Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Worst Advert of 2012

At this time of the year, it is customary for people with opinions to write pieces about the preceding 12 months. As I lack the conviction to go through and write a full review of the year, but I have got the energy to write about my least favourite advert of 2012. Although I wrote about some least favourite adverts earlier in the year, this one didn't feature on my earlier list. It may appear innocuous to the casual viewer, but it is actually such a hive of evil that it needs to be tackled. The advert is...

DHL TV Spot - Partnership with Manchester United

Now, before anyone accuses me of a scorning hatred for Manchester United, I will point out that this advert could feature any team, and I would dislike it. Hell, even if it featured Dan Harding prancing on a big screen TV in the middle of Tokyo or Matt Derbyshire creepily leaning out of the side of billboard to stare at a beach, I'd hate it.

Why is it so bad, some of you might be asking (others will presumably just shrug, and get on with their lives). Let's start with, sensibly, the beginning. Sir Alex is in his office at Old Trafford, presumably returning from Carrington after a hard day's training (he is, afterall, in the DHL branded training kit).What you also may not be aware of is that SAF, the best manager currently in English football, is also responsible for a raft of secretarial duties at Old Trafford, including outgoing post and arranging couriers. Hence his playful shooing of the delivery driver; this shows they have a fantastic relationship forged through regular contact. Maybe they often spend their days off together at the Trafford Centre. Good to see Sir Alex is keeping it real, despite his success.

After the DHL van transformed from a vehicle, forged of steel and plastic, to a pulse of light and pure energy, we emerge into Tokyo to see Ryan Giggs interrupt an interview during a training session at an international stadium (DHL kit again), to receive the pure bolt of energy, run with it, before firing it out. The bolt of energy flashes round the world to Rio, where some street children are playing football. They're not inspired to play football by the fantastic national side, some of whom grew up playing street football like those kids do; instead inspired by that renown Brazilian player, Javier Hernandez. Next, we pop over to a branch of Comet in some Dubaian Meadowhall, where a slightly shifty looking Rooney checks to make sure the coast is clear, before smashing the ball/pulse of raw energy so hard it travels from the Middle East to Old Trafford again, before engulfing Old Trafford in some kind of halo.

Now, it's undoubtedly bad, but is it the worst advert of 2012?


It appeals and glorifies everything I dislike about football. I understand in the modern world of sport, a global appeal helps to shift more merchandise and allow you to pay your footballers a little bit more; but it creates a group of supporters who only follow a foreign team thousands of miles away. Why support a local Japanese side, when you can buy yourself a United/Chelsea/Liverpool shirt and claim to be a fan, because you watch them on TV and follow Rooney/Cole/Downing on Twitter. It's the globalisation of football; and the homogenisation of everyone following the same dozen or so big European teams, at the expense of local sides. Reminds me of someone I knew at college who said he was a 'Real Madrid fan', and would join in discussions of football; following stories of 'Forest beat Port Vale 2-0 at the weekend' with 'Real were sick this weekend, thrashed Seville'. How can you be a Real Madrid fan when you've never visited Madrid, and your family have no ties with Spain? It's good to take an interest in football around the globe, but it begins to appear slightly strange when you support a team playing in a league on the other side of the globe instead of one in your own country.

The advert also demonstrates the trend of more pointless commercial exploitation of football. I know even Derby had training kit sponsors, but DHL shelled out £40m for a deal that would see their shirts prominently displayed in private, and on Sky Sports News during their weekly 'footage from Carrington showing footballers practising football' slot. Unless the supply chain/logistics managers of several big companies happen to watch a lot of midday Friday Sky Sports News, I wonder if it isn't £40m wasted.

And the music's bad.


Just read that the Glazer family bought out their contract with DHL, as they believe they can get more than £40m. So the advert isn't just bad, it's also out of date - so a massive waste of money. At least it won't be on t'telly no more.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

My Best Albums of 2012

I'll be the first to admit, I can't write music reviews. I've tried; and most of the time I end up using clichés more suitable to a sports report by Alan G. Partridge. However, similarly to the aforementioned Partridge; I've not let a lack of any discernible ability stop me from writing about my personal five favourite albums of 2012. So, enjoy reading through a couple of hundred words of pretentiousness, awkward phrasing and (possibly) poor taste in music. To compensate, I've created a playlist of my favourite tracks from all the albums, and put them into a Spotify thing that should work.

