *City of the Future

It’s the kind of town glaciers retreat from

while asphalt melts in the summer sun

cigarette butts flop in concentric circles

every third shop is closing down

queues outside the WINZ on Grey Street

not enough rosary beads for all our sins

a suit someone saw once said

there’s work at AFFCO if you’re clean

I can’t hear them I’m so high

school closed for earthquake strengthening

but Kmart seems to be doing fine

the hospital is bursting at the seams

hardiplank or asbestos

Cody’s seven percents by day

there’s a shooting on Poets’ Corner

that never makes the network news

officially, the city’s safer

we sit around in Nan’s garage

sipping bourbon bought for her

she’ll take our drink to the grave

the bus stop is too far to walk

the TV’s probably still on fire

we’ve got our car on hire-purchase

you know we’re not going far.

*Originally published in Blackmail Press

A Pākehā Pēpeha

“Ko Taupiri te maunga…” is the beginning line of most Pēpeha I have heard. I grew up in the Waikato where many of those from the largest iwi in the area, Waikato/Tainui, connect to Taupiri mountain and the urupā there where the dead rest. As a young person, I had some understanding of Te Reo Māori as I was lucky enough to have Māori teachers in school, yet my grasp of the language was very basic. Still, I could recognise a Pēpeha.

Joining the workforce in the heart of the Kīngitanga, Ngāruawāhia, it became very clear just how little I knew. So, I and an increasing number of Pākehā, enrolled at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Te Ara Reo Māori level two. I found the night classes uplifting and had empathetic kaiako and classmates who helped me stick out the year long programme. I was hardly fluent but felt more comfortable at mihi whakatau and knew a lot more waiata to (badly) sing along to as required.

What I learnt in terms of pēpeha was the basic structure which can be found across the internet where the speaker identifies mountains, bodies of water, waka, iwi and so on to build connection within themselves and with others. Pākehā, Māori, and people of every creed and denomination would stand in front of our class in Hamilton reciting our pēpeha with our maunga and our awa or moana from around the motu.

The internet holds a number of resources to help beginners like me build a pēpeha. One site asks for simple details and puts them into the correct phrases for you. When it comes to maunga, it simply states “A Maunga is a mountain that is special to you or one that you have lived by.” Taupiri is not an option and I assume this is due to the tapu nature of the maunga, so I add Maungatautari, which I’ve at least climbed. The website spits out a pēpeha which for a small fee can even be made into a poster!

By Tupaia – British Library, London., Public Domain,

Colonisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand is not a historical occurrence, but an active function of modern governments, laws and people.  It is built, in part, on miscommunication about land. This can be seen in the example of Māori understandings of kaitiaki or caretakers of the land and the direct conflict with Pākehā understanding of ownership of said land which comes out of feudal and class systems of Europe. So any pēpeha acknowledging the land here in Aotearoa/New Zealand has to be aware of the differences and also the sensitivity around land when kaitiaki had so much land confiscated by the Crown. This led to conflict and the destabilize the economic base for many Māori.

Tina Ngata pointed out in a recent NZ Herald article that, “concepts like pēpeha included connections to ātua (gods)… and the landscape, including maunga and awa. So when we say our pēpeha we are making a genealogical statement as Māori, as descending from those things.” Yet, now I as a Pākehā am saying I am connected to Maungatautari? Why? Because I lived near there, spent time there in weekends? Is that the same spiritual connection Waikato/Tainui people have to Taupiri? The obvious answer was no.

Pākehā who live in Aotearoa/New Zealand may feel a strong sense of home, or connection to this beautiful place, but our genealogical links are to Europe or the UK (No, not America, that’s a whole other colonisation discussion). To say Maungatautari was the mountain that I connect to felt yuck and like I was re-colonizing space through language every time I recited my pēpeha.  I needed to do and learn much more. I finished level four at the Wānanga, but it was really through conversations with kaumatua, reading the likes of Tina Ngata and some serious digging into my own whakapapa that led me to a pēpeha that I feel more comfortable saying.

This is not meant to chide Pākehā or take some subliminal shots at Te Wānanga for their teaching (they were amazing), but to share a journey I have been on to be a descent ally to our indigenous whānau. Am I there yet? No. But I am trying to uphold the importance of connection through whakapapa when I kōrero Māori and hope by sharing my thoughts, others will take the time to think about their whakapapa, how they learn a pēpeha and what it means to be Pākehā or Tauiwi speaking to Māori.

