– the amazing CVT that will change the way you think about autos
– power and torque. Who said you can’t have both?!
– quality fit and finish
– useless voice recognition
– equally useless satellite navigation
– bouncy Bilstein shocks at speed.
Welcome to a review of a car I can guarantee you’ve never heard of. Subaru forged their reputation in the 90s with practical, fun gutsy AWD turbo wagons (think RS Turbo Wagon or the Liberty/Legacy turbo). Now they’re all about SUVs. To the point where everyone I’ve told about this car had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
Anyway I’d been stalking the Subaru web site since they talked about bringing these to Australia. To me (if only me, there’s a handful on the road) it’s the perfect car. She has the running gear of a WRX without all the protein shake histrionics and oversized baseball cap tomfoolery. The only shouty thing about it is the bonnet scoop which is mildy aggressive but it’s no Donald Trump.
Seems everyone else has forgotten about sporty wagons too. The only real competition with a bit of grunt is the Skoda Octavia RS and possibly the Volkswagen Golf Wagon. I don’t even know if that comes in a hot model. The Skoda though? It’s a fantastic drive, but there’s too many Volkswagen bits for my liking and a bit firm in the suspension. It doesn’t help that it just looks like a librarian in Nike Air Jordans either.
How does it compare to the Subaru? Well the GTS is a very nice sophisticated place to be. It doesn’t feel like anyone’s dived into the Toyota parts bin (unlike Skoda with VW – though they probably have). The trim has sexy blue stitching. Her seats are firm, not rock hard like those bloody Germans.
What’s more the whole thing is cohesive; a perfect balance of form and function. My only complaint is there’s a bit too much going on with the steering wheel. There’s buttons everywhere! There’s subtle blue hues everywhere and it brings to mind our old mate Saab. It’s just incredibly well put together and looks great.
Enough about that though. How does it drive? Coming with Bilstein shocks as standard it handles beautifully. Fun but not too firm for wives and kids. It handles bumps without falling all over the place unlike another car I’ve owned for a while now.
As the Levorg only comes in an auto (you must buy the WRX for a manual) I wouldn’t blame you for having reservations. But don’t the transmission is one of the best things about the car. Yes it’s an 8 speed CVT but it just works. It doesn’t have the hesitation or vagueness of typical autos. With Sport mode it gets a bit angrier and with Sport# mode, it’s a rev holding psychopath. Take your foot off the loud pedal and it holds revs like a manual. Honestly it’s the one thing I thought I’d hate the most but ended up being my favourite feature. What’s more with all that AWD grip, its hard to find the limit. But it is fun.
OK now to brass tacks. The engine. Subarus always sound like a bunch of angry wasps. While the exhaust is fairly muted it still has character. On paper it has less power than a Commodore SV6 but paper, schmaper. It’s bloody brilliant and delivers power in colossal, torquey lumps! It doesn’t mind a rev either.
In short, it has a great auto, a great interior, it’s well put together and it goes pretty bloody well. Quite frankly it’s the best car your mum’s never heard of and it’s bloody good for it. If it had a German badge on it, it would sell for twice the price. But it’s the exact same quality. Buy one before everyone finds out how good they are.]]>
The mighty Gunners aren’t just on tour, they’re smashing out some amazing poster art. One or two posters for every city they play on the Not in this Lifetime tour. After seeing the Melbourne show and luckily grabbling the last Ned Kelly poster, I started Googling them and became absolutely obsessed by some of the posters by the likes of Arian Buhler.
So I’ve put together a new gallery GNRposters.rocks. There’s about 50 posters there, the artists names and all the details I can muster. What’s more you can rate your favourite posters and it I hope will continue to grow. So if you know the artists, then hook me up!]]>
Compared to previous models, the interior is top notch. The Alcantara and leather appointed interior is comfortable and stylish. Gone are the ‘like it or lump it’ footy team colours. The interior is actually cohesive and er, top notch. On a drive from Brisbane to Noosa, the air conditioning didn’t miss a beat and it was smooth sailing. The driving position is not bad either. The seats unlike their German contemporaries are comfortable. That old Buick V6 donk wheezes along in relaxo mode with a good old fashioned 4 speed auto, no CVT nonsense and picks up like buggery when you bury the right foot into the firewall. Boot space? Easily big enough to accomodate our baby gear and holiday bags for a week. No problems there.
