Punk Rock is dead

Yeah. That’s Punk legend Iggy Pop. The self-proclaimed Rock Iguana… hailed by a lot of peeps as one of the Godfathers of Punk Rock. And now he’s selling car insurance??? CAR INSURANCE???

You seen these things in between the cool programmes on TV? You know the ones, little 30 second films trying to get you to buy something… adverts, I believe they’re called. Turns out they’re starting to get worse. How do I know? Well, my friends… this is how:

Yeah. That’s Punk legend Iggy Pop. The self-proclaimed Rock Iguana… hailed by a lot of peeps as one of the Godfathers of Punk Rock. And now he’s selling car insurance??? CAR INSURANCE???

Words cannot express how sickened I am.  I’m not a violent man, really I’m not… but seeing Iggy proclaim that “You think selling car insurance? I’m not, I’m selling time!” really makes me want to pick up something heavy and/or pointy and throw it in his general direction.

But here’s the thing – it turns out that Swiftcover’s insurance policy contains a list of exceptions… a list of careers and professions that they won’t offfer insurance to. Guess what one of them is? Yup, musician. So Iggy might be selling time… but he sure as hell ain’t buying car insurance from Switfcover.

This ad just irritates me beyond belief, I’m enraged just sitting here thinking about it.

You think Iggy of the 60s and 70s would do ads for car insurance?

I don’t know… all we need now is Johnny Rotten to start advertising butter…

Comics? Nay… Graphic Novels!

Already, I’m imparting info that could make you seem like less of a newcomer when you go to pick these books up from your local comic emporium, and just possibly save you from a 15 minute lecture in some cases.

Well, hello.

On a slightly different track to the norm – if this site has a norm – is this – my quick guide to the 5 comic books (and we’re not talking the Beano and Dandy here, folks) you should read to familiarise yourself with the medium.

OK, first things first, they’re not technically known as comic books – the collected editions of full stories are called either Graphic Novels or Trade Paperbacks. Already, I’m imparting info that could make you seem like less of a newcomer when you go to pick these books up from your local comic emporium, and just possibly save you from a 15 minute lecture in some cases.

As is the norm, I’ll do this in reverse order.

5. Preacher: Gone To Texas

Hey, in reality it could be any of the Preacher books, they’re all incredibly good in their own right; but you really should start here and work your way through in order. Preacher is no ordinary book – it follows the Reverend Jesse Custer on his quest to find God. Why? Well because he’s been given “The Word” – if he says it, you do it.

Along the way, he encounters a failed hit-woman, who becomes his better half, an Irish Vampire, the military wing of the Church, and the Saint of Killers amongst others. Oh, and he dies, but comes back to life. As you can tell, it ain’t the normal story, and it’s littered with curse words, nudity, violence and several possibly blasphemous set pieces, which is one of the reasons it’s great.

4. Sin City: The Hard Goodbye

If you’ve seen the Sin City movie, then you’ll know all about this, as the movie was practically scene for scene lifted from the comic. With just a few scenes cut for time-keeping, the comic does have a lot to recommend it though.

For a start, it’s Frank Miller doing what Frank Miller does best – striking black and white art, stylish crime stories and over the top characters. Again, any one of the Sin City ‘yarns’ as Miller calls them is recommended, but this is the starting point, and it focuses on Sin City’s greatest export – Marv.

3. Batman: Year One

Add Frank Miller to one of comic’s greatest creations, and you’re onto solid gold. Make that story a re-telling of the origin of Batman, and for my money, it’s the best Batman story ever. You’ll recognise set-pieces in the story from the Batman Begins movie, and that’s no bad thing, because Miller does Batman the way Batman should be.

Frank Miller also did what many regard as THE greatest Batman story in Batman: Dark Knight Returns – also worth a read, but in my eyes (and it’s my column, so NYER!) not as good as this tale.

2. Watchmen

Yep, it’s here. All the comic geeks now breath a sigh of relief as Watchmen makes the list. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t, as it’s quite simply one of the greatest stories ever told, in any medium.

Created by Allan Moore, he behind V for Vendetta, From Hell and countless other exemplary books, it’s one of the defining pieces in comic history – there’s no ‘name’ characters here, and the plot is slow burning – but I guarantee – there is nothing else like it.

