T20 Quarter Final Live: Northants vs Durham

Northants win by 36 runs

All in all that’s a bit of a thrashing for Durham. They never really got going with the bat, but that was largely thanks to some outstanding bowling from Daggett in particular, as well as Willey and Crook. Cameron White played an excellent innings after Coetzer and Willey had set up a steady platform, and then the seamers made sure their total was never under threat. Neatly efficient from Northants and they’re off to, er, Birmingham! Night.

20th over Durham 147-6 Stokes 51, Collingwood 0. Target 184

So 39 needed off the final over. With not much point to this over, Azarullah, who hasn’t been at his best, gets revenge on Stokes on Cameron White’s behalf with a delivery that zips into his “midriff”. The penultimate ball is a wicket and the final ball a dot, to wrap up a convincing win for Northants.

WICKET! Pringle c Spriegel b Azarullah 2

Slogged down long-off’s throat. Collingwood comes out for the final ball, which he won’t face anyway as the batsmen crossed.

19th over 145-5 Stokes 50, Pringle 1. Durham Target 184

A wide ball from Willey first up is slashed hard for four by Stokes, before he completes an accomplished fifty with a single down the ground from just 25 balls. The PA plays the Stereophonics’ ‘Have a Nice Day’, and the rest of this OBO is cancelled because I just broke my TV in a rage*.

*Not really.

WICKET! Breese b Willey 1

Full delivery takes the outside edge as Breese looks to drive through cover and smashes into the stumps. Ryan Pringle comes in, suggesting Paul Collingwood doesn’t want to risk his thumb in a lost cause.

18th over Durham 138-4 Stokes 45, Breese 0. Target 184

Daggett, who hasn’t made the same mistake Azarullah did in the last over of going for yorkers, will continue with his back of a length deliveries. Having said that he throws down a wide yorker that Coetzer does very well to prevent crossing the extra cover boundary. Another yorker and presumably this must be captain’s instructions to try and make it harder for Stokes to get him away. It doesn’t matter because they can’t get him away, and with that wicket off the final ball Daggett finishes with 1-13.

WICKET! Muchall c White b Daggett 29

Daggett’s done such a good job keeping the batsmen tied down that Muchall is forced to try and hit a ball that was never there to be hit, spooning it tamely to short mid-off.

17th over 132-3 Stokes 41, Muchall 27. Durham Target 184

Back of a length ball from Azarullah first up and Muchall’s pull through mid-wicket beats two fielders on the way to the rope. Stokes then outdoes Cameron White in the big swinging contest, launching a massive six out of the ground over the left handers’ mid-wicket. It’s gone a little slippy from Northants, epitomised by some sloppy fielding that allows the batsmen to scramble an overthrow. Full toss to finish and Stokes smashes into the stands for another maximum. 19 from the over and this is still on.

16th over Durham 113-3 Stokes 27, Muchall 22 Target 184

David Willey – son of Peter – returns. There was talk of him getting an England Lions call-up early on this season and from what I’ve seen of him it doesn’t seem like a bad shout. He’s scored good runs from the lower-middle order in the County Championship this season, which I guess shows that he at least wouldn’t embarrass himself at a higher level. He delivers a nice yorker into the blockhole here, which Stokes turns into a half-volley and hits for a straight six. The response is another yorker, which this time tangles Stokes up. Sadly he follows this with a wide and a full-toss, driven for a lovely straight four.

15th over Durham 99-3 Stokes 17, Muchall 19. Target 184

15 an over needed now and this might be beyond Durham now. Aww. Daggett, who has been outstanding tonight but will probably lose the Man of the Match award to Cameron White even though he arguable deserves it more, has an LBW shout against Stokes turned down first up. I know I’m talking up Stokes like he’s Chris Gayle, but such has been his form lately he’s earned our fear. Daggett has bowled three overs for seven though!

14th over Durham 94-3 Stokes 16, Muchall 17. Target 184

Yep, Crook – who has been just about the quickest bowler on show today despite what the speed gun says – is back. He gets a great yorker into Stokes and then looks annoyed with himself that he could only get a hand to the ball returned high to his right on the bounce off of the bat. They can’t get him away, and six from the over leaves the Durham pavilion dressing room bench looking mighty grim.

13th over Durham 88-3 Stokes 12, Muchall 15. Target 184

Matt Spriegel comes on to bowl his off-spin, presumably because he’s Sky’s man on the mic and they feel bad about not giving him much to do. His third ball is a long-hop that Stokes muscularly pulls over mid-on for four, and although his 5th is a better ball the England left-hander dances down the track and hits a wonderful straight six. 13 off the over and the crowd is a bit quieter. Can’t imagine we’ll see much more spin now.

12th over Durham 75-3 Stokes 0, Muchall 14. Target 184

With 120 to work with in these final nine overs Wakely is happy to continue with the steady non-turning off-breaks of Middlebrook. He may not after that though, tossed-up half-volley slapped over cover for six by Mustard, who holes out next ball.

WICKET! Mustard c Azarullah b Middlebrook 46

After hitting a clean off-drive for six, Mustard throws away all his good work with a scoop to fine-leg, who is up inside the circle. Collingwood was padded up, but understandably now Stokes comes in.

11th over Durham 64-2 Mustard 38, Muchall 11. Target 184

Azarullah has a large bald spot atop his head, and I think he had it shorn a little bit shorter by that straight drive from Mustard. It’s cut off before the boundary, unlike this flick over mid-wicket by Muchall. Mustard flat-bats another one along the ground past the bowler but Willey pulls off a fantastic stop to prevent the seemingly-inevitable boundary.

10th over Durham 54-2 Mustard 34, Muchall 5 Target 184

A full toss from Middlebrook is swept hard along the ground for a rare boundary through backward square. The thing is you can never really rule Durham out even if they do need 12+ an over, with Mustard, Stokes and Collingwood in the lineup. They only manage nine from this over though, so the required rate creeps up.

9th over Durham 45-2 Mustard 26, Muchall 4 Target 184

Nearly 12 an over needed now, and Northants bring back the man who has an economy rate of 1.0 in this match (off of, er, one over). Daggett is being helped by Murphy standing up to his zippy medium pace but finally concedes a run – it’s desolate in North Eastern overs, you know? – off of his third ball to bring Muchall back on strike. The batsman then gets double that off of the final ball after a throw from the boundary ricochets off the stumps.

8th over Durham 42-2 Mustard 25, Muchall 2. Target 184

Having said that I guess the spinner has to come on at some point, and it might as well be now when the batsmen are struggling to get the ball away. Cameron White skids around on the outfield and needs more treatment on that knee that Stokes hit earlier, but then…

WICKET! Borthwick c Murphy b Middlebrook 4

Goes for the pull off of a short one from Middlebrook but skies an ugly top edge, which Murphy is safely underneath. Muchall is in ahead of Collingwood. I MISS PAUL COLLINGWOOD!

7th over Durham 36-1 Mustard 21, Borthwick 4. Target 184

Crook is finding some good pace here and it’s not surprising that Wakely keeps him on. After seeing what Cameron White did to Durham’s spinners it’s not surprising that he wants to stick with pace, and Borthwick feels rather than sees one skid into his pads from outside off stump. The last ball of the over is a slower one that comes off the edge but goes through the inevitably vacant slip cordon for a much-needed four.

6th over Durham 29-1 Mustard 18, Borthwick 0 Target 184

Northants’ seam attack is what’s propelled them to the upper echelons on the County Championship Division Two and it’s doing a job here too. Daggett comes on and is once again right on the money, relentlessly hitting the perfect length and hurrying the batsman up. Only one comes from a brilliant over, and that’s a stunning powerplay from the bowling side. Ben Stokes could need to move up the order here.

5th over Durham 28-1 Mustard 17, Borthwick 0. Target 184

Mustard gets makes it three boundaries in three balls as he takes a pair from Crook’s opening two deliveries. The first is a neat shout through mid-wicket before the second takes the inside edge and is lucky not to see the batsman either bowled or caught. Durham will need their highest away score of the season and the highest score of anyone at Wantage Road to win this, and it won’t be easy in the dew under the lights.

WICKET! Stoneman b Crook 10

Think this is the first slower ball that hasn’t been smacked to or over the fence. Stoneman heaves with all the elegance of Graham Smith on ice a cricket pitch and is cleaned up.

