Premier League Preview

And so it begins, as fans ready themselves for another 9 months of horseshit and hamburgers, expensive pints and kick offs moved by Sky, whilst managers scramble around for a last minute addition to plug the hole in the defence or to add a bit of creativity to the midfield, the first fixtures of the new Premier League season loom large on the horizon.

There isn’t much like that first game of the season feeling, little else could make a Sunday in Stoke seem so appealing, little else that could make people get up especially early on a Saturday after a heavy night on the Friday to make sure they get to the bookies in time for the accumulator, the cafe for a fry up and still be in the pub for opening.

Many supporters will be wondering whether their new signings will be able to do a job, whether they’ll stay up, whether they’ll challenge for the title, which expensive forward their new manager is going to pick, some will be dusting off the lucky Lacoste they wore when their team beat Liverpool last season, whilst others will be deciding on which pair of trainers go best with their new CP jacket or whether the weather is good enough for shorts and boat shoes.  Most will be looking forward to the buzz of beers and banter with the boys, talking shit, having a laugh even if the lager is overpriced, watered down and in a plastic glass.

For that is half of what football is about, whilst you may pin your dreams and aspirations on eleven fellas on ridiculous wages who you can hardly relate to, it is as much about your mates, the pubs and the laugh, the atmosphere, the songs,  it’s about your new trainers, and going away in a new coat that no one else is wearing. It’s not about the spectacle or seeing a superstar if it was you wouldn’t do it every week, it’s not a product and we’re not customers and that’s why we’ve got the buzz back for the start of the new season despite ridiculous ticket prices and Sky hampering travel to away games.

Whilst this excitement will wear off on a wet and windy winter Wednesday in Wolverhampton, and you’ll wonder why you’re doing it all over again, you still will, and the next year you’ll do it all over again, whether your team win the league or get relegated, because the start of the season is always a clean slate filled with hope and booze, so roll on Sunday in Stoke.

By Callum West

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‘Think I’m Ghetto Stop Dreaming’ – The Streets : A Retrospective

A few festival appearances over the next couple of months will bring down the curtain on the musical career of Mike Skinner as we know it, for the Streets it is all over bar the shouting.

In the musical landscape of the new millennium where instant success is demanded and bands are dropped with alarming regularity few have matched The Streets’ longevity and even fewer the continued quality of his output.

Emerging from the UK Garage scene of the late 90’s/ early 2000’s which blurred the boundaries between house, hip hop and drum and bass, The Streets long outlived contemporaries in the genre by continually evolving (from the geezer in search of excitement on ‘Original Pirate Material’ through to the reflective man fast approaching 30 on ‘Everything is Borrowed’) whilst having his finger on the zeitgeist, and maintaining the Kinks-esque knack of writing songs about Britain and everyday life. From the buzz of youthful experimentation with illegal substances on ‘Weak Become Heroes’ to the death of a loved one on ‘Never Went To Church’ Skinner’s best work deals with a broad spectrum of subjects which the listener can relate to.

This reached it’s peak on 2004’s ‘A Grand Don’t Come for Free’, he became the bard for young men up and down the country, soundtracking their lives, dressing like them, living like them, splitting up with birds, trying to pull other birds on islands in the sun, whilst the albums number 1 single, ‘Dry Your Eye’s Mate’ becoming the soundtrack to another unsuccessful tournament for the England football team.

It’s follow up ‘The Hardest Way To Make an Easy’ dealt with the fallout of becoming a celebrity, from sleeping with famous girls ‘When You Wasn’t Famous’ to the come down from drug binges on the records stand out track ‘Prangin’Out’ which featured former Libertine Pete Doherty. It is easy to see this album as The Streets’ ‘Be Here Now’ the excess of drugs are smeared across the album like the remnants of a line on the back of the CD, and what else could explain the orange suit he took to wearing at the time. However, unlike Oasis, the album that followed marked a change in direction, from brash and lairy to introspective and contemplative. Skinner described ‘Everything is Borrowed’ as a “peaceful coming to terms album” compared to “guilt-ridden indulgence” of its predecessor.  Released to mix reviews and the less commercial success than any of his previous albums, it is nevertheless a striking work.

After releasing songs via twitter following ‘Everything is Borrowed’ 2011 saw the release of his final album ‘Computers and Blues’.  Seen by many as a return to form, second single ‘Trust Me’ is up there with his finest work. The protaganist of the first two records is back, if somewhat wiser and a little less lairy, and with it being the last album it seems apt that The Streets has gone full circle.

Here’s five great records by The Streets.