1. Torso

But this… for me, this is the Holy Grail of comics. Good as Watchmen, is, for my money – this is better. Created by Brian Michael Bendis, it’s the true story of a serial killer in Cleveland in the 1930s – the case was never solved, but Bendis weaves a story out of the facts that were known and comes up with a killer. Oh yes, and Eliot Ness is involved – because after Al Capone, Eliot Ness was sent to Cleveland to sort this mess out.

Why is this book so special? Well, it’s unusual. The art is astounding, and not your usual comic-style art – a lot of the designs are photo-realistic, and the sections inspired by how the killer is thinking are completely out of the blue. If you want to see inspirational story telling and truly ground breaking work, not to mention a killer story, check this book out.

Enjoy!

Thunder: A retrospective – part one

Given that Thunder, my most favouritest band… EVER are to split up in the summer after one last final tour, I figured I would pay tribute to them in my own little way. I’m going to take a look back over their 20 odd years together and review their studio albums for your (and my own) pleasure.

Well, hello.

Given that Thunder, my most favouritest band… EVER are to split up in the summer after one last final tour, I figured I would pay tribute to them in my own little way. I’m going to take a look back over their 20 odd years together and review their studio albums for your (and my own) pleasure.

Where better to start than at the very beginning?

BACKSTREET SYMPHONY (1990)

Backstreet Symphony
Backstreet Symphony

From the ashes of Terraplane came Thunder, and EMI released their debut record in 1990. Now, even given that I’m slightly (ha!) biased towards the band, this to me remains one of the finest ever debut records by a rock band, right up there with Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. Seriously, folks!

The record opens with She’s So Fine, and it sets the tone, not just for the record, but for the band’s entire career. An almighty opening riff courtesy of Luke Morely – the writing force behind the band – kicks things off and sets up the introduction of the best kept secret in rock music – the incredible voice of Danny Bowes. Now, by no means are the rest of the band any slouches either, but Danny’s voice is just a thing of beauty, especially on this record.

Second track in, and we’re into classic territory already. For my money, there are 3 genuine classic rock songs on this record – Dirty Love is the first. A tale of love gone wrong, and not in the usual way, it’s very much a song to be played if your relationship went badly wrong… but most of all it’s nigh on perfect and probably sums up the Thunder live experience like no other song in their repertoire. Still the finalé to their gigs to this very day, it makes you want to move your feet and sing along to the “na na naaa, na na na naa” parts. And yes, that’s a technical term.

Slowing things down slightly comes Don’t Wait For Me, a ballad given extra depth with the addition of Ben Matthews and his organ. Hammond organ, that is, you filthy minded buggers! Again, not a mind blowing choice of subject, but most great rock songs are about love in some form. Danny’s vocals again just blow the speakers out, and Luke’s solo is amazing.

Higher Ground would be regarded as a high point on any other record, but the strength of this album is such that it’s not even regarded as one of the classic tracks on here by many people, me included! Don’t get me wrong, it is truly an awesome song, and to be honest, means a lot to me for various reasons I’m not going into here! On their first ccompilation record, this would be slightly rejigged as Higher Ground ’95, but this remains the definitive version for me.

Showcasing Luke’s songwriting skills next comes Until My Dying Day. Using the now familiar acoustic-into-electric formula that Thunder have perfected, this is another example of the power ballad style that Thunder have done as well as anyone over the past 19 years. Another supreme song and just shows how hot they were during the making of this record.

Things kick up another notch with the second genuine classic on this album – the title track Backstreet Symphony. Words can’t express how awesome this song is live, despite Danny’s tendencies to attempt to row with his mic stand. This to me remains the single greatest riff Luke ever committed to record, and one of Danny’s finest vocal performances. A song made to perfect your air guitar moves!

How do you follow that? With Love Walked In, that’s how. If any band today released this as their own song, they’d be hailed as geniuses. You’ll find this song popping up on rock compilation albums right up to this very day. This, my friends, is one of the finest, most carefully crafted, beautifully executed songs you will ever hear. Seriously, this is just a stone cold classic. Hasn’t aged and sounds as good today as it did all those years ago.

By contrast, An Englishman On Holiday can best be described as a decent middle of the road song. It’s decent enough and still delivers some fine riffing, but suffers from the high quality of the rest of this record. The ‘Here We Go’ singalong at the end still raises a smile though!

As we approach the end of the album, Girl’s Going Out Of Her Head comes and goes. Again, on any other album, by any other band, this would be a stand out track… it does kind of get lost in the mix here though. Probably the weakest song on the record for me.