4th over Durham 19-0 Stoneman 10, Mustard 8. Target 184

The seriously nippy Azarullah is on to bowl. “Nothing wrong with that shot” says Nick Knight as Stoneman is beaten, slashing wildly at a full one outside off. Nick Knight, if you remember, didn’t play much Test cricket. Stoneman heaves four away off the final ball.

3rd over Durham 12-0 Stoneman 4, Mustard 7. Target 184

There’s no real need for Durham to go crazy just yet, because the pitch is good enough that there should be plenty of runs later on as long as they haven’t thrown all their wickets away early on. That said, Azarullah will bowl later on and this season has 23 wickets at 17ish. Meanwhile Willey is finding a bit of zip under the lights and pushes the required run-rate above 10.

2nd over 8-0 Stoneman 3, Mustard 5. Durham Target 184

It will be fast-medium from both ends with Stephen Crook. I say fast-medium, but his fast ball is a long way past the 84mph speedo clocks it at. That absolutely flew past Stoneman’s nose off a good length. A short, quick delivery is slightly off line and tucked around the corner to the fine-leg boundary by Mustard.

1st over Durham 3-0 Stoneman 2, Mustard 1. Target 184

Durham need to score at a shade over nine an over to win this, but then you knew that, didn’t you? Stoneman and Mustard are opening the chase, whilst David Willey gets handed the ball. Immediately the left-arm seamer beats Stoneman with thee that shape away at decent pace before the fourth is run down the third man for a single.

Why would you…

Ever buy anything from a company whose advert jingle rips off a musical? A musical?

Change of innings

That’s the highest total at Wantage Road this season and a serious target. The openers set a good platform but were allowed to by some very nonthreatening bowling from Durham that never looked likely to take a wicket. Cameron White then utterly dominated the middle overs and Breese, Stokes and Borthwick will be left nursing very sore figures. I’ll be back in a minute for the stiff chase.

20th over Northants 183/4 White 58, Duckett 0

You probably don’t want your death bowler to be your most expensive, but Colly trusts Stokes who has gone for more than 10 an over. It starts so well with a single and two wickets, before Mustard misses a big leg-side wide that goes to the boundary. The last ball of the innings hits Cameron White on the inside of the knee and Stokes misses the run-out as the big Australian hobbles down the ground. White finishes on 58 from 32 balls but also flat out on the ground after taking a blow inside his pads.

WICKET! Crook run out (Collingwood) 0

A good couple of balls in the field for Collingwood. White was on strike and pushing for two, and Crook sacrifices himself without scoring to get White back on strike for the final ball.

WICKET! Wakely c Collingwood b Stokes 20

Smashed straight up in the air by the Northants captain, and his opposite number narrowly avoids a collision with the burly Stokes to hold the catch.

19th over Northants 173/2 Wakely 20, White 53

Wakely tries to improvise something off of Rushworth’s wide yorker, but ends up kind of pirouetting around on his bat handle. White gets an inside edge for four to take him to 48, and the impressive Rushworth – who hasn’t fallen into the trap of bowling slower balls – looks frustrated. He responds by bowling a bouncer with fine-leg up and the Australian hooks it over him to bring up an impressive 50 off 27 balls.

18th over Northants 162-2 Wakely 19, White 43

Scott Borthwick is down to bat at three in this innings, which I guess is why he’s only bowling late on. Cameron White skews his first ball away for four that should have been stopped, before Borthwick gives him a long hop with ribbons and bows and stuff on it; new balls are needed after that one. The batsmen rotate the strike with the next ball, before Wakely hits the second six of the over, flat over mid-wicket. Nothing wrong with the ball but it was a really high-class shot. Oh and Borthwick throws the ball into the ground for no apparent reason, bit childish that.

17th over Northants 144-2 Wakely 12, White 32

Rushworth, who I thought might have bowled more having only gone for six in his first over, returns. Wakely plays a straight drive down the ground for one, which should probably have been four on artistic merit. That’s about as good as it gets for the home side though, as Rushworth backs up my earlier faith in him.

16th over Northants 136/2 Wakely 8, White 28

Carnage off of Breese’s over. After White looked in trouble against the first ball, he put the next two on the roof of the (admittedly tiny) stand at square leg. And then he hits one over cow corner, which I think may have ended up somewhere in my parents’ garden. Suddenly White is on 28 from 17 balls and has taken 19 from that.

15th over Northants 117-2 Wakely 8, White 9

As it stands, Northants are looking at about 150 but on this pitch you’d want at least 25-30 more, especially with the competition’s leading six-hitter in the opposition ranks in the form of Stokes. The new Northants batsmen look like exactly that, both playing some ugly scratchy… awwww that’s gorgeous from Cameron White – driven over mid-off for four, it’s like a cameo by Marion Cotillard in The Elephant Man. Then Wakely is so close to being brilliantly caught one-handed on the square leg boundary, but it just evades the fielder and bounces inside the rope for four.

14th over Northants 105-2 Wakely 1, White 4

I was about to write that Breese is keeping it tight and doing well to keep the run rate down to around 7.5, but then he bowls a leg-side wide so ugly Northants might think they still had Richard Levi playing.

WICKET! Coetzer run-out (Mustard) 44

Ahhh that’s a shame for Kyle Coetzer. He was looking in muscular form but didn’t quite connect with a sweep off Breese. Mustard got the glove off as he ran to silly mid-on, picked up and threw down the stumps with a direct hit. Captain Alex Wakely – the only professional sportsman I follow with fewer Twitter followers than me – is in now.

13th over Northants 102-1 Coetzer 44, White 3

Pringle returns for his second over and finds sharp turn and bounce, beating both Coetzer and ‘keeper Mustard with his second ball as it goes away for four byes. It’s a very dry wicket as is tradition at Wantage Road, but it’s so flat that the spinners are really going to struggle to find any turn regularly. Good over this though, going for just 8.

12th over Northants 94-1 Coetzer 42, White 1

Long-on is too wide to prevent a boundary for Willey off of Breese’s first ball, but…

WICKET! Willey b Breese 46

Willey was brought up to the top of the order to smack it about a bit, and he’s done that nicely. He goes now though, bowled by Breese having a big swing. Aussie slogger Cameron White is the new batsman.

11th over Northants 85-0 Coetzer 38, Willey 42

Colly brings himself back on and has an appeal for a caught behind off Willey rejected. Nick Knight says he didn’t hear anything but I thought there was a slight edge. If only we had DRS, eh? Willey makes the most of his maybe-life and smashes a big six into the back of the stand at square leg, before running approximately six miles outside his off-stump to reach a slower ball (from Collingwood remember) and slash it for four behind point. Ben Stokes makes another athletic stop at long-off off of the fifth ball. That over probably puts Northants just ahead.

10th over Northants 71-0 Coetzer 35, Willey 31

21 year old off-spinner Ryan Pringle is on and immediately Coetzer looks uncomfortable as he misses out on a heave over cover. They steal a leg-bye though and Willey hits a non-turning delivery hard through mid-wicket for four. There’s a crowd of over 5,000 at the ground, including the Northampton Saints rugby team. Boycott Alert In my twenty years of going to see that rugby team I’ve never seen such a collection of garish outfits and One Direction bloody haircuts.

Stokes, whose ungainliness you may remember me mentioning a moment or two ago, pulls off a brilliant stop on the straight boundary, palming the ball back from a straight Willey* drive.

*Shut up

9th over Northants 62-0 Coetzer 34, Willey 24

I doubt Andy Flower is particularly concerned by any criticisms of his England’s lack of aestheticism, but if he was then there’s no way Ben Stokes would be under consideration. Kyle Coetzer creams a slower one over extra cover off the fourth ball of the over, before lofting the fifth back over Gareth Breese and long on for another boundary. It’s a productive 9th over for Northants, with 12 off it.

8th over Northants 50-0 Coetzer 25, Willey 21

6.7 isn’t a terrible run-rate for Durham, but there’s a distinct lack of bite about Durham. Onions will bowl through and has an appeal against Willey first ball, but umpire Hartley reckons it pitched just outside leg. Off the next Willey has a big mow but doesn’t get anywhere near the ball. Because Onions bowls so close to the stumps there are few balls across the left-hander that can be slashed at, and it also increases the likelihood of getting an LBW decision. He doesn’t get one though, although it’s an excellent over with two off the bat and a leg-bye. Onions finishes with 0-23: respectable if unspectacular figures, which reflects his bowling.

