Sunday, 16 September 2018

The end of summer

So England somehow managed to win a series against the world's No.1 test team but did so without ever looking like a world beating team themselves.  How on earth did they manage it?

Before the series it would have been reasonable to expect it would be a battle between England's formidable (in home conditions) bowling attack and India's batting superstars.  As it turned out the bowlers from both sides dominated and had India batted with anything like the success they manage in Asia then they could have won comfortably.  India's seam bowlers were very impressive and were every bit as good as our own.  If their batsmen can learn to score runs away from home then India could dominate world cricket for years to come.  Despite this series defeat the future looks bright for India.

Can the same be said for England?  The batting has been weak for several years now and with the retirement of Cook we really need to get things sorted out quickly.  Twelve months from now we'll be reflecting on another Ashes summer and mid way through this series I looked forward without much hope, thankfully England's catching improved and in the last test so did the batting.  Things don't look so bleak now.

The series was a really good advert for test cricket, exciting and competitive with two matches that could have gone either way and only Lords was one sided.  There were lots of memorable individual performances too, with players from both sides contributing.  For India Kohli stood out, he was brilliant but all of their bowlers come away with credit.

Alastair Cook announced his retirement just before the end of the series.  He holds all the batting records for an Englishman and deserves all the accolades he has received.  Not only has he been a great batsman he has always come across as an absolute gentleman.  In truth his form has declined in recent years, his place in the side has remained secure because there has been nobody knocking on the door to replace him.  I wonder if not having a regular opening partner has heaped more pressure on him, had the selectors been able to find another opener maybe Cook's career would have been extended.  He leaves international cricket at the age of 33, in other circumstances he may have had another five years in the side?

But what a final match he had! 71 in the first innings then an emotional 147 in the second.  He was applauded onto the field and applauded off.  I must admit to having a lump in my throat but I'm sure I'm not alone, then on the final day of the summer Jimmy had me choking again.

The players this series and other waffle.

The openers

Keaton Jennings only managed a top score of 42 this summer but in context, in a low scoring summer he may have done just enough to hang onto his place.  Especially as we now have to find two openers.  Who else is there?  The leading run scorer in county cricket is Rory Burns who has been consistent for Surrey for several years.  Then there are two from England's successful ODI team, why not give Jason Roy a chance?  I've said it many times, Alex Hales is far too good a cricketer to not make the grade in test cricket.  Also waiting in the wings is Haseeb Hameed who was very impressive for England on debut but seems to have gone backwards in his county career.  He is still a young man who may well come back strongly in the future.

The batsmen

Joe Root started the series batting at three but by the end was back at his favoured four.  Root has had a poor series by his standards but this is no big worry, form is temporary, class is permanent as he proved at the Oval.   At the beginning of the summer I thought his captaincy was poor but to be fair he seems to be improving.  I say "seems" because a winning captain usually looks good.  He does make some strange decisions though, I think he tries too hard...

If Root doesn't want to bat at three then who will?  The latest name in this position is Moeen Ali who did OK at the Oval and clearly wants the job but is he really up to it?  I like Moeen, he is a very good all round cricketer but outside England I'm not sure he is good enough to secure a more permanent place in the team.  On TMS Sir Geoffrey suggested Ben Stokes for the job as he has the best technique and seems to struggle to be fully fit enough to bowl.  Maybe batting at three and bowling a few overs here and there is the future?  If either of these players bats at three it will free up a spot in the middle order for one of the many all rounders we have queuing up to get in the team.

I liked the selection of Ollie Pope but it seemed strange batting him at four when he had never batted above six for his county.  In a difficult summer for batsmen Pope was on a hiding to nothing but hopefully he can come back a better player in the future.  From memory I think Malan played at some point...

In Bairstow and Buttler we have two fine, attacking batsmen/wicket keepers but I'm not alone in thinking they are batting out of position.  For me it's simple, whoever has the gloves should bat at seven and whoever doesn't bats higher, somewhere.  Buttler has enjoyed a brilliant summer since being recalled scoring big runs often in difficult circumstances.  Bairstow's series with the bat started well but declined, his keeping stood up, especially in comparison to Pant.

All rounders

Following Botham's retirement Flintoff was the only world class all rounder we've been able to pick, now we have  Stokes and three more very good ones in Ali, Woakes and Curran.  The problem is getting them all in the side.  Stokes had a solid series all things considered and he will always be first choice.  As for the others, all three picked up 'man of the match' awards, the sensible choice is to pick them on a horses for courses basis but who do you leave out.

