Garbage thrills at Leeds


Well, there was such anticipation and nervous excitement for me leading up to my fourth time seeing my favourite band. You see, Garbage remain the only band I’ll make the effort to actually go and see live even if it means travelling miles to get to them. Accompanied by a good friend as well as meeting up with another fellow Garbage fan, even before the show we hung around by the stage door and the band’s tour bus for the hope of a chance encounter. I wasn’t disappointed … guitarist Duke Erikson came out to say hello as well as touring bass player Eric Avery and stand-in drummer Matt Walker (standing in for Butch Vig who had to stay at home due to a recent shoulder injury). They were all so nice and down-to-earth.

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The concert itself was amazing. Fourth time seeing them I was slightly wondering if they would be as impressive as previously … suffice to say this was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed yet. Lead singer, Edinburgh born Shirley Manson was on fantastic form with plenty of charisma and energy and belted out hits like ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ as well as lesser known tracks like the haunting ‘On Fire’ … to a very appreciative crowd that were constantly jumping about and singing along. It was intense, adrenaline-fuelled and for me a genuine, life-affirming treat. Words can barely describe what it meant to this long-time fan but as the show ended I was on cloud nine.

My friends and I then decided to hang out by the stage door again and after a while, low and behold Shirley Manson came out to say hello, sign autographs and have pictures taken. She is simply the best. Even now, two days afterwards I can’t believe my luck and am pinching myself that it wasn’t just a very vivid dream.

A fan shot video of the band performing ‘Push It’ to a very energetic crowd.

To me, Garbage are and always will be a fantastic band to be into and I feel so proud to call myself a fan and a darkling.

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Shirley and myself after the show.

Captain Marvel


Viewed – .26 March 2019

Some people would have you believe that this isn’t another blockbuster entry in the ever popular Marvel Cinematic Universe and a precursor to the much anticipated Avengers: Endgame … but instead some overly political, misguided feminist propaganda effort. Thankfully i’m here to tell you, this isn’t that movie – unless you want it to be.

Brie Larson plays Veers, a gutsy soldier under the mentor-ship of Jude Law who along with a squad of Inter-galactic warriors are out to stop a race of warlords from tracking down a scientist on earth who may have invented a light speed transportation device. However once on earth, Veers finds herself plagued by memories of a past she doesn’t recognise.

Larson is likeable, tough, well cast and I guess, makes for great female role model material (whilst not bashing you over the head with the fact). Add to this her teaming with a (incredibly) CGI-rejuvenated Samuel L Jackson for a fun buddy pairing; this has action, a twisting story line that kept me glued and a fun 90’s backdrop with many enjoyable in-jokes and references. The plot at its core is cliched I’ll admit and despite a few unexpected moments, nothing all that memorable, yet ties in well with other movies. A few moments here and there felt slightly rushed also. However, effects work is top notch as usual and although big action set-pieces are spread a little thin, the use of some great 90’s tunes from bands such as Nirvana, No Doubt and Garbage enhance several scenes, making for a fun experience from start to a particularly feel-good finish.

So leave all that political bullshit at the door and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a good time. Roll on Endgame.

Verdict: 3 /5

Bohemian Rhapsody


Viewed – 12 March 2019  online-rental

I’ve come to this with quite some anticipation, not only for the fact that any movie involving the British rock band Queen was going to be an interesting story but also following the Oscar nod given to Mr Robot’s Rami Malek for his portrait of Freddie Mercury … this just became more and more an essential prospect.  Charting the band’s 1970s origins right through to their legendary appearance at Live Aid in 1985, this mostly focuses on the personal battles of Mercury, his sexuality etc., whilst also touching on the bands on off struggles for creative freedom.

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Malek, a little young looking to fully get away with the role and not the most eloquent of speakers (thankfully Mercury’s actual voice is dubbed over for the singing) still does a good job mimicking the iconic star’s flamboyant mannerisms and also handles emotional scenes convincingly.  Additional casting for the band members is also rather uncanny (especially Brian May).  Director Bryan Singer has delivered an absorbing, respectful yet not glossed-over biopic that although not fully capturing the attention Queen got especially in the early years (little word on record sales or chart success), manages to showcase who Mercury was and just how good the music was, leading to a feel-good if bitter-sweet ending that I’ll admit got me teary eyed.

It may bunny-hop over significant moments in their discography such as a collaboration with David Bowie or their involvement with the Flash Gordon soundtrack, but overall this was fascinating, entertaining and made me appreciate Queen all over again.

