Monday, 31 December 2007

Film Review: I Am Legend

Watching I Am Legend made me consider this: if I was the last man on Earth, Will Smith would be dead.

This thought proved only a brief distraction before I remembered that I’d dropped seven quid to watch an infinitely inferior re-telling of Richard Matheson’s iconic novel.

Not that I should’ve expected much. Writer/producer Akiva Goldsman was responsible for clunkers like Batman & Robin, The Da Vinci Code and Lost In Space, and director Francis Lawrence’s best work includes the videos for Avril Lavigne’s Sk8ter Boi and Britney’s I Am Slave 4 U.

While it’s a bit of a stretch to believe Big Willie Style as a top-ranking solider, a world-renowned scientist AND the only person in New York immune to the virus, Smith is much better than might be expected. In fact, the first half of the film is utterly enjoyable. Smith portrays Robert Neville perfectly: as a desperately lonely man driven to the edge of madness by his inability to accept his fate.

It’s Neville’s strict routine – as seen in the trailers – that is the only thing keeping him from going totally bonkers. When that routine is broken – in one of the movie’s stand-out scenes – his mind finally unravels and he is revealed as the frightened and hateful character from Matheson’s novel.

It’s in the third act, when Big Willie is joined by City Of God’s Alice Braga that the film collapses in a sickly puddle of saccharine moralising and cloying theology; Smith riffs on Bob Marley’s desire to heal humanity via rhythms and lyrics, the mutants – loud, hairless, mucousy CGI abominations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Berlin techno club – become annoyingly visible, while the messianic overtures around Neville build to uncomfortable levels.

Product placement opportunities aside – the last man on Earth would only ever drive cars made by Ford, apparently – it’s hard to see the point of remaking I Am Legend. The 1964 Vincent Price version of the film is vastly superior and actually delivers on the crux of the novel: that man becomes monster.

If they’d replaced the dog with Carlton Banks, and Alice Braga and her son with Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil, it would’ve been a great movie.

But they didn’t, so it’s not.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Bikes with serious soundsystems

The New York Times just ran a piece on dudes who put sick speaker systems on their bikes.


Thursday, 27 December 2007

Empty teacup ride

This makes me so sad.

Kid trained to give evil eye

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The best albums of 2007

25. Alasdair Roberts - The Amber Gatherers
Alasdair Roberts may have started using electronic instruments but he's not allowing anything remotely modern to permeate his music. Traditional and, indeed, anachronistic, The Amber Gatherers is the album of the year in 1822.

Best track – I Had A Kiss Of The King's Hand

24. Dan Deacon – Spiderman Of The Rings
Dan Deacon's silliness might alienate many, but Spiderman Of The Rings is a joyous, happy and fearless album.

Best track – Snake Mistakes

23. Radiohead – In Rainbows
It broke more ground commercially than it did musically, but In Rainbows was still another wonderful album from Radiohead. Gentler, prettier and, dare I say, happier than ever, Radiohead sound more relaxed than they ever have on In Rainbows.

Best track - Reckoner

22. Bill Callahan - Woke On A Whaleheart
Having ditched the Smog and (smog) monikers, Callahan no longer feels as enigmatic. The dispassionate delivery is still there but Woke On A Whaleheart snatches at the same painful honesty we haven't seen from him since The Doctor Came At Dawn.

Best track - Sycamore

21. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
While it's a bit too wilfully pretentious to be the triumph many think it is, Sound Of Silver is a rowdy and touching consolidation of dance and rock.

Best track – All My Friends

20. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Good news for people who loved Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Isaac Brock and his band didn't break new ground but they improved on the dancey guitar pop of their 2004 highlight.

Best track - Dashboard

19. Jay-Z – American Gangster
Yeah, so Jigga's retirement didn't last that long after all. His comeback LP was a soul-saturated rap experience that recalled his first Blueprint album. Time will tell if it's a one-off or whether American Gangster marks the start of the second-half of Jay-Z's career.

Best track – Ignorant Shit

18. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
An extraordinary record that laughs and dances in the face of it's actually pretty depressing subject matter.

Best track - Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse

17. Jeffrey Lewis – 12 Crass Songs
Jeff Lewis covering Crass actually make sense. His witty anti-folk tunes have consistently masked a blunt wit and angry idealism that Crass would be proud of. Played with Lewis' upbeat melodies, many of Crass' songs are unrecognisable from the originals. It's fun but thought-provoking stuff.

Best track – I Ain't Thick

16. Dinosaur Jr – Beyond
An ass-kicking return from J Mascis and Lou Barlow that both recaptures their previous brilliance and succeeds on its own fuzzed-out merits.

Best track – Almost Ready

15. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
A highly danceable and bewilderingly confident debut that captures the unbridled excess of hipster parties better than most.

Best track - Kids

14. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
There's nothing that quite matches the spiritual stomp of Funeral but Neon Bible is another unflaggingly passionate and ambitious album from one of the world's great bands.

Best track – Keep The Car Running

13. Grinderman – Grinderman
If every track had been as good as the first two, it would've been the album of the year at a canter. Nevertheless, Grinderman marked a scorching and raw return to Nick Cave's fire and brimstone roots.

Best track – No Pussy Blues

12. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
Just as brash and noisy as the rest of the catalogue and just over-indulgent enough, Jack and Meg have made the most peculiar and beguiling record of their decade-long careers.

Best track – Catch Hell Blues

11. Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams
Ghostface and Raekwon are wrong. 8 Diagrams is sprawling, dense, deranged and the most interesting album the Wu-Tang Clan have made. It's not quite their best but it's certainly not to be dismissed as the work of a hip hop hippie either.

Best track – Rushing Elephants

10. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Just like his work with Animal Collective, Noah Lennox's third solo album is simultaneously poppy and abstract. As warm and trippy as anything he's ever recorded with his band.

Best track – Take Pills

9. M.I.A. – Kala
Another genuinely thrilling album from M.I.A. that lifts samples from artists as diverse as Jonathan Richman and Wreckx-N-Effect. Even more daring and adventurous than the outstanding Arular, Kala is a quite brilliant cross-cultural jam.

Best track – Paper Planes

8. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Or how Animal Collective finally added catchy pop to their love of the abstract. Strawberry Jam is easily their greatest album and one of the highlights of the year.

Best track - Chores

7. The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
So this is what it would've sounded like if Ride recorded a minimal techno record. From Here We Go Sublime is a truly idyllic record that will surely light up the life of all but the most miserable bastard.

Best track - Everday

6. Justice – †
Funky, rough-edged and over-driven in all the right places, Justice's debut is an absolutely killer party record. One of the most perfectly sequenced dance records you'll ever hear. The world is theirs for the taking.

Best track – Genesis

5. Battles – Mirrored
Not just to be admired by chin-stroking prog fans but a genuine answer to the question of where modern music has to go next. And it's absolutely fucking bananas to boot.

Best track - Atlas

4. Pekos / Yoro Diallo – Pekos / Yoro Diallo
Recorded to cassette on the streets of a Bougouni market, Pekos and Yoro Diallo are two Malian musicians who made one of the most hypnotic, joyful and beautiful albums of the year. I beg you all, give this album a chance.

Best track – Untitled 1

3. The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour
John Sampson is one of the few songwriters capable of making me feel sad and happy at the same time with the same lyrics. He's also proved on Reunion Tour that he's one of the great observers of human behaviour.

Best track – Reunion Tour

2. The National – Boxer
The National followed 2005's masterpiece Alligator with another truly monumental record. Like its predecessor, Boxer is restrained, grounded but totally self-assured. After just one listen you can't help but wonder why all bands can't sound like this.

Best track – Slow Show

1. Les Savy Fav – Let's Stay Friends
After a six-year hiatus from recording, Les Savy Fav have finally made an album to match the frenetic energy of their live shows. Stratospheric rock nestles alongside furious post-hardcore and tight rhythms back Tim Harrington's loose lyrics. Startling and propulsive, Let's Stay Friends is absolute proof positive that nobody rocks the party like these dudes.

Best track – Patty Lee

Friday, 14 December 2007

Derby County vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"The one question mark over the win over Arsenal was the substitution - his second in as many games - of Jonathan Woodgate. He didn't look altogether happy on Sunday and, to be fair, he'd had his best game of the season.

This has led know-nothings like TotT to wonder whether Mr Gareth is merely bringing Huuuuuttthhhh back to fitness slowly by giving our injury-prone vice-captain a breather, or whether something more sinister is afoot.