7th over Northants 47-0 Coetzer 24, Willey 20

The exicitement of the powerplay is over, so Sky bring Nick Knight on. Collingwood brings Gareth Breese, one of three spinners in the Durham side on now that the fielding restrictions are off. The highlight of the over is a neat lofted flick for a couple into the leg-side by Coetzer. Seven from the over.

6th over Northants 40-0 Coetzer 19, Willey 18

Onions again. His first ball is a slower ball, which Willey again flicks over square leg, out of reach of Stokes coming around and bouncing over the ropes for four. The third is another slower, fuller ball, this time spanked down the ground for another boundary by the left-handed… is Willey an all-rounder now? Onions’ head goes a little as he fires a rank wide down the leg-side, and a near run-out off the final ball is the closest Durham have come to looking like getting a wicket so far.

5th over Northants 28-0

Ben Stokes is on for his first over, Collingwood happy to alternate his bowlers at one end whilst Onions offers steadiness at the other. Stokes is actually the quickest of the bowlers on show so far, reaching the mid-80s, and bowling just short of a length to keep the batsmen back in their crease. It’s a good if unthreatening over until the final ball, which is full on leg stump and dispatched over square leg for a one-bounce four.

4th over Northants 22-0

Being a proud Northamptonian, don’t expect much in the way of neutrality from this OBO. Wantage Road really is a lovely, quaint ground for those who appreciate a flavour of nostalgia with their cricket, so it’s lovely to see Northants having such a great season in all forms of the game. A slower 75mph delivery from the continuing Onions is lofted over long-off for a boundary by Coetzer. Ben Stokes then worsens the bowler’s mood with a pointless shy at the stumps that goes for overthrows. Seven from the over.

3rd over Northants 15-0

Durham only just managed to sneak through their group as one of the best third-placed team, and even then only on the back of a good late run. Chris Rushworth is on now, but looking at the pitch it’s difficult to see where the seamers are going to get any help; on Sky Nasser thinks it’s a spinner’s pitch. Willey isn’t going to miss out on a rank leg-side delivery, flicking it over third man for a Old Speckled Hen maximum six. That and a leg-by are the only runs from the over, as Willey misses out on another muscular effort off the last ball of the over.

2nd over Northants 8-0

Opening bowler David Willey is also opening the batting with Coetzer, as he has for much of Northants’ limited overs campaign this season. Northants will be looking for him to tee off against Onions, who is bowling a good length here, especially with the low sun providing an obstacle for any leg side fielders against the left-hander. Neither batsman takes any risk though, and there are only three singles from the over.

1st over Northants 5-0

Captain Colly will wobble it down first up. He finds a surprising amount of swing on a warm, dry evening, although Kyle Coetzer finds the gap at long off for the first bounday.

19.17 Preamble

Well we’re not being given much time here, Northants have won the toss and elected to bat. The home side are ostensibly the favourites here, having been the first team to qualify for the quarter finals at the top of their group. They also have the leading wicket-taker in the tournament in Pakistani paceman Azarullah.

Durham though have an in-form Ben Stokes in their side pressing for an England recall – he netted at Old Trafford during the third Ashes Test – and Graham Onions in the bowling ranks. They’re also captained by Paul Collingwood, who knows a thing or two about winning a T20 tournament.

19.08 Good evening

Actually “good evening” sounds a little too refined for Twenty20. It’s the kind of thing you might say upon encountering a patron at a hypothetical day-night County Championship game, or perhaps at a pub where they predominantly have ELO on the jukebox. What is it for a boozy quarter finals evening in Northampton? “G’day”? “Awright mate”? If my heady Northamptonshire days are anything to go by, the latter seems apropos.

19.02 It’s T20!

Yuzima – ‘Anarchy’

NYC singer/songwriter Yuzima has dropped the first single from his upcoming LP The Machine. “The song is a combustion of post punk and hard rock energy and a gigantic chorus” which Yuzima says was inspired by Nirvana, punk and hard rock bands.

Yuzima’s ‘Anarchy’ is out now

I’ve mentioned New Yorker Yuzima here a couple of times before, notably in this interview and this review of 2012’s Sound Opera: Project One. New single ‘Anarchy’ is aptly titled, more lo-fi, gritty and angry than anything he has produced before.

Yuzima has a steadily rising profile, with features in a number of gay lifestyle webzines and plugs by, er, me, in some of those proper magazines I writer for such as Under the Radar Magazine and John Robb’s Louder Than War. Despite this, ‘Anarchy’ is a bravely difficult track; for someone with pop sensibilities to make something so impenetrable, raucous and yes, anarchic, is a bold artistic risk.

The track opens with a riff that sounds a little like a post metal take on ‘Satisfaction’. After this it takes a hard listen, but there are some lovely U2-esque guitar sounds underneath all that distortion, whilst Yuzima’s vocals convey real anguish despite the difficulty in understanding the actual lyrics. The song devolves into utter chaos, but if a sense of anarchy is what its writer is looking to achieve then he’s hit the nail on the head.

‘Anarchy’ is out now on Yuzima’s own UZEE label. Full album The Machine is set to be released in the fall/autumn.

Old Man Diode & Rick Holland – The King Krill

Old Man Diode & Rick Holland
The King Krill

2011 was a strange year for Brian Eno. Coldplay re-hired him as producer on the confusingly-named Mylo Xyloto, but rather than innovate and subsequently invigorate as he has with so many artists, the record was by-the-numbers and instantly forgettable, clinging to the coattails of 2010’s pop darlings with brightly lit neon claws. Meanwhile Eno also collaborated with poet Rick Holland on the LP Drums Between the Bells and Panic of Looking EP; a record described as having ”all the spirit of Microsoft Excel.

The King Krill

Perhaps surprisingly, the split from Eno appears to have reinvigorated Holland. Now he has teamed up with grizzly electronic scientist Old Man Diode on The King Krill, a hyperactive dance record a million miles from his earlier, more space-gazing affairs. Drum machines throb and buzz relentlessly, interwoven with synths with enough space afforded for breath that the album treads a neat line between gorgeous trance and smart drum & bass. Meanwhile the numerous collaborators are vocalists such as Chris James and Beth Rowley, whose soulful singing offers a neat counterpoint to music that drips of artificial intelligence.

Also King Krill

There is a wealth of ideas on offer here, numerous avenues explored with modulated vocals, chopped up drums and the aforementioned synths coming together to create fraught and threatening soundscapes. Nonetheless, at just eight tracks and 37 minutes long there’s never any danger of The King Krill tipping over into proggy self-indulgence as OMD (no, not them) and Holland expand on their numerous ideas.

Can Sarah Taylor help women’s sport break new ground?

In an excellent interview this week with The Guardian’s Donald McRae, the England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor revealed that she is set to become the first female cricketer to play men’s 2nd XI County Cricket with Sussex this summer. Louder Than War already pondered the idea of mixed-gender football, but here Dan Lucas looks at what this means for Taylor, cricket, and wider sport.

Sarah Taylor is, for my money, the greatest player women’s cricket has ever known. She’s been in the England side since the age of 17, and six years on from her début has at least a decade of cricket ahead of her: with the rapid growth of the women’s game and the excellent work of Sky Sports (sorry, I’m a Murdoch-hater too, but their contribution to cricket cannot be denied) in providing funding, only the potential injuries and personal issues associated with sport and touring have the potential to hold her back. Taylor’s batting style and unparalleled skill as a wicketkeeper are unlike those ever seen before in the women’s game, and at the age of just 23 her influence on the sport cannot be denied.

Sarah Taylor. Photo courtesy of Cricinfo

Excitement in the cricket press is naturally high in light of this news; however it is probably worth adding a caveat at this point. As Sussex have been keen to stress in a statement on their website, discussions are still at an embryonic stage and Taylor is yet to train with the County’s second XI side. Naturally, any chance of her actually playing would depend on how these training sessions go.

Personally I cannot see any reason why Taylor shouldn’t be able to succeed at this level. She will also be playing men’s club cricket in the Birmingham and District Premier League for Walmley, and two years ago her England teammate Arran Brindle scored a 128 for Louth in the Lincolnshire Premier League. England’s women regularly play against the top boys’ schools in practice matches where the standard is not too far behind County Cricket and historically even W.G. Grace played matches with his sisters. Whilst I haven’t seen a lot of Second XI cricket, the standards in some of the First Class matches I watch suggests that there won’t be a huge leap from club cricket.