The NZ Herald article cites Donovan Farnham’s example:

Ko … te maunga te rū nei taku ngākau / … is the mountain that speaks to my heart

Ko … te awa e mahea nei aku māharahara / … is the river that alleviates my worries

Nō … ahau / I’m from …

E mihi ana ki ngā tohu o nehe, o … e noho nei au / I recognise the ancestral and spiritual landmarks of … where I live

I started with Donovan’s example and altered it to feel more personal and to honour the importance of making connections by being true to my whakapapa. I have had many kapu ti with tangata whenua where we explore the connections of their European whakapapa and mine to build our own bond. It is as follows:

Ko Waikato te awa e mahea nei aku māharahara/The Waikato is the river that alleviates my worries

Nō reira, ka mihi hoki ki a Kīngi Tūheitia/Therefore I wish to acknowledge King Tūheitia (of Waikato/Tainui)

Ko whenua o tāku whānau a Ingarangi me Hāmene/ The land of my family is England and Germany

Ko Pākehā rāua ko Hūrae te tāngata/ My people are Pākehā (NZ European) and Jewish

Nō Kirikiriroa āhau/ I’m from Hamilton

Ko Hayden Pyke tōku ingoa.

Kia ora!

Why Ria Hall’s Manawa Wera is the best album of 2020 and deserves its own Wikipedia page

As of December 2020, Wikipedia is unsure when Ria Hall was born. It was bound to be ‘82 or ’83 it guesses (it was 1982) and her role on beloved Māori TV show, Marae DIY seems to be the highlight of her career. This is the same singer/songwriter whose second album Manawa (Heart) Wera (to be hot) earnt her Best Female Artist at the 2020 Waiata Māori Music Awards and top ten in RNZ’s round up of the best albums of 2020. She remains with Loop who have been behind some of the biggest NZ musicians of the last 15 years (think Black Seeds, L.A.B. etc.) and yet, it seems Ria Hall has been lost in the mess of 2020. Have the majority of Aotearoa audiences turned their backs on one of our most talented voices? And is that because Ria Hall makes Pākehā uncomfortable?

In 2019, the protests at Ihumātao were beginning to peak. The arrest of eleven demonstrators during the time protest group SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) were being evicted, pointed national attention at the tiny village Māori first settled in the 14th century. The land has a complicated history, but in 1863 was confiscated by the Crown during the Waikato Land Wars either to ensure Crown forces were not attacked from the rear or as a reprimand for local support of the Kīngitanga. It has been in the hands of the Wallace family more or less until it was sold to Fletcher Building in 2017. It’s historical significance as the oldest settlement in the wider Tāmaki Makaurau area is but one of the contentious points raised by SOUL.

Ria Hall (who’s whakapapa links her to Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Waikato) was physically and emotionally invested in the protest movement of Ihumātao, of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and indigenous peoples causes globally, as has her collaborator and producer, Laughton Kora. Opening track form the album, History, has Hall’s feet fashioned from the earth and her people’s stories on her skin while she pleads with us “to know your history”.  Her record arrived when media jocks were calling protestors “radicals” and telling the wider public to ignore the issues represented by this land near Mangere.

2020 also saw the death of George Floyd at the whim of a US Police Officer and the protests, counter-protests and continued deaths that resulted were understandable and unfathomable for our small island nation on the other side of the world. What we did see, what those gathering in Aotea Square in support of the Black Lives Matters movement saw, was systemic racism. Yet, we struggle to own up to our own racism. We struggle to see that forced confiscation of land removed the economic and sustainable base for many tangata whenua and their over-representation in the adverse statistics of poverty are related to these acts. Ria Hall didn’t miss her history, she’s singing about it.

The line, “No one ones the ocean, no one owns the land” is delivered on third track, Owner, and while a clear enough concept, it is the clash of kaitiaki vs private ownership which is at the heart of our disagreements of distribution of land in Aotearoa. Alongside tino rangatiratanga, it is arguably the biggest issue facing equitable living under the Treaty in this country. What Ria Hall has done on this album, is to simply and clearly encapsulate the feelings and frustrations of these issues and distil them into her soulful voice.

A musician, a reggae fan, a Bob-Marley-T-Shirt-wearing-purist will be able to talk to the authenticity of this album. The reggae brought forward to support Ria is lush and bright as to be expected from her all-star band, which include Riki Gooch and Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots), Wiremu Barriball (Katchafire) Ara Adams-Tamatea (L.A.B) and are backed by the vocals of Troy Kingi and Rob Ruha. It is something to witness, to almost get distracted by, as the instrumental work and the production by Laughton Kora are exceptional. However, it is the lyrics and the wairua of this music that will be remembered.