By the time the next Tale of the Tape appears sometime in January, you may have received your answer, and Claude Davis may have received the Optimus Prime voice changer he put on his Christmas list."


Derbyshizzle Rams vs. Middlesbizzle

After a no-show last week, I feared this may have died off, but Snoop's back this week with another Previzzle.

"Shit, I just seen the coach of the other team is called Paul Jewell, but that fat motherfucker ain’t got no bling. My main nigga Southgizzle might rock sweater vests, but he’s like Magic Don Juan compared to this chubby motherfucker. Middlesbrough gonna tear off these motherfuckers like the world class wreckin’ crew, three points to one."


Thursday, 13 December 2007 Man of the Year Awards 2007 part II have just unveiled their 2007 Man of the Year.

Pretty interesting and totally deserved choice, I think.


Wednesday, 12 December 2007

German downs 2 litres of vodka at airport

New rules about how much liquid you can carry on to a plane are a nuisance, but a German man found them especially frustrating.

"The incident occurred at the Nuremberg airport on Tuesday, where the 64-year-old man was switching planes on his way home to Dresden from a holiday in Egypt. New airport rules prohibit passengers from carrying larger quantities of liquid onto planes, and he was told at a security check he would have to either throw out the bottle of vodka or pay a fee to have his carry-on bag checked as cargo. Instead, he chugged the bottle down — and was quickly unable to stand or otherwise function, police said."


Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Spend 46 minutes eating a Big Mac and get fined

McDonald's have been registration plate cameras in their drive-thru car parks to see how long people eat for.

If you spend longer than 45 minutes guzzling your Big Mac, a fine is sent to you house automatically, charging for £125 (25-ish meals at Maccie Ds) and if you don't pay, the just keeps rising.

"One motorist, Jamie Thomson, told the Guardian of his experience at a McDonald's near Gatwick: "I ordered a burger, chips, a doughnut, coke and coffee. I sat in my car eating my lunch, and listening to the radio. After eating, I continued to sip my coffee for a time, and ate my doughnut. Then I left. All perfectly normal." He says he was in his car for about an hour.

Several weeks later, he received a letter from Civil Enforcement demanding £125, or £75 if the charge was paid quickly. At first Thomson, a businessman from Sussex, did not even realise that he was being charged for spending too long at McDonald's, as the notice gave only a partial address."

Link Man of the Year Awards 2007

The Man of the Year Awards have just been published. Well, the first half anyway.

After last year's Massimo Maccarone shoo-in, this year's winner will be a bigger surprise.

The second half will go up later this week.


Friday, 7 December 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, RIP

Avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died aged 79.

He influenced everyone from The Beatles to Sonic Youth. The world of music is a poorer place for his passing.

Link to the Guardian's obituary

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Chad "Pimp C" Butler dies aged 33

Pimp C - one half of Texan rap group UGK - has been found dead at the Hollywood Inn aged 33.

It is unclear at the moment how Butler died but, coming just three days after UGK performed with Too Short at the House of Blues in LA, it does seem incredibly suspicious.

Track down this year's Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You) to understand why this is such a loss to hip hop.

Obituary on

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Electric eel powers Christmas tree

An electric eel at the Squa Toto Gifu aquarium in Japan is powering the lights on a Christmas tree.

When the eel brushes up against a copper electrode in the tank, the current is conducted to the Christmas tree lights.

Full story here

Monday, 3 December 2007

Lee can leave - What Do You Think?

Obviously I'm saddened by this news. He's obviously a bit shit, but it must be incredibly hard for a player to move to a foreign area with little or no understanding of the language or culture.

I'll miss the lug.

I suspect Red Eye's panel will miss their go-to guy as well.


Friday, 30 November 2007

Reading vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"Skippy fancied a Christmas down under and conveniently broke his thumb in training this week, ruling him out until the New Year. It's not that we don't believe that he's really injured but let's just say we'll be peaking through his curtains on Christmas Day to see if he manages to carve the turkey.

Speaking of, not really. Turnbull looks a decent keeper but we're marking him down for not reciprocating any of the pokes we've given him on Facebook."


Berkshizzle vs. Middlesbizzle

The latest in the series of Bigg Match Previzzles has been published.

"Game done changed on the field, yo. My nigga Gareth Southgizzle is fiendin’ yo, and his team, like my bitchez, ain’t shit. But, big Snoop just heard that my Latino nigga, Julio Arca, is back. Dat be some good news, because that Puerto Rican motherfucker is fresh like a mink coat and aligator shoes."

I can't get enough of this column.


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Monday, 26 November 2007

Boro linked with Ameobi - What Do You Think?

Even the names are works of art this time. Red Eye just gets better and better.

As for Ameobi.... really, Gareth? Really?


Sunday, 25 November 2007

Disneyland sign generator

Make your own Disneyland sign here.

Fun for five minutes but makes me miss the sadly-departed sign.


Friday, 23 November 2007

Middlesbrough vs Aston Villa: Tale of the Tape

"Looky looky, Boro have recalled Watford's Man of the Match Adam Johnson and...what's this.Mr Gareth will whack him straight on the right-wing?

Now, since we got banned from the Riverside dressing room for peaking up James Morrison's shorts, TotT has no real way of knowing whether Gareth's teamsheet will look like this.

We do know that despite receiving some shoddy treatment from a few Boro fans, Stewart Downing ain't getting dropped and Gary O'Neil might just be the man to drive Boro forward from central-midfield.

Like Adam Johnson, Stilian Petrov, despite kicking ass in a weak league, has actually done nothing of note in the Premiership, which TotT takes as a sure sign Southgate will attempt to sign him in January."


Middlesbizzle vs. Aston Vizzle

'Snoop Dogg' has published another Bigg Match Previzzle.

"Gareth'll have his flyest blue Donna Karan suit on to show his love for the Crips, and I just know that my dogg is gonna hand Adam Johnson a starter's jersey. Shorty will run buck wild on Martin O'Nizzle's motherfuckers, Southgizzle just gotta give his young ass a chance to hustle."

This stuff is pretty hilarious.


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Unsubscribe Me

As part of Amnesty International's Unsubscribe Me campaign they've released an incredibly moving and disturbing video reenacting the CIA-approved 'stress position'.

In order to make the video, the directors put the actor into a stress position for six hours - the pain and anguish are real.


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Real sign at Walt Disney World

The Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at Disney World lets you text in jokes that will be used during the show.

Apparently that requires this inane disclaimer.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Academy player trial begins - What Do You Think?

The panel focus on the trial of academy player Lewis Walker this week.

Not a vintage week, but some pretty good stuff, as ever.


Sunday, 18 November 2007

Video game-themed half time show

Captain Awareness

Ethan Persoff archives "comics with problems."

Captain Awareness is my favourite.


Psycho Potato

Monday, 12 November 2007

Gibson considered German boss - What Do You Think?

Donette Craig brings teh funny this week.

Who was it though? Ottmar Hitzfeld is my guess.


Saturday, 10 November 2007


Nadshot is a blog devoted to compiling comic book panels of punches and kicks to the cock.


Mafia ten commandments

When Italian police searched the house of Mafia boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo, they discovered the Mafia's ten commandments.

1. No-one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.

2. Never look at the wives of friends.

3. Never be seen with cops.

4. Don’t go to pubs and clubs.

5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife’s about to give birth.

6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.

7. Wives must be treated with respect.

8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.

9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.

10. People who can’t be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn’t hold to moral values.


Friday, 9 November 2007

Go Jeff!

Bolton Wanderers vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"Since being banned from driving, Taylor has being staying over at his mate Lee Cattermole's house because it's closer to the training ground. This makes them the Bert and Ernie of Boro.

Except they don't share a bed. Obviously.

Despite being a grown man, Ricardo Gardner descends into fits of girlish giggles whenever he plays with a Tickle Me Elmo."


Da Bigg Match Previzzle

Someone (I couldn't possibly say who) has published a preview of Middlesbrough's match with Bolton in the style of Snoop Dogg.

"The Rolly on my arm tells me it’s time for Mizzlebizzle to score some motherfucking goals and that my nigga Southgate’ll be sipping 40s and popping Chandon on Saturday night."

It made me giggle, fo sho'.


Monday, 5 November 2007

South Korea ban Dong Gook - What Do You Think?

