Saturday, 29 August 2009

Chelsea 3-0 Burnley match report

Chelsea climbed to the top of the Premier League, brushing aside Burnley 3-0 with a devastating display of fluid attacking.

It took until stoppage time in the first half for Chelsea to open the scoring, but two more goals early in the second period killed off any Burnley hopes of a fightback to steal a point.

The hosts flew out of the blocks and could have led by two in the opening minutes. Anelka tested Burnley's titanic goalkeeper Brian Jensen from twenty yards, before racing clear of the Burnley defence after a sloppy pass by Wade Elliott, only for Jensen to smother the ball at his feet.

Burnley failed to muster a shot on target in the whole match, but they had the best chance of the first half. Full-back Tyrone Mears somehow found himself in a position to rob John Terry, and the former Derby defender advanced before unselfishly squaring to Clarets striker Martin Paterson, who contrived to miss the traget from ten yards with Petr Cech scrambling to get across his goal. Chris McCann drove through the heart of the Chelsea midfield before chipping over Cech's goal in Burnley's only other real opportunity.

The visitors were grateful of anothering fine display of goalkeeping from Jensen, without whom the score could have been embarrassing, but there was nothing he could do about Chelsea's opener.

Michael Essien played a beautifully weighted ball down the channel for Didier Drogba, the Ivorian controlling well before pulling away from the chasing Burnley defence and squaring to striker partner Nicolas Anelka to slide in to finish from barely a yard out.

It was harsh on Burnley who had defended stoutly, but struggled to hold on to possession of the football, and track Chelsea's wonderful movement in midfield.

Five minutes into the second half the game was over. Anelka was given far too much rom on the corner of the penalty area to roll to Frank Lampard on the overlap, and the England man crossed superbly for Michael Ballack to ghost in unmarked to direct a header at full stretch low past Jensen.

Ashley Cole hammered the final nail in Burnley's coffin moments later, volleying home a stunning angled finish from twenty yards. Anelka hit the bar later on as Chelsea looked to add gloss to the scoreline, and Burnley toiled away to try and find a consolation, but one was never likely to come. Mears even had to race back to clear off the line as substitute Saloman Kalou looked to make it four.

On this form Carlo Ancelotti's men look irresistible for the title, and Owen Coyle will have to pick up the pieces and hope his men learn from their mistakes from their second away defeat of the season.

This report was written for FansOnline.

Noel Gallagher quits Oasis.

Noel Gallagher has quit Oasis.

The lead guitarist has walked, citing rows with his brother Liam, the band’s singer, as the reason.

Noel announced his decision via the band’s website. He wrote. in a brief statement that will devastate fans: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.

“Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan.”

The band were due to headline a show in Paris after pulling out of V festival, reportedly due to Liam’s throat problems, but after another row between the pair, Noel decided to leave the band.

Of course Liam and Noel have had their rows before, with both brothers threatening to quit, but this latest step is the furthest they have ever gone.

Just two days ago we wrote that Oasis would ‘go on forever’ after Liam’s sister-in-law Natalie Appleton backed up a band statement saying the band were not set to call it a day.

But it seems that the pressure of working with his famously volatile younger brother has finally become too much for Noel, who may now turn his attentions to a long-rumoured solo album.

Critics will point to the statement as a publicity stunt, citing previous examples of Liam and Noel’s rows almost destroying the band. But there’s a finality about Noel’s words that suggests this time, it really is over.

We thought they’d live forever, but despite Liam’s pleas to Noel for him to stand by me and don’t go away, Noel has decided to be where there’s life and considered that to keep the dream alive and to find the meaning of soul, he must go let it out all around the world and become a rock ‘n’ roll star half the world away.


This article was written for TMM.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Banning flags at festivals – madness or a sensible step?

This week a debate has been raging. No, not about Afghanistan. No, not about Paul Gascoigne’s mental state. Not even about whether or not the return of Shooting Stars was any good.

No. The big hoo-ha is over whether people should be allowed to take flags to music festivals.

To some, flags simply add to the atmosphere, often providing a cheap laugh with their witty slogans and badly-drawn pictures, often of nudey males and females. Ooh look, a willy! Hee hee.

But others believe the obstruction they act as to fans stood behind them means they should be abolished.

Reading and Leeds festivals were the first to act, announcing this week that attendees would not be allowed to take flags on site. The website states simply: “Flags won’t be allowed in the arena. They restrict the view of people behind.”

Organiser Melvin Benn says he has also spoken to Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis about a possible flag ban at next year’s Pilton bash. About this year’s event, headlined by Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur, he said: “You couldn’t see the acts. The flags were everywhere. There have always been flags, but not to the level that there has been. And the flags have become very long and tall.”

But a Glastonbury spokesperson claimed the festival would not be considering banning flags for next year.

Flags have been present at festivals for as long as we can remember. They’re especially useful for finding your tent in the middle of the night when you’ve had a few pints from the cider bus and a neighbour has something memorable attached to the outside of their accommodation.

But on the flip side, there’s nothing worse than getting into a good spot for your favourite band, only for someone to produce a flag thirty yards in front of you and stick it in the ground, with it obscuring your view for the whole set. People seem to take flags to festivals now just so they can brag to their mates afterwards: “Did you see me on telly waving my flag yeah? How cool am I yeah?!”

What do you think? Should flags be banned? Should the thought police stop trying to stop people have a bit of harmless fun? Let us know below.

This article was written for TMM.

Friendly Fires to play Notting Hill carnival

Friendly Fires, one of our favourite bands here at TMM, will perform live at Monday’s Notting Hill carnival in that London town.

The band are special guests of the Rhythm of the City carnival float. The drum troup have appeared live with the band before and appear on new single Kiss of Life.

Friendly Fires will perform live sporadically along the carnival’s route, starting at Ladbroke Grove at 11am, alone with the 25 strong drum troup, and 50 other dancers in fancy dress.

More information about the carnival’s route can be found here.

This article was written for TMM.

Chelsea v Burnley match preview

Burnley go into their testing double header of away days on the back of a wholly unexpected trio of wins.

Victory at Hartlepool in the Carling Cup was to be expected, but the preceding home league wins over Manchester United and Everton came as a very pleasant surprise to the Claret faithful.

Stamford Bridge will be a different proposition of course. But Burnley have good memories of the ground having triumphed over the Blues on penalties in a cup tie there last season.

The Clarets are still without Michael Duff and skipper Steven Caldwell at the back, but Andre Bikey and Clarke Carlisle have looked to be putting together a solid partnership in their place at the heart of the Burnley defence. Richard Eckersley's sending off in midweek means he is unavailable but he was unlikely to be in Coyle's 18 anyway.

Coyle rested most of his first team at Victoria Park and none of his squad men played well enough to force their way into his reckoning, so it would be no surprise to see him select the same eleven that beat United and Everton last week.

Steven Fletcher's two goals at Hartlepool could persuade Coyle to start him in a forward berth, moving Martin Paterson back to the wing.