But then the annoyances kick in. This car is so soft I swear it has a jelly centre. I think it should be the Holden Kalais Krispy Kreme Stay Puft (yes I watched Ghostbusters the other day) edition. Sure it steers OK at highway speed. But around town it sounds and steers like a barge. The blind spot warning is very useful. Because the B pillar creates a blind spot so big an entire Hyundai Getz hid in it on one drive.
That big colour screen goes dim, then lights up like a Christmas tree for no reason. Hooking up Bluetooth is unnecessarily complicated. Bah and as with GM cars in the States, the seat belts tend to lock on for skinnier, more petite folk like my wife. Wives appreciate nothing more than being locked in their seat at speed trust me. Larger American folk I guess don’t have this problem. Oh and speaking of seat belts, the front belts buckles always get jammed between the seats and the B pillar. For some reason it has no ignition. Which made life interesting when we couldn’t find the key to the car at ‘highway speed’ and we found it stuck between the passenger seat and the console. Now I guess I just keep it in my pocket. But it doesn’t feel right! When you open doors, bong. When you take a seat belt off, bong. Trying to park is a bong fest. When both doors close, the horn beeps 3 times. When you get out of the driver’s seat, everything shuts off. It doesn’t have a proper hand brake. Bah in the words of Pauline Hanson “I just don’t like it”. Just give me a meat pie and sauce.
Truly this car would be a lot nicer without the Krispy Kreme electronic garnish. It’s unnecessary and clearly irritating. Notwithstanding the flim flam, it’s a fairly lavish, stylish land barge. There’s nothing wrong with that. What it has confirmed for me though is I want something more nimble and agile. The same thing in an SS Commodore might be a bit more speed boat than land barge but it’s still big. This car to me just feels like it’s in danger of getting diabetes. For tens of millions of Americans, that feels perfectly normal. For me, I think I need to try the Subaru Levorg next.]]>
Make no mistake, I have a very soft spot for Grecos. So when I started lusting after a double cut Les Paul, I found the MR (Mick Ralphs – of Bad Company fame) Greco.
Mine was a 1977 and in bloody good condition for a 39 year old guitar (incidentally the same age as yours truly). She was a shade of orange that undermined its generation. The case was lined in Fanta day glo orange velvet.
Firstly these guitars are fabulously well built. The carved maple cap is very thick. The neck join is also something special. Some great mahogany went into these guitars. The 600 meaning it cost 60,000 yen was the el cheapo version with single coil P90 pickups (or soap bars). It also meant no binding on the fretboard but otherwise a very high quality standard.
What sucked about it? The neck is a little bit too wide for most people. If you’re blessed with big hands, this is the guitar for you. Oh yeah and the P90s don’t really have much of a sound on this guitar. Mine had a humbucker in the bridge but it still didn’t work. I think the higher up models would sound better. Some riffs would come off of this guitar that wouldn’t come off anywhere else but for all intents, she just didn’t have a sound that gelled with me.
So she was swapped for a Telecaster with a bloke Steven who plays in a local band Stockpile. She’s had the P90s swapped for some hand wired humbuckers and is finally getting the love she deserves. They’re unbelievably well built guitars, but they just don’t work for me.]]>
So I was digging through the laptop the other day and found some photos of old guitars. Not something I’d say often but I actually felt honoured to own the Phil Manning Custom for a short time.
Firstly this is an amazingly rare guitar. Not by any stretch the rarest of Matons. But Maton are a boutique Aussie brand. Maton are predominantly known for their acoustics. Which is sad because they’ve made very quirky electrics. The Manning is no exception.