The most frequently asked question seems to be whether Taylor will cope with the increased physicality of the men’s game: can she keep up with the bigger hitters? How will she fare batting against quicker bowlers with a slightly larger ball? Is her keeping good enough to cope with the bigger spin? She will, after all, be playing for the same county as Monty Panesar, who perhaps turns it more than anyone in world cricket bar Saeed Ajmal and Graham Swann. It is a valid question too: the quickest ball ever recorded in international women’s cricket was bowled by Australia’s Catherine Fitzpatrick and was timed at 74.5mph, around the pace of Paul Collingwood and enough to make Tim Bresnan, let alone Steven Finn, Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel, look express. Similarly the majority of women’s cricket is in the Limited Overs format and sixes are less common; potentially an issue when M.S. Dhoni, Kevin Pietersen and Chris Gayle tend to clear the boundary as a stock scoring shot in the men’s version of the game.

Of course the reason that Taylor is the player set to make this historic breakthrough is that her skills are unique amongst female cricketers. Primarily she will be picked as a wicketkeeper with her batting secondary, and this is a specialist role that calls for speed of thought, outstanding reflexes and brilliant athleticism. Taylor has these in abundance, and when the England men’s Test team were enduring a ‘keeping crisis a few years ago a number of commentators wryly suggested that they pick the most naturally gifted wicketkeeper in the country.

Similarly she is unique as a batsman in the women’s game. Whereas other players score the majority of their runs through the leg side, Taylor is equally adept at using her top hand as her bottom, and as such is able to play an exquisite cover drive, opening up scoring opportunities that neither her teammates nor her opponents have access to. As the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Ian Bell will no doubt testify, power hitters are not the only batsmen who can prosper and they have become among the best in the world thanks to their timing, placement and finesse, qualities which Taylor also shares.

Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk

Still, those players and others similar who have found success in One Day and T20 cricket do have the strength to hit the ball for six when the situation calls for a higher risk approach. Whilst Taylor’s ability to manoeuvre the ball around and find gaps in the field at will may be of use in the slower middle overs of a List A game, above Second XI level, where the batsman/’keeper is the fashion, she would need to add extra dimensions to her game that may be physically beyond her. Instead it may be that she needs to become more accustomed to the longer format, less played in women’s cricket, and it will be interesting to see whether she has (or is able to develop) the fortitude and concentration levels required to make it in First Class cricket. She has admitted to having some inevitable nerves and self-doubt, and back in 2010 she took a break from cricket – it was an end-of-teen-relationship thing that left her feeling alienated, she told McRae – but says that since then she has come back a stronger person and a better player.

Some commenters have expressed other doubts. Might some opponents be unwilling to send down a hostile spell to a girl, to bowl a bouncer and risk hurting her? It seems presumptuous though to suggest that if Taylor shows any weakness against the short ball, as so many cricketers have, then a sportsman’s will to win by trying to exploit this might be somehow negated by an inherent sexism. Others have argued that introducing a girl to a sport with patriarchal traditions might reopen some old prejudices: these people though seem to ignore how cricket has moved on from its more, from the England team resting players and coaches from tours to the acceptance of Kieron Pollard as an actual international batsman. One of the more interesting points is that this may open a drain of the top talent from women’s cricket and that the sport will regress. It will be interesting to see how Taylor balances her new commitments with her day job; however Taylor’s talent is so unique that such a problem is unlikely to be encountered at any time in the near future.

Similarly it remains unlikely that we will see the introduction of mixed-sex teams at the top level in any other sport in the near future. At the height of the Williams sisters’ dominance of women’s tennis some suggested that they could compete in the men’s tournaments at Grand Slams. However it was quickly pointed out that even at the pinnacle of their own game they would only make the mid-100s in the men’s rankings, and that although their power looked colossal, even the likes of Tim Henman would have enough to bully them on-court. The likes of former England football captain Hope Powell would similarly have been at sea against the power of Charlie Adam, let alone Yaya Toure (yes there are diminutive players who are great footballers, but the likes of Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi are unparalleled all-time greats). In rugby I am still convinced that my beloved Northampton’s fly-half Ryan Lamb could be outplayed by my 5’5” girlfriend Liz, but he is uniquely bad, and no one would want to see the likes of England prop Sophie Hemming (5’7”, 12st 10lbs) scrimmaging against Tonga’s Soane Tonga’uiha (6’3”, 19st 12lbs).

Amidst the hype and the dreamy postulations about revolutions in sport, it remains important to remember that Sarah Taylor is a unique player in a unique sport, and it’s only thanks to this that she is able to make this great step into the unknown. Nonetheless, she is a great player and even at this embryonic stage, her progress is being rightly celebrated.

What’s Wrong with Trolling?

This being the day of the internet, we writers are naturally accustomed to trolling in its many guises, and most of us who have ever written anything published online hold at least some form of opinion on the subject. Over recent months mainstream media coverage has led to those less au fait with the phenomenon seeing it as another sign of society in decline, but is there anything really wrong with it.

A troll.

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Can – The Lost Tapes

Towards the start of his book-cum-memoir It’s Only a Movie, the film critic Mark Kermode pre-emptively confesses that ‘what you’re going to get… is a version of my life which has been written and directed by me, and on which I have acted as editor, cinematographer, consultant, composer and executive producer.’ It’s a frank admission, albeit a fairly obvious one.

Can - The Lost Tapes

Still, it’s a succinct reminder at the start of this review that, in the eyes of both the individual and the collective, that which we hold dear tends to take on an alternative, sepia-tinged history in our memories. Just as Tom Hanks plays every role the same, John Peel listened to some utter dross, The Simpsons has had more bad episodes than great and no one every actually liked studying Shakespeare, one thing that The Lost Tapes reminds us is that for all their genius, Can weren’t quite perfect.

Read the full review here.

Joe Walsh – Analog Man


Joe Walsh - Analog Man

Joe Walsh hasn’t released an album in 20 years; you have to go back another 20 or so to find him at his peak. The world has changed a lot in that time, and Joe Walsh wants you to know this. “Welcome to cyberspace, I’m lost in a fog, everything’s digital, I’m still analogue” is the album’s opening line, backed by one of those Seventies riffs that Never Mind The Bollocks was supposed to ensure we would never have to endure again. ‘HEY I’M AN OLD MAN,’ it screams, ‘BUT I CAN STILL ROCK OUT!’

Read full review here.

Squarepusher – Ufabulum

While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that… I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method… is love.

Squarepusher - Ufabulum

Without wishing to traipse into the questionable world of clairvoyance, it’s probably fair to say that David Lynch wasn’t looking to succinctly surmise the problematic mind of the critic when he wrote that famous speech for every critic’s favourite Twin Peaks character. Nonetheless, in our professional lives at least, we can all share Albert Rosenfield’s view of the world as a beautiful and intriguing place that we love, tempering it with a weariness and cynicism.

Dedicating so much of our time to discovering new music and rediscovering that of the past means that artistic clichés become apparent to – and equally decipherable by – us far more quickly than to those keen to just enjoy the art form rather than analyse and scrutinise it. Beach House’s Teen Dream is barely two-years-old, and already the reverb-drenched record featuring a pretty girl and ethereal guitars isn’t good enough for just being gorgeous. Equally the veteran artist with a vast discography ‘rediscovering their roots’ is all-too often a euphemistic admission that they’re out of new ideas.

Read the full review here.

Gaggle – From the Mouth of the Cave

Gaggle - From the Mouth of the Cave

A game of word association may not be the most obvious way to open a review of every East London hipster’s next favourite band, but if I say “21-strong all-female choir” then I fear I might struggle to convince you not to think “£2.99 in the supermarket.”

From the Mouth of the Cave, the debut album from 21-strong all-female choir Gaggle will not be selling for £2.99 in the supermarket. With a sound described as both R&B and electronic rock and compared to Animal Collective, The Flaming Lips and Aphex Twin (although “The lovechild of Bananarama and Björk” might be my favourite), it’s actually difficult to see what the commercial appeal of this record is to a market that currently sees The Voice trending on Twitter every weekend. None of the above descriptions are in any sense wrong, but nor are they remotely helpful in describing Gaggle’s sound; indeed the real worry is that something that can be described so enigmatically runs the risk of being dismissed as a frothy novelty by the reader.
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Devin – Romancing

Devin - Romancing

Sometimes it’s nice to have our expectations confounded. After all, who could have foretold that Radiohead’s first post-‘Pop is Dead’ extended release would be the glorious My Iron Lung EP? That Game of Thrones would be a show more akin to The Wire than Lord of the Rings? Or that Robson and Jerome’s Jerome would be such a brilliant badass in it?

