Thursday, 13 June 2013

5 New(ish) Bands to Listen Out For

Now, I can hardly be described as having my fingers on the pulse of new music; I'm more of the guy who can't find the pulse, until someone else tells him how to do it and what to look out for. But, having said that, there are a few acts that I've been shown by friends, or stumbled upon that I really like; and are acts it'd certainly be worth keeping an ear out for.


2012 brought a about a whole host of slightly geeky, awkward-sounding indie bands. Well, maybe not a whole host, but it did bring two biggies - Scottish Art School boys Django Django; and the puzzlingly popular (in a good way), Mercury prize winning Alt-J. Teleman can be filed right next to these; with their layered, guitar driven tracks. Cristina, the first track they've released, is a fantastically strange mixture of slow pace yet an upbeat feel; slightly strange lyrics about a girl the lead singer is obsessed with (again, see Alt-J). Whilst currently unsigned, they've been playing live at a few festivals and featured on Radio 6; so could be the next big thing in the niche world of nerd indie rock.

London Grammar

London Grammar are a band who manage to seamlessly mix a beautiful yet powerful voice (belonging to the group's lead singer Hannah Reid), with relaxed and laid back electronica. The band have been called the new XX (high praise indeed), but that's slightly misleading as London Grammar have a very unique sound; flirting from the understated-ness of James Blake, to the more brash tones of AlunaGeorge. I've personally seen them reduce a crowd of excited festival goers at Dot-to-Dot to an awed silence (even after technical issues delayed the set by 10 minutes). Their EP is certainly one to watch out for.


A mostly electronic French act with undertones of disco? Electro-Franco seems to be in great health recently; and Juveniles are the latest in that proud tradition. Their eponymous début album is an eclectic mix of upbeat, slightly disco tunes like Fantasy (above); the Friendly Fires-esque 'All I Ever Wanted Was Your Love'; and tracks lifted directly from the early eighties (Strangers). At times, they sound reminiscent of Brighton synthpoppers Mirrors (currently missing in action; last seen supporting Delphic in 2009. I may have been their only fan. I have a signed album. Come back guys). Maybe it's time to put down 'Get Lucky' and give the youngsters a listen. Well, at least before putting Get Lucky back on.

Dan Croll

Dan Croll is the name of the lead singer and his band. Hailing from Stoke (via Liverpool), this indie band create bright and breezy songs perfect for a sunny summer afternoon (whatever one of those is). According to Wikipedia, Dan was lucky enough to have a one-to-one with Sir Paul McCartney whilst at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. We can only live in hope that he won't force the band to to release a cover of Hey Jude (I doubt he will, as Hey Jude is pretty much the only thing Macca does nowadays). I'm looking forward to Dan Croll's album; even if there won't be any sun to enjoy it in.

Black Light Dinner Party

I'm unsure how 'new' this band is, as the single above was initially released in 2011; but there's been no sign of an album as of yet. However, Black Light Dinner Party are a group of eclectically named Americans with a sound to match. In parts, they sound like Delphic played at half speed (the good, Halcyon era Delphic as well); with shades of Passion Pit and the chart-conquering Bastille thrown in. Heavily synth dominated, but not gratingly so; with the wispy voice of the lead singer floating in the ether, the band are certainly a unique sound.

So, those are five new(ish) bands of 2013 that I like. Hopefully you'll like them as well. 

P.S. If Mirrors are reading this, please make more overly synthy music.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Del Toro takes the piss

There are many things the world needs. A fast and effective program to return the world to economic bliss; a solution to global food scarcity; an explanation for Keith Lemon. I wouldn't have, however, placed "another movie featuring giant CGI robots" towards the top of this list. Guillermo Del Toro, apparently, disagrees; and has deposited 'Pacific Rim' into the global consciousness, rather like a neighbour's dog deposits something unseemly on your lawn. Before judging a film purely on the basis of a trailer, you have to, firstly, watch the trailer; which is below for your enjoyment.

