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I finally got a Kindle for Christmas! I'm even on google+ and I've started watching Barbie films with my daughters. I've joined the modern world, just about. There is part of me though, that wishes it was 2000/01. It was Mid-December and I'd downloaded a trial version of Championship Manager 00/01 a month earlier, I'd played it every night for the past 10 days or so, the only problem was that because it was a trial version, it finished in February and you never got to find out how your team finished in the first season. Then one afternoon, my mum gave me the game as a present ahead of Christmas time...for the next 3 years, I was ridiculously into the game.. over time though, I've stopped playing it.
There was something about that particular year's game that captivated a whole generation, it was quite simple yet the database was extensive, there were players who never really made it in real life but cultivated legendary statuses based on their qualities in the game. Eldar Hadzimehmedovic was always my golden boy. Some people's was Justin Georcelin, who unfortunately ended up with a crack cocaine addiction and went to prison for attacking a taxi driver. The author of this book was obviously even more obsessed with the game than me, finally his obsession seems to have paid off though as he penned this very well thought out book.
Football Manager: Stole My Life was my first book on Kindle and I tapped through the pages at an incredible pace, if it had been a traditional book, it might have taken a little bit longer but the fact is, I was a huge fan of the game and the book was speaking the same language. Anyone who has spent too many late nights hunting out Scandinavian gems will find this book fascinating. It's written in a somewhat laddish manner but you get the feeling the author is a bit of a geek, in fact the book concludes that football actually is rather geeky.
The book does not solely focus on 01/02, it covers the whole Champ Man and FM range but there's a series of interviews with players that were absolutely awesome in the game but didn't live up to their potential in real-life. It's actually quite interesting to see what they are up to today and how their reputation in the game has affected their day to day life. Some of them even failed to respond, perhaps revealing they do not enjoy their cult reputations.
There's also a chapter or so dedicated to people whose obsession with the game led to them losing their job or wife. There's interviews with singers, musicians and footballers who love the game (Robbie Williams and a lot of the Swedish National Team). Another successful app creator and obsessive script writer has even written a play about the game!
Although it doesn't totally fit in, the most surreal part and a part that I really enjoyed is when co-author Iain MacIntosh, retells chapter after chapter of his fictional career at a lowly German football club. It's really very imaginative and he does a great job of bringing the characters to life, as well as secretly promoting his book Football Fables, which I'm pretty keen to check out.
A light read that will appeal to anyone with a love for the Champ Man/FM Series, it's highly entertaining but if you've never played the game or don't like it, then it's really not going to be for you and will most likely appear to be written in a bizarre language.
I've written reviews of bizarre travel destinations and metal albums that might make your ears sore, this could be considered my all time low though. I'm going to review a Barbie film.
Being a twenty something male with an interest of beer, football and music, I have to say that I've always looked down on Barbie, it's never appealed. My four year old daughter thinks quite differently though and one night recently when my wife had gone out with a friend, I thought I'd treat her to Barbie: Princess and the Pauper. At that point, I wasn't even aware that there were any Barbie films, I thought she was a doll and didn't realise she'd hit the dizzy heights of the silver screen.
I switched it on and warmed to the white cat Serafina, the graphics were all very pink and glittery as Barbie was a princess in a castle and I kind of tutted to myself in a disapproving way at just how girly it was. Then suddenly Barbie burst into song, I hadn't counted on it being a musical and I thought I'd let myself in for 90 minutes of awful Hannah Montana style singing but it was actually quite good.
Next up the bad guy, kicked in with his song, it was even better, the lyrics were so good and he oozed nastiness. His dog's bodies did a funny dance routine around him. The story line was actually very good, without revealing too much, the princess meets a girl that looks very similar to her. This girl, Erica, works as an indentured servant for a miserly dress-maker. Like the princess, she has the voice of an angel and both of them are trapped in world's they don't want to be in. The princess is due to marry a prince when she's in fact in love with someone else. The film turns into an adventurous tale of kidnapping, deceit and escape featuring some fantastic songs, two very likeable lead characters, a scruffy cat that barks, horses that talk with a French accent and a Poodle with a gold tooth.
Overall, it's an imaginative and tuneful take on a classic story and it's changed my opinion on Barbie totally.
Although my cycling habits haven't got to the state of wearing lycra, my interest in the sport has definitely grown recently. During the summer, I cycle most days and I watched the Tour de France for the first time in years this year (the last time I watched Pantani was at the top of his game). I didn't pay much attention to the Lance Armstrong story in the media, always found him quite irritating. After reading some good reviews about this book on Amazon, I decided to give it a go. It was William Hill's Best Sports Book of 2011 and the bookie always wins.
The Secret Race is written by former US Postal team mate of Lance, Tyler Hamilton and his former biographer Daniel Coyle. With friends like those, who needs enemies! It is not particularly about Lance but being the superstar that he was, his career happened to run simultaneously as Hamiltons, they first met at junior level.
Until I read this book, I didn't realise what a big fish Lance was, that many people with cancer had seen him as a beacon of hope and that people had called their children after him. I also didn't know just how much he ruled the cycle world, almost like a mafia boss, how he bullied team mates and others involved and just what a bad egg he was. I have to say that I found the book fascinating from beginning to end. I'm not sure I've read a book quite so quickly this year, a real page turner for sure.
Of course, like most the cyclists Hamilton was at it too and the book deals with the dilemmas that he faced, give up cycling or start doping? Once you're in, there's no way out - blow the whistle and you were ostracised within the community. It seems the authorities knew about it and wanted to cover it up, so coming clean would just mean you were banned from the sport while others continued doping and denounced you as a loon for claiming everyone was taking illegal drugs.
I didn't know much about doping in sport, but from much bigger rugby players than in the past to extremely quick Chinese swimmers and on to the Bolts of the world, I'm now pretty convinced that doping is prevalent in just about every popular sport. (Even Phil Taylor seems to play better when he's been to the loo in darts!).
I recommend giving it a read, regardless of your interest in cycling or sport in general. The one negative I can see, is that it is an autobiography and therefore does seem to sugar coat Hamilton to some extent, although he could just be a thoroughly nice chap.