Carlo Ancelotti has deployed his diamond 4-4-2 formation to great effect this season and the wealth of talent he has at his disposal is frightening. Drogba, who was reprimanded by the FA for throwing a coin back into the Burnley crowd last time the two teams met, will probably partner Nicolas Anelka in attack, although if Ancelotti is confident of a comfortable win, he may give Salomon Kalou a run out. Drogba and Anelka were both on target in the Blues' impressive 2-0 win at Fulham last time out.

He will also have to choose bwteen Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack for the role at the peak of the midfield, with Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien near-certainties to be selected.

Chelsea are without the injured trio of Joe Cole, Yuri Zhirkov and Paulo Ferreira, although it is thought Cole is close to making a comeback. Alex and Juliano Belletti could also both miss out. If Ancelotti chooses to blood youngsters the likeliest to come in are Sam Hutchinson and the highly-rated former Manchester City striker Daniel Sturridge.

The Blues' have a 100% record so far this season and have been installed as title favourites following Burnley's defeat of Manchester United. The sensible money is on the hosts to continue their irresistible form, but the Clarets will be hopeful of picking up their first away points of the season.

Prediction: 3-1.

This match preview was written for FansOnline.

Boredoms - Super 10 EP

Calling this an EP is stretching things somewhat. In reality it’s one song, with four added remixes of varying quality and usefulness. It’s probably only defined as an EP as it’s far too long to count as a single.

To say veteran Japanese noise-rock cum post-ambience merchants Boredoms have had a varied career would be to do them an injustice. Super Roots 10 (confusingly, the ninth title in the series) is their latest release and it would be fair to say they’ve calmed down somewhat after 23 years of activity.

Gone are the trademark yelping and screeching and in comes calmly built ambience with experimental, Oriental tweaks. ‘Ant 10′ is the much-remixed track and the original version is an intriguing and enthralling proposition even though at pushing ten minutes it is far too long. Any feeling of immersion is long gone by the closing bars.

Only one of the four remixes serves a worthy purpose, with DJ Finger Hat’s version (yes, really) cutting almost half the length from the song and making it almost dancefloor-friendly with the tribal drumming enhanced and brought to the forefront. DJ Lindstrom’s version turns into a bizarre jazz-funk wig out that bears little or no resemblance to the source material, and Altz’ take is to barely alter it at all.

Baffingly the EP opens up with a track called ‘Super Root’, containing 38 seconds of pure silence. The cleverness is clearly lost on me.

Unfortunately, despite the always inventive experimentation, almost an hour of this is just too much, and by the end, Boredoms has well and truly set in.

This review was written for Muso's Guide.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Passion Pit - To Kingdom Come

As far as I’m aware, Passion Pit are not yet monumentally massive. And on this latest single offering, I can’t quite fathom out why.

‘To Kingdom Come’ has everything a hit record should have. It’s head-noddingly jaunty, memorable, well put together with some decent hooks and it even has some Ronsonesque brass towards the end. It seems like exactly the sort of track Radio 1 would fall over itself to play every half an hour.

Bit something just doesn’t sit right. The vocals from Michael Angelakos are annoyingly high, while repeat listens just turn the track into a tuneless dirge in the background. It’s all a bit Hoosiers, too Scouting for Girls, too try-hard to be properly joyous and carefree.

In fact, it feels formulaic more than anything, almost as if Angelakos and co sat down with a spreadsheet working out the ideal ingredients for a popular song. It’s a shame - the band clearly have talent - but this track is just too sugary for my tastebuds.

This review was written for Muso's Guide.

Oasis will go on ‘forever’


Oasis’ late cancellation of their V festival headlining slot led to rumours that the band were set to call it a day.

But the band have released a statement to the contrary, after Liam Gallagher appeared to suggest via his Twitter page that the band would not play live in the UK again.

He later Tweeted, about his throat problems: The voice may of [sic] disappeared but I’m still here.1st things first V I’m gutted your gutted,I’m sorry what can I say fuck all at the moment.”

Keane, Snow Patrol and MGMT all played Oasis covers at Chelmsford in tribute to the Manchester band and Gallagher was big enough to thank them. He wrote: Respect to those bands who covered Oasis last night, even though I might of given some of you shit in the past.”

A band statement then appeared at denying a split.

V Festival was always scheduled as the last UK gig for this Dig Out Your Soul world tour,” they explained. “Oasis will complete the rest of the world tour in Europe and then take some well-earned time off before they begin to think about the next album and tour.”

And Liam’s sister-in-law Natalie Appleton added to the denial, saying the band were devastated about having to pull the show. She said: “Oasis will die before they split up… they’re going to go on forever until they are old men. The rumours are absolute rubbish. Even in his sick bed Liam was vowing to get back on stage.”

This article was written for TMM.

The Big Pink: A Brief History of Love

There are some bands whose brilliance strikes you straight away and you love them for the rest of your days. Other band you write off and they grow on you slowly, becoming one of your favourites over many years. Others you think are astonishing, ground-breaking, magnificent, but fade from your consciousness within a matter of weeks.

The Big Pink are in danger of falling into the latter camp.

That’s not to say that their brash, beautiful, bold debut is not good. It is. Very good. But it’s just not as amazing as it might seem at first.

History is littered with bands that have been hyped to the rafters by the music press before being ignominiously chewed up and spat out. The Big Pink are the latest for the increasingly desperate NME to hang their hat on, handing them the Philip Hall Radar award – previously won by the Long Blondes, Franz Ferdinand and the Twang, to give some indication of the success and quality of the bands that have won it – back in February.

So already the pressure is on London duo Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell. But they pull it off for the most part. A Brief History Of Love is a woozy and understated yet classy debut, full of heartfelt melodies and thoughtful repeated beats. Unfortunately, too much of the time the record veers dangerously into background music, needing the thumping brilliance of next single Dominos to wake it up, or the charmingly soft and vivacious Velvet – by far and away the two best songs on the album, and two of the best of the year full stop – to remind us what the pair are capable of.

Arguably the most representative track on the record is the driving rhythms of At War With The Sun, which drifts off into nothingness despite the climactic, alarming guitars at the end.

It clocks in at little over three quarters of an hour, normally ideal album length, but for some reason it feels long. Although Furze and Cordell are clearly full of big, bright and often brilliant ideas, it seems their limitations are exposed in the second half of the album. There’s only so much you can do with some fuzzy guitars, an electronic drum machine and someone who can kind of sing but not really.

There’s plenty to love here though, with lovelorn teens especially likely to be drawn in by the band’s loner-ish vibe. Opening track Crystal Visions is a stunning statement of the band’s intentions, Frisk is dark, mysterious and complexly layered, and the title track is weirdly uplifting despite its bleakness.

A Brief History Of Love is good enough for the band’s future to be worth keeping an eye on, but you do wonder how the duo can progress without branching out with new instruments and fresh impetus.

This review was written for TMM.

Manchester Orchestra to support Biffy Clyro

American indie-rockers Manchester Orchestra (neither an orchestra or from Manchester – why do bands lie to us?) have been announced as the main support band for Biffy Clyro’s upcoming UK tour.