Following the unlikely news that Lee Dong Gook has been banned from the South Korea national team after a boozy night in a hostess bar, the Boro Six give their verdict.

A killer week for Red Eye's panel.


Saturday, 3 November 2007

Jeff Winter show

I'm going to be on the Jeff Winter Football Phone In tonight around 6:00pm to talk about Boro's home game against Spurs, the transfer window and the general mire that Boro currently find themselves in.

Jeff's show starts at 5:30pm and runs until 7pm. If you're on Teesside, you can pick it up at 96.6FM, or you can listen via the TFM website or on DAB digital.


Friday, 2 November 2007

Middlesbrough vs Tottenham Hotspur: Tale of the Tape

"Animal lover Dawson dreads firework night. Three years ago some horrible oiks strapped a bottle rocket to the back of his beloved European Shorthair cat, Pickles, and last year his pet badger, Felix, crawled into his neighbour's bonfire and was duly incinerated.

The only animals David Wheater likes are the ones on his plate."


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Film Review: 30 Days Of Night

After the shitfests that were Underworld, Rise, Nightwatch and Van Helsing, there's clearly room for a decent vampire movie, and as an adaptation of an enjoyable comic book series, with a promising trailer, production by Sam Raimi and direction by David Slade, I had high hopes for 30 Days Of Night.

The premise is, after all, quite interesting. In Barrow, Alaska the sun doesn't rise or set for 30 days, an annual occurrence that causes most of the population to head elsewhere for a month. The 152 people who remain clearly don't fear Seasonal Adjustment Disorder, but they soon end up fearing the horde of vampires who descend upon the town.

Okay, so the whole thing is a rip-off of a 1994 episode of Tales From The Crypt, but that wouldn't really matter if the entire picture weren't riddled with ridiculous flaws. Early on, we're introduced to The Stranger (played by Ben Foster), who paves the way for the vampires' arrival by burning the town's mobile phones, destroying a helicopter motor and slaughtering sled dogs. "Oh God, now the population are totally trapped and have no way of communicating with the outside world," you might think. But, just minutes later, Josh Hartnett's character, local Sherriff Eben Oleson, takes a call on his Nokia from Melissa George (Fire Marshall and Eben's estranged wife, Stella), while driving his fucking car.

Upon apprehending The Stranger, Eben assumes that the trouble is over, neglecting to mention to anyone that in the first scene of the movie that there's a bloody great ghost ship parked on the outskirts of town. And so, with The Stranger warning, "they're coming," the vampires begin killing off the locals. First to go is the old bloke who runs the power plant, swiftly followed by a utility worker and Eben's pot-smoking Grandmother, who was presumably too stoned to escape the same way that Eben's brother Jake did.

It's at this point when the film's solitary outstanding moment occurs, a two-minute sweeping overhead shot that presents the carnage in the town, as the vampires soak the snow with the townsfolk's blood. As the scene ends, we're left with the gang who'll accompany us through the rest of the film: Eben, Stella, Jake, grizzled loner Beau and some other chumps. Can they last out the month before the vampires are forced to leave by the rising sun?

Just as you ask yourself that question, we skip forward to day seven. We know this because Hartnett now has a little bit of bumfluff and also it says day 7 on the screen. Presumably the urge eat, piss and shit has totally passed by day seven and our motley crew behave as if living in a tiny attic for a week is nothing out of the ordinary.

By day 15, our survivors decide that visiting the grocery store and getting something to eat mightn't be a bad idea, and it's in the store that the film's boldest moment occurs, with the introduction of a little girl vampire. The previously cowardly Jake lops her head off in no short order, which is a shame, because judging by her Einsturzende Neubauten tattoo, she was a cool little motherfucker.

Again, despite being under no obvious threat, the characters decide to dart about town in the most idiotic of manners. Special mention of this lunacy must go to Deputy Sheriff Billy, who, fearing that his wife and two children would be slain by the vampires, decides to shoot them. He turns the pistol on himself, only for the gun to jam. Does he hang himself? Does he slash his wrists? Drown himself? No. He waits 27 days, and then makes contact with Hartnett and the others to reveal his secret. Which is probably why he never made Sheriff.

Then, as the film lurches to its obvious conclusion, and perhaps aware that it has managed to build absolutely no palpable tension throughout, it descends into a morass of gore. Finally, with about fifteen minutes to go until the sun rises and having survived for 29 days, Hartnett decides that the wisest thing to do would be to inject himself with some vampire blood, turn himself into a vampire and go and fight them.

Hartnett is his usual charisma vacuum and David Slade is never able to convey the same sense of unease that he did with Hard Candy, but 30 Days Of Night’s biggest problem is its vampires. Unable to do anything other than scream and wail, these are Bela Lugosi's primitive, backward, country cousins, lacking any guile, artifice, or even the urge to wipe the freeze-dried blood from their ugly faces.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Century FM Simply Red phone in

I'm going to be speaking to Alastair Brownlee and Bernie Slaven on Century FM's Simply Red show in about an hour. We'll be chewing over yesterday's mauling at Old Trafford and the rather crap run of results that Boro find themselves on at the moment.

If you're on Teesside, you'll find Century at 100.7FM, or you can listen online.


Friday, 26 October 2007

Manchester United vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"While Wayne Rooney spent his week scoring against Dynamo Kiev, Mido spent the week carving hundreds of Jack-O'-Lanterns for local hospices.

His good work done, he collected all the leftovers and made himself a bloody great pumpkin pie. The fat get."


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

New London Underground security posters

Hard to believe but this is a geniue photo of the new posters up around the London Underground network.

The brazeness of the chumps who designed and sourced these posters is sad and scary in equal measure.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Middlesbrough vs Chelsea: Tale of the Tape

"Not even Tale of the Tape loves rugby as much as DJ Downing. Ever since England's brilliant win over the USA, Downing has been playing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Jerusalem and God Save The Queen non-stop in the dressing-room through his iPod speakers.

Florent Malouda tried to do the same in the Chelsea dressing room with La Marseillaise but Frank Lampard shoved Malouda's head down the toilet, shat on him and then made him drink seven pints of sick. Hey, this is what rugby boys like us do, okay?"


Thursday, 11 October 2007

Mermaid & Monster launch

My friend Gordon Dalton and his co-director Richard Higlett have set up a new UK contemporary art agency called Mermaid & Monster, which makes its public debut tonight.

Whilst Mermaid & Monster launched online earlier this year, their public debut will be held at Year 07, the contemporary art fair at the former Saatchi Gallery in County Hall, London tonight.

According to their press release, Mermaid & Monster "will be showcasing their increasing roster of artists including Peter Finnemore (who represented Wales at the Venice Biennale 05), sculptor Sean Edwards, Helen Sear, Lloyd Durling, video works from Michael Cousin and Anthony Shapland, and provocative works from Paul Becker and Miranda Whall".

Year 07 is running from 11th to 14th October. You can find out more about the event here and more about Mermaid & Monster here.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Manchester City vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"Inconceivably, Elano is a year older than Rochemback. But while Elano has an entire team built around his ability to dictate play, the only thing Rocky has ever had built around him is an extra supportive girdle for his big, fat belly."


Monday, 1 October 2007

Friday, 28 September 2007

Everton vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"Beatles fan DJ Downing loves going to Liverpool, because it gives him a chance to visit all of Lennon and McCartney's old hang-outs. In fact, on Saturday night he's booked to play a set at the Cavern Club.

TotT is lucky enough to have seen an advance copy of DJ Downing's set-list and let's just say if you're a fan of Cast, The Farm, Half Man Half Biscuit or Lightning Seeds or Shack you should get yourself down there.

Leon Osman's favourite Beatles tune is Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. The big idiot."


Friday, 21 September 2007

Middlesbrough vs Sunderland: Tale of the Tape

"When Roy Keane splashed nine million wing-wangs on Craig Gordon, TotT assumed that, like the transfers of Michael Chopra and Kieron Richardson, the Irishman had spent a helluva lot of dosh on a hellavu mediocre player.

Not for the three-hundreth time, TotT was wrong. With each passing game, Gordon is looking like one of the most accomplished goalkeepers in the division.

There was a time when you could have said the same about Skippy. But ever since his big buddy Mark Viduka left, he's been more half-arsed than Heather Mills."


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

CCTV doing great job in London

Despite a £200m network of 10,000 CCTV cameras, the percentage of crimes solved in London is going down not up.