Ah, and the intensity is kicked back up a notch with a great choice of cover – the old Spencer Davis Group rocker Gimme Some Lovin’ and it still remains a favourite of fans to this day. Hey, it’s not ground breaking or innovative, but rock music doesn’t have to be. It’s sometimes just about having a good time… and this song delivers that in spades.

Last song on the record is Distant Thunder and I have to say, this song does tend to be dismissed, but it’s one of my favourites. I think it’s got a great contemporary blues feel to it, and as per usual, Danny delivers the goods with the vocals. By no means a filler to close out the album, or a cheap gimmick to work the band name into a song.

All in all, this album still sounds great and relevant today. Only one track for me strays into filler territory and even that is very listenable. This is just such a great rock record, and for my money hasn’t aged one little bit. A stupendous debut record, and one that Thunder would struggle to top. Some would say they never really did, but we’ll get to that over the next few weeks…

To sum up, if you don’t own this record, why not? It’s right up there with the classics and remains one of the best records ever to come out of Britain. An absolute must have.

Weirdness abounds!

It’s Monday, and already it’s bizarro-land in the wacky world of sports… here’s my take on today’s events so far:

Well, hello.

It’s Monday, and already it’s bizarro-land in the wacky world of sports… here’s my take on today’s events so far:

AP McCoy
AP McCoy

THE GOOD

AP McCoy, National Hunt Jockey supreme. What more can be said about this incredibly determined human being? Already the owner of the record for more jumps victories than anyone else, he took that record a step farther today by claiming his 3,000th victory. Simply incredible. If I was wearing a cap, I would doff it to this genius… but I’m not, so I won’t. So there.

THE BAD

Chelsea sack Big Phil Scolari. Kinda bizarre, but when you think about it, not really. The Special One, Jose Mourinho was fired for less. He had a better record, but played dull football, so had to go. Scolari seems to make it his mission to play boring footy and try and scrape a 1 goal victory. Not good enough for well known football expert, Roman Abramovich, so off he goes into the sunset. Alas poor Phil, we hardly knew ye…

THE UGLY

Tony Adams. Heh. Take that aaaaany way you want, but the facts are simple: He’s not a very good manager. Portsmouth have been shocking recently, and his jacket was always on a shoogly nail – today that nail fell out, and off he toddles. Amazingly, rumours suggest he may walk into a job at Feyenoord! I have a lot of time for Big Tone, but managing is not his career, it seems.

—  Tony

Cinnoma: The Yes Man

I decided to venture out from my warm-ish home on a bleak, dark, cold Friday night to go see The Yes Man, the new Jim Carrey face-pull-a-thon freshly released. I am a huge fan of the original book, and indeed the book’s author Danny Wallace.

CINNOMA!

Well, here we go. Back from the dead like… I dunno, that guy whose birthday we celebrated last week. You know… the one with the trees and presents. Forget his name. Anyway…

I decided to venture out from my warm-ish home on a bleak, dark, cold Friday night to go see The Yes Man, the new Jim Carrey face-pull-a-thon freshly released. I am a huge fan of the original book, and indeed the book’s author Danny Wallace.

Your cinema of choice was the Vue at Hamilton… ticket for the flick was £6.35, and the lovely regular coke/small popcorn and a kit-kat combo was not too bad (by cinema standards) at £3.25.

The cinema itself? Well, kinda bland, as I find most Vue Cinemas to be. Also, should be noted, I think I was the only single guy (or indeed single of ANY persuasion) there as almost everyone else was part of couple, and doing sickly sweet couple things like feeding each other popcorn and making lovey-dovey eyes at each other. Sickening. The other thing of note was the screen next to my movie was Twilight… and I have never, EVER seen so many teenage female Goths in one place. Honestly, if I was a vampire or 20 years younger, I could have died happily…

But I digress…

THE FACTS:

The Movie: The Yes Man
The Year: 2008
The Director: Peyton Reed
The Writer(s): Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel ; based on a book by Danny Wallace
The Stars: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Terence Stamp, Rhys Darby

THE LOWDOWN:

Jim Carrey is a dweeb. One day he decides to say YES to everything, and becomes less of a dweeb, and learns a lesson along the way. Awwwww.

THE DIRT:

Well, first thing first – beyond the concept of saying Yes to everything, this has absolutely sod all to do with the book. If you’re going along to the flick expecting to see the hilarious antics of Danny Wallace, including a trip to Amsterdam and buying a strange green car… forget it.