Weak Become Heroes

It’s Too Late

Blinded By The Lights

Prangin Out Ft. Pete Doherty

Trust Me

By Callum West

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Death of The B Side

In the modern world of mp3’s and iTunes music has never been more instantly accessible, however the rise of downloading has been to the detriment of the CD single and with it the final nail has been hammered into the coffin of a musical institution, the b-side.

Double sided records were first pressed by Columbia in the early part of the twentieth century, however, the idea of different emphasis being placed upon the either side didn’t emerge until the 1950’s when sales of singles and the idea of the charts became big business for the music industry and labels began instructing radios to play the A-side of the release (Although occasionally DJ’s have preferred the B-side and they have become the hit: Gloria Gaynors – I will survive, The Everley Brothers – Unchained Melody and Maddonna- Get Into The Groove were all initially intended to be B-sides).

Despite some notable exceptions, they were initially covers of other hits or extended, intstrumental or accapella versions of the A-Side, and the heyday of the B-side didn’t began until the punk movement in the late 1970’s. Lasting through to the collapse of Britpop in the late 90’s. A peculiarly British phenomenon, during this time bands like Elvis Costello and the Attractions, New Order, The Smiths and Oasis all produced B-sides in this time that are held up by their fans as some of their best work (Indeed The Oasis B-side album The Masterplan is held up as one of their finest). Not designed for popular consumption, or the casual radio listener the B-side enabled the band to shake of the shackles of success and let the creativity flow.

The B-side also represented value for money, with the record industry in fine fettle, labels were keen to reward fans for their purchase, a quickly thrown together cover, or a half arsed remix that were to become the norm wouldn’t do.

However with the advent of the internet, this slowly changed, in the late 90’s sites like Napster emerged and record sales began to dwindle.Although some bands in the early 2000’s, notably the Libertines, released popular B-sides which became fan favourites like those of their predecessors, in general bands and labels seeing the shift within the industry had put less time and resources on B-sides, cobbling together remixes or acoustic versions of the single. Although the music industry successfully sued Napster they couldn’t halt they inevitable, CD singles had become old hat, music was now changing from a physical product to a digital download.

As the new millenium wore on the music industry took heed of the old adage if you can’t beat them join them the B-side was doomed. With the release of the iPod fans shuffled through albums, picking and choosing songs to download at will, The BBC cancelled Top of The Pops and the singles chart became all but redundant, record shops stopped stocking CD singles altogether and without singles there are no B-sides.

Here’s a few great B-sides.

Oasis – Fade Away (B-side to Cigarette’s and Alcohol)

New Order – 1963 (B-side to True Faith)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now (Originally B-side to William It Was Really Nothing)

The Jam – The Butterfly Collector (B-side to Strange Town)

The Beat – Stand Down Magaret (B-side to Best Friend)

By Callum West

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Football: Celebrations

Chelsea fans celebrate in Turin

Being a successful side has many positive aspects: regularly reaching finals and winning trophies, watching internationally renowned stars playing in front of full houses – it’s a lot more appealing than following West Ham. However there are drawbacks, ticket prices, tourists, the sanitised atmosphere are all regularly cited as problems of football at the highest level.

Another perceived problem is the increasing lack of proper goal celebrations, with muted cheering and polite applause seemingly the status quo throughout the division. Worse still some clubs have taken to playing music following goals so the masses in their replica shirts can do a celebratory jig before launching into a half arsed ‘who are ya?’ at the away fans.

However, the fans are not always entirely to blame. When you’re playing Wigan at home, they’ve bought a hundred or so fans, and you’re heavy favourites to win, an expected goal isn’t going to provoke pandemonium. Success breeds expectancy and complacency, whilst the best celebrations come from tension.

Equally all seater stadiums can restrict your celebrations somewhat, whilst the unaccountability of gung-ho stewards and over-zealous policing of fans, especially those supporting the away side has seen fans thrown out simply for ‘over celebrating’ their team score.

Fans of some clubs have tried to address the issue of understated celebration, at Manchester City goals are met by fans turning their back towards the pitch, linking arms and bouncing in unison, in what has become known as the Poznan – named after the Polish side who introduced it to Manchester in a Europa League clash last season.

However, this is the antithesis of what a goal celebration should be about. Indeed the Polish side, and the many other European Ultras who bounce in a similar fashion, don’t do so in celebration, rather it is a show of unity when their side are behind, and moreover the incorporation of aspects of European Ultra culture into British fan culture always seems a bit forced and unnatural. The best celebrations are spontaneous and unorganised, a mass expulsion of the emotion that has been building up during the match, an outpouring of unadulterated joy where it’s ok to embrace strangers or end up collapsed in a heap three rows in front of your original position, not an organised ritual.