Never mind, perhaps we just don't have enough cameras....


Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Boro hammered - What Do You Think?

Blimey, until I read Julio Clemenza's comment, I'd forgotten all about Jason Euell.


Monday, 10 September 2007

Gibson threatens pubs - What Do You Think?

The Boro Six give their response to Steve Gibson's plans to sue pubs who show foreign broadcasts of Boro matches.


Monday, 3 September 2007

Transfer window closes - What Do You Think?

A somewhat less than impressed response to Southgate's acquisition of Gary O'Neil and Mohammed Shawky...


Saturday, 1 September 2007

Middlesbrough vs Birmingham City: Tale of the Tape

The latest in a long line of Boro players who aren't any good on the right-flank but play there anyway has grown by one with the addition of George Boateng. It's a tactic that would ordinarily mean that all Boro's attacking threat is carried down the left, but since Stewart Downing forgot how to cross the ball sometime in 2005, it puts the onus more on Rocky and Arca.

Olivier Kapo's real name is Narcisse-Olivier Kapo-Obou, which, unlike the rest of this column, is very funny.


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Toon fans disgrace themselves - What Do You Think?

The Boro Six turn their attention to the disgusting idiots who spent their weekend racially abusing Mido.

Wally Peyton's comment is genius though.


Friday, 24 August 2007

Middlesbrough vs Newcastle: Tale of the Tape

"TotT had wondered why the club had decided to suit Skippy up in one of the most revoltingly lurid goalkeeping ensembles of the 21st Century, when it all became clear what its purpose was: to distract linesmen from spotting when the ball has crossed the line. Well done, then, to whichever member of the Errea design team that came up with that canary yellow piece of crap.

Speaking of pieces of crap.. No, we jest, Steve Harper's quite good."


Monday, 20 August 2007

Mido makes successful debut - What Do You Think?

This week, the Boro Six paw their way through Mido's goal-scoring debut for Boro.

Funny stuff, as ever.


Sunday, 19 August 2007

The Verdict in today's Observer

My verdict on Boro's 2-1 win at Craven Cottage yesterday and our signing of Mido is covered in my piece in today's Observer.

You'll have to buy a paper to read it, unfortunately.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Mickey Mouse trying to top himself

Here's an amazing cartoon strip from the 1930s that features Mickey Mouse trying to kill himself.



Fulham vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"The Egyptian revolution begins here. Ahmed Hossam Hussein Abdelhamid is the first Egyptian to join Gareth Southgate's side and will, apparently, be followed shortly by Emad Moteab and Mohammed Shawky.

Now, ignoring all evidence to the contrary (rubbish goal-scoring record, Andrew Davies levels of ineptitude last season for Spurs, a track record of falling out with coaches and team-mates..) TotT is quite excited by what Mido might offer Middlesbrough.

That said, Southgate will probably replace him with Lee Cattermole after fifty-five minutes.

David Healy, alongside Michael Chopra, Antoine Sibierski, Obafemi Martins and Benjani Mwaruwari is currently the Premiership's top scorer. A ridiculous state of affairs, since they're all shit."


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Wigan vs Middlesbrough: Tale of the Tape

"After Saturday's loss to Blackburn, DJ Downing was letting off some steam on the wheels of steel at The Purple Onion, rounding off his set with a trademark 26-minute remix of Follow The Leader by Eric B & Rakim, when who should walk in accompanied by his 18-strong entourage, than Wigan Athletics' Jason Koumas.

"Oi Downing," Koumas shouted, "What the fuck is this shit? Get that bollocks off and let's have some Fedde Le Grand."

Over the PA, DJ Downing shouted back, "DJ Downing doesn't do requests, you West Brom fuck," leading one of Koumas' heavies to throw a vodka and orange at the DJ booth.

Thankfully, Downing's record collection was unharmed.

This one could get ugly."


Monday, 13 August 2007

Yakubu out, Mido in? - What Do You Think?

Once again, Red Eye brings the goods.

This stuff is seriously funny.


Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Verdict in The Observer

My take on yesterday's home defeat to Blackburn is in the sports section of today's Observer.

No linkage, so you'll have to read the paper to find it.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Tale of the Tape

Following in the footsteps of my good friend Gordon Dalton, I'm going to be writing the Tale of the Tape feature for for the foreseeable future.

Here's my first effort

Sunday, 5 August 2007

2007-08 season preview in The Observer

Flick through the sports section of today's Observer and you'll find my take on what the forthcoming season has in store for Boro.

The Observer don't supply linkage, so here it is, lovingly retyped....

"Despite the predictable departure of a certain heavy-set Australian, our first team looks in marginally ruder health than last term. Securing Jonathan Woodgate was essential and Luke Young is a smart acquisition, while Jeremie Aliadiere and Tuncay Sanli should add some much needed pace to our attack. All that said, one can't help thinking that even LA's latest socialite would be jealous of how thin our squad is.

ONE TO WATCH Tuncay Sanli looks the business on YouTube, but, then again, so did Lee Dong-Gook.
BOO-BOY He might take good penalties but Yakubu's lazy gait means he's an increasingly divisive player.
HATE FIGURE Local pie vendors might rejoice when Viduka returns to the Riverside, but the fans certainly won't.
CHAMPIONS The Roman empire strikes back - Chelsea.
GOING DOWN Derby, Birmingham, Wigan"

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Red Eye's back

I thought this might have been a one season wonder. Thankfully it isn't.

Every single comment this week is comedy gold.


Thursday, 26 July 2007

Weekly World News folds after 28 years

The final issue of the awesome Weekly World News will go on sale on 3rd August 2007.

Batboy is unavailable for comment.


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Spider-Man and planned parenthood

Spider-Man fan Andrew Farago recently stumbled upon a Planned Parenthood issue of The Amazing Spider-Man from the 1970s.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Saturday, 14 July 2007

How to make a Captain America shield

The latest piece on Instructables teaches you how to make a Captain America shield out of a barbecue grill.


Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bella Union 10th Anniversary Party

To celebrate an incredible ten years, Bella Union packed out the Southbank's Royal Festival Hall for two nights of music and majesty.

Although a stunning venue, the Royal Festival Hall's wonky acoustics do cause a sense of detachment for some fans. Nonetheless, most of the acts managed to triumph against the subdued ambience. On the first night, the Baltimore duo, Beach House, were a delightful opening act, while Scottish quintet, My Latest Novel played an impressive set of melodic indie-folk, fuelled by violin, xylophone and vocal harmonies.

Mercury-nominated Fionn Regan was totally arresting. After unplugging his acoustic and making his way to the very edge of the stage, he invited those seated in the first few rows to sing along with him during Be Good Or Be Gone. Substitute headliners, The Howling Bells, led by Juanita Stein's velvet voice, offered the mesmerising gothic country of Setting Sun and Broken Bones, while Tom Smith of Editors provided vocals for their beautiful version of Nick Cave's Where The Wild Roses Grow.

The enforced cancellation of Explosions In The Sky, made the second night the far more tantalising and Stephanie Dosen's wonderful voice drifts through the venue before The Kissaway Trail (mistakenly introduced by Paul Morley as The Faraway Trail) gave us their superior indie psych-pop. The Danish five-piece were the first band on either night to approach their performance with any bluster or bombast, and the change of pace is welcome.

It was the event headliners, Midlake, who stole not just the show, but the entire celebration. Tim Smith's vocals were crisp and lucid (despite a lyrical lapse during Roscoe); the piano and guitars were lush; and the varied tempos demonstrated the complex orchestration and accomplished musicianship that made The Trials Of Van Occupanther one of 2006's greatest albums. New song, The Pills Won't Help You Now, written for the Chemical Brothers, should carve out an even bigger fanbase for the band. Guest spots from Romeo of The Magic Numbers, Stephanie Dosen, label founder Simon Raymonde and Paul Weller added little to the overall sound, but their collective presence certainly adds to the celebratory nature of the event.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Album Review: Healing The Divide

The concert captured on Healing The Divide was organised by Richard Gere's foundation of the same name, and recorded live at the Lincoln Centre in New York. It features performances from Tibet's Gyuto Tantric Choir and India's Anoushka Shankar, as well as genre-bending duets from Tibetan avant-garde musician Nawang Kechong with Native American master R. Carlos Nakai; and maverick composer Philip Glass accompanied by Gambian virtuoso Foday Muso Suso. It also features a four-song set by Tom Waits, backed by Grammy award-winning, California string group, The Kronos Quartet.

