2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

deadpool

It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

game of thrones

On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

titanfall 2

Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.

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Garbage – Strange Little Birds


(updated 24/06/2016)  After a long wait the one album I have been looking forward to for the last few years has finally landed.  Yes ladies and gentlemen my favourite band Garbage are back … and could this be one of the best things they have ever created?  Let’s see…

Garbage logoAfter extensive play over the last two weeks I can confidently say this is a particularly polished, quality album from the alt-rock pioneers who first made waves back in 1995.  21 years later and Garbage have still got it, even to the point of further developing their sound to create something with a well defined mood through the whole album, which I feel the band hasn’t totally nailed in years.  Strange Little Birds tells a story of obsession, jealousy, regret and eventually hope.  It’s really quite powerful.  Personal highlights include the sublime rock-ballad ‘Night Drive Loneliness’, the powerhouse anthem ‘So We Can Stay Alive’, moody stadium rocker ‘Blackout’, and the heart-breaking ‘Even Though Our Love Is Doomed’ – but really I like every track and I haven’t felt that way since Version 2.0.  ‘Sometimes’ whilst possibly my least go-to track, is still a perfectly ominous opening and powerfully introduces ‘Empty’, which is the most radio-friendly track at least as far as today’s radio songs go.  Yet there’s a lot of potential here for singles; Night Drive being an obvious one as well as ‘If I lost You’ with it’s decidedly Madonna-like chorus.  I also really enjoy the slightly trippy vibe to ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’.  I should also add the closing, suitably epic ‘Amends’ makes me think of a moody western about a woman seeking redemption.

25.-Garbage

‘Magnetized’ is possibly the only track on the album I don’t totally enjoy … but I still like aspects of it.  Also the subjects explored, despite best intentions are not exactly new ground for this band.  However it’s the delivery and the craft that impresses most.  It’s also an album that left me wanting more … no bad thing, but I’d have loved a couple more tracks than the 11 we get here.  So overall, stellar work from Shirley Manson and her band mates; musicians & producers Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson.  You’ve proved the nay-sayers rather foolish indeed and have delivered some of the best work of your career.  I’d say Strange Little Birds will surprise a lot of people, critics especially, and in this homogenized, cookie-cutter musical landscape we find ourselves in – that’s a very good thing indeed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Beyond a fan boy’s wildest dreams


I can’t believe I’m typing this and NOT making it up.  On Monday night of the 13 June 2016…I got to MEET my favorite band in-the-flesh and tell them how much I love their music and even have a photo taken.  That’s not to mention the fact I also got to watch them rehearse and eventually perform a full concert at the Troxy in London.

Yes I just typed all that and it really happened.  I am looking back on it now in disbelief.  Lead singer Shirley Manson was everything I could have hoped and more and on getting to actually speak to her, I almost lost it emotionally, but with her assistance I didn’t cry – but it came worryingly close.  She was a real gem and so nice and genuine.  In fact the same can also be said for Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, who were so lovely and I shook their hands and well, just wanted to press pause on the moment and wallow in it.  It was simply one of the greatest night’s of my life thus far.  Sadly drummer and producer Butch Vig couldn’t make the gig as he’d been signed off sick with a sinus infection.

Shirley Troxy.jpgThe concert that followed this was incredible, spanning the full gamut of their 20+ year career and every song was performed with such energy, enthusiasm and power that I was totally floored.  Personal highlights were the rarely sang ‘So Like a Rose’ which Shirley performed aided by her guitar and was a tribute to photographer friend Matt Irwin who had recently passed away.  Also my favourite Garbage song ‘Why Do You Love Me?’ was delivered as a thankyou to the loyal fan-base, and it was also great to hear several new tracks from the new album, including ‘Blackout’ and ‘Empty’.  I had purchased a VIP package for this event and as well as what I mentioned above, I also got early entry and was right at the front.  In comparison to the last time I saw them at Brixton Academy, I found the sound although very loud, much better and I didn’t come away with the ringing and deafness I experienced last time.  So it was such a better experience and with all the trimmings I can safely say this was a dream I never even considered would be realised … but it was!

The pictures above were taken by myself so you can get a good idea of the view I had.  What an experience which I fully recommend if you get the opportunity.  I conquered several fears and personal obstacles to achieve this and feel so proud of myself for doing so.  Also few front women in the industry have the sheer charisma, likeability or stage presence of Shirley Manson and I tell you now, she delivered 100%.

Not just a band … but a way of life.

Thank you Garbage for such an amazing experience!

Garbage new music video!


Today following the previous single release of their track ‘Empty’ my favourite band finally released the music video to it, and I’m so happy to say it’s a belter!  A departure from the arty approach of some of their most recent music videos, this back to basics performance-based promo echoes the band’s video for their 1995 song ‘Vow’ which is not surprising as it’s by the same director, Samuel Bayer.  Check it out below…

The song itself is both classic Garbage and something very contemporary sounding in my opinion, with heavy drums and stunning guitar riffs, backed up by Shirley’s seductive, emotional lyrics – I was sold from my very first listen … and I can’t say that has been the case for other recent tracks like The Chemicals and On Fire.  Yet Empty is a very catchy, anthemic track that although I’m not totally in love with the chorus ‘I am soooo empty’ the sheer inventiveness to the track showcases some of the band’s strongest skills.  Super-producer Butch Vig is on hand after all; the man behind Nirvana’s Nevermind and Foo Fighter’s Wasting Light (he’s also the drummer for the band) so solid production is a given … and sporting awesome pink hair Shirley Manson looks and sounds every bit the rock icon that she is.  Also, that bit after the second chorus where it switches to ‘every day every hour of the night, you’re all i think about’ just floored me by the way – classic Garbage.

Roll on June 10 when their sixth studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ is released and expect my impressions shortly afterwards.

Garbage news


I don’t often talk about music on this blog, but when I do it’s usually Garbage.  Joking aside, on Thursday the 10th of March, my favourite alt-rock veterans finally announced the official release date of their sixth studio album.  It will be titled ‘Strange Little Birds’ … a title I found quite bizarre at first, but it’s grown on me the more I say it.  Now we also have the cover art (again, equally unusual but I like it) and track listingGarbage logo.  Alongside this news the band also revealed a short European tour that will also cover two dates in the UK.  Sadly it’s looking like I won’t get chance to see them live this time around.  This is for various reasons but not helped by the fact I haven’t anyone that’s particularly into them or aware of them.  However I remain really excited for the coming months and will be glued to whatever this talented four piece get up to next.

Strange Little Birds track list:

1. “Sometimes”
2. “Empty”
3. “Blackout”
4. “If I Lost You”
5. “Night Drive Loneliness”
6. “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed”
7. “Magnetized”
8. “We Never Tell”
9. “So We Can Stay Alive”
10. “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”
11. “Amends”

Shirley Manson, lead singer had this to say about the new album: “To me, this record, funnily enough, has the most to do with the first record than any of the previous records,” Manson said. “It’s getting back to that beginner’s headspace. In part, that’s a result of not having anyone to answer to.”, and she added “The guiding principle was keeping it fresh, and relying on instinct both lyrically and musically”.

Strange Little Birds will be released on the band’s own label Stun Volume and will be out on 10 June 2016.  Tour dates are listed below.  I’d imagine further U.S. dates will be added at some stage as well.

Garbage Tour 2016

More info at Garbage.com