Sunday, 29 July 2012


It’s quite scary to thing that 2012 is the 40th anniversary year of Magnum. As Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley were laying the foundations of what would be a classic British rock band, current drummer Harry James was at junior school, whilst bassist Al Barrow was probably still soiling nappies. Since then they’ve split up for a while (after the yawnsome “Rock Art” album), had a go at a new start with the excellent “Hard Rain” project (essentially Magnum without the name) and released 15 studio albums. “On The 13th Day” is number 16, and comes graced by an oddly subdued Rodney Matthews cover.

It’s no secret that I have been a Magnum fan since I was Bob Catley’s height (bless him), and I’ve welcomed the four post reformation albums with varying degrees of happiness. As stand alone albums they haven’t been as good as I’d hoped, although when the best bits were slapped on last years “Evolution” album it all turned out rather well, not least because the two new tracks on the compilation brought a great deal of hope for the band’s future.

“The 13th Day” is, as ever, a mixed bag, but I can confidently say it’s my favourite of the bands recent work, probably the best since 1992’s “Sleepwalking”. There’s no mistaking the Magnum sound, and it goes without saying that Bob Catley does a sterling job on vocals throughout. Songwriter Clarkin knows to include every instrument in the mix, with his own contribution being strong but never showy. There’s only a couple of faster paced numbers here, with “So Let It Rain” seeming almost like a challenge to fans who bemoan the lack of catchy, chorus led tracks these days. Simple and repetitive, it does it’s job well, whilct “Shadow Town” adds a little more depth but still with a killer chorus hook. Elsewhere, the tracks conform more to the modern Magnum sound, but are just that bit better than previous efforts. Opener “All The Dreamers” reminds me of “That Holy Touch”, whereas “Blood Red Laughter” follows it and conjures memories of “Brand New Morning”.  This isn’t a copycat album by any means, but it does retain the riff led style of the recent stuff.

It’s not a perfect album by any means. It closes with “From Within”, a song that has a good chorus but bland verses, whereas “Dance Of The Black Tattoo” could have been a filler track on any of the last 5 releases, the best thing about it being the title. As with any Magnum album, it starts to get in your head after about 5 plays, and your favourite track will probably change week by week. Although they are unlike to ever match their mid 80s melodic rock glory years, “The 13th Day” is an album that can be held as a sign that there’s certainly life in the old dogs yet.

 Album Released in UK: Sept 24th

Band Website:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

"TED" - Film Review (cert 15)

Much has been said about ‘Ted’, mainly because of the, frankly hilarious, red band trailer that could lead you to expect 90 minutes of profanity laden fun. Well the film finally reaches UK screens this week and you can see for yourself that this isn’t really the case, although it’s certainly a good film nonetheless.

The story concerns John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg, The Funky Bunch), who makes a wish when he is a little boy that his teddy bear would be able to be alive. As it’s Christmas and all that guff, his wish is granted, and he now has a bear who walks, talks and loves everybody (and hugging). So far, so sweet, but Ted the bear grows up with John, and 25 years later they are still together, farting, swearing and smoking bongs together like only bestest buddies can. The problem is that John has a really, REALLY serious girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis, 2 episodes of Baywatch), who thinks that maybe it’s time he and Ted live separate lives…

The whole thing comes from the mind of Seth MacFarlane, something that becomes apparent when he voices Ted almost exactly the same as he does Peter in Family Guy (there’s a nice in joke about this). Ted is not a well behaved bear, but he’s not a bad bear, either, and the core story of the film is much deeper than “Hey - look at the bear doing rude things! Hurr hurr hurrr!”. Once you accept that Ted is, indeed, real, you can settle down and watch a very funny movie that is also quite touching at times, despite the fact that it’s set in Boston, meaning everyone has a really annoying accent. There’s plenty of neat touches, such as a wonderful extended cameo from Sam Jones (if you don’t recognise the name, you will when you see it), another surprising one from singer Norah Jones,  and Giovanni Ribisi as a psycho who wants to buy Ted from John.

Ted is not a roller coaster of hilarity, and this ain’t like stitching four or five eps of Family Guy together. There’s an actual plot, some nice acting and a genuine emotional journey for the leads. Oh, and there’s also quite a lot of smut, drug taking, perversion, swearing and fart gags (yes got away with a 15 cert, incredibly). So it’s a funny movie, yes, but it’s also a good movie, and it goes without saying that the Family Guy crowd will love it, whilst prudes or over sensitive types will run a freakin’ mile.

"red band" (Adult) trailer:

Monday, 16 July 2012


Remember The Offspring? In 1994 they released an album called ‘Smash’, and it was absolutely stunning, filled with catchy, angry punk pop that made all the pretenders look like wimps. That was then, and a lot of days have gone by, and most people now know them as the band that did ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’, which is kinda sad. Even after ‘Smash’ they released some pretty hard hitting albums, but when ‘Americana’ came along in 1998, it threw in comedy songs as well as hard assed punk, and the future was written. They still deliver good songs, sure, but this isn’t the band you might have fallen in love with 20 odd years ago, this is something else.