The bowlers

Broad and Anderson are class.  They have been class for a long time, they were class this summer and will be class for a few years yet.
Adil Rashid was a controversial pick but I like him.  He was under bowled by Root and out bowled by Ali but still did OK and I think he's a match winner on the right wickets.  Dom Bess done well in early summer.

In a few weeks England will be travelling to Sri Lanka and should expect to play on low, slow, dust bowls that turn square.  England have not won a series in Asia since 2012/13.  Sri Lanka must start as favourites.

The selection guessing game.

First test in Sri Lanka XI
Jennings - Just about done enough for Ed Smith at least.  He's playing for his career.
Burns - The best opener in county cricket, he probably has six tests to nail down a spot for next years Ashes.  Could he be England's version of Chris Rogers?
Ali - Done well in India before and allows an extra bowler to be picked. But he shouldn't be batting at three against Australia next year.  He must take wickets on this tour too, it's time to step up.  Love Mo, hope he does!
Root (c) - Bats at four, end of.  I'm still not convinced by his captaincy.
Stokes - Good enough to bat at five so why not?
Buttler - On current form our best batsman
Bairstow (wk) - Because the keeper MUST bat at seven.  Think Gilchrist.

Now the tricky bit, in the expected conditions we should pick third spinner or Root will have to bowl.  On the other hand we have an inform left arm swing bowler on form and confident.
Curran - Because he's a left armer. Or Bess - Because he looked class when he had the chance.
I think they'll pick Curran.

Rashid - Match winner but now is the time to prove it.
Broad - Because.
Anderson- Because.

Who else makes the squad?
Leach as another spinner.  Woakes - all rounder.
Batsmen - Pope seems to be next inline and Ballance, a batsman who, like so many, has been in/out of the side in recent years but has far better stats than all the others.

Prediction. 
Realist, Sri Lanka win 2-0 
Optimist  England have learnt from experience and win 2-1









Sunday, 5 August 2018

A great test match, or was it?

England won an enthralling test match by 31 runs in three and a half days.  At first it looked like England would dominate with Root and Bairstow both making fifties and taking the score to 216-3.  Then a brilliant run out from Virat Kohli broke the partnership and started a collapse, England finished on 287.  Not enough runs!

India reached 50-0 before Sam Curran took three quick wickets, the top order were blown away and the game swung again.  However England's slips dropped Kohli twice!  At 182-8 it looked like England would have a good lead but Kohli was magnificent with the tail, he made 149 and India stopped only 13 runs short.

England have a bad habit of messing up on third innings and wickets fell regularly, at one point we were a perilous 87-7.  Step up Curran once again, making 63 and setting India a decent target of 194 to win.  Ashwin took wickets in both innings and Sharma 5-51 in the second.  

By close of play on day three India had been reduced to 110-5 and the game was in the balance, crucially Kohli was still at the crease.  Saturday morning was tense, Anderson struck early but Kohli and Pandya came together and started to chip away at the target.  Enter Ben Stokes with a quick burst and the game was wrapped up.  Sam Curran was named man of the match with wickets and runs.  He looked a much better player than on debut in June, a left arm swing bowler with a bit of nip and like the unlucky Dom Bess, he looks like a batsman too.

It was a really close fought game of proper cricket and a superb advert for Test cricket but was it a great game?  Probably, however had England managed to hold on to their catches it wouldn't have even been close.

Kohli was superb throughout, he really is a superb cricketer.  He captained very well, made a crucial run out and hit scores of 149 and 51.  None of the other Indian batsman stood up though and if they don't improve then this series will be as one sided as the last time these two teams met.  The Indian bowlers were excellent, much better than I expected and should be a proper test for our batsmen this summer.

The England selectors have made changes already, Malan has been on a poor run and dropping catches hasn't helped his cause.  He makes way for Ollie Pope who is just 20 years old but the form batsman in county cricket averaging over 85 this season.  I don't know much about him but based on the stats I like this selection.  Stokes is up before the beak so unavailable next week, Chris Woakes comes into the squad as a like for like replacement.  Woakes had one great game against Pakistan a couple of years ago but take that away and his stats are average at best.  He'll get by in English conditions but I wouldn't have him in a touring side.  If the brains trust thinks Lords will take spin then Moeen Ali could well step into Stokes' shoes.

Of the nine players expected to retain their places Alastair Cook didn't contribute many runs but to be fair he got two great balls from Ashwin.  Cook will remain in the England team for as long as he wants, there is no competition for his place.

Joe Root made a decent 80 in the first innings but pretty half centuries don't win too many test matches.  His captaincy was poor in India's first innings but improved in the second.  I'm not convinced he has what it takes to captain in test cricket.  Also he is a dam good catcher so should be standing in the slips instead of prancing around at mid off.