On first glance, it appears Del Toro is attempting to retell two of the best loved movies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries; Michael Bay's metallic toy-fest Transformers, and Godzilla, the only disaster movie that had me cheering on the downfall of man. However, on closer inspection, it looks as though this movie could be a level of mediocrity far greater than the sum of it's constituent parts.

The giant not-Godzilla CGI monsters are aliens who live under the sea (rather like Ursula, from the Little Mermaid) who's sole aim in life is to destroy the cities. Not just mankind, but cities. Smart sea-monsters. And the only way for them to be countered is by blowing them up, much to chagrin of the token bespectacled science guy (I assume Jeff Goldblum was busy). So, in order to blow up the evil beasts, mankind initiates 'Project Jaeger" (presumably with some Jaegerbombs). This, as it almost always inevitably does in Hollywood, manifests itself as two guys in a massive robot costume. They undergo a "mind meld" (a common side effect of Jaegerbombs, incidentally) in order to kick some alien aqua ass.

Then something unexpected happens: a plot twist. Mankind must go back, train to be even better massive metal brawlers (or "2,500 tons of awesome" as Jeff Goldblum Junior suggests) in order to win their survival. The advert implores us to 'Go Big' from July 12 ('Big' what is left ambiguous); before we're told that the apocalypse has been cancelled - which is nothing new as Harold Camping has been cancelling armageddon since May 2011.

But, surely this new film must be decent. I mean, Guillermo Del Toro wouldn't direct a B-movie wannabe with more clichés than a Daily Express story on the EU. Unless he's taking the piss. Or he really wanted to make a big-screen adaptation of the video for Bloc Party's Flux.

Of course, the movie could be really good; and it's just the trailer that's crap.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The media and Nottingham Forest - the defence

Forest are on a fantastic run, with 6 wins in their last 6 games; unbeaten in 7. Billy Davies return has, so far, been an unparalleled success; creating a collective sense of belief not just within the team, but back on the terraces. I must admit, even under SOD, I could never have seen such a run being constructed. Billy Davies deserves all the praise being heaped on him from fans (and I must say, as a sceptic of 'the return of the King', he has proven me very much wrong). Despite all this positivity, there has been an undercurrent of discontent at the portrayal of the club, the manager, and the owners. This has been fairly summed up in this article; but I, as a fan, disagree with swathes of it. This article will be my defence of media with regards to Billy Davies; the Al-Hawasi's; and the club in general.

I'll start off by saying, I agree that with the Al-Hasawi's tenure at the club, there has been an undercurrent of xenophobia in some of the reporting, such as the 'non-payment' of wages story earlier in the season. I do agree that the British press do cling to the romanticised image of football clubs being run by the local carpet warehouse magnate, born in the shadow of the football ground. This leads to a scepticism of any foreign owners, with them usually being portrayed as bad, mad or dangerous. However, some of the actions of the Al-Hasawi's, especially over the Christmas period, were questionable. Regardless as to whether or not it was the right decision with hindsight, the sacking of SOD after a 4-2 victory over Leeds, being 1 point off the playoff places at the time was widely attacked. It wasn't just attacked by the media with an 'anti-Al-Hasawi' agenda; but was roundly criticised by fans for being a kneejerk and unjustifiable reaction. Other potentially questionable decisions and actions (the abrupt dismissal of a number of backroom staff including FC; the George Boyd transfer debacle) quite rightly were picked up and critically examined in the press. 

My second real point is regards the relationship between Billy, the club, and the local media. It's widely known that the relationship between Billy and the old regime was toxic at best; and Billy will always feel hard done by in the circumstances in which he was sacked originally. But that happened almost 2 years ago, all the major 'actors' in the cold war on the club side are no longer with the club. This should be a new, fresh start for Billy and the club. Which is why the decision to not talk to local media outlets is baffling. BBC Radio Nottingham and the NEP have been full of nothing but praise for Billy since his return; and whilst there have been a number of 'anti-Billy' pieces in the media; these have to be expected. The circumstances in which Billy left were murky, and therefore he media have a right to investigate it. I'm sure the press did stray from investigation to speculation, and which they shouldn't have done, but they weren't alone. In the vacuum of information when Billy left, rumour filled the void. As for BBC Radio Nottingham, I rarely heard anything bad said about BD since his departure or during his tenure; except when fans rang in on Matchtalk.