After a five-minute special address from the Dalai Lama, the music begins with the Gyuto Tantric Choir, ten monks who chant with the subterranean bass tones and simultaneous ethereal overtones of Buddhist sacred tradition. Short by Indian classical standards, Anoushka Shankar's offering, Nivedan, lasts eleven minutes, which is just time enough for her and tabla player Tanmoy Bose to give the piece a mode and melody.

The collaboration between Philip Glass and the Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso has a basic, almost waltzing ostinato that supports plaintive melodies from Jon Gibson on soprano saxophone, quick arpeggios from Glass on piano and, best of all, flickering syncopations from Suso's kora, the traditional instrument of African griots.

Two wooden flautists - the Tibetan composer Nawang Khechog and the Navajo-Ute composer R. Carlos Nakai - combine on a recording simply titled Peace Chants. Khechog opens the piece with the deep tones of a long Tibetan horn below Nakai's hovering flute phrases, and recites the bodhisattva vow to work for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

Closing the concert and the disc is a unique series of collaborations between musicians who personify the spirit of adventure in contemporary music, as Tom Waits performs four of his classic songs accompanied by The Kronos Quartet. Waits plays up to his role of the indecorous oddball as he struts through ingenious variations of Way Down In The Hole, God's Away On Business, Lost In The Harbour and Diamond In Your Mind, quipping, "So his holiness goes to bed at 7:30? That's not the holiness I used to know."

If Healing The Divide was intended as the perfect musical embodiment of the foundation's mission, it has totally succeeded. From the Dalai Lama to Tom Waits in just under an hour; how's that for bridging a cultural gap?

Album Review: The Fragile Army

The Polyphonic Spree's 2002 debut coincided with a period of new respect for over-sized band line-ups, from Broken Social Scene through Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki. Since then, the Spree have made two wonderfully euphoric albums and have become an amazing live experience. What they have lacked, though, is any sort of substance.

Until now.

To revitalise their pursuit of joy-mongering, Tim DeLaughter and wife/co-leader Julie Doyle have pared their joyous horde down from 28 members to 24, switched the band uniform from robes to black combat garb, and made a return to the more compact pop songs of the debut album. The songs on The Fragile Army are rock songs embellished with horns and choir. On the previous albums the horns and choir were the songs.

The title track is an anti-Bush Bohemian Rhapsody, while Section 29 [Light To Follow], which establishes the record's over-arching subject - "love in a mixed-up time" - explores new sounds for the group, from electronic beats to an Air-like bass groove, achieving a spacey ambiance.

Section 31 [Overblow Your Nest] is one of DeLaughter's more emotionally sophisticated songs and also an existential assertion of self, "I want this world to know that I'm alive," he cries on the surging chorus. It's an individualistic mantra that's at odds with Spree's egoless concept - many voices joining as one to accomplish any goal, overturn any war monger. More familiar are his Wayne Coyne-esque claims of "together we're all right" on Section 25 [Younger Yesterday] and "when we're both together, I know that we'll be just fine" on Section 26 [We Crawl].

While the emergent first single Section 22 [Running Away] is thrilling, it's Section 30 [Watch Us Explode (Justify)] that is the most comprehensive demonstration of what the Spree can do, with its trilling flutes, imperial horns, bombastic strings and fleet-fingered guitar fills.

The Fragile Army is an all-out orchestral and choral assault of optimism, and while it be the stop-start riff of Section 23 [Get Up And Go] or the clip-clop of 20-plus pairs of feet marching in time on Section 25 [Younger Yesterday] that gets you, rest assured you will succumb to this merry maelstrom that's triumphant from end-to-end.

Album Review: Three Easy Pieces

It was always very unfair that Buffalo Tom were given the tag Dinosaur Jr. Jr. when they first began recording. But since their 1989 self-titled debut album arrived just after Dinosaur Jr. redefined indie rock with Bug, it seems somehow appropriate that Buffalo Tom have chosen to release their first album in nine years just months after Dinosaur Jr. returned from a ten-year hiatus.

Though they've gigged sporadically in the intervening years, Three Easy Pieces has frontman Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis together on record for the first time since 1998's Smitten. Just seconds in to opener Bad Phone Call, it's easy to hear why they are so fondly remembered.

You'll Never Catch Him is the album's outstanding piece of melancholy, while Pendleton features Colbourn on vocals and, unusually for the band, no guitar; Janovitz instead plays piano and trumpet. The layered production makes it not dissimilar to anything from Let Me Come Over.

Bottom Of The Rain, Good Girl and September Shirt are perfect Buffalo Tom driving anthems, while the album closer, Thrown, has the same qualities that made Soda Jerk and Taillights Fade two of their most loved songs.

Not just a welcome addition to their catalogue, Three Easy Pieces is easily the equal of Let Me Come Over and Big Red Letter Day.

Album Review: MM... Food

Originally released in 2004 but deleted for the best part of two years, the re-release of Mm... Food is extremely welcome.

Perhaps MF Doom's finest record, it's an album with no pretence that harks back to the days when hip hop artists were interested in earning respect for their skills alone ("It's about the beats / not about the streets and whose food he about to eat").

"Operation Doomsday complete" we hear during the opening sound collage, away from his space quest laser fest as King Geddorah and the dysfunctional gangsta whimsy of Victor Vaughn, here Doom wants nothing more than to score some clever points with quirky one-liners over tight beats: the two foundations that hip hop was originally built upon.

There are only four guests invited to contribute lyrically, Count Bass D, Angelika, 4ize and Mr. Fantastik. The little-known Mr Fantastik delivers some incredible lyircs on Rapp Snitch Knishes ("true to the ski mask, New York's my origin / play a fake gangster like an old accordion"), while Count Bass D's lines on Potholderz are easily the equal of Doom's ("I strive to be humble lest I stumble / Never sold a jumbo or copped chicken wings in mumbo sauce / Tyson is a Fowl holocaust"). Sadly, Angelika and 4ize struggle to match the same standard on the album's one tepid track, Guinnesses.

The four-track intermission - Poo-Putt Platter, Fillet-O-Rapper, Gumbo and Figleaf-Bi-Carbonate - contains clips of TV, radio chopped up over exquisitely sliced beats and samples. It's the classic hip hop collage, but rarely is it done this well. Dumping four sound collage skits back-to-back in the middle of the album is a daring move and only someone as creative as Doom could pull it off. It's clear that Doom learned his proficiency with skit arrangements from Prince Paul, but Doom is now the master.

With the exception of the Madlib-produced Madvillainy left-over, One Beer, and the PNS-produced Yee Haw - here recorded as Kon Queso - and Potholderz, Doom controls all the production on Mm Food. The stuttery Count Bass D production on Potholderz darts back and forth over a phenomenal bass line. The 70s Blue Note funk on Vomitspit is up there with Doom's finest production work, and turning the Whodini sample on Deep Friend Frenz from a feel-good song into a bitter tale of betrayal is inspired ("You could either ignore this advice, or take it from me / Be too nice and people take you for a dummy").

The scratch and sniff packaging, live DVD, stickers and Burlesque Design poster make this an unmissable purchase, even if you picked it up when it was released initially. Doom describes himself as "On his own thrown, the boss like King Koopa." He could have described himself more simply, for MF Doom simply is hip hop.

Album Review: How It Ends

It starts, inauspiciously enough, with a strummed acoustic guitar. What follows on How It Ends is a fantasy of drunken gypsy weddings with noirish, debauched delivery flourished with accordion, sousaphone, theramin, tuba, piano, bouzouki, strings and tenor triangle.

Although centred on Eastern European folk, How It Ends is an unusual mongrel of klezmer rhythms, mariachi trumpets, punk guitar surf music drums and romantic strings.

Second track, The Enemy Guns, offers tense, distorted guitar riffs, before horns and Nick Urata's unsettling tenor turn it into a disorientating spaghetti western. The song's military drums clatter into No One Is Watching, which itself is twenty-five seconds worth of battle and loneliness.

The glockenspiel of Dearly Departed sets a soothing lullaby tone, but Urata's suffocating croon as he mourns for a love gone away is totally despairing ("I miss your heart beating next to mine / flesh of my flesh, soul of my soul / come back home"). Later, Urata harmonises with himself on This Place Is Haunted, while it means the lyrics are often unintelligible, we hear the laughter of children, likely ghosts of the place, before the song abruptly ends.

Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of...) is a bowed, basque-flavoured instrumental; Twenty-Six Temptations is a wallowing and brooding tale of love and loss; and Such A Lovely Thing offers suspicion, violence and doubt in its four-and-a-half minutes.

Despite all the depression and gloom amid the lyrical dramas, this is not a joyless listen. The characters in the songs might be dead or missing, but the band are energised, gothic and exotic. An Eastern-bloc party, if you like.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Fopp closes

Can't say I didn't see this one coming.

From the Fopp website....

"It is with great regret that we announce the closure of Fopp.

Our store chain is profitable, well regarded and loved by our loyal customers and staff. However we have failed to gain the necessary support from major stakeholders, suppliers and their credit insurers to generate sufficient working capital to run our expanding business.

We would like to thank staff and customers for their support over the past 25 years.

Any outstanding website orders have now been cancelled and will not be fulfilled or charged."

It's a genuine shame that a chain store that had such a great, simple pricing structure, that encouraged people to investigate the back catalogues of classic artists has shut down. While the shop assistants have my complete sympathy, the top bosses have only themselves to blame. David Pryde, the MD, is something of a retail genius, but buying the Music Zone stores was a step waaaaaay too far.

Richard Branson failed in an 11th-hour attempt to save the chain, but the Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden stores are pretty good retail real estate, so I wouldn't be surprised if HMV snapped them up.


Thursday, 28 June 2007

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Chris Benoit and family found dead

I'm having serious trouble making sense of this.

WWE wrestler Chris Benoit (40), his wife Nancy (43) and their son Daniel (7) have been found dead in their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Police are treating their deaths as a "double-murder suicide".

Investigators believe that Benoit killed his son and wife over the course of the weekend before committing suicide.

I'm having serious difficulty processing the fact that a guy that I liked and admired could be capable of such horror.


Sunday, 24 June 2007

Crazy theremin jam

Friday, 22 June 2007

Fopp plot thickens

After the day of 'cash only' Fopp has today closed all its stores for a 'stock take'.

My bet? The chain won't last another week.

Dramatic chipmunk

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Fopp to close?

It certainly looks as though Fopp is in trouble.

Several stores are only taking cash transactions today. The stores are claiming it's a 'card authorisation problem' but I smell a rat.

I, like plenty of people, thought the purchase of Music Zone was a step too far for the chain. Looks like they're having serious liquidity problems.

Be a real shame if they can't pull out of the shit though.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Film Review: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

A nude scene with Jessica Alba; the introduction of Galactus; the marvellous Michael Chiklis reprising his role as The Thing; the first big screen appearance of The Silver Surfer; and the resurrection of Dr Doom. Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer should be the best comic book film of all time.

It isn’t.

However, that’s not to say it’s as awful as the first film. Not much could be. For a start, The Silver Surfer is a bad ass. Doug Jones’s grace and elegance ensures that the Surfer looks perfectly otherworldly. Laurence Fishburne’s voice, however – not quite at his Morpheus worst, but close enough – makes you wish the casting team had given him the blue pill and told him to fuck off.

Elsewhere, the Ben Grimm / Johnny Storm duelling is spot-on and Ioan Gruffudd appears much more relaxed as Reed Richards than he did in the first film. Letting the group down, though, is Susan Storm. Two years on from Sin City and still nobody can induce boredom and boners with the same conviction as Jessica Alba.

It’s fair to say that Alba is slightly less execrable than in FF1, which is certainly more than can be said for Julian McMahon. He might play a good plastic surgeon on a cable TV show, but he fucking blows as Dr Doom. If there’s to be a third film, I can only hope they leave the mask on and hire in a new actor.

Although, given the shabby treatment that Doom received in both movies, perhaps McMahon is the perfect man to play him. Far from one of the planet’s most intelligent men, with an army of Doombots at his disposal and significant powers of sorcery, Doom is eliminated from this film’s proceedings by a crane. Whilst it’s a step up from the fire hydrant that brought about his demise in the first film, it’s still a pathetic ending for one of the Marvel universe’s most deadly villains.

This being a 2007 Marvel film, Rise Of The Silver Surfer, of course, has its own dance scene. If Spider-Man 3’s dance scene was like being stabbed in the balls, then Rise Of The Silver Surfer’s is like being kicked in them: unpleasant and agonising, but at least the pain subsides.

The biggest problem fanboys will have with the movie is that the audience never gets to see Galactus. It’s a shame, because, ever since The Day After Tomorrow, it’s hard for an audience to feel threatened by a cloud formation. But, considering they can’t even get Sue Storm’s blue eyes right, we should probably be grateful that the special effects guys didn’t attempt the planet eater in all his purple helmeted glory.

At times it feels like an extended trailer for the almost-certainly-in-develo
pment Silver Surfer solo film. What should curb anyone’s enthusiasm about such a project is this movie’s concluding revelation that the Surfer could have halted Galactus at any point in his destruction of eight planets.

But, as sympathetic accounts of an accomplice in the greatest serial genocide in movie history go, Rise Of The Silver Surfer isn’t all that bad.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Late Night Special

Friday, 15 June 2007

The Pain Of Ptwang

"The Pain of Ptwang is dedicated to raising the awareness of the plight of the Ptwangers.

We will not rest until the world knows this story. Just remember as you read this children are dying in the shanty towns of diseases that are preventable. Every minute a new case of Flange Finger is diagnosed, every day three Ptwangers will die of Flange Lung.

The silence must end now."

Find out about the people of Ptwang here

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Tessa Rocks!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Church gets cross with Sony over Resistance

The Church of England has gotten itself into a tizzy over the Playstation 3 game Resistance: Fall Of Man - a game that was released in March.

The CoE reckon that Sony did not obtain permission to use the interior of Manchester Cathedral in the game that sees the player battle aliens who are invading Earth.

From the BBC, "The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, described the decision to feature the city's cathedral as "highly irresponsible" - especially in the light of Manchester's history of gun crime.

"It is well known that Manchester has a gun crime problem," he said.

"For a global manufacturer to re-create one of our great cathedrals with photo-realistic quality and then encourage people to have guns battles in the building is beyond belief and highly irresponsible.

"Here in Manchester we do all we can to support communities through our parish clergy. We know the reality of gun crime and the devastating effects it can have on lives. It is not a trivial matter."

Now, it seems that Nigel McCulloch has rather missed the point that it's a computer game and erm... you shoot aliens. Admittedly, it's been a little while since I've visited Manchester, but I'd be very surprised if that's the "reality of gun crime" in the area.


Saturday, 26 May 2007

Boy shoots massive hog

11-year-old Jamison Stone shot this enormous hog.


Friday, 25 May 2007

Album Review: 93-03 The Best Of Frank Black

A two-disc chronological anthology of Frank Black's work covering the Pixies' front man's nine solo albums recorded during the title's time period, which includes a bonus CD of live tracks recorded during Black's 2006 North American tour, as well as a brand new Black Francis track, Threshold Apprehension, taken from his forthcoming album, Bluefinger.

Black's solo recordings always demonstrated artistic restlessness, as he embraced alternative pop and avant-garde rock with equal fervor. This was territory he explored further with his band, The Catholics, for several years before journeying to Nashville to create 2005's critically-acclaimed Honeycomb with producer Jon Tiven, before the similar, but more intense, Fast Man Raider Man in 2006.

As for the tracks, there is bound to be disagreement as to what are the essential tracks in a catalogue as vast as Black's, but by and large, 93-03 feels as right as it could ever be.

Los Angeles has lost none of the spacey, metallic bite it had when it introduced Frank Black as a solo performer to the world in 1993, and nor has the Stooges-esque Ten Percenter, also from Black's self-titled solo debut.

The straightforward saccharine melodies of I Want To Live On An Abstract Plain from Teenager Of The Year are still as sweet as they were over a decade ago. Black's most creative love song, Speedy Marie, (the first letter of each line in the song's second half spells out his girlfriend's name) is also included, as is the tightly written, strummy and wonderful Headache. The driving, anthemic Freedom Rock remains one of the Black's more ambitious tracks and Men In Black is still an interesting piece from the unfairly derided The Cult Of Ray.