Buttler and Bairstow are both good players but their positions in the batting line up don't make sense.  If Bairstow is going to keep wicket then he should bat at seven where he has scored the majority of his runs.  If Buttler is picked purely as a batsman then he should be in the top five.

Rashid was the controversial selection this time with professional gobshite Michael Vaughan making a big deal about it and heaping extra pressure onto the player.  He done OK with the bat, contributing to partnerships when England were in trouble.  He only bowled twelve overs in the match but picked up three wickets and in the circumstances had a pretty good game.

The next test starts at Lords on Thursday and this supporter/selector would pick;
Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Pope, Bairstow, Ali, Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Test Cricket next week!

England start a five match test series against India next week and I can't wait!!!  

But before I chunter on about that the ODI form must get a mention.  England have played brilliant cricket to batter an under strength Australian team 6-0 if you include the T20.  England were simply better in all departments and Joss Buttler's century in the fifth ODI was superb, earning victory from certain defeat.  Since then we've faced a strong Indian side who won the T20 series 2-1 but England came from behind to win the last two fifty over matches to take that series and hang on to the World number one ranking.  It's not the results that matter though, the way England play is brave and attacking, they back their talent and go for it.  There was a time when I wouldn't bother much with ODI cricket as it seemed stale and a bit boring compared to T20 which seemed the better 'short form'.  T20 cricket has influenced the modern fifty over game, given it a proper kick and rejuvenated the game and at the moment England really are the best in the world.

So why is the Test team so inconsistent?

Earlier this year Joss Buttler was selected for the test team on the back of his IPL form and it was a resounding success.  Now there is talk of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid of coming back for the same reason.  I'm all for Rashid's selection, I think he is the best wicket taking spinner we have in all forms of the game.  To select Ali would seem really unfair on Leach and Bess who have both done well since Ali last played.  I'd be more inclined to stick with one of the younger bowlers as although Ali has done well in home series his bowling abroad has been poor.

What about England's much maligned top three, would this benefit from the inclusion of Hales or Roy?  As I've said many times I'm a fan of Hales but maybe Roy should get a go should an opportunity arise?  In the short term Jennings will hold onto his place as Cook's partner.  Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes are both getting back to fitness so we could see a very different team to the one that beat Pakistan, way back before the great drought.

India have a team of superstars but they don't always travel well.  Normally I'd make England favourites at home but the weather this summer may well affect the pitches, I don't think they'll be dry turners but I can't see them seaming or swinging much.  Shear pace could well be useful this year.  If England are not at their best India could embarrass us.  However I still think England should be too good for India.

So the selector game...
Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Bairstow, Stokes, Bess, Wood, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.

I've picked what  once long ago, the Ray Illingsworth's of the world would call a balanced side.  Four fast bowlers including one capable of hurling it down at 90mph and two spinners.  I think we might need six bowlers to bowl India out twice.  The batting would definitely look stronger with Ali instead of Bess but the youngster looked like a batsman against Pakistan.  I will be amazed if the XI that goes out next week will look anything like mine :)

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Latitude 2018 "All these things that I have done..."


Latitude starts with a nice drive through rural Suffolk followed by “The walk”, with a large  rucksack on my back and pushing a fully loaded fishing barrow holding Tent, kip bags, chairs, air bed and other sundries.  My dance partner, the Purple Princess is also similarly laden.  How far is the walk?  In the unrelenting heat of this summer it feels like miles, especially with a stop/start and a bit of queueing at the ticket exchange.  Measured in my “Just how knackered?” scale I’d say about ten miles, in reality I’d say nearer two.  Either way we were sweaty and breathless and needed to gulp down water when we got there.  We left home around 1300 and were camped and chilling just after 1500, sitting in chairs with a brew watching the camp site fill up around us.  Two Buzzards flew high above the woods, were they cries of bemusement?  The Buzzards went missing for a while after that but Gulls and Crows were becoming interested.

Red Camping had shrunk this year but we managed to get into the same general area we’d pitched up in previous years.  Now it was time for some hilarious ‘people watching’ and wondering how the Russian Roulette which decided our neighbours would fall.  Directly behind were a friendly couple around our age but due to the way our tents faced we never saw them after the first day.  Going anti clockwise from there we had a pair from Oxford university, he was gay while she was loud and pretentious.  Next to them were two lads from Leicester via London who were polite, friendly and considerate, very pleasant festival neighbours.  Directly in front of us were a quiet couple, I think he was French and she was Spanish, they communicated in English.  Then round the side were ‘The Inbetweeners’, five lads from the west midlands who were just idiots.  Not quite as extreme as the lads in the TV show but definitely of that ilk and actually old enough to know better.  Of course it was this group that left a large pile of rubbish when they departed.  Thank you to all our neighbours who don’t know how to speak quietly and shared so many entertaining and intimate details.