The band are promoting their second album proper, titled Mean Everything To Nothing, which is streaming on Spotify now, is released on September 7, and was reviewed by us here.

The band also play Leeds and Reading festivals this weekend, appearing on the NME/Radio 1 stage on Friday in Reading and Sunday at Leeds.

The Biffy dates in full:

28 Belfast, St George?s Market
29 Dublin, Olympia

1 Dundee, Caird Hall
2 Glasgow, Barrowlands
3 Glasgow, Barrowlands
4 Newcastle, Academy
6 Leeds, Academy
7 Manchester, Apollo
8 Nottingham, Rock City
9 Birmingham, Academy
11 Norwich, UEA
12 London, Brixton Academy
15 Cardiff, University
16 Southampton, Guildhall

The tour should be a revelation, with the two bands complementing each other nicely as they both strive for new levels of epicness in rock music.

This article was written for TMM.

Beachdown festival cancelled

In these modern times of multiples music festivals every weekend over the summer, it was always likely that some wouldn’t make it.

And today news has emerged that Brighton’s Beachdown festival, due to take place this weekend at Devil’s Dyke on the South Downs, will not go ahead.

The directors of the festival posted an emotional letter on the event’s website. They said:

“It is with immense personal regret that the Directors of Beachdown Festival have been advised that they must announce that due to slower than forecast ticket-sales and lack of support at a critical time from our bank and certain suppliers that despite being so so close to being able to deliver Beachdown Festival we are unable to do so.

“Very simply we were unable to meet the demands that the current economic climate put against us and at the eleventh hour despite having most of the infrastructure in place we have been forced to cancel the event.

“We wish to say at this time how desperately sorry we are to all those who have bought tickets or were participating in the event and to say that we all here are personally shattered expecially after eleven months of battling against the recession to try and put this event on and coming so close.

“We also wish to advise everyone that we explored every possible avenue to finance the event including re-mortgaging our houses to combat the unwillingness of banks to support us.”

Acts such as Grace Jones, the Fall, the Rakes and Super Furry Animals were due to play the bash.

Ticketholders are advised to contact the outlet from which they purchased their tickets for information about refunds.

Comments on the Argus’ (Brighton’s local newspaper) website were less than kind about the festival’s plight.

One wrote: “Rubbish line-up, arrogant organisers and always going to happen. You can’t force something to happen because you think it’s a good idea, you have to do your research and make sure it CAN work first” and another said the cancellation was “not surprising at all. The line-up was an insult to Brighton.”

This article was written for TMM.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hartlepool 1-2 Burnley (aet) match report

Hartlepool almost picked up a Premier League scalp in the Carling Cup but Steven Fletcher's brace was enough for ten-man Burnley to squeeze through.

Owen Coyle named only Andre Bikey in the line-up from the side that beat Everton on Sunday, and his second string toiled at Victoria Park until the introduction of Robbie Blake, Martin Paterson and Fletcher.

Jay Rodriguez had a goal disallowed for offside and the youngster had another good chance but tried to be too clever with his touch, and it was the hosts who took the lead after some neat interplay between Andy Monkhouse and Antony Sweeney set up Adam Boyd to prod home.

Hartlepool had a string of other chances with some bad misses and Burnley goalkeeper Diego Penny matching the effort's of the home attackers.

And as the game went on the hosts tired and Burnley's substitutes started to run the game, equalising with just minutes left on the clock. The visitors broke at speed and Fletcher cut in from the fight to fire across Scott Flinders in the Hartlepool lead, his first goal for the Clarets.

Colin Larkin hit the crossbar for Hartlepool early in extra-time but Burnley always looked to have too much for their League One opponents, even when right-back Richard Eckersley was given his marching orders - on his debut no less.

And a moment of class won it for the Premier League new boys, when a short corner routine was worked to Paterson, who crossed for Fletcher to head home his second of the match, and the winner.

The result was harsh on Chris Turner's Hartlepool side, who battled manfully and produced some really good football. But in an entertaining clash, Owen Coyle's Burnley came out on top to progress to the third round.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ian Brown quashes Stone Roses reunion rumours further with new album and tour

Ian Brown has announced details of a new winter tour to complement his new album, to be released next month.

The 16-date jaunt starts in Leicester at the end of November and culminates in a giant homecoming show at the MEN Arena on December 19.

The dates in full are:

29 Leicester, De Montfort Hall~
30 Southend, Cliffs Pavilion

1 Ipswich, Regent
3 Bournemouth, O2 Academy
4 London Brixton, O2 Academy
5 London Brixton, O2 Academy
7 Cambridge, Corn Exchange
8 Sheffield, O2 Academy
10 Leeds, O2 Academy
11 Leeds, O2 Academy
12 Liverpool, University
14 Newcastle, City Hall
15 Edinburgh, Picture House
16 Glasgow, O2 Academy
18 Birmingham, O2 Academy
19 Manchester, MEN Arena

Tickets go on sale on Thursday (August 27) from 9am and can be bought from and

Brown’s sixth solo record, titled My Way (we don’t think it’s a collection of Sinatra covers) is out September 28 through Fiction Records and the lead single Stellify – which is ace by the way, a real return to form – is available for download now.

This article was written for The Music Magazine.

Hartlepool V Burnley match preview

Burnley travel to the North East buoyed by successive home victories over Manchester United and Everton, which leaves them in the lofty position of 7th in the Premier League table.

The Clarets were moments away from reaching the Carling Cup final last year before Roman Pavyluchenko and then Jermain Defoe broke thousands of Lancastrians’ hearts by saving Spurs’ blushes at the end of extra time in the second leg of the semi-final at Turf Moor.

Wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham earlier in the competition had boosted confidence, and the effect of cup run was a major factor in Burnley’s promotion.

How Owen Coyle treats the competition this season, however, is anyone’s guess. The Carling Cup is after all a route into Europe, and Burnley could conceivably go one step further than last year.

However, with a big game at Chelsea coming up on Saturday, Coyle may want to blood some youngsters, such as Jay Rodriguez and Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero, as well as giving some game time to men who have missed out so far, such as David Edgar, Kevin McDonald, Richard Eckersley, Diego Penny, Steven Thompson and Brian Easton. Chris Eagles is almost certain to be given the chance to stake his claim for a place in the team.

Steven Caldwell is nearing a return but won’t be ready for a recall, and neither will Michael Duff. Burnley have no other injury concerns.

Hartlepool are without former Manchester United midfielder Ritchie Jones, who was linked with the Clarets last summer. They are also likely to be without Colin Larkin and Ben Clark, who are recovering from injuries.

Victoria Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Hartlepool of late, with four defeats on the bounce, but they did pick up their first win of the season at the weekend when Jeff Stelling’s hero James Brown notched the winner at Gillingham. Burnley haven’t won in five on the road – if you don’t count Wembley – and have never actually beaten Hartlepool away from home.