As I've mentioned before on previous book reviews, I tend to flit between reading heavily factual books about history or music and lighter biographies or who dunnits. This book, written by Shamini Flint, fits into the second category. What attracted me was its exotic location. I've read Alexander McCall Smith's 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' series as well as watched the TV adaptation and I found the kind of murders quite fascinating. It just makes a nice change from a moorland murder or inner city assassination.
Inspector Singh is a Singaporean of Indian ethnicity, he is essentially the typical bad-tempered, podgy detective. A sort of Asian Jack Frost if you like. Though he's described as sweaty, anyone who has been to South East Asia will know, that it's pretty difficult not to be! He's a wise old dog who tends to follow his gut feeling and he shows compassion to some of the suspects, in fact he's rather sweet on the Singaporean model that he's been sent to Kuala Lumpur to protect.
I expected a bit much from this book and found the opening pages to be very cliched, I wasn't sure if Inspector Singh had a strong enough character to lead the series. As the plot thickened, I found it a bit of a page turner but mostly because I was curious to find out who had committed the murder. There are slowly more elements included in it, such as love stories and conservation projects that are at loggerheads (boom boom) with the timber industry.
The writing remains quite cringeworthy but the plot was interesting enough to ensure that I finished the end of the book. Would I buy another book in the series? If it was second-hand and under a pound, like this one then yeah I'd probably go for it but I am not convinced enough to splash out a fiver or more on it as it is priced on Amazon.
I've recently been toying with the idea of returning to the world of gaming. Typically my desire to do this is quenched by a quick game on the now ancient console, the N64. Recently, I took it a little further and hunted out a cheap game on E-bay.
The World of Goo, looked just the ticket and is available for as little as a quid. It's original. The idea is simple enough - concoct a chain of black blobs from the starting position, up to be a tap, so that it can be sucked in. Initially it's easy but by level three, my engineering abiltiies soon begun to be shown up, as did my ability to follow instructions.
By level four, they introduce obstacles which bamboozle me, to finish it takes some time but to finish it with sufficient blobs of goo in tact, is even harder. From that point on, every level is more and more puzzling but achievable. I'm not cut out for logic and so find it surprisingly challenging, in fact it makes me feel a bit of a dummy!
It's entertaining, if infuriating and the graphics are so bright and clean that it's incredibly refreshing. You can easily pick this game up on Amazon or E-bay, on Steam it's a little bit dearer but obviously you get it immediately. It'll give you hours, if not days of entertainment. Even when you've completed the levels you can try to outdo your old score by using less blobs. The World of Goo has opened my eyes and it has sort of turned me back on to gaming too.
ISS 64 was always at the top end of game ratings when it came to the N64, even towards the end of the console's days, it was usually around the 94% mark in game magazines. Most people who had an N64 had it, just like they had Golden Eye, Super Mario or Lylat Wars.
The first time I played it, I was fascinated by the game, controlling the players was fairly straight forward, although I do recall it was too easy to switch the camera mode accidentally whilst playing, which would often result in me giving away possession. The graphics were bright and colourful and the game play was pretty good too. About a year after first playing it, I got an N64 with the game included but I ended up swapping it for something else because by that time I had Fifa 98: Road to the World Cup. It had two massive benefits over ISS64 and that was that the player names were real (almost essential for a football enthusiast) and that you could transfer players. ISS64 was good for a group of lads with some beers around, particularly suited to playing internationals but I never found it captivating in the long run, where as with Fifa, you could transfer players and play the league.
The version I had was a lot more colourful than the one shown in the picture, it featured a guy in a white shirt with blonde hair running towards the front of the box, a kind of cross between Klinsmann and Duke Nukem, if you like.
17 years ago, I didn't rate this game anywhere near as highly as Fifa 98 and I still stand by those thoughts. To be honest, I always found the game a bit overrated and certainly worth no more than a 6/10.
On a wet June evening this year, I watched an unusually short Motorhead concert, they were below par and I was under the impression that I may be witnessing the downfall of one of the best rock 'n' roll bands of all time. Apart from an amazing Mickey Dee drum solo, the performance was dire. A faltering set at Wacken, then there were cancelled gigs.. Motorhead never cancelled gigs. Cancellation was not in Lemmy's vocabulary, another line of speed, another bottle of whisky and everything would be ok. But was the high life finally catching up with this hard-working, hard-drinking 68 year old? Motorhead are prolific, releasing over 30 albums and even if they do tend to sound rather similar, it's an impressive feat.
To the casual listener they may hear the same riffs over and over again but Motorhead fans are keen to point out that Lemmy is something of a wordsmith, his short and direct lyrics are memorable and catchy and each album usually has at least a few corkers on it, songs which will be played for years to come.
Lemmy never had an angel's voice but he sounds even croakier and more hoarse than he did before, like your chain-smoking grandad after a bout of flu when a dead cert has lost at the races. If this album is anything to go by, they are not on their last legs yet and to some extent the track 'End of Time' says just that, with nods to Ace of Spades, this track even rehashes the line 'dancing with the devil'. If it was another band ripping off the song then there would be hell to pay by a crowd of puritanical music lovers but as it's him ripping off his own song, I guess it's ok...
The album actually starts off with 'Heartbreaker', a single that has been heavily promoted on rock and metal radio stations, with a darker bass line than usual and perfect complimentary musicianship on the part of legendary drummer Mickey Dee and Phil Campbell, this song is massive, their best song in some years.
Another track that has garnered attention is 'Going to Mexico', and whilst it's undoubtedly catchy, it lacks any truly punchy lyrics in my book. Later in the album 'Keep Your Powder Dry' has an almost AC/DC like riff but the vocals and lyrics are unmistakably Motorhead.. this song has a cracking Phil Campbell guitar solo.
Amongst the fast-paced snarling cacophony the album actually springs a couple of surprises, 'Lost Woman Blues' is slow, melodic, sludgier and a real blues number and Lemmy's voice really suits it, if he does hang up his boots as Motorhead, perhaps he has another 30 years in him as a blues artist! If that's not enough to whet the appetite then perhaps 'Dust and Glass' is, a slow slightly psychedelic blues number and features a softer Lemmy, one that's almost reminiscent of Jim Morrison.. yeah it's strange and unexpected but it's a good song!
