Alex Ross is a gentleman

A stylish and worldly gentleman by the name of Alex Ross gave us a NZ mixtape in - well, it was an actual cassette tape, so draw your own conclusions. The song I remember best, but have the least accesss to, is the 3D's "Hey Suess". I've give a lot to post it - five bucks, at least. Instead, I'll go with a few tracks by the band that kicked off NZ's indie scene, back in 1981, when the fledgling Flying Nun label released the Clean's "Tally Ho" single, which quickly made it to #19 on the national pop charts. There might be better-known Clean songs out there - leave your comments in the comment box, below - but today we're especially

Before there were iPods, mp3 blogs, online content outlets, filesharing networks, MySpaces, and ponderous indie PR apparati, there were ... tapes. Tapes and records. Tapes and records and stapled-together zines. I'm not one to nostalgically pine for the halcyon days when people who couldn't play instruments committed lofty ideas to crappily-recorded vinyl, but I don't disdain those days either - there is something persistently charming and romantic about the D.I.Y. ideal. It's not as if it doesn't exist anymore, it just seems less heroically doomed when digital recording equipment is so cheap and the Internet provides such a broad and relatively open playing field for distribution. The idea of making a tape to distribute amoung your friends and local media is obsolete and local identity is on the wane as bands at all levels of visibility compete for the same national and international cultural capital. But reissue label Hyped to Death is committed to immortalizing the highly compartmentalized D.I.Y. apex of the late 70s and early 80s with a series of no-bullshit reissues, digitizing rightfully forgotten bands that are more important for historical than musical value and unjustly forgotten gems alike. Like a D.I.Y. post-punk Nuggets, Messthetics Greatest Hits: The Sounds of D.I.Y. 1977-80 showcases the stark, cerebral trends that overtook British indie music in the wake of punk's mainstream commodification - it's all brittle drum machines and post-human analog electronics, buzzsaw garage guitars and brainy Scritti Polittisms. Rejects' 1977 song "Vision Smashed" appears for the first time on this comp, displaying the combination of pop-leaning melody and dirt-cheap yet innovative production value that would mark Bruno Wizard's work with his slightly more well-known band The Homosexuals. The Shivvers, had they not been moored in below-the-radar Milwaukee, might have been a Blondie or Pretenders caliber power-pop band; "Teen Line" is a near-perfect girl-group/new wave confection. Animals & Men's "We Are Machines" bears the marks of this particular scene's persistent technophobia, and the Instant Automatons' "Invertabrates" is steeped in its penchant for homemade electronics and dub trappings. It's poignant stuff from our current vantage, these petrified remains of a once-vibrant and dynamic culture that levelled an unwavering gaze at the face of futility.

A quick soul shot to get you through the day: Sharon Jones' take on Mickey Newburry's "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" isn't as majestic as her version of Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land, but it is lovely in its own right, and it's been in heavy rotation at the Astoria Bureau.

The Martinis' track is an old favorite. Saxaphone player Charles "Packy" Axton was the son of STAX cofounder Estelle Axton, a first-generation Mar-Key, and enough of a rabble-rouser to get banned from Stax's South Memphis studio. But, as Bluff City music historian (and sometime moist-worker) Robert Gordon points out in the first companion CD to his can't-recommend-it-enough classic, It Came From Memphis, this didn't stop Axton from recording elsewhere. This track was cut at the then-fledling Ardent Studio, with the Hi Rhythm Section. Along with its obvious virtues, and in lieu of a bridge, it features Axton taking what appears to be an in-studio shit. Tune in next week for songs about ass-play and golden showers.