In the outer ring were two large parties of teens or early twenties.  The younger group to our right were friendly enough but made all the classic festival mistakes and would have had a far less complicated festival had they ditched the prima donna twat called Adam.  The older group to our left were OK for most of the weekend but a bit pissed and twatty on the last night.  Apart from two women taking ages and much struggle assembling their tent there was only one more camper who attracted attention.  He and his partner appeared on Saturday afternoon and were very loud and over friendly, He announced to his direct neighbours “We’re a bit messy, I’m not gonna lie but we are polite…” This sounded ominous and I was glad he wasn’t camped any closer.  After that we never saw him again and apparently they were “led away by security…” at some point. 

The shrinking of Red camping meant it was more crowded than we’d ever seen it but this didn’t seem to cause any conflict.  Meanwhile the new, extended family camping area was positively spacious…  The toilet block barely survived the festival, as the weekend passed the number of bogs that actually flushed steadily decreased but to be fair the staff done well and kept things as clean as they could.  These toilets are now virtually dead and need to be replaced before next year.  The onsite food vendors actually played their music at a reasonable level, if they do that again next year I might even spend some money with them. A Buzzard returned on Sunday evening, possibly seeking out alcohol carrion amongst the canvas.

In the arena…

Thursday 
Latitude started in the Speakeasy.  John Lloyd & Sandy Toksvig in conversation was a lovely, light and funny way to ease into the festival, we really enjoyed it.  We has a long stroll around the site and on the way saw a bit of someone called Denzil rapping on Waterfront stage, he was pretty good but his vocals were clearer when you we further away from the stage. Our wander around continued and we noticed big changes to the site.  Most notably the big new food court in the centre which changed the latitude views we’ve come to love somewhat.  At first we were unsure if we liked the change in ambience but by the end of the weekend it had become just part of Latitude.  Not worse, not better, just different.


We sampled the food for the first time with a really tasty burger from somewhere in the middle of street feast.  The food was much better than last year but still over priced. Through the weekend I had a very good Calamari and chips, a too spicy jerk chicken and chips, the world’s most expensive toastie and some chips from elsewhere that were rank.  Mr Whippy ice creams with flake and chocolate sprinkles went down well at all times of the day.
Thursday ended up in the Alcove, having a little bop to Keith Allen‘s house band who we have christened ‘croaky dread’ and were as good as usual. After that our feet were complaining about all the walking, we were knackered so went back to the campsite to chill.

Some context..
The Live experience is unique and personal; the only thing that matters is how it makes YOU feel.  One man’s meat is another’s poison; two people standing side by side can have totally different live experiences.  Personally it matters very little to me if the singer misses a note or the sound is a bit off it won’t spoil my night.  Every live experience has a vibe, sometimes I miss the vibe, most of the time I get on and ride for a while, and sometimes I’m pulled into the vibe and couldn’t get out even if I wanted too.  Those are the nights you want to go on forever… I love live music and I am passionate about it.  I have no musical or technical knowledge that gives me any right to comment on a live performance so I base my opinions purely on the way the gig made me feel at the time.

Friday
We wandered up towards the Obelisk arena and ended up being drawn in by ‘The Go Team’ who had the unenviable task of opening the main stage and done a bloody good job.  A high energy good fun show that surprised us! 

After that we spent a while in the Comedy arena; firstly Angela Barnes was OK, a bit predictable but funny nonetheless. Then came ‘Lucifer’ AKA Marcus Brigstocke in full make up complete with horns giving Satan’s take on the current state of the world which was very good.
We left Comedy for an ice cream and bumped into Mr & Mrs G and family and all wandered back in to see Matt Richardson  who was very rude and very funny despite the Paedo Jokes    Our lure was Jonathan Pie, who was good but definitely works better in the spoof TV news format, he’s absolutely right that everyone should read ‘1984’ though.

After a siesta we reunited with Family G at the Obelisk arena where The Charlatans performed in the sun.  We know they will be good, they always are and they didn’t disappoint.  There were loads of classics and a good number of newer tunes, I was really happy they finished with ‘Sproston Green’, I love it and they don’t always put it in a festival set.  A good show from The Charlatans but we have seen them play better.