Brooklynite Devin does not confound our expectations.

With the confidently monikered singer slouched on the front cover replete with quiff like an aptly monochrome James Dean, his debut album Romancing is one that cannot quite be judged by its cover. Hyperactive power pop punk guitar riffs and soulful blues-tinged vocals are the overwhelming hallmarks of a record that’s rock returned to its pre-counter culture movement days; it’s as if Can, Pink Floyd and Bowie never happened.

Read the full review here.

Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions

Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions

One of the criticisms levelled at the new Sean Penn movie This Must Be The Place is that whilst it captures the quirkiness of small-town America almost perfectly, it fails to comment on it. A fair enough point, and one that reminded me of the wonderful writing of Woody Guthrie, whose lyrics and music take the listener on a road trip through the heart of a fascinating country: Mark Twain set to an acoustic guitar, or a musical Kerouac (just about) on the wagon. In the documentary Man in the Sand Guthrie’s daughter Nora describes him as “Huckleberry Finn, floating past the settled folk on the shore, and very glad to be floating by”, combining the vernacular and the deeply personal with the political commentary that coloured the likes of ‘This Land is Your Land’.

After her father’s death at the young age of 55, Nora Guthrie discovered that he had written over 3,000 lyrics without music. Given Guthrie’s importance in both folk music and American culture it would be almost crass to allow all his work to go undiscovered; after all, he was the voice of the dispossessed, the sunken American Dream, the ‘Dust Bowl troubadour’, the man who inspired the music and poetry of Bob Dylan. It seems obvious now that Billy Bragg, with his famed beliefs in both liberal ideals and folk revivalism, should set to music the writing of a man whose guitar bore the legend “This machine kills fascists.” Equally obvious it seems is that the work should be a collaboration with Wilco in their post-Being There guise, riding on the back of one of the finest alt-country Americana record of the Nineties.

Read the full review here.

England’s Depth?

Andrew Strauss . But then you knew that already. Picture courtesy of the ECB.

First a disclaimer: this isn’t a piece castigated the current England side for having the temerity to secure the requisite number of results determined by someone else for them to be named the world’s prominent Test side, nor to lambast those in the media who, perhaps caught up in a wave of success-induced euphoria, excitedly declared Andy Flower’s team to be one of the all-time greats before being brought back to earth with a thud this winter. No, recent embarrassment in unfamiliar conditions in Dubai and an apparently underwhelming performance in Sri Lanka aside, I’m still convinced that this current England Test side is a very good one, and one that along with South Africa still stands some way clear of the other Test nations.

It would be lazy to stick a “but” in here, wouldn’t it?

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North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric

North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric

There are certain things in life that are universally considered easy targets for us critics: Britpop, Uwe Boll, romantic fiction aimed at teenagers who have a thing for the supernatural, and perhaps above all, Scotland. A willing patsy to be a vehicle for bigoted propaganda, a desolate wasteland north of The Wall with a national dish of offal & heroin, whose best-known contribution to world culture is The Fucking Proclaimers.

Except that’s neither true nor fair, is it? It’s the country that gave us David Byrne, Simple Minds (who weren’t always shit), Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Belle & Sebastian (if that’s your thing), Teenage Fanclub and now, in a similar mould, North Atlantic Oscillation, whose sophomore album Fog Electric is out on April 30th.
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Yuzima Interview

Earlier this month one of the most exciting new musicians from one of world’s most exciting cities released his new record; you can read my review of Yuzima’s Sound Opera: Project One here.


Now Yuzima has kindly taken some time to talk to me and answer a few questions about the Sound Opera project, pop music in general and its, as well as his, future.
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Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Remember The Bravery? They did that song ‘An Honest Mistake’? For those of you not thinking ‘Hmm, oh yeahhhhhh…’ they were going to be The Next Big Thing, a huge band who would follow in the perplexingly successful footsteps of The Killers by, er, sounding almost exactly like them. Like a crap Mystic Meg, NME predicted a similar wildly thriving career for these guys (citation needed, but it sounds like something they would say), with hit after hit soon to be belted out at ‘indie’ nights in clubs in places like Manchester.

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

Now in the same vein as The Killers, their contemporaries The Kings of Leon have their own burgeoning Southern States soundalikes in Alabama Shakes. Earlier this year the band played three sold-out shows at London’s The Boston Arms, the first of which was enthusiastically tweeted about by Russell Crowe – you know, from 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. I was there too, and I stood next to one of the not-famous ones from Oasis, who seemed happy if a bit bemused by it all. Soon after the endorsement of these musical luminaries the likes of NME and The Guardian were predicting that the release of the band’s debut LP Boys & Girls would see Alabama Shakes take over the whole universe (and beyond!).

Read the full review here.

Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP

Daniel Rossen - Silent Hour/Golden Mile

There are certain things in life that as much as I may always enjoy them, I’d never list them amongst my favourites: Italian food, Australian wine, a Sachin Tendulkar innings, Scorcese… and, I guess, the music of Daniel Rossen, who has spent the past 11 or so years in New York as part of both Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles. The West Coast that Rossen grew up on has always tended to colour his bands’ hugely acclaimed – yet oddly low on mainstream success – pop sound with an enhanced feeling of warmth, and the same is true of his debut solo EP Silent Hour/Golden Mile. In fact, I’m sorta loath to criticise something this sun-drenched, this well-crafted, and this characteristically gorgeous.

Read the full review here.

Alabama 3 – Shoplifting 4 Jesus

Alabama 3 - Shoplifting 4 Jesus

Revisionism is the most unfair thing, isn’t it? Over recent years its cruel fist has grasped and withered a number of hapless victims, from the likes of former cricketer Andrew Flintoff to Lost, from Ray Winstone movies to the Nineties trip-hop movement. Beloved in their heyday by millions, their reputations now are windblown by a combination their fans’ collective ageing and the dawn of the hipster. As, it turns out, overblown cricket-related drop intros aren’t really appreciated around here, I suppose it’s the latter two examples that are a bit more pertinent to the new record from Alabama 3.

Read the full review here.

Dodgy – Stand Upright in a Cool Place

Dodgy - Stand Upright in a Cool Place

You remember 24, right? You know that season it did where Jack Bauer had to fight the terrorists? The ones who had a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, and if Jack couldn’t find the Big Bad at the centre of a series of nefarious villains in Russian Doll form then “tens of thousands of people WILL DIE”? No, not that one; that was the one with the super virus. And no it wasn’t the vaguely Middle Eastern fundamentalist, it was the corporate bigwig. I think there were political machinations going on.

Much like the writers on the once-brilliant (yes stupid, but brilliant) 24, those of us writing about the current wave of Britpop revitalisation are quickly running low on threads to follow:

“Pulp! Blur! They were brilliant!”

“It’s a sad sign of our childhood heroes descending into money grubbing corporate shills!”

“Cast! Elastica! HA HA HA HA HA!”

Read the full review here.

Cast – Troubled Times

This one didn’t go down to well on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere, and I’m pretty sure I’m banned from Liverpool now.

The worst album I have ever reviewed.

Back in the summer of 2008, England’s outrageously talented-yet-mercurial batsman Kevin Pietersen played in a one day international against New Zealand at Durham. It was in this match, against the medium-pace bowler Scott Styris that he coined what soon became known as the switch-hit: a shot which involved him switching from a right- to a left-handed grip and stance midway through the delivery, and cleanly sending the ball soaring into the stands for six. It was something that had never quite been done before; perhaps a bit derivative of the reverse sweep, but nonetheless a piece of batting that required incredible skill, and made headlines throughout the ensuing series.

A few days later I was opening the batting for a local village team in Northamptonshire. After two balls of steady accumulation, I decided that now was the time to emulate Pietersen and unleash the switch-hit. I adjusted my stance, swapped my hands around, dropped the bat, pivoted on my left foot and fell – with all the grace of a swan caught in barbed wire – on to my stumps, shattering the bails and being comprehensively and ignominiously out. So humiliated was I, that with a small total to chase in the second innings, our captain demoted me to tenth in the batting order, just ahead of a small child, to save me the humiliation of having to face the fielding side again.

Read the full review (which follows this cricketing preamble) here.