5. Beacon - Two Door Cinema Club

The follow-up to the band's 2010 début album Tourist History, is no dramatic departure from the busy, guitar-driven style that made Two Door an indie disco favourite. Whilst some may comment that this shows that the band have played it safe, the whole album is a more polished affair, and is more subtle in its execution; however, this does mean that album lacks some of the raw energy of Tourist History. The first track, Next Year manages to set a fairly brisk pace which the album continues, whilst Someday is perhaps the track that sounds most like it could have been lifted from their first album. My personal favourite track on Beacon is Pyramid, which starts quietly enough, before building to a frantic and chorus. Whilst, overall, the album possibly doesn't quite match the high bar the band set themselves in their first album, it's still a very good listen from start to finish.

4. Have Some Faith in Magic - Errors

I must admit I was only introduced to Errors in the first few months of this year; but I'm unsure how I managed to miss them for all these years (well, being behind the pulse of new music may be the biggest reason). The Glaswegian electro group's third album is crammed full of multi-layered synth and powerful guitar riffs. The album's opener, Tusk, is a melting pot of soaring electronica and a more gritty, distorted rock sound. The album, like Errors' others, is hardly what you'd describe as 'radio friendly', with most of the tracks coming in at over 4 minutes long, with the bass-driven Pleasure Palaces lasting for over 6 minutes; and the lack of any vocals (bar for the odd burst of digitised chanting or harmonising with the melodies). This has to be one of the best electronic albums I've heard for while (not that I'm an expert, mind you), and it's already been followed up by a mini album (New Relics), so hopefully Errors can continue their good work.

3. Coexist - The xx

Another band who had to follow up a fantastic début album were the XX. It was never going to be easy, but in Coexist, the band have certainly not disappointed. I would say they've built on their unique sound of stripped down vocals and guitars, with rhythms masterminded by Jamie xx; but for Coexist, the sound was less built on and more reduced to the bare bones. The album is perhaps at its best when enjoyed when listened to as a whole; as tracks flow into each other; leaving the listener hanging on to every note. If you do break the album down, my personal favourite tracks are the single Angels (not related in anyway to the Robbie Williams' track of the same name) and Tides. Following a Mercury award-winning album would always be tricky, but Coexist has proved it could be done.

2. In Our Heads - Hot Chip

Hot Chip can always be relied on to provide an excellent (if always slightly nerdy) album, and they didn't disappoint with 2012's In Our Heads. The album really demonstrates the band's range; from the up-tempo dance tracks of How Do You Do and Night And Day; to the slower and more vocal-led melodies of Let Me Be Him. My personal highlights of the album are the opening track Motion Sickness, and the hypnotic, 7-minute Flutes (which provided 2012's "Unwatchable Music Video"). As the band's fifth studio album, In Our Heads seems to suggest that Hot Chip are capable of producing a mature, yet still immensely fun record.

1. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J

This may seem a tad predictable seeing as the album has been lauded by everyone (except Pitchfork, who inevitably managed to wriggle a reference to Radiohead into their review), but this first album from the Cambridge-based quartet is worthy of all the praise (and the Mercury Music Prize) that it received. Alt-J (not to be confused by X-Factor filler 'Union J') have created a fantastic record that blends folk, dubstep, electro and more traditional indie rock seamlessly, from the heavy sound and awkward rhythms of Intro, it leaps to the haunting a cappella that is Ripe And Ruin, before again switching to the syncopated drumbeat and powerful piano chords of Tessellate. Matilda offers a slower and more hushed tone to the piece, before the band let loose on my favourite track, Fitzpleasure. The lyrics can be baffling, and the vocals strained; but it all adds to the unique sound of the record. Like The xx and Two Door Cinema Club, who have had to follow up fantastic débuts; I can't wait to see what else Alt-J have to offer.