It is the depth, the passion that Ria Hall carries even on the radio-friendly Walk, that means this album will hold up. We have some incredible popstars gracing our shores at present. Six60, Benee, Kings, someone called Lorde, but 2020 does not belong to them. The record that is the epitome of Aotearoa right now is Manawa Wera by Ria Hall.

By Hp

Short Story: Elections are the worst kind of foreplay

When you ask someone round to watch a film, it means you want to talk or have sex. Movies that require actual travel are called plays. So, when the TV near the front door of your Otahuhu flat flicked with blank faces and cheap graphics, I ignored it. I can ignore all signs of inevitability, and often wander around thinking I won’t die, then I fall asleep.

You were in the kitchen with red sauce on the boil, blood in the extractor fan. “What are the numbers looking like?” you yelled.

“Umm seven?”

A woman’s head hung low like fruit and maybe it was all that citrus that made her mouth pucker. You walked into the lounge wiping your hands on a tea towel and explained that lemon head was losing. It dawned on me you actually wanted to watch the election. I poured my own wine.

The pasta and marinara sauce was a brave choice as we balanced bowls of it on our knees. Maybe you were hoping to get the couch replaced through an insurance claim. I kept seeing red flecks.

The same talking heads we’d ignore every other night of they year were suddenly operatic. You raised a fork to one of them. He’d said it was a landslide, a blood bath and you cheered him on. How to fit half the National Party caucus into a bath while bleeding them dry was beyond me. Your lips glistened red; your eyes were a landslide.

I wanted to pull you close in revelry as your team seemed to be winning at half time, but the energy wasn’t in me. I don’t know how all those British football hooligans do it. I poured a glass of water, I may as well drive home.

Voting Is Sexy

Book Review – Fixed it: Violence and the representation of women in the media by Jane Gilmore.

TW: Violence, sexual violence

Jane Gilmore has been working on Fixed It as a campaign for over ten years. She takes misleading and often misogynistic headlines of media outlets and corrects them with her now famous red pen. While her work is not over, it has culminated in this jarring and profound book. She humbly notes in the final chapter that it is not her alone that is bringing about change in the way violence against women is reported in the media, which is undoubtedly true, she should still be heralded for her contribution. 

Fixed It by Jane Gilmore - Penguin Books New Zealand

This book lifts the veil on the structural and individual decisions that lead to the public discourse around violence against women being so often skewed. It is a book that women from all kinds of backgrounds will relate to, but importantly it is also a book for men. Why men need to be the ones to pick up this book seem obvious, we are the ones using violence and in order for there to be no more victims, there needs to be no more perpetrators of violence.

Statistics in both Aotearoa/NZ and westernized countries across the globe, continue to show men are the main users of violence and the victims are all too often women and children. Our prisons tell us this, but our mainstream media often skirt around this fact as if looking at it too closely will, like the sun, make us all go blind. Gilmore, an Australian journalist, stares and stares and brings in her audience to look too. The sight is enraging, upsetting, sickening and a call to action all at once.

Gilmore succinctly dilutes the issues into core statements throughout this book, no better than in the introduction where she states, “Being a sex worker is dangerous. But its not as though sex workers are surrounded by dangerous chemicals or heavy machinery or wild animals. Its dangerous because they are working with men.” Ultimately, the truth of this needs to be read and re-read. Men are the ones who need to pay attention to this, because women already know.

Gilmore’s writing is well-researched and accessible. She expertly dissects rape myths, reminds us of the miscarriage of justice in the Brock Turner/Chanel Miller case and unveils the shocking corruption in well-known AFL star, Stephen Milne’s rape allegations. Like her crusading red pen, she is able to bring to the fore the horror of misogyny and violence with particular examples with a deft flick of her wrist. There is nothing too “academic” or “reductive” about this book that means it should not be held up as a resource for men in journalism, if not all men to challenge the status quo that led to the murder of 12 women in Aotearoa/NZ in 2019 by their partners and ex-partners.

 Concerned for yourself or someone you know?

Shine – 0508 744 633

Women’s Refuge – 0800 REFUGE

Police 111 –

Book Review: A Conversation with my Country by Alan Duff

If at any point the reader was unsure as to Alan Duff’s literature lineage, they would be reminded (and reminded several times more) that Duff wrote the acclaimed novel, Once Were Warriors. His exceptional and visceral novel was adapted for the screen and is one of Aotearoa’s most well-known and most highly regarded films. Duff has written regular media columns, a host of other books, including Warriors’ related, What becomes of the Broken Hearted? which also became a must see film. He is one of the finest authors of our country, so why did his latest foray into non-fiction suck so much?

