Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Stone Roses - All For One

Good things come to those who wait.

Except they don't, do they?

Ten years ago, no-one expected ever to hear new material by The Stone Roses. Even five years ago, it seemed unlikely - they'd hammer the arse off the nostalgia tour, then disintegrate with a whimper, John Squire's ego wrestling with Ian Brown's pride and Reni's disinterest to put an end to the reunion they'd all said could and would never happen.

So anyone who says they've been waiting 22 years for All For One is a fucking liar. And anyone who claims it was worth a 22-year wait is trying far too hard.

This is The Stone Roses in name only. There's none of the hushed psychedelia of their first album, none of the cocksure groove of their mid-period EPs, none of the thunderous Zep-aping rock swagger of their second incarnation.

All For One is a Britpop anthem as written by men in their 50s who were never Britpop first time around. All of what made the Roses The Best Band In The World is missing, and instead we get a shrill, over-produced mess.

The lyrics are dreadful - what few lyrics there are. "All for one, one for all, if we all join hands we'll make a wall" - didn't Pink Floyd spell out the dangers of that 37 years ago?

I initially misheard the verse lyrics as: "A tragedy, a catastrophe", which would have been apt. It's actually some faux Flower Power guff that would have sounded trite in 1966, and just sounds embarrassing 50 years later.

Musically, the biggest crimes are against the rhythm section. Mani's bass, a key component of the Roses sound,  is barely audible.

Reni, master of the indie breakbeat and a drummer second only to Ginger Baker in the pantheon of the greats, is made to sound like any bog standard, four beats in the bar, hit them hard indie drummer.

John Squire's final howling guitar solo manages a late salvage job, but by then I'd all but given up.

I stick by my initial assessment - that it sounds like The Fratellis. More specifically, like The Fratellis labouring over a Seahorses album track for 20 years.

The internet enthusiasm for All For One has been baffling.  Maybe people are just desperate to love it. Maybe they genuinely DO love it.

But as the enduring popularity of Donald Trump, Ed Sheeran and Mrs Brown's Boys show, the general public aren't to be trusted with important decisions.

(Says I, who heard it twice, didn't like it either time and immediately bought it on iTunes anyway.)

I'm going to resort to parental cliché - I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed.

I certainly don't feel like I'm missing out by not seeing the Roses for a third time when they tour this summer.

I can't envisage where All For One will comfortably sit in their setlist - unless it's going to be surrounded by more new songs of similar quality midway through the gigs.

It was never going to live up to the expectation, and it continues the Stone Roses Law of Diminishing Returns.

By the time of their Fifth Coming in 2045, their comeback single will be Ian Brown bludgeoning Michael Jackson's Billie Jean to death.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Groanin' Jock Montrose FC Player of the Year Award 2014/2015

As I'll likely miss the playoff matches due to holidays, I'll not see Montrose again this season (and may not see them again in the SPFL).

Which means that I can now announce that winner of the 2014/2015 Groanin' Jock Montrose FC Player of the Year is....

....drum roll....

...Stuart McKenzie.

The goalkeeper has frequently been the difference Montrose losing by a single goal and utter annihilation.

He was my man of the match five times this season, the only player to pick up the award more than once.

The full list of contenders was:

Stuart McKenzie 5
Ewan Moyes 1
Paul Watson 1
David Banjo 1
Marvin Andrews 1
Leighton McIntosh 1
Ross McCord 1

McKenzie wins the award for the second consecutive season.

Season 2014/2015: Match 12: Montrose 2 Elgin City 1 (The Scottish Professional Football League Two) and Match 13: Montrose 0 Clyde 1 (The Scottish Professional Football League Two)

Montrose, already consigned to the relegation playoff, have spent their last two home matches attempting to build some momentum ahead of that two-legged clash with either Brora Rangers or Edinburgh City.

It was a success against Elgin City, Jordan Allan lashing a shot into the roof of the net smashing home a winner from 12 yards out after Darryl McHardy had equalised with a bullet header.

There was neat passing, fast attacking, good cover in defence and a solid work ethic. And everything in the garden, if not quite looking rosy, was at least smelling fresher than it had in a long while (the humping of Arbroath excepted).

Man of the Match: Ewan Moyes has generally flattered to deceive in a Montrose shirt, but against Elgin he was immense, leading the defence in a manner befitting the absent Marvin Andrews.

But against Barry Ferguson's Clyde (as the club was officially renamed in August), they were back to their infuriating not quite worst but not far off.

Garry Wood missed a sitter, Ross McCord was atrocious, Graham Webster tried and failed to fill Paul Watson's long-range shooting boots and Moyes looked easily rattled after his assured performance the previous week.

David Marsh was left unmarked for the only goal of the game, and what might have been the last ever league match at the Basinside Bernabeu ended with a whimper rather than a team baring its fangs and going out fighting.

There were scarcely any fans there, and those who did turn up were drowned out by the irritating stadium announcer, who continues to haver pish throughout the match, rather than confine his nonsense to the half time break.

Montrose have a trip to Annan next week to prepare for the two most important matches in the club's history.

And now...the end is near...

Man of the Match: But for the positioning and shot stopping of Stuart McKenzie, Montrose could have lost by three or four today. Routinely Montrose's best player, McKenzie may be one of the deciding factors in the playoff matches.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Season 2014/2015: Match 11: Montrose 2 Queen's Park 2 (The Scottish Professional Football League Two)

It's all but over.

Unless Berwick Rangers lose their remaining four matches, and Montrose win all theirs with a 43-goal swing in the process, Montrose are destined to finish bottom of Scottish Serie Z4.