Like the Clarets Hartlepool have found goals tough to come by this season, only bagging three times in their five games to date. But Burnley’s attack should be far too superior, and the Clarets will look to put an impressive scoreline on the board to boost confidence further ahead of a difficult pair of away games at Stamford Bridge and Anfield.

Prediction: 1-4.

This article was written for FansOnline.

Raveonettes return with new album

The Raveonettes have announced plans to release their fourth album.

The band that put the rage into garage rock return with In And Out Of Control, to be released on October 5.

The tracklisting for the record will be as follows:

1 Bang!
2 Gone Forever
3 Last Dance
4 Boys Who Rape (Should Be Destroyed)
5 Heart Of Stone
6 Oh, I Buried You Today
7 Suicide
8 D.R.U.G.S.
9 Breaking Into Cars
10 Break Up Girls!
11 Wine

Track 4 sounds particularly interesting in our considered opinion.

The band will play a one-off London show at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on September 7 and will be back in the UK for a full tour in the winter.

Monday, 24 August 2009

La Roux v Little Boots: FIIIIIIIGGHHTT!!!

Gobby 80's electro-popper Elly Jackson - yes, her out of La Roux - has been shooting her mouth off again, this time, bless her, pitying the infinitely more talented Little Boots.

Jackson says Victoria Hesketh - yes, her out of Little Boots - has received unfair criticism over her album Hands, which failed to perform to expectations by reaching just 5 in the album charts.

The be-quiffed one said: “The reaction she got was so unfair. Hype can be a very dangerous thing, it can accelerate people’s expectations. We felt the same about our album but we have got away with it.”

Now, that might seem fair enough, but as usual with Jackson there seems to be a snidey undertone to her words. And we don't like it.

And it's not the first time she's put her foot in her mouth. After her initial success, she said: "It wasn't like I was jumping for joy, or anything - when you hear you're number two in the charts, it's great, but you can't feel it. It's just a fact, and it's very hard to feel a fact."

Well, it's not a fact that I've slept with Scarlett Johansson, but if it was, I think I would feel pretty good about it. I'd be ecstatic, in fact.

And even more stupidly, she slagged off the state of the pop charts, er, while she was doing well in the pop charts.

"To me, pop music has always had two sides. It's always had the Backstreet Boys side, music for kids, the novelty tracks and one-hit-wonder side. And the other side is the classier side such as David Bowie, The Beatles, Prince and Michael Jackson.

"I just feel like this side is missing too much, and have a lot of this boy/girl band, novelty song, one-hit-wonder going on."

What, like you? She's also had a pop at R 'n' B in her time, but we don't like it either so she can have that one.

We'll leave you with this golden nugget: "I wanted things to build gradually. But, because of the internet, it's hard to keep things low-key these days."

Poor baby...

Burnley: flying start is totally unexpected

Our excellent home form might have been the main reason we were promoted last season, but never in our wildest dreams would we have expected to beat Manchester United and then Everton in our first two matches at Turf Moor.

It was another deserved victory. We started brilliantly and could have led 2-0 ten minutes in, but Everton got back into it and when Elliott put us ahead with a finish reminiscent of his Wembley winner, it was against the run of play.

But as we did against United, we defended resolutely and in truth Everton never looked like carving out a golden opportunity. They did of course win a penalty after Hibbert conned Dowd into giving a spot kick by diving over Chris McCann’s leg, but justice was done as Saha missed it and Jensen looked to have it covered anyway.

There’s been some odd talk around BFC forums about goals being an issue. We may have only scored two goals in our first three games but the trio of attackers Martin Paterson, Robbie Blake and £3m man Steven Fletcher have all looked bright and capable. And if one goal is enough to beat United and Everton, surely it will be enough to beat lesser teams when they come to Burnley.

But on the road will be a different proposition. Up next we have trips to Chelsea and Liverpool to round off our horror opening five matches. Chances are we’ll lose them both and six points won’t look like such a glorious start. But it’s six points more than many of us were expecting and we’ve already won one more Premier League game this season than Derby did in their infamous record-breaking campaign.

Even if we don’t win on the road all season we might stay up. We’ve won our last eight at Turf Moor, not conceding at home since March. We’ve looked comfortable, against teams with players twice as expensive than our entire squad. And these two opening wins fire a warning shot to the league: Turf Moor will not be an easy place to come to. Points will not be surrendered easily.

We had to make Turf Moor a fortress if we were to stay up. We’ve made a cracking start.

Meanwhile, we kick off our Carling Cup campaign with a trip to Hartlepool on Tuesday night. Having got heart-breakingly close to the final last season we know the boost a cup run can give everyone, and the competition is a vital way to keep confidence high. And although it’s a long way away, it is a route into Europe, something we could only dream of a few months ago.

Owen Coyle will probably pick a strong side but I expect him to rest some vital players and give starts to players that haven’t got game time yet this season. We could see a first start for Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero, although whether Coyle thinks a night in Hartlepool is ideal for a debut remains to be seen, and I expect the likes of Chris Eagles and Kevin McDonald to be given a chance to shine.

This article was written for the Fanzone section of the Times' website.

Singles club: Calvin Harris, Dolly Rockers, Florence Rawlings, The Fray + Black Lips feat Faris Rotter

Calvin Harris: Ready for the Weekend

Nobody can deny Calvin Harris’ hit-making, floor-filling credentials. Unfortunately, it’s always been the case that the public buys rubbish music in vast quantities and this seems to be more of the same. There’s none of the urban edge of Dance Wiv Me, none of the shiny gloss of I’m Not Alone, none of the all out disco charm of The Girls. This is just dross, re-hashed 80s-lite garbage.

Dolly Rockers: Gold Digger

I must admit to being a bit lost about the point of Dolly Rockers. The girl group market is already saturated beyond belief, with Sugababes fading and the Saturdays coming in to replace Girls Aloud. This is trashy, with the worst lyrics of the year so far. None of them seem to be able to sing. It’s chav-pop, and I don’t like it. Annoyingly though, it does make you groove a bit.

Florence Rawlings: Hard To Get

This is the best track of this week’s package (although this doesn’t say much). It’s a smooth slice of sultry jazz, with talented youngster Florence upstaging that ‘kooky’ idiot Welch woman of the same name with ease. This is the sort of thing that Amy Winehouse could and should have been doing instead of huge amounts of drugs. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The Fray: Heartless

OK – So let’s get the obvious pun out of the way shall we? The Fray make big empty music for people with big empty lives and souls. It’s very definitely heartless, it’s pointless, and it has the emotional range of a radiator. Anyone that gets taken in by this bilge needs taking outside and giving a firm talking to, and possibly getting slapped out of it. The most stupid self-definition of a title since Kaiser Chiefs gave us all a giggle with Everything is Average Nowadays. The site editor informs me it’s a Kanye West cover. Disbelievingly I checked it out – Kanye’s version is marginally less shit.

Black Lips feat Faris Rotter: Drugs

And here’s another. You’d have to be on drugs to enjoy this. Hur hur hur. It’s sub-Libertines ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll, with that dude from the Horrors apparently making a guest appearance although I couldn’t hear him in the few listens I managed before wanting to hack my own ears off.