All My Ghosts and I Gotta Move from the first Catholics album, offers a fix of straight-up garage punk, stripped of all the odd time signatures, subverted chord progressions, cryptic lyrics, and sonic experimentation that had previously been Black's trademarks. Western Star from Pistolero and Robert Onion from Dog In The Sand mark a return to the ambitious, subversive style with the latter a distant cousin to Freedom Rock.

The cryptically confessional California Bound from Black Letter Days also merits inclusion and the fun, easygoing vibe of Black's eighth album, Devil's Workshop, is exemplified by Velvety, a version of the Pixies' B-side Velvety Instrumental Version (and one of the first songs that Black ever wrote) with additional silly lyrics. Massif Central, from Show Me Your Tears, is conspicuous by the angry repetition of "please don't run away" among the bouncy and angular guitars.

Black himself admits to being sheepish when approached by the idea of releasing a greatest hits album, but 93-03 is a great place to start for those embarking on a journey through Black's post-Pixies career for the first time. In fact, far from a mere curiosity, the schizophrenic tracklist ensures it's the perfect abridgement of his first nine albums.

Album Review: Shut Up I Am Dreaming

Between the Wolf Parade EPs and their acclaimed album, Apologies To Queen Mary, his work with Frog Eyes, the first Sunset Rubdown EP and album, and now this, it seems increasingly likely we're witnessing in Spencer Krug the genesis of an important songwriter.

The first Sunset Rubdown album, Snake's Got A Leg, was lo-fi from necessity and underdeveloped out of neglect, and certainly didn't hint at what might follow. The transition from barebones solo sparsity to the full-blown band grandeur of Shut Up I Am Dreaming is tough to countenance and hard to immediately appreciate.

In fact, the new album opens with Stadiums and Shrines II, a track that includes the same lyrics and melody as previous album's title track. Enforced by the presence of a band, it's slightly cleaner and less warped than before, beginning with cascading arpeggios that descend from crashing snares and cymbals. Krug's bashful lyrics set the scene perfectly ("There's a kid in there / And he's big and dumb / And he's kind of scared"). The echoes from Krug's previous work are everywhere, but the resampling is not unpleasant and, in fact, is a weirdly satisfying opportunity to view his work from varying angles.

The reinvention continues with Swimming, a giddying fugue with tingling piano and haunted-house music that is built around a music-box reprise of The Dust You Kick Up Is Too Fine from the Sunset Rubdown's debut EP.

A complex treatise on mortality, pride and guilt, the album is riddled with modesty. So, while Krug's passionate, piercing vocals might sound like self-pity elsewhere, here they sound remarkable. The lyrical brilliance is couched in colloquialisms, informalities, rampant contractions and line-starting conjunctions, just as a Pynchon or a Kerouac or a Vonnegut might do. It strips the album of all its self-importance, so that Krug's morality tales aren't preachy, they're inspiring.

They Took A Vote And Said No offers the most overt lesson in morality ("There are things that have to die so other things can stay alive"). It begins with Krug's voice flitting back and forth, before erupting with a waxing electric guitar. The piano-based ballad Us Ones In Between offers similarly surrealistic morals, when Krug ruminates, "I've heard of creatures who eat their babies / I wonder if they stop to think about the taste", and the chief refrain of The Empty Threats Of Little Lord ("If I ever hurt you / It will be in self-defence") sits between some glorious pseudo-misogynistic lines.

Mystical, creepy and heartrending, Shut Up I Am Dreaming is a forty-five minute shrug by shoulders sinking in emotional quicksand. It's a reminder to all of us from Spencer Krug and his band that sometimes it's okay to dream.

Album Review: Wagonmaster

Having cut Satisfied Mind in 1954 - inspiring covers by everyone from Bob Dyland to Jeff Buckley - started the Nudie suit craze, joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957, pioneered music television with the long-running Porter Wagoner Show, discovered Dolly Parton in 1967, and having had I Will Always Love You written about him, Porter Wagoner is, in short, a proper country legend.

But despite a hip record label, recent gigs at Joe's in Manhattan and appearances with Neko Case, Wagonmaster won't inspire the same Lazurus-like resurrection that American Recordings brought Johnny Cash. Wagoner, unlike Cash, refuses to tilt at contemporary songs or styles. It should be no surprise; Wagoner always played it straight, his country-tonk was never quite as fashionable as the outlaw heroics of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson. Wagonmaster, however, is a stronger album for it.

While Wagoner's most recent work has been exclusively gospel; it hasn't detracted from his honky-tonk heart. His voice is wise, experienced and vulnerable as only an old man's could be. Marty Stuart's, no-frills, purist approach to production takes us back to the Jim Denny days of the Grand Ole Opre.

At the album's heart lies Committed To Parkview, written by Johnny Cash in the 1980s for Wagoner to perform. Both had spent time in the infamous Nashville asylum (Wagoner in the mid-`60s for exhaustion). Cash had given it to Marty Stuart while the two were touring Europe in 1981 but Stuart misplaced it for nearly 25 years. It's eerie, creepy and more than a little bit sad - a vivid account of life inside the asylum listening to the tormented cries of fellow inmates, one of whom thinks he's Hank Williams. Wagoner convincingly declares, "Hope I never have to go there again."

Wagonmaster is eccentric, heartfelt and often brilliant; the kind of heartache and twang that only a country music giant could provide.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Album Review: Volta

More exuberant and ostentatious than the gorgeous miniatures of her most recent work, but not exactly pop music either, Bjork's sixth studio album is looser and more luxuriant than anything she's released since Debut.

It's the Timbaland cuts that give the most immediate pleasure. The rumbling, percussion-laden Earth Intruders, rightly chosen as the first single, features additional instrumentation from Congoloese experimental group Konono No 1. As if that weren't enough, freestyling avant-drummer, Chris Corsano (who has played with Sonic Youth amongst dozens of others), adds another layer of pounding beats.

On Hope, Timbaland's synthesised tabla flutters up against the kora playing of Malian Toumani Diabate. Innocence is the most extraordinary of the three - thumping and scratchy, and probably Timbaland's best beat since he crafted Missy Elliot's Work It. It also has Bjork at her most fiercely triumphant since Violently Happy.

More ferocious still is Declare Independence, which uses samples from Bjork's Drawing Restraint 9 compositions and a manic techno beat, this time ushered in by Mark Bell, a collaborator of Bjork's since Homogenic. It recalls Bell's work on the second LFO album. He returns again on I See Who You Are, which also features Chinese pipa player, Min Xiao-Fen.

The other key contributor is Antony Hegarty, who duets with Bjork on two tracks. The operatic Dull Flame Of Desire's lyrics are taken from a translation of a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev. It also features drums from Brian Chippendale, the drummer/vocalist for Lightning Bolt. My Juvenile opts for a much more minimal approach.

Wanderlust begins with a long chorus of ship's horns before Bjork sails in with a raft of seagoing metaphors and stuttering, Aphex Twin-esque beats. The track was co-written by Sjón, who previously wrote Bachelorette and Oceania for Bjork.

Volta offers a far broader approach than Medulla or Vespertine, with stronger and better tunes than either album, as well as the restless, boundary-pushing innovation expected of Bjork. It's not necessarily more adventurous, but certainly more of an adventure.

Album Review: Preludes

Warren Zevon's death in 2003 from mesothelioma marked the loss of one of the world's most adroit songwriters. His final album, The Wind was a farewell masterpiece. Preludes marks the opposite end of Zevon's recording life - a selection of songs that were recorded after the release of his forgettable 1969 debut, Wanted Dead Or Alive, and before the release of his 1976 self-titled album.

The 2CD set features sixteen songs, including six previously unreleased tracks: Empty Hearted Town, Going All The Way, Steady Rain, Stop Rainin' Lord, Studebaker and Rosarita Beach Café. The solitary piano and forlorn lyrics ("cigarettes make the sun come up and whiskey makes the sun go down and in between you do a lot of standing around") ensure that Empty Hearted Town stands out.

The second disc features forty minutes of music interspersed with an interview with Zevon by KGSR-FM's Jody Denberg, but it's the digitally remastered versions of some of Zevon's best known material on disc one that makes Preludes indispensable. Demos of the happily unhygienic Carmelita, Accidentally Like A Martyr and what is probably Zevon's best known song, Werewolves Of London, are all given a 24-bit makeover.