Belle & Sebastian surprised me, it took a while to get me hooked but the show got better and better and they won me over in the end.

We arranged to meet family G at the BBC arena after we’d fed but we under estimated the crowd, the tent was packed!  We got in and as the set went on gradually worked our way in deeper and deeper. James were excellent, Tim Booth is a great performer and the band are first class, the set mixed the old with the new and kept pounding away.  Songs with a social message combined with songs about shagging.  “Sometimes” always sounds good, “Laid” was a riot the crowd were elated and let the band know with a great reception.  A top, top show from a great band.

Saturday
Our first music of the day was at the Sunrise arena where we saw Durand Jones & the Indications deliver forty five minutes of sweet Louisiana soul.  Our view wasn’t great but the sound wasn’t affected and we really enjoyed the show.  We moved on to the BBC arena for IBEYI, we lasted about twenty minutes, it was OK but didn’t hold our attention.  We wandered across the Obelisk arena and  saw a bit of Hudson Taylor but I remember nothing about it.  Sometime during Saturday we went into the Comedy arena for a bit of Lauren Pattison who was OK and Tom Lucy was a bit better.  There was another female comedian in between but I can’t remember her name, she was OK too.

I saw Oasis years ago and also saw Noel at this festival more recently.  We could hear Liam Gallagher’s worst kept “secret set” from the camp site whilst on siesta but felt no urge to get down there and watch him singing his brother’s songs.

After a rest it was back to the Obelisk for a rendezvous with Family G. I like The Vaccines and thought they were excellent, the old songs went down an absolute storm but for me they weren’t as good as when they headlined the tent a couple of years ago.  Still we loved it, wiggled our old bones and sung along throughout.

Before we knew it the main event was imminent, The Killers.  I’m not a massive fan but they have a lot of tunes I like and a couple that I absolutely love.  Before the weekend I couldn’t have told you the band member’s names but now I’m lead to believe the singer is called Brandon.  I thought they were awesome.  Slick & professional, Brandon has a great voice, a warm personality and makes an excellent front man.  From where we were the sound was fine and they picked a very good set which kept us moving.  “I’m the man” got the show off to a cracking start; “Mr Brightside” was a perfect conclusion.  Gig of the weekend and I didn’t want it to end...

…So we went into Film & Theatre next, for a reggae music late, late night.  Trojan sound system were holding court and doing a fine job.  We managed to see most of Holly Cook, a charismatic lady with a beautiful voice, playing chilled lover’s rock.  Then came Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry who was as whacky as expected with his unique attire, bright red hair, wizened face and, it has to be said, a very weak voice.  I was excited about seeing Scratch and it was surreal if ultimately disappointing, didn’t stop us dancing though.  Saturday evening into the early hours of Sunday was another special, over indulgent Latitude experience which ended in exhaustion shortly before sunrise.

Sunday
The whole weekend hat been hot but Sunday was DAM hot!!!!  When it’s this hot our tent becomes uninhabitable so we left the sanctuary of sleep a bit too early.  Saturday’s adventures had left us physically battered and we were well below full fitness on Sunday.  We wandered down to Comedy where Rhys Nicholson was very clever and very funny. Lolly Adefope’s character send ups were also clever and made us chuckle.  Finally David O’Doherty stand up/sit down musical madness and stuff was very good, probably the funniest thing of weekend.

After that we staggered back to the camp site where I heard Rag & Bone man from the tent, he sounded OK.  We fell asleep and stayed in the campsite for much longer than we had planned before staggering back to the Obelisk arena for Wolf Alice who were very good and had much more variety and talent than I expected, possibly the biggest musical surprise of the weekend?

After that we staggered up to the BBC arena for Jon Hopkins who was good and deserved to get us dancing but our legs were fucked.  We left this show a little early and our festival ended in the Speak easy, where it had begun.  Dr John Cooper Clarke took to the stage but the small tent was packed and it was difficult to hear or see at times.  I had to chuckle at the young gal obviously flying on an E, dancing to the beat of JCC’s voice.  What I could hear of JCC was good but after about half hour we wandered off.  Our festival finished sipping tea and chatting back at the tent.  It had been a slow day but a great weekend.

We packed up on Monday morning and once again it was really fucking hot!!  We slowly trudged back to car with the merciless sun in a cloudless sky.  Latitude is a fantastic weekend but its hard work too, I'm happy to trade a bit of sweat and grunt either side of the festival because the meat in the middle of sandwich is just fantastic.