Decide for yourself by watching the videos for the singles at The Music Magazine.

Burnley 1-0 Everton match report

Premier League new boys followed up their amazing victory over Manchester United in midweek with another 1-0 win at Turf Moor, this time over a lacklustre Everton team who are still reeling from their opening day thrashing by Arsenal.

It was Wade Elliott, the goal hero from Wembley, who scored the goal ten minutes before the break, a neat curling left-footed effort from around fourteen yards that flicked up off Phil Neville on its way into the bottom corner across Tim Howard in the visitors’ goal.

Burnley didn’t have it all their own way though. For the second successive game they conceded a penalty; Tony Hibbert breaking into the area and going down under a challenge from Chris McCann. Television replays later showed that Hibbert had conned referee Phil Dowd into giving the spot kick by diving and justice was done when Louis Saha pulled his dragged wide from twelve yards.

The Clarets had started by far the brighter side and had two excellent chances in the opening few minutes. Just forty seconds in, Martin Paterson diverted Chris McCann’s cross onto the bar, with Steven Fletcher forcing a smart stop from the rebound, and Paterson should have done better with another header, glancing it wide of the far post from Robbie Blake’s centre.

But it looked like the hosts’ inability to take their chances was going to cost them. As the first half progressed Everton felt their way into the game with some neat interplay and good ball carrying from wide men Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman. Saha was inches away from connecting with a ball across the six yard box, and Jack Rodwell placed a free header straight at Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen from a corner.

And then, against the run of play Elliott put the Clarets ahead and they never looked back. Everton had chances, Saha thumping a drive just wide in the best of them, but they never truly looked like scoring.

Burnley’s promotion was down to a stirring run of home wins at the end of the season and this week they have shown they have the quality as well as the grit and determination to make Turf Moor a fortress this season. They haven’t lost a home game since March, indeed they haven’t conceded in seven at Turf Moor, posting 18 unanswered goals, but the real test will come in the next two games, testing trips to Chelsea and Liverpool.

As for Everton, they need to move on quickly once Joleon Lescott finally completes his move to Manchester City, David Moyes must plug the gap swiftly if Everton are to recover and seal another top six place, but on the evidence of their first two league performances, the thinness of their squad is going to be a problem this campaign.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Burnley v Everton match preview

The Clarets have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.

Owen Coyle, in his 80th match as Burnley boss, is likely to pick the same team that performed so manfully in Wednesday night’s incredible 1-0 win over Manchester United, with skipper Steven Caldwell still not ready for a recall and Michael Duff still also unavailable.

Everton are under pressure to get a result already after a 6-1 tonking at home to Arsenal on the opening day, although the Toffees did boost their confidence with a comfortable home win in the rebranded Europa League on Thursday night.

They have also secured a work permit for Argentinian midfielder Ever Banega, who looks set to sign on loan from Valencia, but it is unlikely the deal will be done for the player to go into the team for Sunday.

Joleon Lescott is still angling away for a move to Manchester City and with Phil Jagielka still recovering from the knee injury that meant he missed the FA Cup final Everton, as Manchester United did in midweek, have selection problems at the back. Joseph Yobo is certain to start with teenager Jack Rodwell – scorer of a brace on Thursday – a possibility to slot in alongside him, although manager David Moyes may go for the experience of club captain Phil Neville instead.

Everton are also without playmaker Mikel Arteta and they will miss his calming influence in midfield as well as his unerring accuracy from free kicks.

The visitors will line up in a 4-5-1 formation with either Jo or Louis Saha leading the line, relying on twin tower midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill to get forward in support, as well as Steven Pienaar from the flank. Rodwell and Pienaar will both face late fitness tests but with the Toffees’ squad already stretched due to long-term injuries for forwards Victor Anichebe and Yakubu, it is likely they will play through the pain if asked.

The Clarets are likely to play a similar shape, although they may rejig their forward line with Martin Paterson and Steven Fletcher able to swap positions.

Any positive result for Burnley would be a huge boost ahead of a testing double-header of away games to Chelsea and Liverpool, and four points from three games would be excellent progress. But Everton will be looking to get their first points in the bag and look at moving up the table.

The Clarets’ excellent home form – they have won their last seven at Turf Moor – gives them a record to defend as they look to make Turf Moor a ground to fear for travelling teams. Everton haven’t lost in their last four on the road.

If Burnley play half as well as they did against United, and Everton half as badly as they did against Arsenal, it should be another home win. But all the signs point towards a draw being a result that would suit both teams.

Prediction: 1-1

Burnley 1-0 Manchester United match report

Burnley had waited 33 years for a return to the top flight, but it was worth every second after Robbie Blake’s stunning strike gave them victory against the league Champions, Manchester United, in the first game of the new season at Turf Moor.

The hosts were grateful to Brian Jensen for a heroic goalkeeping display in which he pulled off a string of smart stops, smothered a handful of one-on-one chances, dominated in the air, and even saved a penalty late in the first half.

Burnley richly deserved their victory against a below-par United. They hassled and harried and used the ball intelligently. Despite United mustering many efforts on goal, in truth the Clarets were always relatively comfortable.

United’s injury crisis meant that Wes Brown partnered an unexpectedly passed fit Jonny Evans with John O’Shea moving across to right-back. In midfield Anderson was preferred to Valencia and Giggs to Fletcher. Sir Alex Ferguson also handed a first start to Michael Owen, who failed to impress in front of the watching England manager Fabio Capello.

Burnley lined up with the same fluid 4-5-1 shape they played with at Stoke, with Andre Bikey slotting straight into the defence in place of Christian Kalvenes just 36 hours after completing his move to Turf Moor from Reading.

The visitors had a couple of early sniffs of chances, with Owen’s movement causing problems but the striker’s finishing not quite up to standard. Burnley scored with their first patch of pressure of the game. United were pinned in their own penalty box and struggled to clear, with Patrice Evra eventually half-clearing a header from Stephen Jordan’s cross, under pressure from Martin Paterson, straight to the onrushing Robbie Blake, who rifled a crisp first-time volley into the top corner, leaving Ben Foster grasping at thin air.

Turf Moor erupted and the boost in the already blood-pumping atmosphere helped the team stiffen their resolve and cling on to a victory that will have the world’s media baffled.

A subdued Wayne Rooney had several efforts at goal but they were rarely on target, Bikey and the equally totemic Clarke Carlisle in the Burnley defence giving the attacker no room to manoeuvre.

United’s neatest passage of play gave them their best chance of the half, just moments before the break. Owen slotted a deliciously weighted ball in to Evra, who turned quickly into the box tumbled over Blake, who had foolishly slid in on his backside and clearly missed the ball.

Michael Carrick surprisingly stepped up despite a handful of likelier candidates and Jensen dived firmly to his right to save comfortably, Tyrone Mears tidying up the rebound for a corner. That let off reassured the hosts that they could win and they were rejuvenated for the second period, never giving their illustrious opponents an inch of room.