Duff outlines his views on a number of areas this country struggles to address, from poverty to prisons, books to bi-culturalism, all essential areas for us to understand, but his approach to them is sweeping, generalized and has the nuance of a four by two to the head. One could say he was brave for unpacking, and being so public about his upbringing which clearly, he remains very bitter about. This is someone who has not come to terms with their personal history. Publishing the trauma and moving past the trauma are two very different things and this book loudly implies that Duff has only conquered the former. That’s not to take a shot at the man, moving past trauma is one of the hardest things we as humans have to do.

Duff is a mixed-race boy of both Māori and Pākehā whakapapa.  He is so quick to deride his mother’s violence as somehow being the behavior of Māori and to uphold his father’s civility as that of Pākehā that renders his opinions on race relations in this country as heavily biased. I don’t for a moment doubt that Duff’s mother was everything he says she is, but his implications that extrapolates that behavior out to taint all Māori is unfair. It is yet another example of the “warrior gene” debate racist Pākehā love so they can justify the poor treatment of Māori in modern society. If Duff could point to examples other than his own fictionalized characters’ voices from previous books to make his point, he may well have held a stronger argument.

The book takes a few choice areas of progress, including Duff’s own charity, Duffy Books in Homes, to champion progress in poorer communities. Though he is unwilling to address that poverty and colonization are driving forces in oppressing those in the lower-socio-economic communities, often over-represented by tangata whenua and Pacifica peoples, he at least acknowledges change is possible.

The writing style is obviously conversational, and Duff makes sure to highlight his own shortcomings to keep the tone personable. Some would argue this book cuts through the bullshit, calls a spade a spade, that type of thing. But looking more closely at the text, this is blunt writing for those who don’t want to acknowledge the complexities of our country. It is blunt, because it does not want to take into account the myriad of stories in our communities.

I highly recommend people on the political fence to read this book, people beginning their journey into our country’s history to read this book, but when you are done move on. Moana Jackson, Becky Manawatu and Tayi Tibble are just on the other side. Robert Sullivan, Glen Colquhoun and Hone Tuwhare will give you the poetics while Shilo Kino, Mihingarangi Forbes and Stacey Morrison will provide context. Lets get beyond the us and them type history that even the esteemed Michael King occasionally fell into and build something beyond Duff’s dichotomy. This is not a book about love, but, as a country, we could challenge Duff to make sure his next book is.

Allan Duff’s book was published by Penguin

Short Story: <-Thread #CripsWestAuks

4 guys down my st dressed like gangbangers lol. Loud, but they’ll move on. Guess that’s West Auks for you! I’d call the cops but…

Some kids just drove past like they were trying to get to 80mph #NoDeLorean Remember tearing up the west at that age, have a hearty night boyz!

We in th Naybah60d 2nite mfers. Lok ur do0rs

@KSanford replying to @Tlynn762
Slightly neighborhood watch-y I know, but where out west are you? We just had four or five teens dressed in blue fighting in our street. Same, same? We called the police.

Some thugs came parading down our street just now looking to fight. Pathetic. Hope they’re locked up.

@Nipsey_Stan replying to @hateithere
Yusss queen where u? Out wit the boys but its the same shit. Wana kick it?

My mum messaged. Some teens smashed up her letter box and are “hanging around”. Should I go over there? She’s out west, but they’re just kids, right? Send Graham?

I stand on the shoulders of giants but feel so small. Why does my head fall like the night?

Lol, typical, finally get bubs to sleep and the cops roll up full noise. They’ve run some guys off the road. Crips maybe. Needless to say, bubba’s awake. #westisbest

@KSanford replying to @Tlynn762
OMG! Ru ok??

@Nipsey_Stan replying to @hateithere
Yo Queen, am jammed up, probs getting cuffed over some dumb shit. Wish I was with you instead.

Mum called back. Police have arrived promptly and are dealing with the situation. Thanks for the messages of support!

Maybe loneliness is the human condition and all these attempts to solve it are our sins, cos punishment abounds! Found out my new crush got arrested, figures. Guess I’m staying in tonight.

Originally published here

Washed up in West Auckland – a poem

Brown Mexican dope refusing to be

more than what it’s worth washed up on

west coast beaches like

west coast Sneeches, Converse

one star’s on the west coast

teach us that power and impunity is

futility until it is imposed upon us, suppose

this is all a bluff or you believe

that prisons and Winz were here when

we arrived. Speeches ring out across the

motu, politicians chanting exorcisms

to survive. Read our treaty and

know we’d sink that dope to the

bottom of the Pacific, then question

those who have the nerve to say

colonization never

hurt anyone.

Police are investigating after $3 million of cocaine wrapped in plastic washed up on Bethells Beach. Photograph supplied by NZ Police