These two slow numbers of course are balanced out by the extremely snappy 'Queen of the Damned' which is by far the quickest track on the album. What's more they are back on track... '
So overall, it's a pretty good album, with a couple of unique songs and one or two that should come staples of future concerts, it seems that there is life in the old dog yet, or perhaps he's just changed his dealer.
Half Man Half Biscuit
Half Man Half Biscuit write sardonic songs often with a surreal nature, a form of social commentary if you like. Having emerged in the mid-80s, they have quite a catalogue of interesting songs and if you haven't heard them, you must check them out. Hailing from Birkenhead, witty songwriter Nigel Blackwell delivers his words in a dry yet sometimes loud punky out of tune type snarl which is quite a contrast from the gentle folk rock that the band play. There's no one quite like Half Man Half Biscuit and I appreciate them for their unique sound, unfortunately they don't do too well in the charts, which is a pity because they are the voice of small town England and the vast majority of the population will have experienced the things that they write about in their songs.
Cammell Laird Social Club
For a band who supposedly packed up two decades ago due to their inability to combine gigging and watching football, Half Man Half Biscuit seem to release an awful lot of albums. These releases are not necessarily particularly well publicised and I have to admit, I sort of forgot about the band and when I decided to have a look at what the band had done recently, I picked an album at random that I didn't recognise. It actually turned out to have been released around 11 years ago, so it wasn't that new.
Not knowing Birkenhead, I can't confirm just how entertaining Cammell Laird Social Club is but I do know that Dixie Dean was born on Laird Road.
The Light At The End of The Tunnel (Is the Light of an Oncoming Train)
A rather lively new wave number about a man from Eyam whose beloved girlfriend left the Peak District for the big city lights of Notting Hill -'where the cocaine is fair-trade and frequently displayed is the Buena Vista Social Club CD.' Impressive exaggerated howling on the chorus and a heavy section where there's a sudden chant of 'No frills, handy for the hills, that's the way you spell New Mills' just adds to the enjoyable variety in what's one of the best tracks on the album.
When the Evening Sun Goes Down
This is a more mellow, less hectic tune but the chorus is incredibly catchy and the acoustic guitar playing has a real campfire sing-a-long sound to it, Blackwell's genius in managing to work in rhyming lyrics about television has to be marvelled at (he is a well known TV addict)
There are questions in corners of my mind that lurk,
(When the evening sun goes down)
Like How do the road gritters get to work?
(When the evening sun goes down)
Answer me that, and you could win a cruise,
(When the evening sun goes down)
And heres Judy Tsuke to take us up to the news.
San Antonio Foam Party
San Antonio Foam Party starts off with a strong punk riff, once again in contrast Blackwell's delivery is really dry, it's almost like he is a bored teenager responding to his mother about a dinner he doesn't want (I guess teenagers don't respond at all these days?)
It's a surreal track and I'm not entirely sure what's going on, I can only imagine that the text echoes events that I'm unaware of such as a storming of a brothel in Palermo, I did have to laugh at the final verse though:
This is me pleading for some civic pride
Using or losing the park and ride
Twin town said we just weren't cool
So now we got a suicide pact with Goole
Them's The Vagaries
By this point, you've either switched off or fallen in love with the album and this track will only strengthen your feeling towards the band even more (I suppose if you've switched it off and it's still playing, you will be annoyed anyway)... it's a mish mash of light pop punk riffs and sludgy bass lines, likewise the singing varies from shouting to quite subtle delivery.
Lyrically they examine some of the subject's weak spots:
I'll not sit backwards on the train
I can't say I'll always flush the chain
And what I call pleasure, you may call pain
If I Had Possession Over Pancake Day
This is the first time of a track with a bit more of a folky nature, it does finish with a punk edge before ending it abruptly with the lyrics:
Give a philosophy student a glass of limeade
and he will say: "is this a glass of limeade?"
and "if so, why is it a glass of limeade?"
and, after a while, he'll die of thirst
Which to be fair, doesn't seem to fit in a lot with the rest of the song but it's entertaining all the same.
The Referee's Alphabet
Undoubtedly one of the best songs on the album, a gentle strum of a song complete with tweeting birds in the background, it sounds like an idyllic Saturday afternoon. Blackwell then reads through the alphabet in the way fellow reviewer thedevilinme might do, only he takes a look at the cynical world of football. There's too many fantastic lines to mention and I urge every football fan to go to Youtube and listen to it, if you've not heard it, a random selection is:
The G is for the gnarled face of someone whos on 90,000 a week
And reckoned he should have had a throw in
She's in Broadstairs
A totally crazy song about a man keen to be reunited with his ex, after a guitar heavy intro, it all goes a bit electric, kind of like early Pulp only with more synthesizers. In this case, the delivery is anarchic, there's fast delivery of short little rhymes. It tells the story rather well and I'm amazed he can weave such a tale out of lines made up of just three or four words, but he pulls it off and the chorus is great to boot!
The folkiest of tracks on the album but there is too much emphasis on a very simple keyboard beat, we even get a taste of some unimpressive yodelling. It's a bit of a trudger and whilst the lyrics are still entertaining they are not as fun as a lot of the other tracks. My least favourite song of the album.
The third track in a row that makes use of keyboards, which is quite uncommon in the world of Half Man Half Biscuit, it's difficult to describe it as a song as such - Blackwell relays a tongue-in-cheek version of the news, it's an entertaining piece but lacks the rhythm of some of the other tracks.
