Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Holiday Ghosts 'West Bay Playroom'

The second album from Falmouth's own Holiday Ghosts is out now from PNKSLM Recordings

West Bay Playroom promises to be one of the most catchy, joyous, bouncy records of this year; considering they hail from Falmouth, Cornwall; this is a band with eyes across the pond to the shining seas of America.

With a sound that is buoyant, euphoric and full of sunshine, there will not be a listener is not overcome with smiling when they hear this 14-track album.

The punchiness of the basslines, the accompanying thump of drum beats and a springy vocal stylings comes to the fore on second track, 'Thinking of You' a song that is so full of young love and romance that it took me back to my youth.

Influences ranging from The Ramones, Violent Femmes and the newly infectious Goat Girl; this album needs to be heard by many and should be shared.

It made me recall of other works by such lesser known acts as Major Murphy and Frankie Cosmos; these acts that embrace the spirit as well as the tradition of punk by creating little nuggets of songs do not aim for gravitas just to be remembered.

West Bay Playroom is out now from PNKSLM Recordings

My thanks to One Beat PR for the review opportunity.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Thoughts on Liverpool

Liverpool Football Club has not won the top division title since 1990, there fans know this, all football fans know this, all of Manchester knows this. They have never won the Premier League title, whereas Manchester United has done, quite a few times. When Liverpool last won the League title it was their 18th triumph, the most in the English top ranks. Man United had only won six. Then the dawn of a new era heralded a changing of the guard and as Liverpool struggled to find a worthy successor to King Kenny Dalglish, United had Alex Ferguson to strike.

Man United now have 20 league titles in total, the 19th was cheered more than the 20th or the first under Ferguson's guidance in 1993 on that Monday night against Blackburn.

On Sunday, Liverpool were playing their game in hand over Manchester City (while they played in the League Cup final). This game was played at the old enemy's fortress Old Trafford - a place called the Theatre of Dreams but it has been anything but utopia recently under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho. Now Mourinho has gone, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is riding the rocky ship and guiding the Red Devils to an unlikely Champions League position which in November seemed unfathomable.

Liverpool had the opportunity to go three points clear of Manchester City, an important landmark in this tight season and with Tottenham Hotspur having been defeated on Saturday at Burnley, the chance for breathing space was paramount.

However, the chance slipped by as Liverpool who have fluffed lines recently away at West Ham and at home to Leicester and showed fallibility in a league victory over Crystal Palace. In a game where they played virtually their full strength side bar James Milner at right back over an ailing Trent Alexander-Arnold; Man United had an injury crisis culminating with them committing all three substitutes in the first half (Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard) and Marcus Rashford playing 75 minutes with an injury of his own and having to stay on the field in vain, this forced Romelu Lukaku to play out on the wing while Rashford committed sprints when required.

Liverpool were playing against 10 men in the second half, and yet they could not breakdown a resolute defence led by Luke Shaw's impressive display in nullifying the threat of Mo Salah.

Yet there in lies a problem with Liverpool - the front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane - has been the lack of goal threat in times of stalemate.  The reliance upon goals from the trio is a problem as the midfield trio that started against Man United - Jordan Henderson, Gigi Winjaldum and Fabinho - have only scored six goals all season, that is not enough for any side with title aspirations.

This is Klopp's dilemma in not being totally gung-ho, the midfield trio affords him stability with Andrew Robertson marauding down the left when allowed but that midfield triangle offers no creative inspiration to unlock resolute defences. Firmino went off injured to be replaced by the lacklustre Daniel Sturridge.

When the game demanded invention, Klopp took off the captain Henderson for Xherdan Shaqiri to hopefully create a chance that never came.  The decision to withdraw Henderson made sense, the club captain coming back from injury had played 90 minutes midweek against Bayern Munich so resting muscles was Klopp's concern.  However, the reaction from Henderson to being substituted ignoring both Klopp and the incoming sub spoke volumes of possible upheaval behind the scenes and the problem with player power as individuals feel they should remain untouched. Salah was substituted with 10 minutes remaining and he afforded no ill will - he must have known he did not give his best.