They'll definitely face either Brora Rangers or Edinburgh City in a two-legged playoff in an attempt to keep their place in the league.

If they lose it, the future of the club is at stake.

The focus now has to be on building belief and momentum ahead of those matches.

If Montrose play those matches in the same frame of mind as the first half of the match against promotion-chasing Queen's Park, there may be grounds for optimism. They looked determined, with Paul Watson, Scott Johnston, Garry Wood and Terry Masson driving the side forward at every opportunity. Up front, Wood's strike partner Jordan Allan looked creative and lively.

They were worthy of their half time lead, Watson crashing a shot into the net from the edge of the box with visiting keeper Muir caught out of position.

But they were behind within 15 minutes of the restart, Steeves scoring an own goal  and Shaun Rooney firing into the bottom corner two minutes later.

Montrose looked momentarily flustered, and under normal circumstances might have collapsed. But with Watson hollering encouragement at every opportunity, they kept plugging away.

It paid off, a neat pass from Ross Campbell freeing Allan, his cross to the back post met on the volley by Wood.

Stuart McKenzie kept Montrose in the match with a string of outstanding saves, and Allan was unlucky not to score himself with a series of lobs and shots.

Maybe, just maybe, Montrose can drag themselves clear of the Highland League and oblivion...

Man of the match: A few strong contenders - McKenzie was typically excellent in goal, Allan electric up front, Wood determined and Scott Johnston tireless down the right.

I felt that the key performer for Montrose was Paul Watson, driving the side forward at every opportunity and chipping in with a well-taken goal.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Season 2014/2015: Match 10: Montrose 3 Arbroath 0 (The Scottish Professional Football League Two)

And so the fightback begins.

Yesterday's big Scottish coupon-buster (unless Rangers drawing 0-0 at Cowdenbeath is still considered unusual) saw Montrose trounce their fish-filleting inbred cousins from down the coast with an assured 3-0 win.

This was a top-notch team performance. There were no weak links, even in areas of the park where one might consider such weak links to exist.

There was a thunderous commitment to the cause that brought five yellow cards for the home side.

There was assured possession of the ball, and a desire to push forward and pressure Arbroath at every opportunity.

This was the first time I'd seen Montrose under Paul Hegarty and John Holt. Previous results under the new regime had suggested all was not well at Links Park, but the derby performance went a long way to instilling a smidgin of faith.

Montrose took the lead in the 28th minute, Ross Campbell squaring the ball across the box for Graham Webster to take a touch a power the ball across Marc McCallum and into the top corner.

They doubled their lead three minutes after the break, Garry Wood laying the ball off to Campbell for the former Forfar man to shoot into the bottom corner.

And they completed the scoring four minutes later, Webster crossing to the far post for Scott Johnston to knock the ball down to Campbell for the finish.

Arbroath had chances, but Stuart McKenzie was at his best to keep a series of long-range shots and free kicks at bay.

Marvin Andrews marshalled the defence magnificently, Andrew Steeves had a solid debut and the midfield kept up the momentum for the duration of the match. The wingers in particular gave Arbroath a torrid time.

There's still a long way to go - Montrose are four points and 32 goals behind Berwick Rangers at the bottom of Serie Z4, having played two games more. Elgin are five points ahead of Montrose with a goal difference 23 better than Montrose's, and have played three fewer games.

Only East Stirlingshire are in the same ballpark when it comes to goal difference - they are six points ahead of Montrose having played one fewer match.

It's going to be a hard slog for Montrose to drag themselves clear of the relegation playoff and potential oblivion. With eight games to go, every point and every goal is precious.

Man of the Match: Ross Campbell has a decent shout, with two goals and an assist. While his touch may occasionally desert him, he never gives up and kept the Arbroath defence busy today.

Graham Webster was equally tireless, keeping Arbroath pinned back in their own defensive third of the pitch and contributing a goal and a key role in Montrose's third.

But for me, the key man yesterday was Stuart McKenzie, the goalkeeper keeping Montrose ahead with a string of saves and a magnificent command of his own area.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Season 2014/2015: Match 9: Hertha Berlin 0 SC Freiburg 2 (Bundesliga)

The impending marriage of a good friend took me to Berlin last weekend, a trip that included my first live Bundesliga match.

As stadiums go, the Olympiastadion is amongst the best I've ever visited. An imposing concrete facade hides a football cauldron that keeps the atmosphere inside the ground. Even the Olympic-standard running track doesn't hinder the view. The stadium is everything that Hampden should have been, instead of the not-fit-for-purpose mess that is our national stadium.

A stroll around the ground took us past the track where Jesse Owens gave Hitler the finger at the 1936 Olympics, and there's a strong feeling that history has been well preserved in and around the ground.

If the ground could teach Scottish football a thing or two, the quality of the play on the park suggested the opposite could be true. There was one Champions League winner on the park, in the shape of Salomon Kalou, but the quality of football was atrocious.

Despite the noisy backing of a huge crowd of Ultras at the opposite end from us, Hertha Berlin had no shape, struggled to keep the ball and looked well off the pace. A better team than Freiburg would have destroyed them (Bayern Munich had recorded an 8-0 win over  Hamburg the previous day).

But luckily for the home side, the visitors were nearly as bad, which led to the sides playing out what looked like a Raith Rovers vs Falkirk match in a stadium fit for a World Cup final.

Jens Hegeler, apparently a former Germany U21 international, is one of the worst players I've ever seen play topflight football - with every touch he either found the opposition keeper or hoofed the ball out of play.

Both Freiburg goals came from scrappy Berlin mistakes, and the home crowd was justifiably pissed off at the final whistle.

Still, at least they had massive bratwursts and litre-sized cups of beer to dull the pain.