Pulp – Freaks (reissue)

Writing something negative about Pulp is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Among the perhaps dozens of us that have listened them, it’s almost become de rigeur to discuss Pulp’s first three albums in the context of the band’s later success as art pop giants of the Britpop era. With 1983 debut It this is fairly understandable given its frothy, lightweight pop aesthetic (but more on that elsewhere): 1987 follow-up Freaks, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition, not to mention, Jarvis Cocker aside, an entirely different band.

Pulp - Freaks

Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing straight away though, and it pains me to say this as someone who has idolised Jarvis for many a year: Freaks is not a particularly good record. Rather, it’s an interesting aberration in the trajectory of Pulp’s sound. There’s no nuance in here, no room for interpretation: this is the band at their most bleak, staring deep into an abyss of hopeless despair, where misshapes, mistakes and misfits are raised on a diet of broken dreams and hearts rather than biscuits. That sense of the little guy winning out that would characterise Different Class is absent here, replaced by a sorrowful void: “Your soul just dried away/There’s no love left in your body/Standing empty forever/And colder every day”.

Read the full review here.

Cricket and Rock Music

Viv Richards

As far as interview questions go, “where do you get your ideas from?” has to be among the more trite for writers to face: they’re ideas, where do you think we find them? Of course, it would be a mistake to confuse this with those moments of inspiration, the sudden realisation of something that at once seems blindingly obvious. For me, one such moment was last Christmas: half-drunkenly slouched on a sofa in a seaside cottage, post another viewing of Fire in Babylon and now reading an old interview with The Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell. Reading through the protopunk’s erudite cricketing memories from a Test Match Special interview I remembered from the 2005 Ashes series, an understanding of the intrinsic spiritual link between these two art forms began to flow through my mind in the same way as when I read Hesse’s Siddartha at the height of my Radiohead obsession.
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Mark Mulholland – The Cactus and the Dragon

Mark Mulholland - The Cactus and the Dragon

I sat down to write this review of Mark Mulholland’s new album at around midday today; it is now 18:55. The problem I’m having with writing this preamble is that I’m about to start discussing a twenty-first century indie-folk singer, a description that will no doubt bring forth memories of the likes of Camera Obscura and Scottish contemporaries Belle & Sebastian: in other words, twee farts of nothing that should by rights have you running for the nearest rusty scalpel with which to remove your own ears. But then I’d quite like you to keep reading this, so please disperse said images from your mind and give this album a chance.

Read the full review here.

Air Interview

This is probably the most showbiz thing I’ve ever done: meeting electropop greats Air at the French embassy to talk music and, above all, cinema. You should also check out this excellent review of their album/score Le Voyage dans la Lune here.

Back in 1902, cinema was still a relatively new concept. It was, after all, only seven years since Auguste and Louis Lumière had pioneered motion pictures with L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat: the moving image of a train pulling into a station which, apocryphally, sent cinema goers into a mass panic. Nevertheless, it was in 1902 that Georges Méliès first released Le Voyage dans la Lune and thus became arguably the first auteur to not only include then state-of-the-art special effects in one of his films, but also the pioneer of science fiction in the movies. The George Lucas of his day, Méliès has been inextricably associated with cinematic space exploration for 110 years and it could easily be argued that Air are his sonic counterparts.


Originally released in both black & white and in colour, the prints of the film were painstakingly hand painted. Lost for years, the colour print was finally rediscovered in Spain in 1993 and, six years later, work began on restoring the badly damaged film reels. With a view to premiering the rescued version at the 2011 Cannes film festival, Fondation Groupama Gan and Fondation Technicolor, the two cinematic organisations working in film preservation, approached Air earlier this year with a view to producing a new soundtrack.

Read the full interview here.

Dear Reader – Idealistic Animals

No we don’t really know what’s going on here

I’ll confess, I never studied to be a critic, or a journalist, or a writer; it’s a sometime thing I managed to stumble into by a combination of luck and borderline-obsessive geekiness when it came to music. Nevertheless, over the past year or so I’ve managed to pick up on one or two of the rules along the way: for example, any new Morrissey record must mention alienation of fans, anything with a vaguely African sound or origin will be compared to Graceland, and anything out of the European continent must have been influenced by Krautrock… right?
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Yuzima – Sound Opera Project One

Yuzima, an unlikely champion of European industrial rock, straight out of The Bronx

Despite my predilection for 1980s post punk and new wave music, and all their spin offs, I have never been to their spiritual home of New York. Nor have I ever visited hipster techno Mecca Detroit, and I have only briefly touched upon the sprawling west coast melting pot of new musical genres that is Los Angeles. As those who have never spent much time in the north west of England might struggle to find an affinity with the Madchester scene of the early 90s, it leaves me with a slightly ashamed sense of fraudulence when it comes to professing my love for the music born of these wonderful cultural springs; in fact when it comes to writing about the indie scene of bygone epochs my conscience can only really be settled by considering how much time I’ve spent in Berlin.
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Precious Jules – Precious Jules

Precious Jules - Precious Jules

Let’s not waste any time… Let’s get… waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasted” sneers Australian punk mainstay Kim Salmon at the opening of ‘A Necessary Evil’ from the self-titled debut of his new project Precious Jules. No, I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now. It should be a pretty embarrassing line, reminiscent of the drooping faux-punks beloved of small town pubs on a Friday night (those of you with tickets to the Stone Roses gigs might enjoy this as a dry run), and so cringe-worthy with its curbed enthusiasm that it has to be some sort of satire, right?

Read the full review here.

Department of Eagles – The Cold Nose (reissue)

Department of Eagles - The Cold Nose

By the time this article gets published, and you sit down to read/skim/troll it, Christmas celebrations will finally be done and dusted, Jools Holland will have quietly gone away, and it’ll be 2012. So as per tradition, what are your New Year’s resolutions?

“To stop making New Year’s resolutions, hur hur hur.”

Shut up, you’re an idiot whose cynicism is exactly 0.001% as funny as you think; at least show some small ambition. Mine, for example, is to stop shoehorning Radiohead references and comparisons into every single piece I write for Drowned in Sound this year, which makes reviewing the reissue of Department of Eagles’ 2003 debut The Cold Nose a bit of a pain in the arse. Not that this will dissuade me from giving it a go, but just as a caveat, this really sounds quite a bit like Radiohead.

Read the full review here.

TV Review – Black Mirror

My one and only TV review so far here. In retrospect, the show was a bit silly.

For extra laughs, imagine it’s Cameron

I should probably start this review by qualifying that I had a blood test this morning, which meant that I had to forgo food, wine and coffee for twelve hours before having a surprisingly large quantity of haemoglobin drained from my body, leaving me feeling like a prop from a low-budget episode of Dexter. It was during my fast late last night that I watched Charlie Brooker’s twisted horror-satire Black Mirror, and I’m not sure that my altered state of mind today was the real reason for my spending the morning wondering did I really watch that?

The premise is Pythonesque in its absurdity. Kate Middleton Fictional “People’s Princess” Susannah is kidnapped, and the ransom demand is made on YouTube: at 4pm Prime Minister David Cameron (huh, I forgot the strikethrough there) must appear on national television having sex… with a pig. Yes in its absurdity it’s funny at first, but the growing horror of the characters involved is brilliantly transposed on to both the fictional viewers and those of us watching in the real world.
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REM – Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth

This one goes out to the one I love

Those that know me, or even know my writing and its youthful naïveté (OK Wilco’s The Whole Love might not be the best album of the decade) will be unsurprised to know that I’ve never been in a relationship that has lasted thirty years. In truth, although I’ve always loved REM’s music, it’s only in recent years that I’ve taken the plunge into their stunning pre-Out of Time oeuvre. And yes, whilst we had difficulties towards the end, and despite the real brevity of the relationship, I was crushed by the breakup.

Now, there’s a 1998 Hirokazu Koreeda film called After Life, the basic premise of which is that after you die, you stop off on your way to the afterlife to have your favourite memories committed to videotape (this may sound familiar to Radiohead geeks). With Part Lies, Part Truth, Part Garbage REM have done the hard work for us, the highlights of their extensive career compiled chronologically for the first time. At two hours thirty minutes it’s something of an epic, though for the first three quarters of the album time flies by: I know every scene by heart, and they all move by so fast.
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Can – Tago Mago 40th Anniversary Edition

My first ever 10/10 review…

Can - Tago Mago

Hey, you know what’s cool? Smoking (Drowned in Sound in no way endorses the view that smoking is cool). Think back through the history of pop culture going right back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, or even the era of great European cinema before that; the smell of cigarette smoke pervades both its great characters and its screen idols: James Dean, Richard Burton, Fellini, Fassbinder, Paul Newman and Jack Nicholson. The same can be said of the great pop music icons; smoking is the Sixties counter culture movement, smoking is Dylan, Tom Waits and Hendrix, smoking is Keith Richards. You know who’s anti-smoking? Michael Bolton. No one wants to be Michael fucking Bolton. So, smoking is rock and roll, and smoking is cool.