Album Review: Just You, Me And The Baby

Part of Leicester's irresistible and irrepressible Invisible Spies crew, Supreme Vagabond Craftsman has previously released a brilliantly bamboozling album (Twice As Nude) and produced the debut singles by Sheffield-based concerns, The Long Blondes and Pink Grease. Just You, Me & The Baby is his first record for Analogue Catalogue.

The opening two tracks - Forest Punk and Kite Flying Incident - are Supreme Vagabond Craftsman's two most immediate songs to date: classic rockers with an angular lo-fi ethic. The first single, Check Out My Rifle Range, happily crosses Julian Cope and Damo Suzuki. Later, On The Coastal Journey is a proper rock number with a surging riff and staggered drum rolls, while the addictive awkwardness of Converted Barn and My Welsh Family lies somewhere in between Beck and Super Furry Animals.

Confusing and amusing, like a homegrown Will Oldham, this is easily Supreme Vagabond Craftsman's most consistently enjoyable release to date.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

The Great Escape

I was enlisted to give a talk at this year's Great Escape festival, which I've just returned from.

The panel I was on were charged with talking about the woes of the music industry, which is something that could easily have lasted a lot longer than the 45-minutes we were given. I'm not sure we managed to say a great deal of note, but the level of ignorance or perhaps denial of the problems that labels and retailers are experiencing was staggering.

The Great Escape itself was a piss poorly organised event. It's all very well having a crawl around different venues but when the capacities of the venues aren't big enough to support anyone besides wanky delegates (like me), you've got a problem. On Thursday, the Concord II was one-in-one-out well over an hour before CSS were due on. Meanwhile those with delegate passes were able to come and go as they pleased.

I say this as a delegate, it's an absolute nonsense to treat the paying customer as this kind of second-class citizen. Hey! We're failing to sell records and living solely on live income at the moment, so why don't we fuck the paying customer off from that too?

A nonsense.

Kissaway Trail and Besnard Lakes were good though.

Friday, 18 May 2007 Writers' Awards 2006/07

This season's Writers' Awards have just been published.

It's really interesting to read the differing views from some of my fellow writers.

Read the column here

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Baby vs Cobra

Monday, 14 May 2007

New Doc Martins ad campaign

These ads, which I think premiered in the always excellent Fact magazine, feature dead musicians wearing Dr Martins boots.

Strange really because Kurt is definitely associated more with Chuck Taylor than DMs.


Sunday, 13 May 2007

2006-07 season verdict in today's Observer

As ever, The Observer don't publish this stuff online, but if you can't be arsed to go out and grab a paper, here's what I thought of Boro's campaign.

"1. How was your season?
Typically haphazard but not entirely unenjoyable. For every thrashing of Bolton, there was a hammering by Portsmouth; for every hard-fought victory over Chelsea, there was a half-hearted draw with Bristol City; for every Jonathan Woodgate, there was a Jason Euell; for every game against Manchester United, there was a dodgy penalty.

2. Happy with the gaffer?
Absolutely. Southgate is intelligent, thoughtful, articulate and, unlike his predecessor, he clearly cares about the club. His love of tanktops means he's also the best dressed manager in the league by a country mile.

3. Who were the stars - and who flopped?
Woodgate and Viduka have rightly attracted the most attention but Emmanuel Pogatetz has improved immeasurably and Julio Arca has brought a considered assurance to our midfield. As for flops, besides giving away cheap freekicks, I'm still not sure what exactly the point of Fabio Rochemback is.

4. Who were the best, and worst, away fans?
Hull City's fans were magnificently loud and livened up the usually quiet Riverside. The solitary Charlton fan who made the trip up wasn't quite so raucous.

5. Top hate figure at another club?
If Cristiano Ronaldo was as good at dominating games against top opposition as he is cheating his way to penalties, he'd be the best player in the world. But he's not, so he isn't. And don't give me his brace against Roma. Even we beat them.

6. Top five best opposition players?
Dmitar Berbatov, Benni McCarthy, Kanu, Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Harper."

Friday, 11 May 2007

Disney World as Google Map

A Disney World enthusiast has placed every ride, shop and restaurant into a Google Map.


Saturday, 5 May 2007

Film Review: Spider-Man 3

Great, another dark re-tooling of a flagging movie franchise. After Batman Begins, Superman Returns and Casino Royale, what the movie world really needs is a darker version of Spider-Man.

So, when an alien symbiote crashes to Earth – conveniently landing within inches of the only acknowledged superhero in the universe – and attaches itself to Peter Parker, it turns his mind all dark and angry.

At first, these black thoughts manifest themselves in the form of a new emo fringe that make Parker look like the bloke from Bright Eyes. But slowly the haircut becomes the least of Parker’s worries as he starts wearing eyeliner and behaving like the Cat from Red Dwarf.

Eventually we see Parker do some really evil things like shout at his landlord, attempt to kill the man who murdered his uncle, deflect a bomb back into the path of the bloke who threw it at him, and accidentally bitch-slap his annoying girlfriend. Truly we are in no doubt what a cold-hearted motherfucker Spider-Man has become.

The emergence of My Chemical Spidey means that we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards MJ because her boyfriend is getting all the attention and she just got fired from a Broadway show for being a lame singer. Well, guess what, MJ, he’s a costumed crime-fighter who can climb up skyscrapers and shit, and you are a rubbish singer. It’s hardly a surprise that he garners more column inches in the Daily Bugle.

Apart from the battle raging within Peter Parker, Spider-Man finds himself with three nemeses this time. His former best-friend, Harry Osbourne, who, as the New Goblin, tries to kill Spider-Man with some sort of Marty McFly hoverboard; Sandman, a man made of sand, whose superpowers are easily negated by water but who spends much of the film crying like a pussy; and Venom who is born when the symbiote gets bored of Parker’s goofy jazz piano-playing and moves onto photographer Eddie Brock. Brock, it’s worth mentioning, already possesses a dislike of Parker over a disagreement involving Adobe Photoshop. Yes, really.

Anyway, after one of the most tragic examples of deus ex machina you’ll ever see – some hitherto unseen butler tells Osbourne to forgive Parker for disfiguring him – Spider-Man and the New Goblin join forces to combat the recently united Venom and Sandman: two villains who could have easily been defeated by Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and a Hoover.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Fake Disneyland in China

Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijing is basically a Chinese knock-off of Disneyland.


Thursday, 26 April 2007

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Man cuts cock off in restaurant

A man ran into the Zizzi restaurant on The Strand and cut off his cock with a kitchen knife. Police arrived and restrained him with tear gas.

"The man was then taken to hospital in south London where his condition is stable. It is understood surgeons were unable to reattach his penis."

Did he know that zizi is French slang for penis?


Sunday, 22 April 2007

Film Review: Curse Of The Golden Flower

In case you’d ever wondered what Hero, House of Flying Daggers or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon would be like without the amazing wirework fight scenes, Curse of the Golden Flower gives you the answer: they would all be rubbish.

Typically for a film directed by Zhang Yimou, the plot is preposterous. Emperor Ping (Chun Yun Fat) is slowly poisoning his consort, Empress Phoenix (played magnificently by Gong Li) because she has been shacking up with her stepson, Crown Prince Wan, who, in turn, is about to elope with the imperial doctor’s daughter. Meanwhile, the Emperor’s two other sons are both indulged in coups and putsches. Yes, it’s the Tang Dynasty version of, well, Dynasty.

But I’d forgive the shitty plot and the disgustingly gaudy sets and costumes if there was just one decent fight scene in the entire movie. Sadly, there isn’t. In fact, aside from multiple slow-mo shots of cups of tea being thrown through the air, and one brief swordfight between the Emperor and pussy mummy’s boy Prince Jai, there is no action to speak of in the entire first hour. My hopes were resurrected by the introduction of the Emperor’s ninja wraiths, but even they do nothing good besides shriek a bit before they get offed.

The plot about incest, revenge and suicide is transparent, and there are far better movies to watch if you want to see loads of Chinese dudes wailing on each other. In fact, the only reason to see this slow, pointless and not faintly ridiculous movie is for Gong Li’s exceptionally impressive cleavage.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Dog pull toys by Yoshitomo Nara

These Yoshitomo Nara dog pull toys are bad ass.


Friday, 13 April 2007

Opus Fae

"Opus Fae seeks to help people to develop their personal spiritual life and Fairyological well-being."

If you want to learn more about Fairyology, click here (PNSFW)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Flickr user King Power Cinema has posted scans from a 1929 Johnson Smith catalogue.

How pleased we should be that times have changed.