With that out of the way, it’s not a real problem. The film itself is just your basic romantic comedy with a wacky premise. Kinda like Liar Liar, in fact… but let’s not dwell on that.

Carrey’s character, Carl, is dull. He stays in, lies to his friends to avoid going out, and has a dull job in a dull bank. He is, in short… a dweeb. His best friend gives up on him when Carl blows off his engagement party. When – shock! – out of the blue, an old friend of Carl’s appears and encourages him to go to a seminar where everyone is encouraged to say YES to everything.

The seminar scene is one of the highlights of the flick, with Terence Stamp gloriously dead-panning his way opposite Carrey to brow beat our hero into accepting the way of the Yes Man.

And of course, you know hilarity ensues afterwards. Carl meets a homeless man; Carl meets Alison (played by the really cute Zooey Deschanel) and falls in love; Carl receives *ahem* mouth lovin’ from his neighbour (another sheer highlight of the film, I defy you not to laugh); Carl saves a suicidal man from jumping by singing to him… Carl learns Korean; Carl learns to fly; Carl hops across the country being wacky and spontaneous; Carl gets accused of being a terrorist and loses the girl… Can you guess what happens in the end, folks? Yes, that’s right, Carl gets the girl! Yay!

Of course it’s sickly sweet in places, but hey, it’s an American Rom-Com, so you expect that. The funny stuff more than outweighs that. It’s not a movie for you to go and see and laugh so much you’ll end up with a hernia, but it does move along quickly and deliver belly laughs in places.

It is all very predictable and formulaic, but so what? It’s a nice, feel good movie with no real heavy moralising (except the final Carl/Alison scene) and for me, a killer soundtrack featuring mostly Eels tracks bar a couple of tracks from Alison’s band, Munchausen by Proxy… yes, they are really called that. Also, for geeks like me – seeing Danny Wallace himself pop up in a short cameo near the end made me all giggly… if I’d been with someone, I would have told them smugly who it was…<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

THE BOTTOM LINE:

To sum up, it’s a fantastic way to escape your own boring life for a while. If you want a laugh, then you’ll not do much worse than going to see this. But for the love of all that’s right with the world, PLEASE go buy the book as well – The Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. Say Yes!

THE RATING:

EIGHT out of ten Golden Innos

To sum up, it’s a fantastic way to escape your own boring life for a while. If you want a laugh, then you’ll not do much worse than going to see this. But for the love of all that’s right with the world, PLEASE go buy the book as well – The Yes Man, by Danny Wallace. Say Yes!

The biggest massacre since the Highland clearances

Well, you may or may not know this, but I like rugby. I like GOOD rugby, I should say.

Despite this, I follow my country, Scotland. This is, of course, Six Nations season, and as such, this basically means that the other five teams take it in turns to kick the living daylights out of our sorry squad.

Well, you may or may not know this, but I like rugby. I like GOOD rugby, I should say.

Despite this, I follow my country, Scotland. This is, of course, Six Nations season, and as such, this basically means that the other five teams take it in turns to kick the living daylights out of our sorry squad.

Traditionally, the Scots have generally been quite good at rugby… perhaps never world beaters, but good enough to hold our own and pull off the odd title win in the Six Nations (or Five as it was) tourney. Recently, we’ve been the strongest team in the competition… mainly because we’ve been at the bottom of the table holding the other nations up.

This year looks like being no bloody different…

The game today against the Welsh invaders (well, if you believed the BBC’s Scottish News, that’s what they were) was shambolic; it was teeth-grindingly awful; it was diabolical; worst? it was embarrassing.

Whether they’ve changed the rules to make it illegal for a Scots player to tackle an opponent without being knocked at least 3 feet backwards. Sure, the first try was scored during a period when we were reduced to 14 men, thanks to Geoff Cross and his suicidal head first assault on a knee-cap…but they would have steamrollered over us without that advantage anyway!

They oozed power, pace and class, without ever giving the feeling that they were out of 2nd gear. We oozed desperation, panic and the feeling that we couldn’t even find 1st gear, let alone second.

The main culprits for me? Well, I’ll go into that in a second. The team itself though was poorly organised and looked like they’d met each other for the first time 10 minutes before kick off. Mr. Hadden has to take the blame for this lack of conduciveness.

The Welsh team fought like demons for each other; they supported, they harassed, they supported the ball carrier and provided a simple out ball more often than not. When they had to defend, they dug in like their life depended on it – take the last 5 minutes or so of the 1st period as an example, they calmly repelled a frantic Scots attack, which was easily the most confident we had looked in the entire match.

