Sunday, 14 November 2010

Pugilism At Its Worst: Gerald McClellan

Boxing's latest farce saw David Haye beat a woeful Audley Harrison last night in Manchester. I was doing a bit of digging around on the internet and ended up finding information on an American boxer named Gerald McClellan.

McClellan was scheduled to fight Britain's 'Dark Destroyer' Nigel Benn in London way back in 1995. Benn was the overwhelming underdog as McClellan was pretty much in the prime of his boxing life. Ten rounds later McClellan was taken to hospital where he went into a coma. He emerged eleven days later with severe brain damage, the loss of sight in both eyes and significant loss of hearing. He couldn't walk for a long time but later managed to regain some mobility. He never regained his sight or hearing.

Benn couldn't be blamed for what happened; he was merely fighting for his career, trying to prove all of his doubters wrong in a sport which is more than willing to throw you on the scrap heap if you aren't earning enough money for promoters.

Typically, promoter Don King did nothing to help McClellan after the fight and it was up to other boxers to get together to help raise money for the guy. He got about $60,000 for the fight which destroyed his life but this paled in comparison to the $700,000 Benn was guaranteed.

Boxing is a barbaric sport which sees men put it all on the line in front of a pumped up crowd baying for blood. The promoters are manipulative hucksters, more than ready to put someone else's life secondary to a big pay day. My opinion of the sport has never been one of admiration and after reading up about McClellan I wouldn't judge Audley Harrison for getting out of the lion's pit and retiring with his head in tact.

Below is a video about McClellan. Its a bit of a patchy one I found on Youtube but demonstrates perfectly the horrendous nature of boxing and the pyrrhic lengths people go to in the name of sport. I certainly wouldn't judge anyone if they liked the sport as it carries its history like everything else and has its own catalogue of inspiring moments but I don't think I'll bother with it anymore. These guys deserve better.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Back For Good/At Least an Album and Tour

You must have been hiding in a dank cave in the Middle-East if you didn’t know that Robbie Williams has rejoined Take That, returning the line up to its original five-piece for their latest album, Progress.

The clamour to get tickets for next year’s tour was staggering, even considering the success they have had since reforming as a quartet in 2006. Any thoughts that there would be a frigid response to Williams, the Great Betrayer, rejoining the group were soon laughed off as ticket sellers were rubbing their flabby guts with the money which had helped ship roughly a million tickets in a matter of hours.

When I was growing up my sister was a Howard Donald fan (she even stuck by him when he stopped showering and got the lank dreadlocks) but I always considered Williams to be the most interesting member of the band. It’s because he never played it safe like the others. He had that riveting unpredictability which would have everyone, including himself, unsure of what he was going to say or do next. Meanwhile, Gary Barlow would sit nervously in attendance, terrified that the applecart would not so much be upset but driven recklessly into a wall at high speed. Which it eventually was.

Williams’ decision to leave the band in 1995 showed that he had the balls to cut the tether which tied him to the biggest pop band in Britain and face the world on its own terms in the pursuit of artistic credibility. Whether he achieved that credibility is a moot point but, my word, did he have a hell of a time trying to find it.

Not remembering recording albums, overdosing in elevators whilst supermodels snorted the rest of his stash back in his hotel room, and all those stints in rehab (“I love a clinic, me”), the singer has gone through a picaresque journey which has now seen him come full-circle, albeit with a little more maturity and a smattering of garish tattoos.

He seems to have found solace in marriage and I’m actually pleased for him. What Williams will always have though is a cloud of capriciousness hanging over him. It’s all happy families with the band at the moment as the pressure is on and the need to play the game has never been higher, but it was his frustration at having to play the game which saw him leave the group in the first place. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Kraftwerk - Tour de France Soundtracks

So, I was playing around on InDesign the other day (as that's something I do now, apparently) and thought I would find design inspiration through Kraftwerk and their aesthetic precision. I managed to mock up a double-page spread which I'm sure the varying members of the German electronic pioneers would have winced at, turning away in regal disgust, but more importantly I went home and listened to their last studio album, Tour de France Soundtracks.

Recorded in 2003 to mark the centenary year of everybody's favourite drug-fuelled cycling competition, the album is a collection of songs which, according to the group, is supposed to reflect the mechanical yet streamlined nature of cycling.

My favourite track is Tour de France Etape 2, a song which is so distinctively European that it makes you want to go to France, jump in an old Fiat (the band can cycle but I'm not), and drive along their autoroutes, guided by the neon rhythm of lit streetlights. Enjoy:

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown

I feel a heavy responsibility reviewing the latest Kings of Leon album, Come Around Sundown. Such are the giddying levels to which they have been exalted I’m worried that if I reveal any cracks in their armour then I will be dragged off to the gallows by a couple of check-shirted heavies, screaming at the top of my lungs, “I think they’ve got progressively worse! They will never top Youth and Young Manhood! Death to Sex on Fire!”

My typically haphazard theory is that there are two types of Kings of Leon fan: Those who love their first two albums with sheer bloody stubborness and those who, in their delusion, think they define all that is great about the Indie genre. If you are of the former grouping Come Around Sundown will be another disappointment, another splintered wedge driven between you and the band you used to adore. If you are the latter, be prepared to part with your hard-earned cash as you will be buying this album. No, you will.

The most striking feature on listening to the album is that there is no progression from their previous two efforts. The vast, widescreen guitars are still there as are the soaring choruses and the meaty, slowed down drums. The album's title is almost beckoning the time of day when it should be played, preferably in a big field as woozy accountants sway from side to side wondering where they left their expensive sandals.