Nevertheless, despite the muted applause greeting goals against the likes of Bolton, the orchestrated bouncing at Eastlands and the charmless authoritians in hi-visibility jackets, the mental goal celebration is still there occasionally. Anyone who saw the Birmingham fans celebrations at White Hart Lane when they thought the goal they’d scored would keep the up can bear witness to it, as can anyone who was Stamford Bridge when Fernando Torres broke his duck against West Ham. The delirium of a last minute winner or a goal against your rivals is still the same.   

 Although, they’re more infrequent with success and sanitisation it is the buzz of these moments that makes football, football, for the match going fan. That shared bond in the instant of ecstasy when a Norwegian left back heads into his own net in the last minute can never be felt in your armchair in front of Sky Sports and long may that continue.

By Callum West

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Postcard Records

Madonna, Flashdance, Duran Duran, Stock Aitken and Waterman and Living on a Prayer. For the clientele of shit suburban student nights in soulless high street bar chains, this is what 80’s music has unfortunately come to represent – the chance to get legless on cheap booze and sing along without irony to Bon Jovi in shoulder pads and legwarmers.

Marketing men have repackaged it as the decade that fashion forgot, conspicuous consumption, and awful pop music, whilst talking heads on retrospective documentaries chuckle with embarrassment as they talk about Wham and HI-NRG. However, the reality is quite different, the 80’s were as musically diverse and productive as the more lauded decades that proceeded it. Away from the pop and power ballads, Ska, The Style Council, The Smiths, New Romantic, Post Punk and Acid House all helped soundtrack a decade of great social upheaval and social unrest.

Independent labels such as 2 Tone and Rough Trade played an important part in shaping the musical landscape, as did Postcard Records, who despite only releasing 13 songs were integral to the rise of what became indie music.

Formed in a Glasgow tenement flat in 1979 by teenage student Alan Horne, the label was initially a vehicle to release records by Orange Juice. Fronted by Edwyn Collins, they had some of the sensibilities of punk bands but were altogether more articulate, intelligent and witty and were equally influenced by Americana and Motown. Indeed, when Postcard declared themselves ‘The Sound of Young Scotland’ it was in homage to the Detroit label’s famous motto.

Despite only a thousand copies being pressed, Orange Juice’s debut single ‘Falling and Laughing’ became a critical success, lauded for it’s fey, camp, witty lyrics, tight bass and jangly guitar, which would become the trademark of bands that emerged over the next fewer years such as The Smiths.

Following the early success of this and Orange Juice’s next single Blue Boy, other bands were signed and released singles. Postcard had become the epicentre of Scotland’s independent music scene. Edinburgh post-punks Josef K, were darker, but equally literate (they’re named after the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s The Trial), whilst Australian label mates The Go-Betweens (who now lived in Scotland) released quirky pop.  Aztec Camera, like Orange Juice from Glasgow, were the fourth band to be signed by Postcard. They were the musical vehicle of teenage singer-songwriter Roddy Frame and released beautiful, well crafted, multi layered pop songs, such as the b-side to their first Postcard release ‘Just Like Gold’, ‘We Could Send Letters’.

By the end of 1981 though, it was over, despite the relative success of their 13 releases the label had run out of money, they were declared bankrupt. Alan Horne later explained: ‘We were all very enthusiastic and very naive and we rushed right into the middle of it all before we knew anything. We had never seen the inside of a record company before.’

However, despite being short lived, despite only having a miniscule catalogue of records, Postcard’s influence was huge, musically they had a massive effect on the contemporary indie scene, they influenced the Smiths and inspired the acts that signed Sarah Records in Bristol. They put Scottish music on the map and defined the Scottish sound which can still be heard in the music by the likes of Camera Obscura. Perhaps most importantly though their DIY ethos has become the blueprint for independent labels everywhere, Postcard showed the music world, you can make beautiful, well crafted songs on a shoestring budget.

Heres some of Postcards best releases:

Josef K – Sorry For Laughing

Orange Juice – Simply Thrilled Honey

Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters

 By Callum West

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Simpsons One Offs.

Few things are as good as The Simpsons in it’s 90’s heyday. Funny, thought provoking and heart warming in equal measure, no animated series has ever matched it, let alone surpassed it.

The story of a dysfunctional American working class family it resonated with viewers around world, boys wanted to be rebellious like Bart, girls bright like Lisa. Growing up in the 90’s the Simpsons was the highlight of the week, a new episode on Sky 1 after the watching the football on Super Sunday.

It reflected and satirised American culture and family life without ever being cruel, unlike programmes it paved the way for such as South Park and Family Guy, dealing with issues like homophobia and divorce in a touching and ultimately hilarious fashion.