Maybe the biggest point I want to make is in response to the line "Billy, consequently, has been far less co-operative with local media outlets second time around, bar a loyal journalist from East Midlands Today, Natalie Jackson." Journalists shouldn't be 'loyal' to anything but the truth. I don't want local media fawning over every decision made by the manager or the owners. I don't want dodgy decisions to be glossed over by journalists for fear of losing access to club personnel (as has apparently happened with BD and Radio Nottm, which I see as a childish tit-for-tat manoeuvre if it is in retaliation for 'bad PR'). A good journalist is like a sceptical fan. As the article above notes, we are fans of Nottingham Forest, not the current owners, managers or playing staff. That's why, for me, a journalist has to be loyal to 'Nottingham Forest', not loyal to the owners or staff. This requires them to hold the owners to account when any decisions or actions are carried out. This means questioning the manager when rumours are spreading. Local media has been far from perfect in the last few years; but the club has been even worse over the same period. The club needs to be open to the press and media; as by doing so, it's being open and honest with the fans. That's why we need the media to continue questioning the club. 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Forest - A Few Thoughts

Since the 26th December, something strange has been happening in the bowels of the City Ground. The decision to sack O'Driscoll (in my opinion, a terrible decision on footballing and moral terms) was made with the excuse that results hadn't been good enough. Of course, the fans (and the manager, players, staff) had been sold the story that this was to be a 3-5 year project; where SO'D could craft a squad capable of taking us back up. A lot of us didn't expect a season of anything other than consolidation, but after the 26th December something seemed to change. Goalposts had shifted. Results weren't good enough, despite being a point off the play-offs. SO'D was shipped out. In came McLeish.

Now, McLeish wasn't an overly popular appointment at first. His record at Villa loomed large over previous achievements with Birmingham and Rangers. But, fans were willing to give him time and patience, to see whether he could succeed. Then, out of nowhere, three members of backroom staff were sacked and/or walked (details still uncertain). Keith Burt - the chief scout and head of player acquisitions; Mark Arthur - the (often maligned) former chief executive, and maybe most tellingly of all, Frank Clark - a club legend who had won the played for the club, managed the club, and steered the club through difficult times. All disposed of, with no explanation given.

Still, people saw a logic. Strip out 'deadwood'. Allow the new owners to install their own men into these positions. They have, so far, not been replaced. This meant entering a transfer window without a head scout, or any connections to sign players. McLeish had it all to do himself. He had been brought in before January in order to be able to bring in his own men. Forest made a few signings, got Ward back on loan; Reyes from West Brom (on loan), Al-Rashidi; but McLeish wanted 3 or 4 more signings. Despite putting in derisory bids, we somehow failed to land anyone. And so in came rumours of a bust up between manager and owner. Maybe this kicked the Al-Hasawi's into action, and signed George Boyd.

Now, George Boyd was apparently desperate to join. He'd turned down Palace (his boyhood club) to join Forest. He arrived and underwent a medical. And failed it, at 10pm, on deadline day - due to having problems with his vision. The club decided that they wanted Boyd on loan instead. He wasn't signed, and (rightly so) Peterborough's MacAnthony took to ripping the club apart.

In a few weeks, after months of sound management behind the scenes, the Al-Hasawi's have turned the club into a laughing stock; with scant credibility left in the footballing world. And with rumours of McLeish having walked, it's yet another day to forget for Forest fans (they're becoming increasingly frequent, no?).

I still think there's a chance this can be fixed - or at least, attempted to.

  1. We deserve frank answers on what the club's aims are this season. Realistic aims that the owners are willing to finance
  2. McLeish (if he's still here) should be allowed to come up with a plan of action to enable those aims to be met, through loan signings and future investment
  3. The reasons for sacking SO'D, Clark, Burt and Arthur (if he was sacked) should be made clear
  4. Long-term plans for the club need to be formulated, which can be sustainably enacted.
I hope something like this happens.

Not holding my breath however.