New single Radioactive is probably as good as it gets. Alongside the soul-pop of Beach Side, and the inbred funk of Pony Up, these are the real anomalies on the record. The rest of the album (yes, I am willing to lump a lot of it together) is so defiantly predictable as to be completely audacious.

The sluggish tempos of The Face, No Money and Mi Amigo all have the feel of songs which get undeserved airtime at a barbeque when nobody is manning the iPod. The End and The Immortals are likely to eat up stadiums such is their mammoth production. The album plumbs its most upsetting depth with Mary, a gammy carthorse of a song which could fester smugly in Rod Stewart’s back catalogue.

The point is it’s all so textbook. It is the sound of a band who haven’t been exposed to the danger which informed their first album so brilliantly, the sound of band who always get what they want. Musically, this is their Fat Elvis period The decline continues.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

(Not) Time for Heroes

With one eye on this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival line up I saw that The Libertines were getting back together to play their first shows together in four years over the August Bank Holiday weekend, reportedly being offered £1.5 million to do so.

I think its all overhyped bollocks though. Obviously I recognise the importance of the Libertines – they are the British indie band of my generation – but they also have so much to answer for.

Their debut album, Up the Bracket, is one of my favourite albums full stop; an album which is rightly considered to be one of the finest indie albums of the last decade. Capturing the scuzzy uncertainty of wasted youth, it’s abrasive, tragicomic, heart-on-sleeve stylings are what make it such an endearing album, all delivered by what many misled, trilby-wearing idiots would regard as the noughties’ Lennon and McCartney.

The relationship of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat is one of notorious love/hate. A brotherly bond played out like a skaggy soap opera, they were never far away from the cover of the NME. When they first blindly stumbled onto an atrophied indie scene back in 2002 they were viewed as a return to those jolly days of Britpop where life was a party to be enjoyed, a party where you didn’t even have to bring your own booze. They charmed their way through interviews, romanticising a bohemian existence which mainly involved doing drugs, enjoying the works of both Keats and Chas ‘n Dave, and not showering.

Then everything went wrong. Pete Doherty began his long-standing drug problems, his relationship with Barat breaking down in a misty haze of mental distortion and good old-fashioned betrayal. All of this coincided with the recording of their truly atrocious eponymous second album. I remember my enthusiasm evaporating like the dragons Doherty is so keen to chase as I realised that they had become a mere clone of themselves, just another pseudo-jaunty indie band where the music is an annoying distraction from the clothes and the lifestyle.

Never mind. Their eventual break-up began a period of solo projects; Doherty created the unreliable Babyshambles, a source of income for his smack and crack addictions, whilst Barat formed Dirty Pretty Things with former Libertines drummer Gary Powell, the band an embarrassing example of “Landfill Indie” if ever I saw/heard one.

I can understand the excitement for a lot of people that the Libertines are now reuniting: They were arguably the last band to mean something to indie music fans, a band whose charm came from their familiarity and accessibility. However, I can only view this reunion with cynicism. Money has yet again spoken.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Vaguely Obsessed

I've found myself really getting into Roxy Music as of late, totally independent of the fact that they have announced dates over the summer (notably at Lovebox and Bestival). Not knowing a great deal about their back catalogue I decided to dedicate some time to find out more.

The album For Your Pleasure (1973) is a particularly brilliant piece of work and, for me, one of the many stand out tracks is In Every Dream Home a Heartache. The first half of the song is chilling, with Bryan Ferry robotically serenading a blow-up doll whilst simulataneously trying to find meaning in the empty materialism which surrounds him, but the real pay off is in the second part: a decadent descent into God knows what.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Doug Fieger, R.I.P.

I read the news today, oh boy, and I saw that Doug Fieger, lead singer and songwriter with pop/rock gems The Knack, known for their number one hit My Sharona, had lost his battle with cancer.

Arguably the one hit wonder to end all one hit wonders, if My Sharona was Mr. Fieger's only significant contribution to the world of Rock and Pop then, by gum, it was a great one. Enjoy:

The Knack - My Sharona

Rab | MySpace Video

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Awful Album Covers.....Part Two!

Due to the runaway success of my last post (four people 'liked' it on Facebook and my sister said it was hilarious - I'm classing that as runaway) I thought I would drudge through the sludge that is the internet and try to find some more awful (amazing) album covers. Here be what I found...

I want to hug him.

They're queuing up...

I know.

...And thank you for the music. Oh, wait.


Is that a jazz flute?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Awful Album Covers

My Dad has three main hobbies. He enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles, he is a trainspotter and he is a stamp collector. I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm for the first two. His stamp collection, however, does hold some interest for me.

Since sending off tuppence to the Royal Mail as a you
ng boy he has been sent their First Day covers ever since. The latest batch to come through were based around classic album covers and included, amongst others, The Division Bell by Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie. It got me thinking though. All of the albums which featured on these stamps were, in their own unique way, works of art. But what about the worst album covers, album art so lacking in taste and style that you can only marvel at their brutality? So, I had a little look on the internet to see what I could find and here is a small selection of what I found. Brace yourselves...

I don't know about you but I find this terrifying.

By request only, apparently. Thank God.

One can only imagine how many times
he's been punched since this was released.

I think this may be the greatest thing
I have ever seen in my life.

My favourite is the clinically obese one.

"We're going to have to ask you to leave, sir.
You're scaring the children."

I can only assume he didn't leave Glasgow alive.

"I told you to put the incense out before you went to bed!"

Germaine Greer's favourite album cover.

Have a look for yourself online. Believe me, there are thousands.