Read the full review here.

Revisiting… Radiohead’s In Rainbows

I thought of that old joke, y’know, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.’ And the doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?’ The guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd… but I guess we keep goin’ through it because most of us… need the eggs.

In Rainbows

Woody Allen had it right: love is a crazy, irrational and stupid thing. It can be painful, never meet expectations and leave you with the bitter, crushing feeling of disappointment; it can be enough to turn you off the concept of hope for good. So when something turns up out of the blue that exceeds everything you could ever have wished for, something so good that you question whether it exists and if you had the imagination to make it up if it didn’t, something that seems like it came out of a bad movie… when this happens it’s something special, and it’s the reason that we go through all of the crappy mediocrity of life in the first place, because this thing was worth all of it. Some people never get that, and more cruelly others glimpse it only to see it pass fleetingly.
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What’s the point of Snow Patrol?

“Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.”
“Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”

As introductions go, it’s arguably one of the most quotable in pop culture history. It wasn’t just Homer being introduced to the low-fi indie rock scene of the 1990s, but legions of Simpsons fans who had never listened to the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth; bands who may have been borne of the grunge era, but had their roots in the late 70s/early 80s post punk movement. Had the episode ‘Homerpalooza’ been made a few years later (and in Scotland), then it could have appropriately featured MOR V Festival staples Snow Patrol amongst its guests.

Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires

Before ‘Chasing Cars’, before Final Straw even, before ‘Run’, the band was hardly recognisable from that which would grow like some cash-diluted version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man into a kind Fisher Price Coldplay. Their 1997 debut EP Starfighter Pilot, and the following LPS Songs for Polar Bears (1998) and When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up (2001) were noisy, discordant post-rock. Even if tracks such as ‘Get Balsamic Vinegar… Quick You Fool’, ‘The Last Shot Ringing in my Ears’ and the less-than-subtly-titled ‘Post Punk Progression’ weren’t on a par with their contemporaries in terms of quality, there was still a sense that this was a band that would rather be The Fall than U2.
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Brian Eno & Rick Holland – Panic of Looking EP

Brian Eno & Rick Holland - Panic of Looking

Having now met a portion of the DiS community I get the feeling that the majority of readers and writers on this site are, shall we say, a little bit geeky, and as such probably don’t need the concept of the technological singularity explaining to them in great depth. Still, I had to take a trip to Wikipedia to remind myself, so it’s probably worth a brief recap that said singularity concerns the ‘hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which the future becomes difficult to understand or predict.’

Read the full review here.

David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time

David Lynch

A fun game to play: describing David Lynch’s music in cinematic imagery

It’s almost as if the media has suddenly awoken to the fact that this is in fact not David Lynch’s first foray into music (the soundtrack to 2006’s Inland Empire was a collaboration with a number of other artists, including Beck), but that’s no excuse for passing this one over.

Those not familiar with Lynch’s previous musical exploits will no doubt have a hard time forging expectations for Crazy Clown Time, although the noisy electro-pop/blues genre mashup is not the most radical of departures from what the rest of us have heard before. Come to think of it, it’s a shame that Eels already released a wonderful LP called Electro-Shock Blues, apposite title as it would make for this record.
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King Midas Sound – Without You

King Midas Sound - Without You

“Chaos reigns” were the words of the self-disembowelling fox in the film I watched last night. With its darker-than-night themes of grief, guilt and despair, its anarchic narrative and its incredible cinematic beauty, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist does share some common ground with the music of King Midas Sound, one of the guises of musician/journalist Kevin Martin, who released his/their debut long player Waiting for You back in 2009.

It was a chilling album, if something of a throwback to the Nineties trip hop scene, reminiscent of the likes of Portishead and Death in Vegas and yet sounded perfectly contemporary. If not unpleasant, it wasn’t an easy album to listen to; nonetheless, underneath its twisted sonic limbs were enough hooks and wry pop culture references (lines lifted directly from Elvis Costellos ‘Love Went Mad’) to make it an interesting and worthwhile addition to any musicophile’s late-Noughties record collection.

Read the full review here.

Wilco Live in Camden

I was lucky enough to see Wilco in Camden in 2011 on their tour in support of The Whole Love. Here’s the review.


It’s an accusation commonly thrown by Wilco’s critics over recent years that Jeff Tweedy and co. have drifted into a comfort zone; settling into an alt-country niche and eschewing the more experimental sound that had seen them lazily dubbed The American Radiohead around the beginning of the 21st Century. Current album The Whole Love may have gone some way towards muting, if not silencing, said critics, however the song selection for the second of two shows at London’s Roundhouse in Camden perhaps adds a little more weight to their argument; the band clearly no longer feeling the need to play the critically acclaimed numbers that are as close as they have to hits.
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“So, why France?”

Thierry Dusautoir

This was the question put to me by an old school friend during the 2011 World Cup semi final between Les Bleues and the heavily-fancied Welsh. In truth, it wasn’t the hardest of questions, and my reasons were numerous: a penchant for French food; a love of their landscapes, their art, their wine; the cobbled little Provencal towns and the cascading cities; the Lumiere brothers, who gave cinema to the world and Georges Mellies who helped pioneer it in the early part of the 20th Century; the music of Yann Tiersen, Daft Punk, Sebastien Tellier, Air and Phoenix amongst others; the fact that I managed to get a girl I’d fallen hopelessly for to go on a date simply by asking her in French (yes, she speaks French) (and thanks to Jen, who actually wrote the text for me). All this before we even get to the national rugby team.

Read the full article here.

An Album of the Year 2000 – 11yrson: Eels Daisies of the Galaxy

This was for a nostalgia feature that Drowned in Sound ran to celebrate their 11th birthday. I shamelessly used this to get revenge on a friend for a slight seven years earlier.

Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy

With a nod to Mark Oliver Everett’s, AKA E, AKA Eels book Things the Grandchildren Should Know – less an autobiography, more a chronicle of woe and redemption consisting of heartbreaking, if possibly apocryphal, tales – here follows a personal story about my first real encounter with his music.

When I was 18, my flatmate lent me a copy of Daisies of the Galaxy (in 2004 he was still, understandably, unwilling to part with Blinking Lights and Other Revelations), with the solemn caveat that “if you don’t like this, we can no longer be friends.” I was already familiar with the old single ‘Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues’, but to hear a full album of even better similarly-veined tracks caused me to immediately realise my folly in previously dismissing them as a band with a half-decent song that Virgin Radio used to play. I’d fallen in love with this record, and was ecstatic to discover that in a matter of weeks they would be playing in not-too-far-away Manchester, and that my flatmate, brilliant friend that he is, had a spare ticket…

Read the full article here.

Ten Things I Don’t Hate About RomComs

My friend has a new girlfriend, with whom he has entered into a deal: she will watch three horror movies with him, on condition that he watches three romantic comedies with her in return. Given his abysmal taste in horror films – Paranormal Activity 2, really Mike? – it would seem that she has the better deal, especially given her chosen genre, the rightly maligned RomCom (this is the last time I’m going to use this horrific bastardisation of a word, as it’s making my eyes bleed like the closing every scene in Love Actually ).

Oh Woody, you utterly absurd genius

Of course like the presence of Sean Lock or Stephen K. Amos on Live at the Apollo, there are odd exceptions to the plethora of cinematic monstrosities that could well mean that Mike gets the better end of the deal and ends up watching something quite perfect: the Locks to Sex and the City’s Michael McIntyre. The following list of ten is by no means definitive – there is nothing predating 1977, and overlooks a wonderful world of European cinema – but here are some shining lights in a world of unwatchable gloom. Starting with…
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Why Don’t I Like Coldplay?

Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

First a disclaimer: this is not a lazy riff on one of my bewildered “how the fuck can anyone like x” rants that my Twitter followers will be used to whenever I’m in a bad mood. Unlike The Killers, Mumford and Sons or Adele, Coldplay are a band I have never quite been able to justify my dislike of. The release of their new record Mylo Xyloto does nothing to resolve my quandary: it’s a pleasant and uplifting record, and yet it also annoys the crap out of me. Worse still, there is a gnawing fear that I would have the same reaction no matter what it sounded like, and that Coldplay are a band whose ambiguous aura has now overwhelmed their actual artistic output.
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“They come from the land of the ice and snow”

'Jonny Foreigner'

Ice and snow is what they have in the the windswept tundra of Samoa, New Zealand and South Africa, right? It’s been a long time since I did my geography ‘A’ level.

Being an ardent rugby follower and aspiring journalist, my Gmail inbox gets clogged up with a hell of a lot of bulletins and reports, especially during World Cup time. Nonetheless, one missive recently caught my eye from the usually excellent Daily Telegraph, in which readers were discouraged from supporting the England team on the grounds that it was full of “opportunists”, who weren’t really English anyway. It seemed briefly that a newspaper that had always seemed to err to the acceptable side of moderate conservatism had come over all Daily Mail on me. I was, needless to say, unimpressed.

Read the full article here.

Radiohead – TKOL RMX1234567


Here’s a quandary for you: when reviewing a record, should the music critic view the album as a standalone work and assess its merits compared to its contemporary peers, or should it be viewed in the wider context of an artists’ back catalogue? Should I be praising this new offering from Radiohead as a decent album with some good songs on, or should I really take into account just how much better they can be and, moreover, have been?

Not that the catchy-titled TKOL RMX1234567 is really an album, as such. Instead we have a collection of remixes of the band’s last full-length release The King of Limbs, which was a nice little foray into new territory if perhaps not quite worth the four year wait, from a number of artists whose work the band – and Thom Yorke in particular – have earnestly advocated over recent years. Most of the remixes here are, if not pleasant, then certainly enjoyable: Caribou’s reworking of ‘Little By Little’, Four Tet’s ‘Separator’ and Jamie xx’s ‘Bloom’ are all interesting takes, whilst Altrice’s ‘TKOL’ nicely condenses the whole album into a six-minute stretch.
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Yann Tiersen – Skyline

Yann Tiersen - Skyline

Short-sighted, unfair and ignorant: music fans in the western world are a fickle bunch, but it would be crass to tar them all with the same brush. However when it comes to the music of Yann Tiersen these are appropriate adjectives for the majority of us who are familiar with him simply as The Guy Who Did The Soundtrack To Amelie (I can claim innocence in this respect, having discovered him when studying Goodbye Lenin, which he also contributed the soundtrack to). With a further two scores, numerous collaborations and contributions, not to mention six studio albums to his name, it is doing Tiersen an injustice to remember him solely for aiding numerous indie kid crushes a full decade ago.

Read the full review here.

It’s Political Correctness Gone Mental Health Issues

Here’s me trying to do politics and such.

Political correctness not really going mad

Being a life-long sufferer of diabetes probably would not, you might suspect, be the catalyst that has led me to a fervent support of political correctness. Nonetheless, here’s a short story; a preamble to hopefully contextualise just why political correctness hasn’t really gone mad, and under the current coalition government is showing signs of not going far enough.

Some years ago and edict was issued by the police, addressing the way officers should refer to witnesses, victims and suspects in their reports. Among these guidelines was an instruction not to refer to persons as “diabetics” but as “persons suffering from diabetes”. Now, this may be the least interesting thing I’ve ever written, and a seemingly trivial point to pick out from many in the same vein that carried a great deal more gravitas: not “black man” but “person of ethnic origin”, not “prostitute” but “woman who works as a prostitute”, not “leper” but “person with leprosy” and so forth. Still, the spirit in which the edict was issued is the same, and no doubt the reaction of many to these more substantial guidelines would have been the same as that overheard at the local diabetes centre when I went down for a routine check up appointment.

“It’s utterly ridiculous; the whole world’s just got mental health issues gone insane” an elderly gentleman said as he folded his copy of The Daily Mail. “As if anyone cares whether they call you one thing or the other in this day and age.” You can guess what came next: “It’s political correctness gone mad”.
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Yann Tiersen Interview

I spoke to Yann Tiersen over the phone last year to talk about his new album Skyline. After circumventing his thick accent, a dodgy phone line and no recording equipment, the final piece ended up being far less in-depth than I’d hoped.

Yann Tiersen

The idea of the impatient and precocious European (read: French) avant garde artist is a cliché as old as the hipster itself; consigned primarily to lazy yet unfathomably successful western “satire”. It is an image I was ashamed to have at the forefront of my mind at the start of my conversation with Yann Tiersen about his upcoming album Skyline as, luddite that I am, I hastily scribbled his responses shorthand in my notebook whilst attempting to penetrate his thick Brittany accent over the phone.

Whilst this involuntary reaction was unfair, it is at least defensible, as the first impression of Tiersen is that he is someone who gets bored quickly and easily. In conversation he was thoughtful and erudite, giving considered answers to my questions; however he was keen to emphasise the evolution of his work over the years and his passion for progress. Still, the interview could have opened better…

Read the full interview here.

Theophilus London – Timez are Weird These Days

Theophilus London - Timez are Weird These Days

Back in September 2008, the British author and former MI6 agent John Le Carré wrote an article entitled ‘The Madness of Spies’ for The New Yorker. He described working for the British intelligence agency during the Cold War as surprisingly banal work, so lacking in adventure that spies would create their own imaginary missions just to stave off the incredible boredom that the job brought about. He talks of an ostensibly perilous covert operation with an older intelligence officer, only to discover that the mission was the officer’s own work of fiction.

This kind of fictionalised dangerous glamour, the delusion of anonymous powerful figures with murky agendas trying to put a bullet in your back is a nice allegory for the world of mainstream hip-hop. It is a similarly tenuous grasp on reality in their work that has sold the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West so many records to critical acclaim. It’s certainly music that’s meant to entertain rather than invite empathy; more Arnie than Woody Allen.

Read the full review here.

Wilco – The Whole Love

I was drunk on a train when I wrote this, and may have been over-effusive. It’s still a brilliant album.

The last time I wrote a review cautiously praising a band for a slow return to form, that band was REM, who shocked the music world with a split mere months later. Now, I like Wilco a lot, still enjoy their music and would dearly love to see the indie legends live someday; I’m not the superstitious type, but I have no desire to tempt fate and see the same happen to the Chicago group.

Wilco - The Whole Love

Having said that (what a wonderful phrase that is, completely negating my entire carefully constructed preamble), The Whole Love is immediately recognisable as Wilco’s best album since their 2001 classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot following two steady if unspectacular albums of gorgeous alt country. There is a great deal more innovation here; the sound of a band bloodily tearing out a skin it had grown comfortable in.
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“Reading that REM are splitting up is like reading of the death of someone you were convinced had died 15 years ago”


So said writer Simon Blackwell on Twitter earlier this evening: as cruelly exaggerated as this may be, his point is easy to understand. The end of REM is not like that of The Beatles, who were still a creative force to be reckoned with, or Take That, who were always shit (side-note: when did it become OK to like Take That?).

Nonetheless, for those of us who grew up at any point in the past thirty years and grew to love music with it, REM were there as part of the soundtrack. From their 1983 debut Murmur through to 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi – their last masterpiece – there was no band so adept at capturing every emotion, every fear and every neurosis that feels so unique to every adolescent. With his obfuscated, mumbling voice and wiry geeky stage persona, Michael Stipe was the complete antithesis to today’s polished, cringingly chic American college rock band: he was the terrified post-punk, one who invited empathy in contrast with today’s version gladly accepting lust with false modesty (yeah you, Vampire Weekend); he was The Changes to today’s Skins.
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Death in Vegas – Trans-Love Energies

Death in Vegas - Trans-Love Energies

Extended lengths of time between creative periods tend to go one of two ways. Sometimes they allow the artist time to breathe, to take on new perspectives and gain new experiences: and fans of Kate Bush and Gil Scott Heron will rightly tell you that this allow the artist to return stronger than ever; that the artist has never sounded so inspired, so fresh and so creative. On the other hand there are the likes of Guns‘N Roses or author George R.R. Martin, whose fallow periods left them creatively bereft and stale, often with a vast mess of impenetrable ideas: talking a lot but not saying anything, as Talking Heads might put it.

Read the full review here.