And so after a weekend in festival land, surrounded by debauchery, over indulgence and madness we return to the 'real world' and it is horrible compared to the supposedly lawless environment we've left.  At least we missed Trump dirtying our soil but our own society is broken and governed by crooks as well.  Only fifty one weeks till Latitude.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Some gigs

We saw the Wailers again at the UEA, sometime in March, between the ice ages.  Mr & Mrs Green were seeing them for the first time whilst my closer family had seen them before a year ago.  In short it was a very good show but when you see a band twice in a year it'll never be as good the second time.  Plus Family man wasn't playing...  Never mind, we all enjoyed ourselves as they rolled out the classics and our legs ached at the end.


Mid June the Princess and I joined Mr Green and Mr Red in a car to Norwich to see another iconic artist, Public Image Limited fronted by the one and only John Lydon.  It was hard to believe that none of us had ever seen Mr Rotten play before, in any of his incarnations, it barely seemed possible.  I have the Pistols in my collection but nothing by PiL so only really knew a handful of songs but this didn't matter at all, I loved it!  The band is tight and the guitarist "Lou" is fucking ace, then there's John who has a presence and draws the eye.  Seeing him live you appreciate what a fucking good voice he has too.  Highlights are the inevitable ones; "Love Song", "Public Image", "Rise" and the final tune, his personal and relevant reworking of the Leftfield collaboration "Open up".  Class!

Then last week Mr Green kindly took the wheel again and drove the princess, my daughter and myself down to London to see my/our? favourite band in the world.  The middle of a heatwave, England are still in the World cup and the roads seemed quiet...  Until we hit the concrete and everything snarled up.  London, how the fuck do people live here?  Why do so many people drive Range Rovers?  Why does anyone need a 6.3 litre car?  Why does everyone jump the lights, we catch them up at the next set anyway?  You meet beggars at the lights too and see piles of homelessness along the paths, then blink and the surrounds are opulent.  Don't get me started...  The traffic is bad, the sat nav literally leads us into a dead end, I'm starting to get nervous because I don't want to miss a single second of this one

Our destination was the Brixton academy and Mr Green had us positioned fairly close and dead centre with ten minutes to spare.  Just enough time to take in what a great venue the academy is, it's been a few years since I've been here.  These minutes drag, I keep checking my watch...  Lights dim, the Rocky theme starts up...  Then Eels casually stroll onto the stage and I'm all fan, I love this band and I don't care who knows it!

This is the fifth time I've seen the Eels and every single time they have been absolutely first class.  They couldn't possibly hits those heights again could they?  The answer is an emphatic FUCK YES!!!  The gig started slowly with a song I actually didn't recognise, picked up with a cover of "Raspberry Beret" then just got better and better and better and...  We literally danced all night.  There were only a handful of new songs sprinkled into a set that kept hitting us with classic after classic including at least half a dozen favourites that I'd never seen Eels play live before.  It was a fantastic set for a long time fan and equally good for my daughter seeing them play for the first time.

How do they do it?  How are they so consistently good at what they do?  Well tour is completely different to the last one, they must look at the previous set list then rip it up and pick a new one fresh.  With the exception of one song; "My Beloved Monster" is played every time but is completely reinvented.  It's not just the set list, the whole vibe shifts too.  I've seen them play R&B style with a horn section, a five piece rock band (twice) dressed in track suits followed on the next tour by them all suited and booted playing what can only be described as a soft rock orchestra (which is my banner picture at the top of the page).  This time they were four piece, casually dressed in jeans and jackets and played a bit of everything.  This band, these musicians are masters, they can do anything and between the songs the chat is damn funny too.

Sometimes you listen to a musician and it seems the songs have been written for you, this is obviously the case with Eels and me.  I get emotional about this band because they are so good, they should be better known but then again I'd rather see them in Brixton or the RAH than in some soulless arena.

Anyway the gig...  Highlights for me were the tunes I'd never heard live before;  "Daisies of the Galaxy", "Magic world", "Climbing up to the moon" and especially "PS You rock my world" - 'a careful man tries to dodge the bullets while a happy man takes a walk...'  Classics included a demonic "Flyswatter", a haunting "Novocaine for the soul"and a thrashed "I Like Birds".  They played for nearly two hours and I could have happily danced along for two more.  Four years slipped by between Eels tours, I hope they don't make me wait four more for the next.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

More Radio Gaga


It’s been winding me up again, the repetition of shit songs on a daily basis.  I am compelled to compile a list (always a sign of utter lunacy) of the worst of the BlandFM playlist. This is the kind of thing that HeartFM plays over and over again.  I don’t mean current chart songs or even recent music, say up to a year old, that’s what ‘pop radio’ should be playing.  Hearing Pink, Ed Sheeran, Rhianna or Beyonce half a dozen times a day is a bit tedious but not nauseating.  The trouble with BlandFM really is with the ‘oldies’ they choose to play, mostly catchy shite they may have been fun once, (in a pissed in a night club and thinking you might still have a chance of copping off with someone by breaking out some fucked up dance moves) but has totally and completely failed the test of time.  This might be a polite way of saying they play a load of old shit. 