27 Yards of Dental Floss
An upbeat cheerful song with snappy sarcastic lyrics that typifies the band's work, the chorus of 'Twenty seven yards of dental floss and she still won't give me smile' is incredibly catchy. Another cracking line has to be:
Fired by wine she was almost mine 'til a fight broke out in the bar
Third rate Les in his Burberry fez had gone just a little too far
Paradise Lost (You're the Reason Why)
A song that has the ring of a national anthem to it, there's just something twangy about the guitar playing and the chorus is like an uplifting battle tune, it's quite inspirational and yet it's actually a song full of mild hatred, having once seen the number plate - 'Big Boy' in Iceland, I have a soft spot for the verse that goes:
Well we've both seen your personalised reg plates
And it's not the worst crime I agree
But we both know full well that it really should spell
Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not
Ah heavy, almost grungy sound to this with some nice little bass lines, the core riff of the track becomes more and more catchy when it should in fact become tiring, The delivery is pretty sneery and the Wirral accent could grate on some people's nerves as it's quite sharp on this particular track because the track is an attack on the celeb world. As per usual, it's full of witty lyrics.
Stavanger Toe Stub
Basically at this point the album is over but the tracklist lists 'Stavanger Toe Stub' complete with umlauts over the o, to give it that heavy metal feel, basically it's just a list of swear words that come out as a result of a toe stub.
Half Man Half Biscuit also cover a great variety of topics in their songs, a lot of people pass them off as a novelty act and whilst I can see their point, they are damn good songs both lyrically and musically. Gone are the cheeky tales of their beloved Tranmere Rovers, once great football teams like Dukla Prague (which ironically seem to be back in business once again) but the band still have a couple of songs with more than a mention of their favourite sport.
It takes a very strange person to play a Half Man Half Biscuit album with the frequency that a lot of people might play The Beatles or an Abba album but it's definitely not the kind of thing you only play once either. I tend to use their songs in English lessons, people look at me in a strange way. Due to the band's strange subject matter, it's not necessary easily to pit album against album but I think this is worth buying if you like the band.
Not my usual fare by any length of the imagination but I have a soft spot for The Shamen just as I do a lot of other early 90s music. The difference is that a lot of it was really naff (think Haddaway and Reel 2 Reel), the only two out of that dance or techno fuelled era that I still rate are The Shamen and Ini Kamoze. Back in 1992, I was 6 years old and I pretty much stipulated that I had the radio on to go to sleep. Strangely enough I found great comfort in the song Ebeneezer Goode and it used to send me to sleep whenever it was played.
The Shamen were an electronic dance band who started out as a psychedelic rock act in the mid 80s before ultimately penning dance hits like Ebeneezer Goode and LSI. This Aberdeen act the most successful album and the one I'm most familiar with is Boss Drum.
Boss Drum (album)
Boss Drum was an album whose cassette box constantly occupied the compartment in the driver's seat door of my father's car. This got played endlessly and when I begun to listen to it again, it took me down memory lane. No less than seven musicians took part in the making of this album but obviously the band borrowed rapper Mr. C for this album who was something of a focal point. Boss Drum, like The Shamen in general was known for its controversial lyrics, which perhaps even helped the band achieve success to some extent. Released in 1992, the band never quite managed to follow up on this album with the same level of success but it's a legendary album and I'm pretty shocked no one else has reviewed it.
Boss Drum (song)
The album starts with the title track, a spacey 6 minute track which starts with what sounds like a triangle, a didgeridoo and a synthesiser before bursting into a more colourful tune. The cool thing about this track is it's many layers and the way the two vocalists work alongside each other, Shamen possessed an outstanding ability to entwine catchy choruses into verses of shamanistic jargon!
You, activate the rhythm, the rhythm that has always been within.. You etc.
Let it connect you to the powers that be
With healing rhythmic synergy
Techno tribal and positively primal
Shamanic anarchistic archaic revival
Whilst Boss Drum is pretty accessible, it's still quite alternative and may only really appeal to a raver. L.S.I on the other hand, short for Love Sex Intelligence is perhaps about as poppy as the band gets. The vocals of Jhelissa Anderson, Mr. C and Colin Angus weave in and out of each other seemlessly. This is one hell of a catchy tune and it's little wonder that it reached the dizzy heights of 6th in the charts, 1st position of course was occupied by another Shamen song - Ebeneezer Goode and my wasn't that video scary!
Space Time is a hark back to the days when dance music was for tripping hippies who considered the use of electronic music far out. It's before it was commercial and over-produced and the lyrics reflect that.. it's like listening to a poem written by a drug induced riddler in a sci-fi film.
Librae Solidi Denari
Librae Solidi Denari somehow avoided the scrutiny of Ebeneezer Goode and other tracks with drug references but for me it's fairly obviously a nod to LSD rather than a look at the pre-decimal currencies. Devoid of the charming lyrics that have graced the album so far, this is a longer and more intense piece of electronic music for the ardent fan of the dance genre.
The band's most known track is based on the same formula of two vocalists, fast sung, almost rapped verses and the thumping chorus that caused so much controversy, we all know it. 'Eezer goode, eezer goode, he's Ebeneezer Goode' which obviously is 'E's are good, e's are good, these effin e's are good' itself an ode to ecstasy, the dance drug of the time. Personally I always admired the band for slipping the word geezer into a song. then there's those sadistic laughs that sort of sound like Johnny Rotten has bred with satan and spawned Shamen. There are various versions of the track, the one on the album is the Beatmasters Mix, the single had at least two alternate versions as I recall, one which was shorter and more suited to the radio, this one has a rather long intro.
Comin' On starts quite intensely, the bass line is quite thin but repetitive, in retrospect it has aged quite badly and sounds like the music to a handheld game, particularly a Chinese immitation version of Tetris. Of course, this can be overlooked because the mad ranting of 'Keep comin on you know we keep comin on' or 'Comin' on strong, we're comin' on strong' sounds like Mr.C has worked himself into a stupor and then in contrast there's somewhat smooth 'Hey hey yeah, With shamanic magic mystical music' which seems to adopt the same fraudulent Jamaican accent as Sting and the lead singer from Space occasionally did. Catchy but probably the 4th best song on the album.
An anthem back in the day, this was another one of the band's successful hits, reaching a lofty 5th in the charts, it's easy to see why. It's an uplifting song, full of positivity. Jhelissa Anderson's vocals are bright and cheery. It was released in January but it's a rather summery song.