In 1974 this guitar cost approx. $1800 Aussie dollars. You could’ve easily bought a family car for that. So I get the feeling that this was never meant to be cheaper or rival Gibsons and Fenders (which were impossibly expensive in Australia). This was a guitar designed to do everything. From psychedelic, to chicken pickin’ to heavy pub rock without hesitation.
The spec sheet is like no other. How many guitars do you know of that give you full stereo, with bass and treble switch, coil tapping plus Aussie and Canadian woods? It’s a very short list. At first I thought it looked like a bloated Les Paul and wasn’t very taken with it. The electronics looked like the Flux Capacitor in Marty’s De Lorean in Back to the Future. Absurd, quirky, weird. All these come to mind.
Ultimately though all that is just horse shit. This guitar felt bespoke. I think the only plastic on it was on the truss rod cover. Even the electronics covers on the back were solid maple about 6mm thick. It felt like a pair or RM Williams boots. Like there’s the feeling you get when you go from a Epiphone up to a Gibson. This is one up from that. It even had an amazing smell. This particular guitar had a vinyl/canvas case that someone had done an oil painting on. A very, very special guitar.
How do they play? The neck is a work of genius. Very slim and very fast. With the neck join the upper frets are really accessible for a 40 year old guitar. The guitar itself is quite heavy approx. 4.5 kilos of solid Aussie wood. Skinny, scrawny, lanky speed freaks whine about the weight. But that’s why they play Gibson SGs (more guitars for meaty blokes, suits me).
You could get just about any sound out of it. The bass and treble switch really helps to go from a twang to heavy metal sounds and everything in between.
I bought the guitar as junk from Japan. Turns out there was nothing wrong with it and the electronics needed a bloody good dusting. My guitar fixer mate Blair had a damn good time doing the stereo boogie with it. But the wiring being so complex, I can’t blame the former owner for being overwhelmed and passing it on.
Why did I get rid of it? Well we asked a Maton boffin if he had the original bass/treble switch (it had broken off – a common problem with this model). The bloke made me an offer and it was sold. I wasn’t incredibly attached to the guitar at the time and I guess everything’s for sale.
She left a huge impression though. Some very big RM Williams boots to fill. They’re fantastic guitars and not to everyone’s taste. If you see one, get on it. You won’t regret it. For a Maton it’s actually a pretty contemporary design.]]>
The average price for second hand vinyl is $100 -$120 Hong Kong Dollars about $16-$20 Australian – regardless of condition. In the hipster part of town near Square Street (Central, Hong Kong Island) one antique store was selling a copy of the Rolling Stones ‘Flowers’ records for $650 HKD (approx. $120 Australian). There were ample copies for 8 Euros available online. Tell him his dreamin’!!
Start with the good stuff.
Look for ‘Sam the Record Man’ in Hong Kong Central. He has a small shop in an unassuming building I stumbled upon literally. He has been collecting records all his life. There’s more first editions here than you can poke a stick at. His shop borders on a museum where most things are for sale. Even the Beatles master discs which he will no doubt retire very comfortably on. Better still he’ll happily play recordings of all these albums. 20 minutes in this store completely blew my mind. I couldn’t afford anything but it didn’t matter. I felt like a millionaire just being there.
What about new vinyl?
HMV in Central had a huge amount of vinyl in all genres. The cheapest starting around $180 HKD right up to around $450. Unfortunately it’s not much cheaper than at home. If anything it’s more expensive. They did seem to have a shitload of stock left over from Record Store Day though that wasn’t at a ridiculous markup. But you’re taking on average $35 to $60 Australian dollars a record. There’s some good second hand Japanese vinyl from the 70s there too. Would you believe it’s not very cheap?!
What kind of stuff can you find here?