The only thing harder than getting on HeartFM’s play list is getting removed from it and I get my ears assaulted by this selection of bilge on a daily basis.  Yes, every single fucking day.

Rap is a bit risqué for Bland FM but two songs have slipped onto the playlist, “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio (1995) and “Yo Diggity” by Blackstreet (1996).  At least the latter has the benefit of Dr Dre on production but the former is a horrible rip off of Stevie Wonders beautiful “Passtime Paradise” from the classic ‘Songs in the key of life’ album.  One or the other of these tunes will be played every single day, that’s the Rap quota taken care of; there is no need to even think of any others.  These are two average tunes but they are safe enough for the easily offended.

It’s the same with Reggae; the Rasta and dope smoking thing is a bit scary for the brain dead listeners but a couple of tunes have made it on air. “Make you sweat” by Inner Circle (1992) is a truly dreadful piece of music and the passage of time has only made it seem worse.  To the uninitiated the song is exactly as bad as it sounds. The other supposed reggae selection is the abysmal “It wasn’t me” by Shaggy, which must be a reggae song because he has a Jamaican accent right?  Wrong.  The only meaningful classification of this song is; utter, utter shit.  It is nothing more than a novelty song about a bloke getting caught cheating on his other and coming up with an excuse/alibi that only a total fuckwitt would try to get away with.  However this one is only eighteen years old.  It must be a struggle for the HeartFM producers to find some nice reggae music, I mean there’s no one to choose from is there?  Apart from The Maytals, Lee Perry, The Wailers, Jacob Miller, Burning Spear, John Holt, U Roy, Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley for fuck sake and yes even UB40!!!!

As mentioned before there’s two tunes from Kings of Leon on the list both from the 2008 ‘Only the night album’.  One or the other will be played every single day.  I like this album but I no longer feel like playing it.  HeartFM is starting to affect the way I listen to things I like.  This is bad.

George Michael has a dodgy reputation with his dope smoking and penchant for sex in toilets with strangers but combine him with someone else and it will reduce the shock factor and he’s let on the list.  So we get either “Somebody to love” with Queen from way back in 1992 or “As” with Mary J. Blige (1998) and nothing else.  There is so much wrong with these selections; George Michael was a seriously good songwriter, both tunes are second class covers, nothing from the brilliant ‘Listen without Prejudice’ album.  If you’re going to play Queen then play Freddie FFS, to do otherwise is just cuntish.  If you’re going to play “As” then look no further than Stevie Wonder’s original on the brilliant ‘Songs in… ‘

Then there is a selection of so called “R&B”.  (Before I go on I don’t think any of the shit to follow is actual R&B, its cheesy pop/soul.  Otis Redding is R&B, Sam and Dave is R&B, Marvin Gaye…  I could go on but…) The ‘modern’ definition of R&B seems to mean safe poppy stuff, usually but not exclusively, sung by a black artist.

“Unbreak my heart” by Toni Braxton from 1996, not the beautiful, soulful ballad that the public actually bought but a hideous, clubbed up, soul-less remix that  really makes shit out of sugar.  This may not be on everyday but I have to endure it at least three times a week.

“Return of the Mack” by a bell end called Mark Morrison.  I can’t remember too much about him other than he was a quite odious object, was basically a one hit wonder (1996) and this annoyingly catchy waste of vinyl was it.

“Miami” by Will Smith from his 1997 album ‘Big Willie style’.  For Fuck Sake.  This is not singing, this is not rapping, this is talking.  Not just any talking but talking shit with a capital SHIT.  Then when you think it can’t get in worse they play Willie’s magnum opus in terms of crap piles, “Getting’ Jiggy with it”.  Another song that is as bad as the title makes it sound.

R. Kelly is on the list which is amazing because I’m sure he was involved in some kind of sex scandal at some point?  To be fair this bloke has made one good tune but obviously it’s never going to be the one BlandFM chooses to play, which is almost always “You got that vibe”.  What vibe?  A crap one.