At this point, the similarity in the tracks drum beats are starting to show, The Shamen make use of some sort of string effect (possibly harp) on the keyboard, it gives the track a slight eeriness or would do if it wasn't for the brash vocals which are representative of white people rapping before Eminem came along. In truth, this track is a little on the long side, the sections without vocals are not attention holding enough and the lyrics look like they've been written by a teenager during a lesson he doesn't like..
You know the Fat Man
Has got you on the crack
You can't move, screwed down
Real hard, with your face to the ground
Keeping You in the place that you came from
While the Fat Man spends your money on bombs
Scientas is an instrumental track, it's quite relaxed and loungeish considering the intense pace of the rest of the album. It's still a little psychedelic but it's the kind of music you might find in a shopping centre. If your constipated, it's ideal for listening to on the toilet whilst reading the chemical ingredients of an air freshener spray and brushing up on your Hungarian by reading the instructions.
Whilst the early section of the album has a focus on the more commercial side of the band, the latter is only really for true fanatics. Re: Evoution is the weirdest track on the album, it is rather academic, a speech of prominent American psychonaut and lecturer Terrence McKenna's read out about the man himself. One of McKenna's main topics was shamanism, to be honest I find his droll delivery a bit dull but the music that accompanies it is fairly interesting.
Towards the end of the album is a second version of Boss Drum, a slower and more cosmic version, ideal for the spaced out raver and most definitely the type that was played in the early hours of the morning in a club but not quite right for radio.
The album finishes off with Phorever Dub which is another instrumental piece, it's decent electronic music and at 3.54 it's quite palatable and rather chilled out. It's a different kettle of fish from the earlier tracks and might not appeal to everyone.
There's no doubt about it, Boss Drum is the classic Shamen album to have and despite the fact it has its fair share of hits, it doesn't completely sell out and there's something there for the true lover of electronic music as well. I never did quite get The Shamen's obsession for replacing F with Ph, they did it on an earlier album too, perhaps you'll resolve the mystery.
As some of you may know from my other reviews, I work in an English language school and we teach a lot of young kids. As a result of this, we have a lot of games in the school which are used to make lessons more interesting. My boss likes to buy everything in bulk and therefore he goes out and buys 20 or so games at once, some games are great, others less so and there's always a few that are just plain weird.
Black Stories is the creation of German, Holger Bosch. It's basically a stylish box of 50 cards and the Mystery Edition features the grim reaper on the cover. Each card features a riddle on one side and the answer on the other, to make things more interesting, the cards are illustrated in a simple but macabre way - somewhat similar to David Firth's Salad Finger or the work of Charlie Addams.
Flick through the cards and you'll most likely think, what a load of gibberish. The idea of the game is to guess the answer to the riddle but they are rather obscure and you will think it impossible. What's more the answer is usually numbingly cheesy, it's sort of like you are stuck in purgatory with nothing but christmas cracker jokes to keep you entertained.
The person whose job it is to work out the riddle is able to ask questions about the mystery which can only be answered by the riddler with a yes or no answer. Initially it may seem quite tricky but with practice, you'll learn to create a strategy of elimination which speeds it up. In our case, it's good for improving people's language abilities as they have to form questions in order to find out more about the case. Obviously as a native speaker, the game doesn't really have that angle but there's still a lot of benefits to it, in the form of creative thinking.
One thing I will say is be careful who you play it with, the game is geared at a 14+ crowd and some of the subjects are a bit bloody and morose. The game is best suited to imaginative teenagers who can concoct far-fetched ways of the myths occurring.
Just in case you can't visualise what I'm waffling on about, I will give you a sample card:
Entitled 'The Gunslinger' this card features a glamorous looking woman in a red dress leaning at the bar. There's also a man behind the bar.
'A woman goes into an empty pub and orders something to drink at the bar - whereupon the man behind the bar shoots her dead.'
The man behind the bar was in the act of rob. To avoid being identified to the police, he had to kill the only witness.
So obviously it won't appeal to everyone but there's a lot of horror loving kids who'll dig this, the trick is to take time over each card. If you give up to soon, it makes the game dull. The fun is in reconstructing the events.
When ordering from Amazon in order to qualify for Free Super Saver Delivery to Poland, I need to make up an order of £25, once I've purchased the items that I really want this often leaves me with a couple of quid to spare that I'd rather spend on something more interesting than postage.
I rather enjoyed Moone Boy and I also thought the film A Film With Me In It was really good, so I sought out an Irish film that was highly-rated and came across this family comedy that stars the now late Peter Poslethwaite who featured in such big name flicks as Jurassic Park, The Last of the Mohicans and more recently Inception.
The film centres on one family, the Flynns who live on a somewhat rough council estate in Dublin.
Hubert Flynn (Peter Poslethwaite) A good for nothing milkman who spends most of his time in the bookies or the pub, slurping Guinness.
Conchita Flynn (Imelda Staunton) A weary mum and wife who is run ragged by her drunken husband, she has become a bit of a battle axe.
Pius Flynn (Andrew Lovern) Hubert and Conchita's son, a whiter than white choir boy that wants to become a priest.
Marietta Flynn (Kerry Condon) The couple's daughter, a daddy's girl who stands by his side regardless of his misdemeanours.
There are then a handful of characters on the edge of the film, the encyclopaedic Uncle Matt (Frank Kelly), Daisy (Veronica Duffy) a flirtatious neighbour who claims to have been Hubert's first love, Phelim Spratt (David Wilmot) a sneaky journalist with bad intentions who offers to write the family's story.
Without any spoken line, the character that is the cause for a lot of laughs is in fact a white rat with a distinctively cute face!
The film begins with the introduction:
"Seventy years ago, me grandfather, Hubert Flynn Foster, set out from his home in the County Wexford, and joining north over the hills and valleys of Whitlock, until he came to Dublin City." "I remember once, when I was a chiseler, he caught me whittlin' up against the wall. And he told me if I behaved like a dog, I might turn into a dog. And then he was off on one of his old yarns about people he knew that turned into goats and weasels. Of course we ran afoul, he said, of more than his prayers. But sometimes, in and among the ramblings, there'd be a grain of truth."