Cantopop, middle of the road seventies and strangely a lot of sound tracks (e.g. I found Midnight Cowboy, Rambo, 2001 a Space Oddity etc). Credence Clearwater Revival may as well be considered Norwegian Black Metal here. That’s about as heavy as it gets. But then again I guess it would be hard to crank your Dimmu Borge when you live in a one bedroom apartment with your whole family in one of the most densely populated areas in the world!
OK so what good stuff did you find?
Some very, very rare HK pressings of Kiss records (tracks are no different sadly) a Taiwanese pressing of Black Sabbath’s born again and some rock records such as AC/DC in amazing condition. This store here was amazing but invading Russia would be easier than getting through this hoarder’s stock. Imagine a hoarder with an apartment full of records (I mean FULL) and no air conditioning.
Why aren’t there many records here?
I have a few theories why. It seems like all the cool American and UK vinyl was published in either Japan or Taiwan. But in the sixties and seventies there wasn’t much record distribution in Hong Kong. Well unless your were Cliff Richard or Simon and Garfunkel anyway. There was a huge Cantopop scene and there are heaps of kitschy Chinese records, but not many Western rock ones. The culture is a bit more collective back in those days and clean cut pop stars were more the go than generation gap stuff.
Secondly, no one has enough space in Hong Kong to be sentimental. In a place where a 2 bedroom apartment is a ridiculous luxury, there is nowhere to store your records. So a lot of good vintage stuff went to the tip a long time ago.
Finally I suspect that in the seventies Honkies were just working too damn hard to waste time on your Led Zeppelins and Kiss.
So in summary
It’s always a journey, not a destination sure. But if I were you spend your time in Hong Kong eating great food and buying clothes and stuff. The vinyl here is not ripe for the picking. Happy travels peeps!]]>
PAUL 9841 7136
Flat D, 5/F Wai Hong Building, 239 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po (Beside MTR Exit C1), Kowloon, Hong Kong.
The bloke told me this guy [Paul] had a million records. Hong Kong isn’t much of a rock n roll town. So I eagerly thought maybe this bloke somehow scooped all the cool stuff. We’ll get to that.
First of all, this bloke does have a SHIT LOAD of records. But they’re all in a tiny apartment, stacked almost 5 foot high in places. He has a very old school apartment with no air conditioning. If you want to check out this collection, call the guy first and be very patient. He has to move stuff around just so you can enter the apartment.
Remember this is Hong Kong and rent isn’t cheap. We had to wait in the lobby for about 10 minutes until I could squeeze in. DON’T bring wives and girlfriends. There’s no room inside and it’s excruciatingly hot waiting in the foyer. I bought along a toddler and the poor kid lost his mind.
Now about the records. The guy loves his pop. There were Spandau Ballet posters everywhere and he seemed to love the Madonna/new romantic vibe. There was heaps of Hong Kong Kitsch but only a few boxes of rock and roll available that day (as I said, give him plenty of notice to dig up what you might like). What he did have though was in excellent condition. I found a 70s AC/DC record that looked brand new.
I managed to snag about 11 records for 800 Hong Kong dollars. Maybe $15 Australian each approx. Would I go again. Maybe. If I could go without wife and child, had a change of clothes (I’m very serious about this) and was very patient.
P.S. Sam Shui Po also has flea markets 7 days a week. There was some vinyl but not much. It’s mostly electronics.
P.P.S. Small apartment filled with records. You might think Paul was a nutter. He seemed OK to me.]]>
What left me even more disturbed was that Pete was the businessman of the group. He wrote all the songs, formed all the companies, cashed all the cheques and did all the wining and dining. One could say he’s an out and out toff. A posh git who likes the finer things in life and only concerns himself with which art format he will consume himself in next.
Despite cars, yachts and mansions, he seems not so flamboyant as just plain old bourgeois. So much so he got bored with the who dear boy and left to get a desk job at a reputable publisher. Getting chauffeured to work every day, why of course! While he drank Remy Martin literally by the pint he ultimately saw Keith Moon as a hindrance and embraced his replacement who actually, well played a rhythm and kept time.
