Bonne Année


So it’s 2017, at last.

Let’s not eulogise about 2016 – Bowie, Brexit, Trump, etc. In the grand scheme of things, it was grim.

For me, it was a beige, meh, 6.5/10.

Introspection’s never been my forté. What’s done is done, what’s not done is left to do. We move on.

If I dare tempt fate (and I do), there is cause for positivity in 2017, putting the inexorable march towards Brexit aside.

But first, a quick squizz through 2016 from this mawkish commentator, yours truly.

  • The best thing I listened to last year was White by Weezer, quite possibly the best comeback album of all time and one that should rightly take its place alongside their 1994 classic Blue. It is, quite simply, flawless. If the Beach Boys were at their prolific best in 2016, this is the album they would have written. Honourable mentions include Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not by Dinosaur Jr, Hardwired… To Self Destruct by Metallica, A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead, Music For An Infinite Universe by 65daysofstatic and, of course, Blackstar by David Bowie.
  • The best things I watched last year were Hail, Caesar! and 10 Cloverfield Lane, although that’s just about it for 2016 films I actually saw.

I did some cool things last year, namely:

Et finalement, last year, I did a little round-up of those we sadly lost. This year, well, need I even remind you?

Forza 2017.

Amplifier, Old Blue Last

Amplifier, Old Blue Last, London, 28/03/15.

It’s rare you get to see your favourite band. It’s even rarer you get to see your two favourite bands within a week of each other. But it’s almost unimaginable you get to see you two favourite bands within a week of each other – twice.

Back in November 2006, I saw Muse at Manchester MEN. A week later, I saw Amplifier at the Joiners in Southampton. This week, I saw Muse at the Brighton Dome. And just last night, I saw Amplifier at the Old Blue Last in London.

A lot has changed since those first two gigs, a little matter of leaving home, moving to Cardiff, completing five years of university, relocating to Guildford to start my first ‘proper’ job. To cut a long story short, I guess I ‘grew up’ in that time. Real life started.

Happily, these two bands have been a largely consistent soundtrack during those intervening years. And Amplifier were on astonishing form last night. After a barrage of choice cuts from their latest LP, Mystoria, as well as the very first live airing of pre-album download ‘Horse’, we were treated to a real trip down memory lane, with the band delving deep into their back catalogue and digging out some of their heaviest numbers – Motorhead, Airborne, Panzer, The Consultancy and Half Life from their self-titled debut album, the majestic Strange Seas Of Thought from Insider, plus The Wave and Interstellar from The Octopus.

Despite having seen the band a number of times before, this (I think) was the first time I’ve seen them in their latest iteration following the departure of bassist and founder member Neil Mahony. Thankfully, his replacement – the laconic ‘Magnum’ – absolutely monstered both Neil’s distinctive bass hooks as well as his own, while ex-Oceansize guitarist and backing vocalist Steve Durose adds an extra layer of depth to the band’s already expansive sound. Oh, and need I even state the obvious, but drummer Matt Brobin absolutely pummels his drum kit while singer and lead guitarist Sel Balamir defty negotiates his obscenely large pedalboard without missing so much as a note.

It was raucous. It was deafening. It was unexpected. It was perfect.



Ash, Camden Barfly, London, 18/02/15.

I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to catch Ash’s comeback show at Camden Barfly in London on Wednesday night (February 18) – timed appropriately to coincide with actual Ash Wednesday, of course.

First thing on Wednesday morning, the band announced their new album Kablammo! and new single Cocoon, as well as a gig at Barfly that very night. Having seen the band a few times in the past, I jumped at the opportunity.

And as ever, they certainly didn’t disappoint. Opening with new song Fortune, which the band debuted in the US in October last year, it’s evident Kablammo! is set to more than live up to its name.

Fortune features a massive driving riff, not to mention frontman Tim Wheeler’s trademark guitar histrionics. Cocoon went down similarly well, as did two other new’uns aired for the very first time – Evil Kinevil and Shut Down.

As for older numbers, while Clones still evades me despite this being my fourth Ash gig, I was delighted to catch Wildsurf and Petrol again, Evil Eye for the very first time and, of course, the blistering Joy Kicks Darkness. All the old favourites were there too.

The full set ran:

Fortune / A Life Less Ordinary / Wildsurf / Goldfinger / Evil Eye / Evil Kinevil / Kung Fu / Cocoon / Oh Yeah / Shut Down / Shining Light / Orpheus / Girl From Mars / Joy Kicks Darkness / Petrol / Burn Baby Burn

The band have shot off back to New York to finish off Kablammo! which is due to be released in May. The band are coming back for a string of dates in June, including another show in London, this time at the Scala on June 11 – the day before my birthday. How could I refuse?