So when Hubert comes in one night, sauced like a rat.. it's little surprise that the family wake up to find that he has in fact turned into a rat. The core of the plot relates to how they treat him, what they are going to do with him and if they can find a way to transform him back into a human. Without revealing too many details, it's safe to say that they all have different ideas and the little rat has a plan of his own too. There are lots of great lines, particularly from Uncle Matt whose knowledgable responses are full of mirth. The characters are highly convincing and even the little rat seems to have the correct facial expressions! The film is set in the late 70s/early 80s, so despite the fact it was released about 12 years ago, it hasn't really aged.
Supposedly Bob Geldof worked on the soundtrack, it's been a while since I watched it and I can't recall too much about the soundtrack other than there's at least one Joe Dolan number which is a real sing-a-long, so much so that I ended up getting an album after watching the film!
There are several surreal aspects of the film, least not that a man has transformed into a rat. Perhaps even more stranger though is the fact that the family don't seem to be particularly surprised by this and can be seen sitting the rat at a dinner table with a bib on! What's more, none of his pals down the pub seem to care and the rat has maintained his love of Guinness as you can see from the DVD's cover. Towards the end of the film, there are several surprise moments, one featuring an exorcism
There's nothing in the way of extras and the subtitle is limited to English (hard of hearing), so it's not going to be much of a winner
IMDB rates it at 5.1%, which I feel is really on the low side. Rat is full of silly Irish humour and if you like Father Ted, you'll surely enjoy this. It really has a lot to offer, the music is good, it's funny and it's also a bit emotional, it's definitely the kind of film my mum would cry whilst watching! It's a low budget film which I believe was made for TV originally but the script is fantastic and there's no need for expensive effects in a film like this. I've given this 5/5 because I can't see any faults whatsoever and I've been heavily promoting the film amongst family and friends. It's well worth the £4 on Amazon.
This is my first venture into the world of game reviews. Typically I was never a big lover of board games, as a kid I liked the entrepreneurial aspect of Monopoly and I was partial to a jigsaw puzzle but I didn't care much for strategy games and had generally given board games a wide berth until I began working at an English language school where we play a lot of games in English with young children. Some of the games were a bit tedious but others were fantastic and the end of the lesson was not only disappointing for the children but also for me!
Ticket to Ride is a game that really brought out the kid in me, in fact if I was aware of its existence, if it indeed existed as a kid, I'm sure I would have driven my parents up the wall by wanting to play it constantly. If your kids are interested in trains, travel or geography then this is a must have game.
Ticket to Ride is a so-called German styled board game which means that it keeps all the players in the game for as long as possible, if not right up until the end (as is the case here), this kind of game is ideal in a school environment because it doesn't mean that any of the children need to sit out.
It's quite simple to setup, basically you have a board, two piles of cards, lots of little train carriages and some coloured wooden pieces that you move around the board which is numbered. The first to reach a 100 wins. A game typically lasts about 30 minutes but I have on numerous occasions played on, meaning that we do a second or even third lap of the board.
Players are dealt 3 'destination cards' and 5 'train cards', the idea being that you need to connect trains between the destinations on your destination cards. It's not as straight forward as that though because the spaces to put the carriages between the destinations are given a colour and in order to complete the route between two stations, you need to have the same coloured train cards as the spaces on the board. To make it a little bit easier, there's a multi-colour card which acts a bit like a jester and there are also clear coloured carriage spaces on the board that you can make a colour of your choice.
There are many other versions, including Europe, India, Asia and other parts of the world. I've never played the others, so can't compare but I thoroughly enjoy playing this North American version which generally features the USA but also a handful of places in Canada like Vancouver, Winnipeg, Saul Ste Marie and Montreal. This game is really addictive because of the fact that your rival is usually within a whisker of where you are. The game is a bit on the dear side, so if you're not flushed you may be better off looking for a second-hand version of the game but make sure that all the cards are there, or you'll need to recreate some of them which will likely be less impressive than the stylish designs usually on offer.
After reading quite a heavy book in the form of Alan Lomax's biography, I opted for something much lighter. Despite being an avid footie fan, I've never read much in the way of football biographies, rather than picking out one of the pampered players of today, I decided to go for a cheap second hand copy of Stuart Pearce's biography which takes on the title of his nickname 'Psycho'.
I felt Pearce losing his job as England U21 coach, a tad unfair - admittedly his reign has not been sprinkled with success but the players have really let him down. He's a good coach and a very grounded guy with principals. As a player, I recall him fearless in the tackle and a real tough cookie, he was a hard man for his size. I remember the back end of his days as a Forest player, as well as his Newcastle, West Ham and Man City years but a lot of the earlier stuff was all new to me.
Pearce is not really the mentalist that people make out, he was in fact a very professional player and if you're expecting wild stories you might find in the biographies of Adams, Merson and Gazza, you won't find that sort of stuff here. Although some of the other player's antics do get a little bit of a mention and we get to hear about Pearce's thoughts on them.
The book is well written, it flows nicely and each chapter is engaging, I'm the kind of guy who can usually only fit in around 30 mins of reading before I go to sleep or occasionally on the bus and the chapters are about the right size. I was fortunate enough to be on holiday while I read some of this book and have to say it's a bit of a page-turner, so much so that I forgot to put sun block on and ended up getting badly sun burned!
The book was penned about 11 years ago, so you won't find out anything about his days as Man City manager or inclusion in the England setup but he does make some interesting predictions such as: that Carrick will be more successful Cole. It starts with his school boy years and brushes with the law, then goes on to cover his early days as a non-league player at Wealdstone, his move to Coventry and days at Forest, his relationship with Clough and the downfall of his beloved club. We can read about his family life, his wife, his horses, his troubles at Newcastle with Ruud Gullit but one of the things that comes through the most is his love for playing for England, his opinions on the England managers and his pride in playing for his country 78 times. He talks about how he felt after missing penalties and his admiration for the Germans, who did not rub his nose in it.