Reading Townshend’s autobiography was frankly irritating. Like finding out Frank Sinatra secretly practiced dentistry or something. He talks sparingly about guitar trashing, drugs and partying but it’s most underwhelming. The guy clearly is a workaholic and a genius, perhaps he gets bored very quickly. He almost sounds more like Keith Moon’s dad, not band mate. Anyway if you’re a Who fan you’re going to read it anyway. I just found I liked the guy less for it.]]>
At one point they had two roguish and fantastically good lookin’ singers come and join them for a few songs. While the girls did an amazing job harmonising on one intended song, they hung around for Mr Milk and it just felt like TV pantomime. Then there was a keyboard player that was on stage the whole time, towards the end of the set he basically spent errantly shaking a tambourine. It was clearly unnecessary.
Davey Lane from Bosnia (well Boronia – somehow I got that little private joke) was channeling Pete Townshend and doing a bloody good job of it. He and Andy really kept the band grounded and sounding great. But Davey in particular has become the bedrock of the band.
Rusty (looking more like Johnny Cash every time I see him) almost sounds not so loud these days. I’ve never seen a man shake a drum riser like Rusty does but these days he does his little Keith Moon smirks but the drums only get a light bollocking. It’s a shame, there’s no greater drummer than Rusty at full pelt. The support act, well that’s an entirely different story…
Sadly I think the band just tried to cover too much material with this gig. They played something off of virtually every album except #4 Record and Dress Me Slowly. And when you shoot that wide at the hip you miss a few things. Tim’s banter was better than ever getting quite a rise from the crowd, but there were flat spots in the playing. Yes Davey had his back but they were noticeable. He took the piss out of a review that said their Sydney gig was ‘messy and incoherent’. While I laughed I could see what the journo was eluding to.
Well I have to say that You Am I have always excelled at picking support acts. From Dallas Crane to Tame Impala they have a real knack for it. The Delta Riggs looked the business and put in an absolutely cracking set. Their tall, lanky leather clad singer minces around stage like Jagger, jumping off bass drums and shaking his hips like a thousand innuendoes. He was flanked by two killer fuzz guitars, oozing out equal parts 60s groove and 70s almost psychedelic groove. They have a mix of styles going, but with their own distinct edge to it.
At one point the Riggs drummer broke into a John Bohnam style drum solo. It was as abrupt as he is big, almost overwhelming his tiny kit (or is he just massive?). With those meat hooks flailing, for a split second I thought Bohnam was back with us – and that is not a compliment I use lightly. It was like cave man free form jazz as he beat his toms into primeval submission. Just drumsticks, hair and denim flying over a poor defenceless kit. Needless to say, I bought the vinyl and I just pray it captures the energy of the live show.
So there you have it. It was a ‘I’m not angry at you, just disappointed’ kind of gig. And yes they’re selling You Am I hot sause at the merch stand. For fucks sake!]]>
These days there are two methodologies in software development: Agile (can also be called as Scrum, Kanban or Extreme Programming) and Waterfall (sometimes known as the Software Development Life Cycle or SDLC).
Agile is very hot right now, but there are still people scratching their heads trying to work out the difference between Agile and Waterfall. There’s plenty of articles that tell you the technical differences. But not by way of ridiculous analogy. So let’s take two classic records and I’ll explain why one is Agile and one is text book waterfall.
So let’s start by explaining Agile via the Ramones…
The Ramones debut album
Punk rock hadn’t really been done before – at least not the way the Ramones did it. It was loud, rude, edgy and risky. Only Manhattan’s edgy art rock scene really got it. Everyone else was just flabbergasted, offended or both. Sire Records was willing to take a punt on them. So they gave the Ramones an advance of about $6500. They recorded the whole album in seven days flat. It was co-produced by drummer Tommy Ramone and engineered by close friends of the band. Even the cover art cost about $125.