Controversy.  No not the Prince tune, read on...  Consider HeartFM’s obvious terror of causing offence and also consider the fact you don’t hear paedo Gary Glitter’s music played anywhere, ever.  Music by suspected nonce Michael Jackson is still seen and heard everywhere, including HeartFM.  Come to think of it Jacko’s estate is probably still making a few people a pile of cash so probably not so surprising….  Nonetheless it is undeniable that the paling weirdo did find himself in unfortunate situations with children and animals.  Then again some of the music is brilliant but HeartFM tends to ignore this in favour of his white skinned era.  They do play ‘Black & White’ several times a week and it’s an OK tune.  The irony goes on forever…

Whilst on the theme of pop stars with allegedly dubious sexual tastes I’m delighted to be able to say Heart FM do NOT play anything by that cunt Cliff Richard.

Next there’s Bobby Brown who is mostly famous for (allegedly) abusing his wife, the former gospel/soul superstar girl next door turned crack whore Whitney Houston.  Bobby had a dodgy reputation before he met the lovely Whitney, you wonder what he means when he sings “Two can play that game”.  The song was crap in 1992, its dry white dog shit now.

The list of shame doesn’t end here, to attempt to catalogue everything would be pure masochism and I’m feeling slight nausea already.  There is more smeared dog shit by smug fuckers like Take That and Craig David.  Abysmal euro pop from twats like Ace of Bass (FFS), Roxette and Snap.  All bollocks, all torturous by repetition, every fucking day! Why?  It must be something to do with royalties, some kind of money saving scheme.  Whatever, its shit.

And another thing… Talking of radio.  One of England’s winter cricket tours, Sri Lanka I think, will not be covered by the institution that is TMS.  TalkSport apparently outbid the BBC and will be broadcasting with their team of… er… who exactly?

TMS with Agnew, Boycott, Mann, Tufnell etc. are brilliant, the show is perfect and the best sporting thing broadcast on any radio, anywhere in the galaxy, ever.  Talksport used to have Jack Bannister but he’s RIP so we’ll probably end up with Mark Nicholas (very good writer, slimy as fuck on air), Darren bloody Gough (former talented and lovable cricketer turned professional gobshite) and some random Cowdreys. No matter who they put out, no matter what they do, it cannot possibly be as good as TMS.  And it has adverts.  Fucking adverts!

It’s all very well the ECB getting money from broadcaster but all that cash will be no good if the public loses touch with the game.  Sky do a fantastic job of covering cricket but international games should be on free to air TV too.  With radio TMS is peerless, just don’t fucking mess with it.

England's No.1 rated ODI team played Scotland the other day and lost.  It was a good game if frustrating to watch.  England were awful with the ball and in the field then bottled it with the bat.  Fair do's, well played Scotland.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Another week, another test match

Another week, another test match, another one sided thrashing but this time it was England in the ascendancy.  How could we be so bad last week and so good this?  What was different?  We bowled fuller and held our catches, the commentators all agreed England looked "up for it" this week.  So why not last week?

What else was new?   Keaton Jennings only scored 29 runs but actually looked good in doing so.  He scored freely to begin which allowed Cook to just play his game without scoreboard pressure. Together they put on a fifty opening stand, England's first since Adelaide.  Put in context with what has gone on in the recent past, Jennings done very well.  None of England's batsmen gave their wicket away cheaply this time.

I think Mark Wood should feel deservedly gutted to miss out in this match after doing as well as anyone at Lords.  Chris Woakes took advantage of his luck with three wickets in the first innings.  Maybe a better 'horses for courses' bowler for Headingly.

Stokes was injured so little 19 year old Sam Curran got a game.  A future 'batsman who can bowl a bit' apparently.  He did OK, probably a bit better than big brother Tom a few months back.  It could be some while before either gets another game for England but at least now they're capped they won't be tempted to play for their father's native Zimbabwe.

England's two big stars of this little series both grew up playing cricket at Taunton.  Dom Bess could hardly have done better with his opportunity.  A maiden half century in the first test, followed by 49 as night watchman in the second.  He didn't look like a tailender, he looked like a test batsman.  He's been sharp in the field at all times and took a brilliant catch in the second innings at Leeds.  Then he bowled eleven tidy overs and finished with 3-33.  Joss Buttler done exactly what he was brought into the team to do, he scored runs with the tail.  His batting on Sunday morning was the most fun this England fan has had since last summer.

Pakistan done better than anyone expected in this series and it's a shame there isn't a third match to settle things.  I think it highly likely England would have taken the series had there been another match, like we did last year when West Indies won a test against all odds.  Pakistan fans would disagree, fair enough.  No doubt this latest Pakistan side is full of talent and the next time the two teams meet will be interesting.