Psycho is an interesting book that's easy to read, he's not the most exciting individual but he's done a lot and comes across as a thoroughly nice guy, if you're looking for some light reading, give this a go.
As a teenager, I had pretty much every Alice Cooper album up to Dragontown and I played them endlessly. When he released his latest album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, a follow up to the 1975 classic, the shock rocker took me by surprise as he created an album I didn't actually like a great deal. I live and work in Poland and when he visited for just the 2nd time in sixteen years, I decided to drive the 500km to the town where he was performing at the Rock Legends Festival. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made, the Coop performed a catalogue of classics intertwined with some of his more modern tracks and served it with a great dose of theatrical display. The concert quickly whet my appetite for more Cooper concerts and once I was done with watching Youtube clips of the concert I'd been to, I set out in search of some older DVDs.
If you listen to some fans they'll have you believe that Alice Cooper wound up his career with his ninth release 'Goes to Hell', way back in 1976. That's trash, there have been many creative spells since and one of his heaviest and innovative was the 1999 album Brutal Planet. The Brutally Live tour incorporates some of his older classics but it's main role was to promote the Brutal Planet album, so there's a healthy portion of tracks from that album but the tracks he chooses to play alongside it are imaginative choices to say the least and quite often tracks which rarely make an appearance live. therefore it's definitely worth watching.
Alice Cooper acquires different musicians for different albums and on the Brutally Live tour there was:
Teddy Zigzag Andreadis on keyboards - The long term Guns N Roses associate and flamboyantly hairy pimpish keyboard player plays the keyboards with a great panache. This guy is quite a showman in his own right.
Ryan Roxie - Roxie rejoined Alice Cooper recently, back in 2000 he looked quite a bit different, sporting some mop like dread locks but really laying down the solos when in need.
Pete Freezin' - Long term Cooper live guitarist who also appeared on the Hey Stoopid and Trash tours, as well as in Wayne's World.
Eric Singer - Of Kiss fame, Singer is one of the best rock drummers there is out there and it's not surprising that Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath have chosen to tour with him. Back in 2000, Singer was at his peak and he does an amazing drum solo with his drum sticks on fire during this concert.
Oh and of course there's Alice himself.. physically he seems to be in much better shape than when we saw him, he was a little slimmer but then weren't we all in 1999 (well apart from Vanessa Phelps). Towards the end of the concert, he says.. 'Let's see what I've got left' and bursts into a show of starjumping! His voice is a bit more hoarse than usual and it does sound like it's come off the back of a gruelling tour.
The concert is at Hammersmith Apollo and was filmed in July 2000. When I first watched it, I didn't no where it was filmed and I said to my wife that it was probably the US because there seemed to be a lot of fatties in the crowd. When The Coop started talking about London, it was clear that my racist assumption had backfired! Anyway the crowd seemed a bit stagnant at the beginning, a bit like a TOTP crowd from back in the day. Having seen the Coop live, I think I can understand why, there's just so much going on on the stage that you are in awe and just gawp at the stage like you've had your brain removed. Towards the end, they loosen up and are as good as any other crowd.
Props and Non Musician Characters
Alice is known for his use of props, some of them are standards but he usually surprises the crowd with his use of new kitsch toys to play with, it's also interesting to see how we will use them because it varies from show to show depending on the order in which certain songs have been played. In the case of Brutally Live, the show is introduced by a weird robotic demon who claims to be the only survivor of the brutal planet, facially he looks a bit like Dio. This superhuman being warns the audience to leave while they still have a chance.
The stage is littered with skulls and the early scenes feature a leather-clad lady with whips, it is in fact Alice Cooper's daughter, who has started to make a bit of a name for herself in the film industry but for a long time was a part of his shows.
There's the usual supply of cains and swords, as well as the crutches brought out for "I'm Eighteen", as is generally present on his concerts.. he's stuck in a straight white vest for 'Ballad of Dwight Fry', only to break out, murder a nurse and be captured and then decapitated. The decapitation on Brutally Live is slightly bloodier than usual.
Alice plays 'Dead Babies' and this show does as good a rendition of it as I've ever seen, the whole performance from picking up the baby from it's pink US 50s style pram lettered Betty and rocking it gently, to revealing it's horrible features and then attacking it, is shocking even today.
Brutal Planet and Wicked Young Man do not possess any particularly impressive props but Pick Up The Bones, a very underrated song comes with a fantastic performance by Alice Cooper, who looks at bones in a bag and tries to piece them back together again. By far the best acting of the concert and a performance you should check out even if you decide not to see the whole concert.
Alice has an amazing array of costumes, some under each other and sometimes the sleeves fall off to reveal new costumes, it's all done very quickly and it's part of the fun. School's Out has the usual giant balloons, bell rings and then the band finish off by playing Elected, the stage is trashed by puppets of politicians, including Bill Clinton who was wandering round in his boxer shorts. The politicians and band members begin wrestling and the stage is a complete mess at the end. This is an Alice Cooper trademark and it usually occurs after one encore, it's a clever way of preventing the crowd for asking more, the finale being so impressive that there's no doubt who runs the show.
There's a handful of tracks that make it on to pretty much every concert - Poison, Feed My Frankenstein, Under My Wheels, Billion Dollar Babies, Ballad of Dwight Fry, No More Mr. Nice Guy, I Love the Dead and School's Out. If you're a fan, you'll definitely be familiar with them.
Tracks that might not be so known to you are It's Hot Tonight. Taken off Lace and Whiskey back in 1977, it's a really odd choice to play live, perhaps it was hot at the time, perhaps it was an excuse to take off his layers of clothes he'd been wearing. Whatever the reason, it's a good track, a real sleazy little rock 'n' roll number.
Then there's It's The Little Things which Alice bursts into after taunting the fans by saying that he woke up with a head ache, an ear ache and tooth ache and that's alright. That someone in the front row has been spitting at him all night and that's ok but there's a guy wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt in the crowd and it's the little things that drives him wild. It's The Little Things again is a sort of classic rock track with really funny lyrics and it's unusual to find him playing it live.