Our team had no drive, no desire and most appallingly for a Scottish team, no damn PASSION.

How we managed to stay within 13 points of the Welsh is more down to them not killing us off with conversions rather than any great spirit from ourselves…

Surely this has to be Frank Hadden’s last chance. I’m not saying we should change coach now – not much point mid Six Nations campaign – but come the end of the tourney, he has to go… be it of his own volition or be it forced upon him, his time is up.

Who can replace him? There is another problem… I don’t know! The heart says Ian McGeechan but my head says surely he would not be remotely interested in what is fast becoming a poisoned chalice.

On to today’s culprits…

Southwell: Honestly… did little to nothing with his kicks, and was guilty of some terrible ball handling. Not the worst player on the pitch, though.
Webster: Bravely tried to carry on despite knocking himself silly. Looked like he didn’t know where he was for a while. Looked like he might have contributed, had a couple of strong runs.
Cairns: The Invisible Man. Was he even playing? I didn’t notice him until he was replaced! Awful.
Morrison: Can’t recall him doing much wrong. Or right. Or much at all, to be honest…
Lamont: How this man gets a game at THIS level is beyond me. Really, really, really awful. Plus point: He’s not Rory.
Godman: Hailed by the BBC pre game as a great potential stand-off. Pffft! Did precious little with the ball and kicking was suspect.
Blair: An off day for Mikey. One great tackle on Lee Byrne and a lot of possession but didn’t build the play in his usual manner. Poor.
Jackson: Totally anonymous. Can’t remember his name being mentioned once in a positive manner.
Ford: See above… might as well not have been there.
Cross: Best moment was crying his eyes out during the national anthem… carted off the pitch after trying to head butt someone’s knee. Never a good idea.
White: A shadow of his former self, sadly. Winding his career down. The presence that he once had is no longer there.
J Hamilton: A menace at line-outs, but not ENOUGH of a menace. By no means the worst player on the field though.
Hogg: Another Mr. Average. Did little to support the play and tackling was a nightmare.
Taylor: Probably the best starter, to be honest. Tried to get things going but had precious little support and was often running into a Red sea with little support.
Barclay: Did OK, I thought. Unlucky to be replaced but by that time it was all over.

Replacements:
Paterson for Webster (21): Don’t get me started. A one trick pony with the boot, and not a leader. Not powerful enough to be playing where he was slotted in today, despite a couple of decent runs. A luxury player, not an essential one.
Dickinson for Cross (31):  Slotted in and promptly vanished into the desert of anonymity that we seemed to revel in today.
M Evans for Cairns (52): Changed the pace of the game for us. Should have been on from the start, looked genuninely excited to be on the park and tried his damnedest to get involved.
Gray for Barclay (56): Not entirely sure why the change was made but did alright. Not ground breaking or dynamic, but decent.
Cusiter for Blair (62): Did his starting chances no harm with a series of nice touches. Was quick, strong assured but again let down by those around him.
Hall for Ford (62): Says a lot I didn’t even realise he came on!
Brown for Hogg (73): Another average, no frills cameo. Game was long gone by this time.

In the name of all that’s right, this starting line-up has to be ripped apart and rebuilt before next week. France in Paris? We are just target practice if we don’t sort it out and quickly!

If nothing else, all I want to see is some passion from the guys on the pitch. They should be giving everything they have and more for the right to wear that jersey, not just going through the motions as they did today.

— Tony

Hello Blog-o-sphere!

I mentioned a while back to a few people that I had the itch to get writing about stuff again, but couldn’t settle on what… I figured then, that this might just be the best way to slide by for the time being. I can cut loose and rant, pontificate, note, review, praise, or just discuss whatever I feel like here.

Well, hello.

Welcome to my little ol’ blog type thing.

I mentioned a while back to a few people that I had the itch to get writing about stuff again, but couldn’t settle on what… I figured then, that this might just be the best way to slide by for the time being. I can cut loose and rant, pontificate, note, review, praise, or just discuss whatever I feel like here.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you all with my own little “oh woe is me!” life details. Unless you’re my friends, in which case there’s probably a text on the way to you AS I TYPE.

No, this is a real-life-hassle free zone. This blog is reserved for me to ramble on about anything else… sport, movies, books, TV, music, the ‘Net – whatever takes my fancy at the time!

So, gentle reader… if you believe this is the type of thing that would interest you… welcome!

— Tony