Liverpool had the opportunity to make a statement and give the title another twist and some distance; yet with 11 games remaining they are only one point clear with games remaining against Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea.

Manchester City are on a roll, they have won the first trophy of a possible unprecedented quadruple, players are coming back from injury and the rotation of the squad allows goals to be scored by many parties whomever starts games. For instance, in the final on Sunday the front three was Sterling, Aguero and Bernardo Silva; for the league game on Wednesday at home to West Ham you can anticipate a front three of Sane, Jesus and perhaps Sterling.

This rotation will afford Guardiola to maintain momentum while the options for Liverpool are thin and if individuals play with such impotency as Mane did at Old Trafford, the chance for Liverpool to gain that 19th title may be gone.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ben Kane 'Clash of Empires'

Clash of Empires

This is the first book in a new series by historical fiction author Ben Kane.

The historical details, which you can find at the end of the book in the Author's Note, concerning this wonderful story are very well researched and documented, and these details are superbly implemented within this great historical tale.

At the beginning of the book you'll notice two well-drawn maps of the Kingdom of Macedon and of Asia Minor and the Propontis, both in 202 BC, and besides that there's a short note from the author himself about the two maps at the end papers of the book, front Latin and back Greek.

The book starts with a very interesting prologue situated in the year 215 BC, before the book, which is divided into 4 parts, begins to flourish into a magnificent story that starts in the year 202 BC and will end in the year 198 BC.

Parts 1 and 2 are divided into 4 main streams; the first one being King Philip V of Macedon, who's trying to emulate his forebears King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, by recapturing all of Greece and beyond; the second being Demetrios, after having been a rower in the army of King Philip is now due to a lucky encounter with Simonides a phalangist in that same Macedonian army; the third being Senator Flamininus, who's doing all he can to become Consul and win glory for himself by defeating Philip and the Macedonians; and finally fourth the brothers Felix and Antonius, who after having defeated the Carthaginians at Zama are dishonourably discharged after falling asleep on sentry duty, and now they've enlisted themselves with the Legions who will invade Greece and will be fighting the Macedonians.

In parts 3 and 4 we find King Philip V of Macedon and his Macedonians, with Demetrios in their midst, in war in Greece against the Roman legions, lead by Consul Flamininus, and with Felix and Antonius in their midst, where battles will be fought to the death, causing lots of casualties.

Kane, much like his peers Simon Scarrow and Bernard Cornwell, is able to structure a well told tale with characters you can sympathise for with dialogue that rips along as well as painting a great picture of a changing world.

Clash of Empires is out in paperback from Orion Books.

My thanks to Compulsive Readers book blog for the review copy.

Piroshka 'Brickbat'

Piroshka - Brickbat

Debut album from Piroshka, a distinct musical quartet, released from Bella Union on 15th February

Piroshka are a collaboration of four artists from wide ranging backgrounds across the late 20th century; the four band members are Miki Berenyi (Lush vocalist/guitarist), KJ 'Moose' McKillop (Moose guitarist), Mick Conroy (Modern English bassist) and Justin Welch (Elastica drummer).

This variety of backgrounds from the individual members has created an album which is both thrilling, enticing and intellectual.  Thrust forward by Berenyi's own distinctive voice, the band have curated an album of pleasing hooks which will make listeners reminisce of female led groups with this reviewer being fondly recalled of The Long Blondes and Kate Jackson's delivery.

While the lead track 'This Must Be Bedlam' starts off with a ferocious feedback this is not a punk record; instead there is a delicate way about the songs none more so than on 'Everlastingly Yours' a love song which reaches heights thanks to the vocal delivery.

The track titles may well speak towards friction and there is a political context running throughout - 'This Must Be Bedlam' is about Brexit; 'Village of the Damned' is about school shootings and 'Never Enough' rails against greed and inequality. This is an album speaking of mature and societal themes due to the adults within the group - this is a band by adults for adults.

Full of powerful rock basslines and with a rare combination of harmony and punk; this is an album that should garner praise from musos and for those seeking something off the beaten track.

Brickbat is out from Bella Union on 15th February.
My thanks to OneBeatPR for the audio/review link.