The massive gulf between the two football clubs was made clear by the substitutes the two managers turned to. Ferguson threw on a combined £50m of talent in Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov as well as the vastly experienced Gary Neville; Burnley’s Owen Coyle - who last season masterminded victories over Arsenal, Spurs, Fulham, West Brom and Chelsea on penalties - brought on United reject Chris Eagles, journeyman midfielder Joey Gudjonsson and free signing Steven Thompson.

Rafts of photographers packed the end United attacked in the second half but they were not to get their picture of an equaliser. Rooney twice played neat one-twos to free a fellow attacker into the box, but both times Jensen was equal to the ensuing effort, and the giant goalkeeper denied Rooney himself after the striker sprung the offside trap, diving in feet first to put the ball out for a throw.

Despite Burnley’s imperious home form last season – they won their last six games at Turf Moor - the result will still come as a huge surprise to most. The Clarets had fallen to defeat at Stoke on the opening day. This couldn’t have been a bigger turnaround, and if they turn in performances this spirited regularly they will have every chance of survival.

In contrast, United looked shaky in all areas, with their millionaire midfield hustled by the Clarets, and their trio of striker all looking ineffective. It’s easy to point to the lack of Cristiano Ronaldo, but the fact is United look to be missing him badly, and their need another figurehead for their attack, and soon, if they are to match the success of the last few seasons.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Burnley: we fancy our chances now

So the Clarets pulled off the unthinkable and beat the league champions, the world champions, the biggest football club on the planet – Manchester United.

A packed Turf Moor was rocking as Robbie Blake’s stunning volley and Brian Jensen’s goalkeeping heroics secured the points for the Clarets on their home return to the top flight.

A town and club as small as Burnley getting promotion was special enough. Last year’s monumental campaign will live long in the memory but the team seems insistent on writing new chapters in the history of the club.

There’s a magic around the place at the moment. We felt it in the lead up to the game as the local press used any excuse to get football on the front and back cover of their newspapers. We felt it in the build up to the game. We felt it as we matched United in the early stages of the game. And by God did we feel it when Blake hit his wonder goal. You can write off goal of the season for us already. Nothing will come close to that effort.

And the old ‘No one likes us’ chant is in danger of becoming obsolete. Without wanting to sound like a deluded Newcastle fan braying about the ‘Geordie nation’ it really feels as if the country is rooting for us to succeed. Except for the lot down the road, obviously.

As poor as United were, as superb Burnley were in contrast. Chris McCann bossed the midfield, Martin Paterson harried United’s makeshift back line without tiring all night, and Clarke Carlisle and Andre Bikey – on his Clarets debut after signing just the day before the game – were totemic together at the heart of the Burnley defence.

Clarets fans will have spent the day basking in the heady delights that a win over United brings, but the possibilities opened up by last night’s events are just as exciting. Beating United will instil a belief in the players that will last all season. Even if we lose ten on the spin, Owen Coyle will be able to tell his men: “You can do it – you beat Manchester United.” It will last all season.

Burnley will fancy their chances against anyone at Turf Moor now. We had to make the famous old ground a fortress if we were to have any chance of staying up and last night’s win lays the foundations for a home record similar to Stoke’s last season.

Next up are Everton, fresh from a battering at the hands of a rampant Arsenal team on the opening day. They also have well documented problems with Joleon Lescott demanding a transfer to Manchester City, and with Phil Jagielka still injured they are as light in defence as United were last night. Only a fool would bet against Coyle’s men making it back-to-back wins.

This article was written for Fanzone.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Burnley v Manchester United match preview

Burnley will welcome Andre Bikey straight into the side for his debut, and the club’s home Premier League debut, against league Champions, European Cup runners-up, and World Club Cup winners Manchester United.

Bikey hasn’t played competitively since he was sent off at Turf Moor in the first leg of the play-off semi-final for Reading, but he will be available after serving the last of a five-game ban tonight. But needs must for the Clarets at the back and with Steven Caldwell and Michael Duff still injured, Bikey is likely to be preferred to fellow new boy David Edgar at the heart of the Clarets defence alongside Clarke Carlisle.

Burnley have no fresh injury worries with Martin Paterson suffering no reaction after the defeat at Stoke to the hamstring problem he suffered in pre-season.

Clarets boss Owen Coyle must decide whether to play Christian Kalvenes or Stephen Jordan at left-back, and he may also choose to shuffle his attacking options with former Manchester United winger Chris Eagles the likeliest to come in, possibly at the expense of Paterson or Robbie Blake. Fellow former Red Devil Richard Eckerlsley is less likely to play after Tyrone Mears made a solid debut at the Britannia Stadium.

Manchester United have a defensive injury crisis with Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans and Gary Neville all missing. That leaves Patrice Evra as the only regular member of the unit, and he will be joined by Wes Brown and John O’Shea with one of the da Silva twins at right-back.

Sir Alex Ferguson will also be without winger Nani, who suffered a reaction at the weekend to the shoulder injury he picked up in the Community Shield defeat to Chelsea. Ryan Giggs may come in to partner fellow veteran United stalwart Paul Scholes in the midfield, with Darren Fletcher and Ji Sung Park likely to be picked for their industry.

In attack, Wayne Rooney is the man Burnley must stop. The England striker has a huge season ahead of him with a World Cup at the end of it and started the campaign with the winner against Birmingham on Sunday. He’ll be partnered by Dimitar Berbatov, who must improve on last season’s disappointing effort, and surprise signing Michael Owen will be utilised from the bench.

On paper it looks a mammoth task for the Clarets with United’s strength in depth likely to still give them too much. But with 20,000 locals making it a night to remember, Burnley might just come up with a performance to match the occasion in the return to top flight football at Turf Moor.

Chris Eagles has lots to prove after United sold him when he was on the brink of breaking into the first team, and plenty of Burnley players are aware that increased squad numbers mean their place is under threat for the first time in their Clarets careers.

Prediction: 2-2

This article was written for FansOnline.

Beep Beep - Enchanted Islands album review

American record label Saddle Creek is best known for being the hunting ground of Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes, aka The New Bob Dylan. Oberst is renowned for making albums as albums that is, not a random collection of songs throw hotch-potch together in the hope that it sticks but as an actual album in the purest form, something you would sit down and listen to instead of dipping in and out of on Spotify as is the way these days.

However, fellow Saddle Creekers Beep Beep have done exactly the opposite for their second effort, Enchanted Islands. Each song sounds like it is made by a totally different; there is no stylistic cohesion. There are no discernible trends, patterns or sounds. The vocals swing wildly from Elliott Smith/Jeff Buckley crooning to Hot Hot Heat style yelping. The guitars sound like they need tuning throughout, and not in a Seasick Steve, that’s the whole point kind of way. It’s a mess.

But that doesn’t mean it is total rubbish. ‘Wooden Nickels’ is a passable ballad, with the two voices, one light and one dark, contrasting nicely, and ‘Baby Shoes’ is an enjoyable lullaby for the weirdo generation. But it is mostly rubbish.

