'Wayt' is the fine debut from one of New Zealand's brightest new songwriters, Roger Greenaway. Effortlessly forging driving rock rhythms and soaring melodies, 'Wayt' is a collection of emo tinged lyrics and stories that transport the listener into the colorful world of Roger Greenaway and the tales he has to tell.
This record is more than the collection of a variety of singles; it is a fluid package where each song leads the listener into the next and leaves the impression of having journeyed through a unique musical landscape.
Greenaway has a singular voice and writing style. “Wayt” has the familiarity of the best New Zealand pop music, but also an originality and eclecticism that sets it well apart from the flock. Greenaway’s tunes are catchy, yet with surprising twists, and his prose is a magic combination of direct emotion and mystery.
The record was firmly produced by New Zealand’s Rikki Morris and Justin Harwood at The Bus in Auckland’s Devonport. Rikki is New Zealand rock royalty. Harwood tracked the rhythm section sessions and Morris was called in to complete the project when Harwood was pulled away to meet other commitments. Having garnered a New Zealand Number 1 hit and a hand full of other chart toppers, Morris is a great songsmith himself, possessing the right kind of pop sensibilities. On “Wayt,” he has exercised his equally strong taste for left of center arrangements. In places, the CD’s direction reflects Brian Eno, Radiohead and even Todd Rundgren (Morris is a self confessed Todd head), but the result is undeniably a unique Kiwi production. While the recording is dimensional and ambient, it manages to be simultaneously immediate, while having front to back depth. Perhaps this was helped by the performances being captured to 16-track analogue tape.
A truly great cast of musicians has embellished Greenaway’s songs. The roll call of notable session men is a combination of world-class virtuosos and individual thinkers.
Eddie Rayner of Split Enz fame plays keyboards on a number of the album’s songs. Rayner is adept enough on keyboards to have been enlisted to play on Paul Mc Cartney’s “Press To Play” album. Actually, to call him “adept” is a major understatement. While he is as good as the best on synthesizers, it is behind an acoustic piano where his genius really shines. Rayner’s grasp of taste and space is all too rare. His performance on the album‘s ballad, “The Squeeze,” is a definitive example of his approach.
Drummer Barrett Martin is noted for his work with Seattle’s groundbreaking “Screaming Trees”. He has also collaborated on albums with Peter Buck of “R.E.M” and Mike Mc Cready of “Pearl Jam”. Since his break through during the “grunge” movement, he has expanded into world music and his diversity of style is fully on display on “Wayt”. His tribal drumming on the opening track, “Peace Creature,” is an intriguing cross-pollination of African highlife and Latin salsa.
Guitarist Johnny Kempt, most famous for his work with “The Scissormen” has always had a handle on “angular” guitar work. Though he has been endowed with what you would call world class “chops”, he has more often then not been preoccupied with original musical ideas and choices. He is a solid rhythm player, and his aggressive right hand attack has much in common with Pete Townshend of “The Who”. The album tracks, “Wise” and “Grin”, show Kempt’s ability to traverse backwards and forwards between different dynamics and tones. Kempt is a go- to “parts player” and he never distracts from the song. His great feel on bass is also on display on Wayt’s eerie funk track “Hala”.
Justin Harwood of New York’s critically acclaimed alternative unit “Luna” holds down the bass seat on the album. Harwood is also famous for his work with “Tuatara” a side project he formed with Barrett Martin and Peter Buck of “R.E.M”. His playing on “Wayt” is melodic but unpredictable. He has the ability to take his fluid bass parts in adventurous directions that never jar the listener. Morris beautifully captures his full range sound from bottom to top.
Morris’ multi instrumentalist prowess is also on display. Like any great producer worth his salt, he performs guitar bass and keyboard duties as needed.
Since its original release, “Wayt” has come to be considered a “New Zealand” classic, to be filed under “psychedelic”. Despite this classification, it has a timelessness that will show it in new light as the years pass. Time is always the measure of great work, and I am sure ten years from now “Wayt” will have new appraisals and accolades that will define it as an all time great New Zealand recording long after current disposable pop confectionaries have faded into the dust.
Sonny Cricket - 2008