Worth noting how stripped back their style was. Meaning no guitar solos, no backing singers, nothing fancy. Just guitar driven brutality. The music was so fast that 14 songs took only 29 minutes. And they played the songs even quicker live! In 1976 there was nothing out there like the Ramones. For the next 5 years, they had a new album out every year and constantly toured.
In hindsight at least, there was a sense of urgency. Other groups like the Sex Pistols, the Saints and the Clash were champing at the bit release the first punk album.
Why is this Agile? We’ll get to that. First let’s look at mullet rock kinds Def Leppard.
Def Leppard Hysteria.
Def Leppard had success in America with the album Pyromania but that wasn’t enough. They wanted complete world domination through absolute musical perfection.
Perfection means no compromise. The recording took almost 4 years and was re-recorded several times. Why? They couldn’t get the world’s mullet rockingest producer Mutte Lange. So they started recording the album, but then trashed it and started again with Lange. There was bad luck. Their drummer had a horrific car accident and lost his arm. Instead of getting another drummer, he (Rik Allen) literally had to create a drum kit he could play from scratch and reinvent his technique. When they actually got down to the brass tacks of recording, only the absolute perfect takes were used and patched together by Lange. It was excruciating and it cost millions of dollars.
When the album was released in 1987, they more than got their domination. It was one of the best selling records of all time.
So what’s the point?
The Ramones were truly Agile. They did not know how the product would be received. Without knowing it, their stripped down style was a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). So they did it quickly and got it out there with minimal budget. Subsequent albums came out in steady iterations (every 6-18 months) on a fixed time and budget. The band would do a retrospective and work out what direction they wanted to go in for each album. If an album didn’t work, they moved on quickly. As a team they were also very Agile, with people in the team taking on different roles, e.g. the drummer producing records. It meant that they didn’t get held up waiting on resources to be available. They had mixed commercial success but are one of the most influential rock bands in history.
Def Leppard couldn’t be more waterfall. They would settle for nothing less than the best. They had critical dependencies on resources and incredibly high standards that other bands weren’t doing. Their management were patient and knew if they persisted, they would get massive return on their investment. Record sales were huge, but the band have released 3 studio albums in 20 years. Are they influential? Well yes if you’re a mulleted German taxi driver or hardcore home hifi tragic.
New kids are kicking up Ramones albums all the time. The same kids cringe when the incredibly dated ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me‘ is played.
|Time taken to record||1 week||4 years|
|Budget||$7000||At least $5M|
|Production||Co-produced by the band||World’s best producer|
|Commercial Success||Negligible||One of the best selling albums of all time|
|Inspiration||Pioneered the punk rock genre throughout the world||Tacky mullet rock.|
|Albums recorded in 10 years||10||2|
What does this mean in a modern context?
Just like IT, the music industry has seen radical change. Unless you’re a band like Metallica or U2 no label is willing to invest millions into an album. Albums can be recorded now for less than what the Ramones spent in 1976 in a bedroom studio – and often are. If you must have absolute perfection, then waterfall is still valid. But Joe Punter who buys your product just doesn’t care about your painstaking pursuit of perfection.
In IT there are plenty of scenarios where waterfall is valid. For example defence, gambling, banking etc. They simply can’t afford failure. But it’s also why products such as Microsoft’s and your online banking web site feel so old fashioned, no matter what they try and do.
However the general Maxim in IT is just like the Ramones: if you don’t do it now, someone else will beat you to market. The Ramones weren’t the first punk rock band to get an album out. Most consumer oriented web sites and apps will fit in this category today. Basically get it out as quickly as possible. Keep developing (or fixing) in subsequent iterations. If it doesn’t work, move on. If it does, listen to customers and keep improving it.
People do indeed make mistakes with Agile. Even Google who at one point thought their latest project was going to make email redundant. It didn’t work, so they moved onto the next thing and remain one of the world’s most trusted and admired brands. Rather than getting stuck in the past like Def Leppard.
Oh and there’s one important point to make
Technology is not a factor here. Both bands were using state of the art technology. It’s how much you indulge in using it that makes the difference.]]>