Verdict: 4 /5

Stan & Ollie


Viewed – 16 January 2019  Cinema

It seems long overdue a movie being done of the classic comedy duo Laurel & Hardy.  I vaguely recall catching either old movies or shorts on TV as a kid and loving their rather innocent and charming approach to often slapstick humour.  Both of them had a great personality that worked well together, and seeing anything they did even now still raises more than a few chuckles.  There is something timeless about them that I think unlike many other acts like Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges, hasn’t aged all that badly.

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This movie follows the comedy duo as they reunite after a period of retirement to do a tour around England and Ireland in an attempt to finance a new movie.  However following an incident during the height of their career, it soon becomes obvious there’s some bad blood between them.  Steve Coogan and John C Reilly take on the rather intimidating task of bringing such figures to life and I am both happy and amazed to say they achieve it to an incredibly uncanny level.  Coogan nails the expressions, the mannerism and even the walk of Stan Laurel and Reilly is just perfect as Hardy despite some prosthetic make up effects (which are done brilliantly).  The relationship between the two is perfectly observed, touching, a little sad but also amiable and funny.  You get a good idea who these guys really were and how they both respected each other, at times loathed each other but ultimately loved each other.  Set mostly in England you get none of the Hollywood glamour and more so the has-been stage of their lives, of two stars struggling to hold onto the magic and keep themselves relevant.  A squabbling duo of wives adds some fun personality, a money hungry agent also adds flavour and overall this is a charming and fascinating movie.

As a Laurel & Hardy fan I would have appreciated more of a glimpse into how they came to be, or just a snap shot of their fame.  The focus on the later part of their career makes for a good story that granted, tugs at the heart strings … but as much as I really enjoyed this, I came away feeling it wasn’t the full  package – especially for those unfamiliar with their legacy  Otherwise a heart-warming, funny and brilliantly acted look at two comedy legends.

Verdict:  4 /5

2018 music highlights


Apple Music

KT TunstallAs someone who pretty much shuns the mainstream for the corporate beast it has always been in favour of the less celebrated or lesser known artists, this year a few albums have been in heavy rotation on my iPhone.  Firstly the return of KT Tunstall with her surprisingly enjoyable and polished album ‘Wax’ which harked back to that skillfull song writing that made her name in Eye To The Telescope, and well just has some really good pop-rock songs on it.

PearlHartsThen we come to the stripped back, moody guitar simplicity of ‘Glitter and Spit’ the brilliant debut from female duo The Pearl Harts, who initially grabbed my attention when they supported Garbage during part of their UK tour in 2016.  This album has a resemblance to The White Stripes but also adds gritty punk rock to it that made me think of Suzy Quatro.  The guitaring and the attitude driven vocals make for a very promising start to a career in my book.

ChvrchesChvrches impressed me previously with their excellent second album Every Open Eye, and even if their latest ‘Love Is Dead’ seems overly mainstream and a little bit lazy in places, it still has a sheen of slick production and Lauren Mayberry’s angelic vocals to carry it through.  Not a massive highlight but an album I’ve enjoyed none the less.

Against The CurrentAgain favouring a more mainstream sound than their last records, Against The Current still delivered a polished and entertaining second album in the shape of ‘Past Lives’ which features several decent songs even if some of their punk-pop sensibilities are mostly absent.

For a re-issue Garbage’s 20th anniversary of ‘Version 2.0’ not only brought with it a stellar remastering that made the album sound amazing, but a wealth of quality b-sides that made for a hell of a package.  Version 2.0 is not only my favourite Garbage album, it’s my favourite album … period.  So this version, despite some odd tinkering on certain tracks was a genuine highlight of 2018 for me.  Add to this the fact I got to experience it’s entirety live in concert at Brixton Academy, and well I think you can guess how happy that made me.

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Music for me is certainly still a difficult hobby to truly embrace.  I find myself trapped in the 90s or only listening to the same handful of artists.  We live in a culture that favours repetition and mediocrity and worships heavily promoted familiar names rather than promoting the freedom to go and seek out something ‘different’.  I feel it’s the only entertainment industry that really shuns creativity in favour of whatever music execs and narrow-minded radio stations consider the current cool trend, and so finding music that I can identify with and appreciate gets harder and harder every year.  The above named albums seemed to stick with me this year and stood out when so much else just felt boring.

Craig.