Unfortunately, they are rare bright sports in a sea of beige. Beep Beep are just trying to be too kooky, too out there, too damn weird to be taken seriously.

The PR bumf on the record label website describes Enchanted Islands as a “journey illuminated by the clash of willful escapism with the looming inevitability of “adult” choices”. Well, if it’s a journey, it’s certainly one I want to escape from, and I’m making the adult choice to never listen to this album ever again.

This review was written for Muso's Guide.

Simian Mobile Disco - Temporary Pleasures album review

Dance music albums are a curious beast. Stretched out over an hour or sometimes more, the result is often a collection of songs that just don’t sit right, ironic considering the people in question should be experts at mixing tracks together.

The sophomore album from duo Simian Mobile Disco is much the same. The album doesn’t work as a pre-club listen, which is probably one of the only times someone would care to sit through the whole thing. Luckily for James Ford and Jas Shaw, there are a few belting tracks on the album that haul it out of the mediocre and into the quite good.

Lead single ‘Audacity of Huge’ is terrific, Yeasayer’s Chris Keating’s electronic vocals drilling through a retro Prodigy crossed with Klaxons sound. The sparse arrangement of ‘10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong’ is almost as good, with its daring breakdown ensuring it will be a hit in the clubs.

The album’s trend for using guest vocalists is both a help and a hindrance. When it works, it’s great, but when it doesn’t, the songs invariably sound like bad versions of the guest’s own song. ‘Bad Blood’, featuring Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip, and ‘Cream Dream’, starring Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys, are prime examples of this.

While the first half of the record just about manages to hold attention, the second half tails off badly, with nothing ear-catching on show until penultimate track ‘Ambulance’, a near six minute epic instrumental breakdown piece that would probably catch fire on the turntable in a nightclub.

The album closes with ‘Pinball’, with vocals supplied by fellow electronic duo Telepathe, a woozy, vague piece of music that holds more interesting beats and rhythms than much of the album, but that inevitably loses its way towards the end of the track.

Ford is probably now best known for his work as producer of Arctic Monkeys‘ second album Favourite Worst Nightmare (and their new one Humbug) and Klaxons’ debut Myths of the Near Future. If he and Shaw going to make a name for themselves, they’ll have to do better than this.

This review was written for Muso's Guide.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Verve split up – again

They’ve been together and then apart more often than Kerry Katona and whatever her bloke’s name is, and today reports suggest that the Verve, for a third and probably final time, has split.

Guitarist Nick McCabe, with whom singer Richard Ashcroft always had a rocky relationship, wrote on his MySpace back in April that as far as he knew the band were on a permanent holiday.

And now the Sunday Mirror, as reported in the Guardian, claims to have a source suggesting that McCabe and bassist Simon Jones thought Ashcroft used the reunion in 2007 to get his solo career going again. Since no new Ashcroft material has surfaced this year, that appears unlikely. The pair have now launched a new band together called the Black Ships.

“As far as Nick and Simon are concerned the Verve no longer exists,” the source said. Apparently. “They think Richard was just using the reunion as a vehicle to get his solo career on track.”

But it does seem that the Verve are no more – and this time it looks like it’s for good.

This article was for The Music Magazine.

Calvin Harris rants on Twitter: part 2

Apparently, Calvin Harris has an album out soon. So he’s turned to the most modern of self-promotion acts – throwing another hissy fit on his Twitter.

You may remember a few weeks ago when the British Phonographic Industry drew the ire of the bespectacled producer-popstar, and this time it’s, guess. No, not war. Not world poverty. Not even swine flu. No no no. The poor baby got a bad review for his new record.

Here’s the highlights in abridged form. It’s pretty funny. Excuse the shouting. Mr Harris’ caps lock button is clearly broken. And the swearing, he’s as potty-mouthed as ever:




Harris then played the ‘music for the people’ card.


Imagine you just spent 2 years of your life making a record. on your own. every single day, long hours, working to get it sounding right.

imagine the buzz of making something that you love, and after 2 years you finally have something you can’t wait for other people to hear.

then imagine that cd landing on the desk of “snide rich persons kid” or “pathetic london scene-FACE”.

then them skipping through the tracks in their lunch break, and saying “well its calvin harris isn’t it? 2 stars, he’s a dick head”"

Then he went for the sympathy vote.

I’m telling you now that it doesn’t feel good.

but, how is it that i’ve been playing these songs to 20,000 people at festivals this summer, and it’s gone off every single time

Because they are drunk. Or idiots. Or drunk idiots.

Anyway, we suspect that this tantrum is solely for plugging his new record, which is out soon, or something, so we’re going to refuse him the pleasure of mentioning what it’s called, when it’s out, what’s on it, or any of that bumf. Fuck you, Calvin Harris! Yeah!

And for the record, Mr Harris – I’m far from rich, my Mum didn’t fuck any rock stars, and I still think you’re shit. And a bellend. So there.

This article was written for The Music Magazine.

Welcome to Turf Moor, Andre Bikey

Defeat at Stoke on the opening day was disappointing but expected. We matched them in open play but you have to defend set pieces well at the Britannia Stadium and we didn't. Two sloppy moments cost us the chance of a result. We'll have to be more streetwise than that if we're to survive this season.

Owen Coyle was already looking to bolster his back line and today he's made Andre Bikey, of Reading, his latest signing. Bikey will be well known to Clarets fans after his hilarious antics in the first leg of the play-off semi-final back in May.

First he conceded the penalty from which we scored the only goal by pulling back Steven Thompson, and then he was sent off for stamping on Robbie Blake. Bikey then wrestled his shirt off, hurled it to the ground and threw the mother of all tantrums before leaving the pitch. Reading missed him badly in the second leg, which we won comfortably 2-0, and he's not played competitively for them since due to the extended suspension he received for his antics.

Despite his questionable temperament, Bikey is exactly the kind of player we need. He's big, much bigger than any of our other defenders, very strong and also quick. He'll go straight into our back line for the Manchester United match tomorrow night as captain Steven Caldwell is still out injured. He'll be a tremendous addition and gives us a much better chance of survival.

It's always good to play United early. They famously start slowly and this season they have major defensive injury problems. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville and Jonny Evans are all doubts, so we'll have a great chance to cause a shock result on our home Premier League debut.

That said, Wayne Rooney looks like he's set for a huge season ahead of the World Cup and he's obviously the man we have to stop. I'm not sure Dimitar Berbatov will fancy it with 20,000 screaming locals baying for his blood, and Michael Owen looked rusty when he came on at Old Trafford on Sunday. But even with two of United's biggest playmakers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leaving the club this summer, they're a phenomenal force and most people will be expecting us to get a pasting.

But I'm quietly confident that we can get a result. Bikey's signing will give us a lift and the atmosphere promises to be very special indeed.

This article was written for Fanzone on TimesOnline.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Stoke 2-0 Burnley

Premier League new boys Burnley fell to an ignominious 2-0 opening day defeat to an unforgiving Stoke City team who exposed the Lancashire club’s defensive frailties.

The Clarets struggled to cope with the Potters’ strength and height from set pieces and the game was over as a contest by half time as City scored twice.