The important news is that the good far outweighs the bad on the latest album. The now obligatory comedy song is ‘Cruisin California (Bumpin In My Trunk’, which is as catchy as it is annoying, and sees The Offspring once again delivering a feel good summer anthem. Elsewhere there’s some seriously good music, with the band effectively rolling back the clock with speedy, powerful tunes such as ‘Slim Pickens Does The Right Thing & Rides The Bomb To Hell’, ‘Dividing By Zero’ and ‘The Future Is Now’ amongst others. They haven’t got the anger that epitomized some of their early stuff, but then again they probably live in mansions now, and it’s always a lot harder to get angry when you have a butler.

Interestingly, they even cover themselves with ‘Dirty Magic’, a polished version of their own track from their 1992 album ’Ignition’. Personally, I prefer the original, as the new version has been slowed down a little and adds nothing by way of improvement. In other news, the title track is a little bland, whilst ‘OC Guns’ is a pretty crappy reggae inspired track with record scratching and mariachi horns completing the nightmare. Aside from these three, however, there’s plenty here for old school fans to really get their teeth into, even a powerful ballad, ‘All I Have Left Is You’.

After hearing the single, I had no idea what to expect from ‘Days Go By’, as The Offspring have recently released rather insipid albums. It is with great pleasure that I can report that, apart from a few mis-steps, this is probably the most Offspring-y album since ‘Ixnay On The Hombre’. They’ll never quite get back what they once had, but ‘Days Go By’ is a very good attempt, and shows that there’s so much more to them than silly videos. Certainly worth getting if you used to be a fan but got disillusioned, this is an album that I can’t stop playing (once I deleted a couple of songs, anyway).

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

KANE ROBERTS - "Saints & Sinners" - CD Review

I remember Kane Roberts well from my earlier days, mainly because he was much featured in Kerrplunk! because he was quite the muscle man, striking Rambo poses and making Derek Oliver look even smaller than usual. This all started when he was installed as a guitarist for Alice Cooper’s band, at a time when the Gothic God was at his chart peak with the albums ‘Constrictor’ and ‘Raise Your Fist And Yell’. We all chuckled at the big pecs and poses, and there can’t be many who would have thought that Roberts had any more to offer than what was on show at the time. After impressing with his 1987 self titles album, Roberts really left a mark with his second offering, ‘Saints & Sinners’, which I’ve been listening to for the first time in over 15 years after having fond but vague recollections of the original release. This, children, is why we should treasure labels like Yesterrock (and Rock Candy), because what a shame it would be if albums like this were lost forever unless you were prepared to pay some Ebay skank’s rip off prices.

The album was notable for the fact that Roberts scored a minor hit single with his cover of ’Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore’, the Cher track written by the late 80’s hit factory of Bon Jovi, Sambora, Desomd Child and Diane Warren. Heck - I could have had a hit with a song by those guys! Despite this, the album is definitely not all about one hit single, as there’s some absolutely cracking stuff on here. This is an album full of a upbeat, fist punching melodic rock that is nigh on impossible to dislike. There’s so many great tracks here, with nothing that makes me want to poke the Skip button, and in fact I’m more likely to go back and listen to some a few more times. The standout track is ’Rebel Heart’, a hugely enjoyable song with an irresistible chorus, and listening to it you get the feeling that it’s a Very Good Thing that Desmond Child had a hand in all of the 10 tracks. Yep, it’s another first class 80s style melodic rock album that has DC’s boot prints all over it. If you like his stuff, then ‘Saints & Sinners’ will blow you away.

To some, this may be AOR by the numbers, too safe to be of note, but I always maintain that if the songs grab you and make you sing along, if you’re humming them for days after, then it can’t be all that bad. Roberts has a good voice, a tight band and some of the best songwriters in the business on display. If you are quick, you might get one of the 500 limited release double CD’s with an extra four tracks, previously unreleased. Of these, ‘House Burning Down’ and ‘Dirty Blonde’ are pretty good, although not up to the album’s high standards, whilst ‘White Trash’ and ‘Waiting For You’ are pretty average MR fare. So if you don’t get the bonus edition it’s no great shame, but if you have a melodic rock bone in your body the album itself is a must. Buy or die!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

"The Rise & Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan - DVD Review

The "Geezer" film has become a staple of the British Film Industry in the last 15 years or so, popularized by the likes of Guy Ritchgie and then carried on in films dealing with either football hooliganism, violent crime, or both.