Caught in a Dream is a hippyish track, a real throw back to the band's early career. Written by Michael Bruce, it's taken from the album Love it to Death. It's such a strange contrast from the earlier material in the show but in a weird and wonderful way it somehow still fits together, thanks to the songs either side of it and The Coop's use of various outfits in an attempt to move from scene to scene.
You Drive Me Nervous - Another old number, Alice clearly thinking that the British crowd would appreciate the early classics as opposed to the 80s hair metal stuff, this is from the Killer album way back in 1971, which of course is an album that Johnny Rotten labelled the best ever rock album. The singing is rather quick and I feel that Alice could do a better job if his voice was in better shape than on this concert.
The concert features Brutal Planet, Gimme, Blow Me A Kiss, Wicked Young Man, Pick Up the Bones and Take It Like A Woman from the album Brutal Planet. The first 5 are heavy tracks but the live concert version tends to accentuate the keyboard playing, perhaps because of Andreadis' prowess. Take It Like A Woman is a softer ballad and like Dead Babies and Only Women Bleed, it's a great argument against critics who say Alice cant sing. Not only are they sang like a choir boy but the lyrics are very deep and meaningful too.
The Black Widow gets a little run out and as is often the case, it's the song in which Alice disappears to change clothes whilst the other band members show off their skills by playing some solos. Perhaps because it's in London, the band play The Who's My Generation. Cooper was a great friend of Keith Moon's and is always keen to pay tribute to him, it's only a short run out the song gets though.
Once again and as was the case in the concert I saw, Alice Cooper oozes stage presence, he orchestrates the band around him in a tongue in cheek nasty way, either whipping at their heels or prodding them with his crutches. He's not quite as playful or generous with the crowd as he was one when I saw him (they throw a lot of their props and equipment into the crowd for people to take as souvenirs) but he's pretty witty when he does talk to the fans and he does it in this old, sarcastic way like a sort of predecessor to Jack Sparrow.
There's not a lot in the way of extras and there's not a lot more you really need either but you do get a couple of music videos including Gimme which is really hard to come by. The music videos are equally fun but obviously more polished and nothing really beats a live band.
If you like Alice Cooper then I definitely recommend watching this DVD. If you're a beginner to the band then some of the scenes may be a little too much and you might want to start on something a little softer but then again why listen to shock rock if it's treacle you want. The man has such a repertoire that it's difficult to compare to other albums, it's certainly one of the better performances though (the worst being in the late 70s generally)
This concert and the one that I saw live have really got me glued on to concert DVDs and I think that there will be many reviews to follow.
I was under the impression that my days of listening to new thrash metal bands were well and truly over, having settled for an interest in softer psychedelic rock, doom metal and the like. However, having heard 'Face the Evil' by a fairly new on the scene Belgian act called Bliksem, I must confess, I've had a little relapse. Around 2008-2010 there were numerous bands playing what was essentially a worse version of bands like Flotsam and Jetsam. Bliksem really are as good as any of the original thrash come speed metallers. Bliksem means lightning in Dutch (as well as tonnes of insults in Afrikaans)
Bliksem differ from the rest of the pack in numerous ways, they have a female singer, their songs are relatively short and their just as comfortable at Roadburn Festival alongside acts like Electric Wizard, High on Fire, Goat as they are alongside Alestorm, Arkona or other more mainstream acts.
The album begins with a slow oriental intro before zooming off into a guitar frenzy that wakes up the listener, just when you've acclimatised to the fast-paced solos, a husky female vocalist begins singing in a manner slightly resembling Phil Anselmo taking up a role as an evil tooth fairy. 'The Life on Which I Feed' is one of those strong sounding parasitic tracks with lyrics like:
I only want to see you suffer
I only want to see you bleed
The only thing that you could offer me
Is the life on which I feed
It's not exactly amazingly new content but the husky succubus vocals makes it work.
Tales of Tragedy is a slower track, less guitars, more echo on the vocals and a lot of the lyrics seem to be drawn out, it's after all supposed to be tragic I guess. Whilst listening to this track it occurred to me that despite the band being firmly grounded in thrash metal, there's a slight hint of Ace of Bass catchiness about the choruses. Maybe it's the Flemish connection, they are after all Belgians.
The title track, Face the Evil has all the right riffs, a great chorus, brilliant drumming and long winy solos just when necessary - it's like turning back the clock to thrash's hey day, some people might say it's a step back - playing the same music as 20 years ago, today but it's what fans want to hear. We don't want any diluted nu-metal forms.
Disciples is an in-your-face and quick track, it's good enough but it does seem to be a little bit longer than necessary. It seems done and dusted by the time you get to the two minute mark and then it seems to go for it all over again by which time the drum beat gets a bit old. One of the weaker tracks on the album.
Dead End Road begins with a classic NWOBHM style riff full of suspense, gradually introducing a little more instrument each time before vocalist Peggy Meussen comes in with her commanding vocals. At times it seems like she's not trying at all, particularly when she comes in after a long solo, an extremely talented singer. The last 3 minutes are generally filled with some of the best guitar playing of the album, showing that the boys are not just there to fill the gaps.
Insanity's Curse is one of the album's most liked songs - I have to say that it's quite a bog standard thrash number and whilst everything is in place, musically and vocally it's faultless, it doesn't seem to have much of it's own feel. When listening to the lyrics, the content is actually quite interesting but this isn't apparent for the first few listens.
This Time doesn't mess around with getting to the point, one of the first things that hits you are the words 'This Time' belted out by lung burster Peggy, the track could do with being a little tighter, as there are a couple of moments in the mid section where it seems to lack direction in an instrumental sense, the drumming on this track is just a little too neanderthal, although it's partly saved by some great drum rolls near the end that is followed up with by a killer guitar solo.
Mr Man that starts with the lyrics "Hey Mr Man, I don't need you anymore" before progressing into a more dramatic affair, with the lead singer lamenting about her failed relationship with said male. She really rips out her vocal chords on this one and I like to think of this angry fit as a grown man in baby clothes discarding his set of Mr Man stories, I think such a video really would be fitting.
If you like thrash, you need to buy this album. It's one of the better albums to have made an appearance on the market in the last few years.