First Ryan Shawcross rose unmarked to head home Liam Lawrence’s free-kick, and then Clarets defender Stephen Jordan flicked a header into his own goal from one of Rory Delap’s torpedo throw ins.

It was harsh on Burnley, who matched Stoke in open play, but made shoddy mistakes at the back. The visitors missed their skipper Steven Caldwell as well as suspended new signing David Edgar.

But the Clarets also looked toothless in attack, with record buy Steven Fletcher restricted to one half chance, from which he forced a good save from Thomas Sorensen.

Burnley will need a vast improvement if they are to avoid being rooted to the foot of the table after their next four games, in which they face Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool in a rude awakening to life in the Premier League.

Stoke showed enough of a threat from set pieces to show they should have enough to avoid relegation again, although their trio of strikers Ricardo Fuller, James Beattie and Dave Kitson were restricted to just a small handful of chances between them, with Kitson hitting the bar in the best of them.

Burnley will need to smarten up their defending of set pieces of they are to avoid a real struggle.

This report was written for FansOnline Burnley.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The XX: The XX album review

Little is known about London foursome the XX. They are (deliberately, at a guess) difficult to search for online, and they don’t seem to have given many interviews. But I have discovered that the brains behind the project, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Smith, shares my name. So that’s a good start. We have something in common already.

I can tell you, however, that they’ve made the finest British debut album of the year, a hugely accomplished collection of songs that puts them right at the forefront of what constitutes boundary-pushing.

The eponymous release is simply staggering; with most of the songs jaw-droppingly good. I’m not exaggerating. It’s simply superb. Let me try and explain why.

They’re basically the anti-Horrors, which is probably why I love them so much. Whereas the Southend scenesters lavished pointless layers of noise all over average garage-rock tunes for their bafflingly critically-acclaimed sophomore album Primary Colours, the XX are the sparsest, most publicity-shy band I’ve heard all year.

Two instruments are usually more than enough, with the sumptuous vocals of girl-boy pair Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim dominating proceedings on top of swirly, whirly soundscapes that make you wonder how the band aren’t Icelandic. It’s frost-bitingly cool. My ears are tingling writing this as I listen.

The standout track and centrepiece of the album is Shelter, a stunningly basic track that slowly builds up to epic levels, without blundering around with multiple guitar lines or overblown hooks. Croft almost strays into aping Metric’s Emily Haines on the vocals but she retains enough of her own charm to avoid being a complete rip-off. Croft’s vocals also sound a little similar to the breathy Sarah Nixey of Black Box Recorder.

Basic Space has had fans foaming at the mouth with its Vampire Weekend-ish African clave rhythm but in reality it doesn’t properly reflect the magnificence of this band. There are more than enough ideas in the XX to last most bands a lifetime. They could do literally anything after this. The world is theirs for the taking.

If we still gave ratings for albums, this would be a ten, easily. It’s really that good. It’s so exciting, I need to go for a lie down. Wow.

This review was written for The Music Magazine.

Stoke City V Burnley match preview

Burnley go into their first top flight match in 33 years with defensive problems, although Reading’s Andre Bikey looks set to sign for a near club record equalling fee in the next few days.

Burnley will definitely be without the suspended David Edgar and the injured Michael Duff, and Steven Caldwell tweaked his groin playing in Scotland’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Norway on Wednesday and may be unable to play.

That would leave Clarke Carlisle as the only recognised centre-back in the squad, giving manager Owen Coyle a choice of Chris McCann, Stephen Jordan or Richard Eckersley to accompany Carlisle. However, Caldwell is sure to want to lead the team out at the Britannia and it would be no surprise to see him play through the pain.

In the middle is where Burnley have their riches. Coyle has played 4-4-2 more often than not in pre-season and packing the midfield is a pointless tactic against the Potters’ long-ball game so it seems likely the Clarets will go into the game with four in midfield and two up front.

£3m man Steven Fletcher is a certainty to start as the only regular scorer in pre-season and Martin Paterson – who played for Stoke as a youngster - will partner him assuming he recovers from a hamstring problem in time. Steven Thompson and Jay Rodriguez are likely to be utilised from the bench.

On the flanks Coyle has four to choose from: Chris Eagles, Robbie Blake, Wade Elliott and loan signing Fernando Guerrero. However, Elliott may be deployed in the centre of the park, as he was for the latter stages of last season and indeed as he was at Wembley where he scored the wonder goal to seal promotion. Coyle will probably blood Guerrero in the reserves and from the subs bench before throwing him into the team.

Coyle also has the problem of what to do with Graham Alexander. The veteran had a poor game in Norway on Wednesday for Scotland and showed last season that he isn’t capable of playing in a central midfield two. But if Eckersley is deployed at centre-back in place of Caldwell, he could be asked to revert to his old position of right full-back.

Stoke’s baseball cap-wearing boss Tony Pulis has had a quiet transfer window, with Sunderland’s skipper Dean Whitehead his only signing of note. Whitehead will slot straight into City’s midfield alongside former Clarets target Glenn Whelan, with Liam Lawrence and Matthew Etherington likely to line up on the flanks. Former Liverpool man Salif Diao will be another midfield option, but he will start from the bench.

Pulis will have to work out where to put human catapult Rory Delap this season – as a player he isn’t good enough for the Premier League but his throw is a weapon that unsettled even the best last season.

In goal Thomas Sorensen has bags of experience but at the back Stoke have mainly young talent. Ryan Shawcross had a terrific debut top-flight season in the middle of the back four and City will look to him to keep improving and to build on his already solid partnership with Abdoulaye Faye. Unfussy and uncultured but strong lads Andy Wilkinson and Carl Dickinson are likely to be the full-backs, although journeyman Danny Higginbotham will rival Dickinson for the berth on the left.

Up front, January signing James Beattie was one of the main reasons Stoke finished in a lofty 12th and he will again lead the line, with Burnley’s former nemesis Ricardo Fuller again pitting his wits against the Clarets. Dave Kitson has been in stunning form in pre-season, however, and he may have forced his way into Pulis’ plans despite an inauspicious start to his Potters career last term.

Stoke’s direct tactics have been well documented but if they are to match last season’s impressive 12th place finish they will need to come up with a plan B. Burnley are well versed in dealing with hoof-merchants after a long season in the Championship and will fancy their chances of coping with Stoke’s attacks. But the likes of Lawrence, Fuller and Etherington have a bit of quality that makes them the likely match-winners for the hosts.

Burnley will look to Chris Eagles to show why the club forked out a record fee for him last summer as well as hoping Steven Fletcher and Martin Paterson will come up with the goals to keep the Clarets safe. All the games in the Premier League will be tough for Burnley but this is sure to be a tricky start with the Potters support always making it difficult for away teams.

But the Clarets know a result is vital with a horrible run of four virtually unwinnable games coming up after the Britannia trip, and will do enough to collect a first ever Premier League point, with Fletcher bagging a debut goal.

Prediction: 1-1

This article was written for FansOnline.