The family were backed by an ever evolving cast of regulars from Apu – dedicated employee of the Kwik-E-Mart – to Otto – the heavy metal loving School bus driver – all amusing in their own right. Equally hilarious in the cartoon comedy’s ‘golden period’ were the numerous one off/minor characters who popped up for one episode and are seldom seen again, this blog looks at a few of them.

Larry Burns

'Put her back in, she's not done yet'

Portrayed by Jewish comedy legend Larry Dangerfield and looking a lot like Roy Hodgson, Larry Burns is Mr Burns’ long lost son, the result of a late night rendezvous with the daughter of a former University colleague (after a trip to the local cinematorium their passions were inflamed by Clark Gable’s reckless use of the word damn). Larry befriends Homer, has a heroic intake of cocktails and offends high society, but eventually attempts to win his father round with a phoney kidnap, unfortunately this proved unsuccessful.

Lucius Sweet

Lucius Sweet is “exactly as rich and famous as Don King and looks just like him too.” He is a boxing promoter and the manager of Heavyweight Boxing Champion Drederick Tatum and the former manager of ‘Kid Moe’ as bartender Moe Syslak was known towards the end of his boxing career. Sweet’s fighter is about to leave prison after a period of incarceration for pushing his mother down the stairs and upon his release he is to fight Homer who has been making a name for in the boxing world for his ability not to get knocked out. Moe promises Sweet that Homer will last three rounds, however things do not go to plan and he leaves disgusted after the fight with Tatum in tow.

Leon Kompowsky

Kompowsky – voiced by Michael Jackson – is a mental patient who believes he is Michael Jackson. When Homer is sectioned for being a ‘free thinking anarchist’ he shares a cell with Kompowsky and mistakenly believes that he is indeed Michael Jackson, causing a rumpus as the town descends on 742 Evergreen Terrace when the pair are released. Despite not actually being the man behind Off the Wall and Thriller Kompowsky moves in with the Simpsons, performing a ditty with Bart for Lisa’s birthday.

John

ZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPP

John, who runs a shop selling kitch collectables and other camp items in Springfield Mall, is a gay man who befriends the Simpsons after they visit his shop. However, despite liking his beer cold, tv loud and homosexuals flaming Homer does not realise that John is one, and turns against him when Marge drops the bombshell. Worried that John is turning Bart gay – he’s started dancing to Cher and taken to wearing a Hawain shirt despite not being a big fat party animal – he takes Bart to a steel mill, however in a rather unfortunate turn of events it is a gay steel mill. Convinced by Moe that a trip hunting will straighten the boy out, Homer takes Bart to kill a deer however when the deer turn on Homer, Bart, Moe and Barney it is John who rescues them, gaining a new found respect from Homer.

Hank Scorpio

Hank Scorpio is the archetypal Bond villain who’ll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth. He is also Homer’s boss when he moves the family from Springfield to Cypress Creek for a new and better paid position at Globex Corporation.  Globex Corporation are known for their generous nature towards employees at at Homers behest install hammocks in their offices. However, they are also under seige from the American army who invade the offices as Homer prepares to move his family back to Springfield, having failed to Cypress Creek. Upon their return Scorpio purchases the Denver Broncos for Homer, they may not be the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s a start.

By Callum West

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Haye vs Klitschko Preview

Tonight in Hamburg, David Haye squares up against Wladimir Klitschko in perhaps the most eagerly anticipated East meets West Heavyweight title fight since Apollo Creed fought Ivan Drago, indeed,  with the swagger, speed and skill of the South Londoner being pitted against strength and size of the steely Soviet slugger the fights make up somewhat similar to the Sylvester Stalone classic.

Klitschko is the clear favourite with the bookies to unify the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts, as doubt over Haye’s chin and his ability to deal with the Ukrainian’s superior reach and power persist.  He was knocked out at Cruiserweight in his only previous professional defeat, will he be able to cope?

However, Haye is an equally explosive and powerful puncher. Klitschko has been stopped three times in the past. Furthermore, whilst he has won his last 10 fights as champion, his opponents have hardly been world beaters and he certainly hasn’t fought anyone with Haye’s speed or mobility.

Both fighters have predicted that the fight will not go the distance and for the Bermondsey Boxer to prevail he will surely have to knock Klitschko out and not rely the scorecards of judges notoriously in favour of home fighters.  Equally, although he went the distance against Nikolai Valuev when winning his WBA belt, Haye’s stamina has been called into question in the past and as the fight goes on that may tell.

Whilst it’s hard fight to predict what is certain is that it’ll be a more enthralling encounter than Haye’s last fight against Audley Harrison, he has it in him to pull it off and hopefully for the good of the sport he does. Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.

By Callum West

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