"The Rise & Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan" doesn't offer us much new, to be honest, but does it's job as well as can be expected. We get your typical footie loving hooligan Mike, played very well by Nick Nevern, who can't get a job in these disparate times etc etc. He's fixed up by fellow footie battler Eddie (an excellent turn from Simom "Jack Falls" Phillips) who introduces him to the world of organized credit card fraud. From here on, we follow his crime career with plenty of swearing and some, but not too much, violence.

It's a good film that builds its characters well, using two of the better up and coming Geezer actors of recent years. the old school is represented by Billy Murray, playing his usual type, but the main focus is on the two leads, who carry the film with style. Oddly, the football element does not sit with the rest of the film, and as it doesn't advance either plot or character could be erased without any detrimental effect to the film as a whole. So, not up there with "Rise Of The Foot Soldier", but worth your time if that's your idea of a good night in.... geezer!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, Book Review

As a long time fan of Terry Pratchett and a complete newbie to Stephen Baxter, I approached “The Long Earth” with a  little bit of trepidation, a bit afraid that Baxters ‘proper’ science fiction ideas might strangle Pratchett’s creative humour. The plot itself is a wonderful concept. Imagine that there are alternate Earths, millions of them. This in itself isn’t exactly new, but what happens on ‘Step Day’ certainly is. Plans for a Step Box are circulated on the internet, allowing just about anyone to build a simple, potato powered unit that willa llow them to step to a parallel Earth, and another, and as many more as they want. One catch, though, is that iron objects cannot go through, so an old fashioned pioneer spirit is needed to explore. The point is, what would happen? Although some people cannot step for some reason, how many others would just leave to try and find something better? Who would try and take advantage, and who would try to stop it? What would YOU do?

It’s a brilliant idea, well realized by the two literary greats. It gets in your head, and even as you read, you can’t help but wonder just how such a thing would affect you personally. The main plot follows a ‘natural stepper’ called Joshua, who is one of what is a surprising number of people who don’t actually need a step box. He goes on an expedition to explore the Long Earth, to tray and find a reason for it all, or even to see if there actually is an end to all the Earths. What he discovers is both interesting and entertaining, although I really don’t want to give anything more away here, so spoilers will not be thrown at you.

The concept is both simple and highbrow (the best kind), with a basic structure that can be taken in many, many different directions. The prose is seamless, although now and again you come across a line that could only have been put in by Pratchett, as in “ Modesty is only arrogance by stealth”. With this said, it’s not a laugh out loud book so much as a quietly smiling one. The characters are likeable when they are supposed to be, and you want to find out what’s going on as much as they do. Also, if you don’t close your eyes and try and Step yourself at least once whilst reading it you’re not human.

“The Long Earth” is the first part of a trilogy, and is not self contained. Some people may wish to wait for them all to be printed, but I’m not some people and an glad I picked it up despite the fact I feel like someone tore the last third out of it as it stops dead without any neat tying up or anything! Not as good as Pratchett’s previous Neil Gaiman collaboration “Good Omens”, but it’s a different beast, one that you should enjoy taming.

Monday, 2 July 2012

LOCKOUT - Film Review

When I saw the trailer for this I actually groaned, as it actually contained the line “He’s the best there is… but he’s a loose cannon.” Of COURSE he is, they always bloody are. Mind you, who wants to see an action movie about someone who does exactly what he’s told and no more…

“Lockout” as a film is far, far better than the naff trailer would have you believe. In a nutshell, it’s about a secret service bloke called Snow (Guy Pearce, Home & Away), who is framed and arrested. Up in orbit, there’s a massive prison full of nutters who have a bit of a takeover going on, and Snow is sent up there to rescue a cute girl who just happens to be the President’s daughter. That’s basically it - hunky guy goes into against-the-odds situation to save pretty bit of fluff. Not entirely original, but it’s certainly fun.

The early scenes set on Earth make a good start to the film, and I’d have liked to see more of the cool futuristic society. This isn’t to be, as the prison itself contains 80% or so of the action. Pearce is a very likeable, witty leading man, often grumpy in a very funny way and at home with the action. The damsel in distress is Maggie Grace (Lost), who is also very good, with just the right amount of sass amongst the fear. Even with these two on good form, however, my favourite in the film is Joseph Gilgun (Misfits), who basically channels his Misfits character Rudy into a tattooed Scottish psychopath with a penchant for killing people. Every time he’s  on screen he dominates it, and you constantly want someone to punch his face in, just as long as you never, ever meet someone like him in real life.

It’s all very well made, with decent effects and sets, a good, modern sci-fi thriller that will never be a classic but will certainly keep action fans entertained from the off. There’s really not much more to be said without ruining plot details, but suffice to say Snow only takes the job because he has another reason to be in the prison, and that subplot gives more meat to the main plot that lifts this above simpler actioners.

YouTube trailer: