Archive for June, 2010

It’s Warming Up

So now we’ve seen every team twice and the tournament is beginning to take shape. The first round of matches was a bit of a damp squib but the tournament is definitely improving.

We are seeing more goals now, always a good thing. And the pressure to pick up the three points has definitely meant some teams have been forced into playing in a more attacking manner.

Uruguay got things off to a good start last Wednesday with a 3 – 0 defeat of hosts South Africa. Argentina followed that up with a fine 4 -1 win against South Korea, with Higuain helping himself to a hat trick.

Greece came from behind to beat Nigeria, after a stupid sending off reduced the Africans to ten men. And Mexico piled the pressure on a very poor French side with a well-deserved 2 -0 win.

Friday featured two games bucking the trend of good refereeing. The Germany v Serbia game hardly featured a bad tackle, yet the Spanish referee managed to show nine yellow cards. Two of these were waved at Germany’s Klose giving the Serbs a numerical advantage. They scored an early goal, but even with ten men Germany should have levelled. Podolski was the main sinner with a string of misses, one from the penalty spot.

And in the next match the USA were robbed of a victory against Slovenia by a referee from Mali who saw an offence that no one else did. The Slovenians dominated the first half and scored twice to lead comfortably. But the Americans produced a stirring comeback to draw level before a late winner was controversially ruled out.

England then stuttered to a 0 – 0 draw with Algeria. Enough said already about that abject performance.

Holland picked up a second win by a single goal against Japan. The Dutch have not hit their true form yet, but with six points in the bag and no goals conceded there cannot be any complaints. And they will get stronger.

Australia then salvaged a point against Ghana. The Aussies took an early lead but Kewell’s sending off for handling on the line reduced them to 10 men. Ghana equalised from the spot but were then unable to create chances to win, often shooting waywardly from long distance.

Cameroon took an early lead against Denmark in a thrilling game. Both teams needed a win and both seemed much better going forward than defending. The Danes levelled before half time and went on to score a winner in an exhilarating second half. Cameroon’s second defeat made them the first team to be eliminated from the competition.

Paraguay beat Slovakia 2 – 0 in a game where the goals were both of high quality. And then there was another shook as unfancied New Zealand drew with defending champions Italy. Brazil then cruised to a three goal lead in fine style against the Ivory Coast before a late consolation made the final score 3 – 1.

The final matches of the round saw Portugal demolish North Korea by 7 – 0 before Chile beat ten man Switzerland 1 – 0 although it should have been more. Spain closed the round with a win against Honduras, but again could end up wishing they had secured a more convincing win. Villa scored twice before missing a hat trick chance from the spot and a host of chances were missed in an eventual 2 – 0 win.


There has been a great deal of action off the field in the last couple of days. Disquiet in the England camp led to John Terry publically criticising his manager’s selections. The clear inference was that many of the squad agree with him. Capello will make changes for the final match, but can his team raise their game?

And France have managed to get themselves into a real mess, with Anelka already sent home after falling out with the manager. In extraordinary scenes the rest of the squad refused to train, and it remains to be seen what effect the ongoing dispute will have come their next game.

What will the final round of games in the opening group stage bring us?

Only Brazil and Holland have secured their places in the knock out stages, with Argentina almost, but not mathematically, certain to join them. But some of the big names still have work to do.

Italy and England are both struggling after two draws and will need wins to avoid an early exit. France have to beat South Africa to have any chance, although a convenient draw between Mexico and Uruguay would make their task impossible. And Germany can win their group with a win over Ghana, while Spain could end up in a three way tie with Chile and Switzerland with goal difference to decide which two qualify.

Other likely qualifiers include South Korea, Serbia, Paraguay, the USA and Portugal while the winners of Japan’s game with Denmark will also progress.

It is the South Americans who look best so far in the tournament. Brazil and Argentina have both played some good football in securing two wins. Holland look the best of the Europeans so far, although their victories have come without the same flair.

Over the next four days we will find out the line-up for the last 16.

With several of the group favourites likely to finish in second place there could be some very big clashes ahead.

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New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem released their long awaited third album last week.

I love their 2008 offering, The ‘59 Sound, an album of bombastic songs delivered with some great lyrical flourishes and all of the power of the New Jersey rock sound. So I have been waiting impatiently to see whether they could build on their success with this new album.

My early impressions are that American Slang is more of a New York album than a New Jersey one. It has a slower pace and nowhere near the same intensely manic energy as its predecessor. And there is a cleaner sound to the production, with less of the feedback howls and snarling lyrics.

The album kicks off with the title track, which is perhaps its best song. From the opening guitar hook through to the anthemic chorus, it would not be out of place on The ’59 Sound. Stay Lucky is up next, the first of several songs that look backwards, and it keeps the momentum of the album building nicely.

Bring It On tells a tale of trying to keep hold of a lover who is attracted by another. It offers a challenge: real love against some sort of fantasy offered by “clicking your red heels”.

The Diamond Church Street Choir totally changes the feel of the album, with its soul swing evoking ’50s rock n roll. And it is followed by The Queen Of Lower Chelsea, another slower, soulful song, playing on the district of both London and New York.

Orphans offers a complex mix of images to describe moving on, perhaps referring to singer Brian Fallon’s own flit from his native New Brunswick in Jersey to Brooklyn. The character in the song leaves the “circus wheels” by the sea (the Jersey shore?) and the “faithless factories” for a place “where the lights never go down”.

The album seems to drag a little from here. Boxer starts with a sharp lyrical burst before the guitar kicks in, but ultimately fails to satisfy. Old Haunts again looks to younger times, telling us “those days are gone and you should just let them go”.

The Spirit Of Jazz has a very nice intro, picking the pace up a little. Again it looks to an old relationship, “the wife of my youth”. The characters have grown apart but there is a longing for what was once shared giving a wistful tone to a decent track.

The album closes with a slow song, We Did It When We Were Young. Once more an old love features, but this one is far in the past and the character has someone new. It is a sad song, but has a touch of hope too, looking to the future. It is a decent track, but I would have preferred a more upbeat number that would have finished the album on more of a high.


American Slang is a good album, but not perhaps a great one. The song writing is carefully put together, if a little clichéd at times, and the band sounds tight, although the general impression is of an opportunity missed.

The Gaslight Anthem are very fine live performers and hopefully there are a few songs that will come to life on stage. I’m looking forward to reviewing their show in Glasgow next week.

But for American Slang it’s a 7/ 10 for me. It’s good but I was expecting more.

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London Calling

In a couple of days we will see the release of London Calling: Live In Hyde Park – a two DVD set of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s set from last summer’s Hard Rock Calling festival.

This promises to be a really special release. Bruce and the band were on top form on a beautiful sunny day. A crowd of over 50,000 sung backing vocals. And the set list included fan favourites as well as some great cover versions.

How do I know? Well, as Max Boyce (google him!) used to say, “I know because I was there.” I got to Hyde Park at 7am that morning to take my place in the line. And it paid off: I secured a place on the barriers at the front, close to centre stage.

There were other bands on the line up. Jean Beauvoir and Micki Free, Gaslight Anthem, James Morrison and the Dave Matthews Band. And then … well, here’s my review, written that night.


At last the final stage changes were made and the familiar elements of the E Street Band’s set were in place. Roy’s piano, Charlie’s keyboards and the Big Man’s throne were all there.

Bruce and the band took to the stage shortly after 7pm and for the next three hours they owned Hyde Park, if not the whole of London town. Bruce doesn’t use support acts and this was the first time I had ever seen him play after other bands. Frankly everything that had gone before was made to look like amateur hour compared with the slick professionalism and excellent musicianship of the legendary E Street Band.

Springsteen as always blended old songs with new with his own inimitable brand of rock n roll star meets revivalist preacher, delivered with all the showmanship and stagecraft he has built up over his long career. His energetic playing, strong vocals and frequent forays down to the front of the crowd were nothing short of incredible for a man in his sixtieth year. The Boss was in charge and everyone knew it.

He opened up, appropriately enough, with a cover of the classic Clash track London Calling, moving seamlessly onto Badlands, a classic of his own. Already the atmosphere was electric, just two songs in, with the crowd pressing forward to get nearer to the stage and a forest of fists pumping as thousands sang along with every single word.

There is simply no finer spectacle in the world of rock music than Bruce and his band doing what they do best and performing at the very top of their game.

The set simply tore along at breakneck pace, with favourites from the back catalogue like She’s The One, Night and The Promised Land blended with Outlaw Pete and Working On A Dream from the most recent album.

Highlights for me were a beautiful, tender rendition of Racing In the Streets, an energetic Rosalita and Nils Lofgren’s incendiary guitar solo on Youngstown, which can only be called downright brilliant.

There were no real surprises on the set list, with most songs played having been on the regular rotation in recent shows. There were not even any rarities among the requests, which Bruce chose from the many signs he collected from the front of the audience, although Jungleland, one of my favourites, was the last to be selected. It isn’t so much a song as a full blown symphony and it was delivered with all of the considerable feeling and passion at Springsteen’s disposal.

The three hour set closed with Glory Days and Dancing In The Dark, both exuberantly performed to a crowd now whipped into a frenzy. Finally the band left the stage to rapturous applause from the breathless fifty thousand strong crowd, who all knew that they had just witnessed something very special.


I’ve seen Bruce live almost fifty times over the past 25 years or so, and this performance was up there as one of the very best shows I’ve seen.

The DVD should be something special. If it captures anything like the incredible atmosphere and electric performance that made the day so special it will be a must have.

And as a bonus there is also footage of a brilliant version of The River from Glastonbury and Bruce’s newest song, Wrecking Ball, from one of the final shows before the demolition of Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Tuesday is the day this one hits the shops.

Buy it!

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England Stumble Again

England’s World Cup campaign has stalled with a second successive draw in South Africa. This time it was the Algerians who held England in a goalless match devoid of any real skill or flair.

Fabio Capello was reported by the BBC to be confused by his team’s display. The Telegraph called the abject performance, “lacking in belief and energy”. And the Guardian described England as, “an apology for legitimate World Cup contenders”.

Where did it all go so badly wrong for England?

Capello had selection changes forced on him for this match. But he did also make one very big decision by dropping goalkeeper Robert Green following his inexplicable gaffe against the USA and replacing him with the more experienced David James. And the keeper had a solid game, although he was not extended too often.

At the back, the manager brought in Jamie Carragher to replace the injured Ledley King. The Liverpool man has only just come out of international retirement and his selection ahead of form player Michael Dawson seemed strange to me. Carragher lacks pace and struggled against a lone Algerian striker. His second booking means he will miss England’s final group match, so another change in central defence will be required.

Gareth Barry returned from an ankle injury to start in midfield in place of James Milner, which meant that Stephen Gerrard was played on the left in a 4-4-2. This is not the England captain’s natural position and he failed to influence the match as a result. Playing Gerrard wide is simply a waste of a talented central midfielder.

In theory, Frank Lampard should have been freed to play a more attacking role by the introduction of Barry as a defensive midfielder. But he had a poor game, showing nothing like the form he has for Chelsea. Perhaps it was the pedestrian nature of the English performance, lacking the type of quick passing that Lampard thrives on in club football, but his contribution was minimal.

Up front, Capello retained faith in Emile Heskey. The Aston Villa striker works hard but offers no goal threat at all. And that put the burden of goal scoring firmly on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney, who has had a very poor tournament. He might be carrying an injury, but he seems to be a shadow of the player who scored so freely for Manchester United last season. And Rooney often dropped far too deep to try to get involved in the game, perhaps letting his frustrations override his instructions.

It was clear that a change in formation was needed, but when Capello did make a substitution in the 63rd minute he took off the ineffectual Aaron Lennon and brought on Shaun Wright Phillips to play in exactly the same right wing role. He made a bright start with one good run but then faded out of the game entirely.

Heskey was finally replaced by Defoe on 74 minutes and the Spurs striker looked lively but did not see a clear sight of goal. Peter Crouch’s late introduction in place of Barry on 84 minutes smacked of desperation.

Joe Cole must be wondering exactly what he has to do to get onto the pitch in this World Cup. After coming back from injury near the end of the season Cole was in fine form in Chelsea’s title winning push. He is pacy, creative and a goal threat – in other words exactly what England have been missing. Surely Capello will turn to him for the final match?

England came into this tournament feted by the media as one of the favourites to win the World Cup. They are now one match away from the most humiliating of early exits. The fans are turning on the team with choruses of boos heard at the final whistle last night. And the mood in the camp cannot be at all good.

Fabio Capello has one final game against Slovenia to turn things around.

I believe he has to change from his rigid 4-4-2 formation and get more midfield support to Rooney. For me Joe Cole has to start to add to the attacking options in a game that England simply have to win. And Gerrard must be played in a central role, perhaps even as a second striker, just behind Rooney.

England will still be favourites to progress. They should beat Slovenia – but then, on paper at least, they should be sitting with six points right now. A total of five points would not represent a great return from what seemed like a relatively kind draw, but it could be enough to win the group.

The irony is that securing second place might mean avoiding the Germans in the next round.

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After a dreadfully dull draw with Uruguay and a second poor performance in defeat to Mexico last night, the French are under serious threat of elimination form the World Cup.

Now, I’m not anti French. I’ve been in the country many times and found the people to be welcoming. Their food is excellent and I used to enjoy a good Bordeaux as much as the next man, if not more.

But there is something satisfying about watching the team that only qualified for the finals because of Thierry Henry’s blatant handball performing poorly and possibly heading for an early exit.

And in my look at World Cup betting just before the tournament kicked off I suggested that Mexico would win the group, upsetting France, so I’m also feeling a little smug!

France have looked like a collection of individuals rather than a team. There appears to be no shape or purpose to their game and coach Raymond Domenech seems to have little idea of how to turn things around. There are reports of training ground problems too, so the French camp is clearly not a happy place right now.

Looking at the French squad it appears to contain enough quality to make a real impact in this World Cup. There is no Zidane or Platinit to lead them, but they do have the likes of Ribery, Anelka, Malouda and the aforementioned Henry. Plenty of attacking flair there you would think, but France have failed to score in their two matches.

The French have a poor record in the opening round at recent major tournaments. Euro 2008 saw them finish bottom of their group after defeats to Holland and Italy and a goalless draw with Romania. And in the 2006 World Cup they also struggled. Draws with Switzerland and Korea and a win against the might of Togo saw them qualify in second place before their form improved in the knock out rounds to see them reach the final.

In the 2002 World Cup, as defending champions France were humiliated, surrendering their crown as world champions without even scoring a goal. An opening defeat to Senegal was followed by a goalless draw with Uruguay and a defeat to Denmark.

France play the hosts South Africa in their last group game next Tuesday. They only have a chance of qualification for the next round if they can win by a few goals and hope that there is a winner in the match between Uruguay and Mexico. A draw in that one will see the French eliminated regardless of their own score.

The French are on the brink of failing to negotiate their way out of the group stages once more. And there will be many people, in Ireland especially, who will take great pleasure in seeing them fail.

Schadenfreude? Perhaps. But what’s wrong with that?

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Labour MSP Frank McAveety has resigned from his position as Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee following media reports of supposedly inappropriate remarks he made.

Now this is not the first McAveety has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Previously he arrived late for a Parliamentary session and apologised that he had been held up at a cultural event. It was later discovered he had been in the canteen with a plate of pie and beans.

His crime this time? Describing a member of the audience as “very attractive”, “dusky” and, “the kind you’d see in a Gauguin painting”. He also said, “The heat’s getting to me”, indicating the jocular nature of his comments.

Perhaps the remarks were a little intemperate. And as an experienced politician he should certainly have known to be more careful with a microphone in front of him. But cause for resignation? Surely not.

McAveety’s remarks were supposed to be private and not public. The comments were not overtly sexist. And the woman herself has been quoted as saying she took no offence. Well, it’s not as if he called her hideous, is it?

The media, usually quick to condemn, has been relatively kind to Frankie boy. The Telegraph suggested that the row demonstrated the Parliament’s “childishness”. The Herald merely suggested that his remarks had been “laddish”. And the Record also played down the incident, quoting an SNP minister as saying, “He’s a thoroughly decent man. If he is in trouble, it will be at home.”

I’m sure his wife Anita isn’t at all happy about this, but should it really have become a major incident? Or is this all just a case of political correctness going too far?

Frank McAveety has a reputation as a hard working MSP. I’ve worked with him several times over the years, starting back in the days when he was a Glasgow Councillor who went on to lead the Council. In fact, I set up the first home PC he ever bought for him! And I know that the former English teacher is an honest and conscientious politician.

This may not be McAveety’s finest hour, but resignation from a post in Parliament that he was universally recognised to be very good at seems very harsh for a few unguarded remarks.

We should hold our politicians to a high standard of behaviour. But we also have to remember that they are human. And we all make mistakes.

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The first round of matches is over at the World Cup. Every team has now played one game – but the tournament has been something of a damp squib thus far.

It seems as if the fear of losing the opening group game was the dominant emotion for too many teams, rather than the potential rewards of victory. Games were largely cagy affairs, with little flowing football and a lack of goalmouth action.

Africa’s World Cup kicked off with a bang last Friday when the host nation scored the first goal of the tournament through Siphiwe Tshabalala. But Mexico came back to earn a draw. And later that evening France and Uruguay played out a 0 – 0 game in which the red card awarded to Nicolas Lodeiro was perhaps the only highlight.

Saturday started with a decent performance from South Korea who beat a dreadful Greek team 2 – 0. This was followed by Argentina’s narrow 1 – 0 win over Nigeria, a result that did not reflect their superiority. Only some poor finishing and fine goalkeeping from Enyeama kept the score down.

The English opened the tournament with their biggest first round test. Despite an early goal from Gerrard, keeper Robert Green made a monumental error to gift the USA a draw. The 1 – 1 result had many, including me, questioning Capello’s team selection.

Sunday say Slovenia beat Algeria 1 – 0, another goalkeeping mistake resulting in the winner. Ghana then triumphed by the same score over a very disappointing Serbia, many people’s tip as a surprise team.

The final game of the night featured the best performance so far. Germany played an open attacking game and were completely in control, outclassing the Australians in a game as one sided as the 4 – 0 result.

Monday featured Holland and they got off to a poor start against Denmark, unable to get their passing game going. It took an own goal to get them started and the Dutch ran out 2 – 0 winners in the end. Japan then beat Cameroon 1- 0 in a game best described as dour before holders Italy struggled to a 1 – 1 draw with Paraguay.

Slovakia struggled to get going against New Zealand yesterday in another game of few chances. They finally went ahead in the second half but could not take advantage and the all whites punished them with an injury time equaliser – a rare moment of drama so far.

Portugal and the Ivory Coast then played out a goalless draw. Ronaldo hot the post in the second minute, but the remainder of the game was, frankly, boring. Brazil livened things up a little, finally breaking down a stubborn North Korean mass defence and eventually scoring twice, before a late consolation leaving the final score at 2-1

Chile opened today’s programme with a good attacking performance and the only real surprise was that they only beat Honduras by 1 – 0.

It was the final match of the initial; round that was to provide the tournament’s biggest shock so far. Many people’s fancy to take the trophy, European Champions Spain were expected to get off to a winning start against Switzerland. They started well, but were unable to turn possession into goals.

And then the unthinkable happened: the Swiss took the lead through Gelson Fernandes’ scrappy goal. The Spanish pressed for an equaliser and were ultimately frustrated, leaving the Swiss to run out 1 – 0 winners.

This was a result that very few would have predicted. Spain will now struggle to win the group – and a second place finish could see them matched up with Brazil in the last 16.


Goals have been in short supply so far – only 25 in the first 16 games is a poor return, but is reflective of the lack of attacking play seen in many games. And no player scored more than once in these games.

The standard of refereeing has noticeably been very good so far, and thankfully we are not talking about debatable decisions or controversial incidents. Let’s hope that trend continues throughout the tournament.

The pressure is now on for many teams, and no one will feel it more than the Spanish after their defeat. The French and Italians also need to move on after opening draws. England meanwhile should progress easily despite dropping points to the USA.

Only Germany and to a lesser extent Argentina have really looked like potential world champions so far. Much more is expected from several of the favourites in the second round of games, and many of the world’s big players need to show us what they can do.

Surely, as the saying goes, things can only get better?

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Things have been relatively quiet in political circles over the past couple of weeks. The coalition government has survived the resignation of David Laws and got down to the business of government without too much controversy.

But that could all change next Tuesday when Chancellor George Osborne will outline his financial plans to the House of Commons in his first budget. We all know that cuts in spending will come. Massive cuts. And Osborne will also to try to avoid plunging the country back into recession.

Every new government starts from a position of blaming the old government for leaving a mess to be cleaned up, and this one is no different. Osborne has gone one step further by setting up a new body to do this for him: the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The OBR is made up of officials who are supposedly independent of government. And its first act was to suggest that the economy will not grow as fast as previously predicted. Is this a case of getting the excuses in early? We didn’t get it wrong; it was the last lot’s predictions that were out.

We all know that spending reductions will come immediately, running the risk of a so called “double dip” recession, where the actions to recover from one recession causes an immediate second one. This is why Labour argued in the election that the cuts should be delayed until next year.

Nick Clegg meanwhile has stated that cutting spending immediately is the “progressive” option, a strange argument that contracts his own position during the election campaign. The price of power for the Lib Dems appears to be adopting Tory economic policies.

The budget will set out broad spending plans only, as Osborne has announced a consultation period over the summer on exactly where the cuts should be made. Yes, they are going to ask us to suggest what should be cut!

So what can we expect to see in the budget?

Cuts. And more cuts. And probably some tax rises too. It is unlikely that income tax will be raised. There is a strong suspicion that VAT will be increased though. This is a typical Tory ploy to increase revenues without taking money directly out of pay packets, hoping that we won’t notice a few extra pence here and there on our purchases. Capital gains tax could be increased and planned cuts to inheritance tax are likely to be shelved.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that every family will be £1,000 a year worse off following the budget. Hardly something to look forward to. We will be paying more in taxes yet receiving far less in public services.

Look out for information appearing in the media over the next few days about potential tax rises. It’s not exactly unknown for journalists to be briefed so that potentially unpopular measures don’t come as a total surprise on budget day.

The government’s strategy will be to get the cuts in early, hope that the economy pulls through and bank on having some good news in time for the next election.

But everyone in the country will suffer in the short term. And public anger will surely be turned on this government, not their predecessors. There could be difficult times ahead for the coalition.

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Soundtrack For Your Life, the debut album from Telford’s Envy Of The State was released this week. And it is well worth buying if you like good rock music.

I review quite a few new bands and debut albums for the Glasswerk National website. There is some good new music out there and I enjoy the opportunity to hear bands that I might otherwise have missed.

And every so often I come across a band that really deserves to make it big – like Envy Of The State.

I received a preview copy of the album a couple of weeks ago and was instantly impressed. Although it has only 10 tracks and clocks in at just 33 minutes it has tremendous vitality. The band gives us the type of meaty guitar riffs and infectious choruses that add up to a dynamic and powerful rock sound.

And last weekend I saw Envy Of The State play a tremendous live set in Glasgow and also had the pleasure of interviewing the band afterwards. They are a fine bunch of guys as well as great musicians.

A bit more about the album.

The opening Rags To Riches (Riches To Rehab) sets the tone nicely with lead singer Scott Adams displaying his impressive range as his vocals soar over a potent mix. Silver Screen then continues at a pace, with Darrell Smith’s solid guitar playing and excellent solo work very much to the fore.

Up next is the single, Take Over The Radio, which is very much a summertime track. This is a song simply made to be played loud while cruising in a convertible on a sunny day, with its anthemic chorus built onto some fine guitar riffs. Ben Millington’s drums propel the beat forward and punctuate a fine track with energy and purpose.

While Angels Are Sleeping features power chords, soaring high pitched vocals and a bass line from Steve Tipton that thrusts into an already insistent sound, which rises and falls before coming to a fine climax.

Attract Me With Fire is pretty standard rock fare punctuated by an acoustic bridge that contrasts nicely with the crunching guitar that prevails for most of the track.

Lives Collide starts slowly before an incendiary guitar solo lifts it to new heights. Adams again displays his vocal range to good effect; his delivery admirably complementing the track’s changing rhythms. A fine slice of rock music.

The title track, Devil In My Eyes and Blind are really more of the same. Good, solid rock music, nothing more and nothing less. They maintain the fast pace that characterises the album and rush by in a passionate frenzy.

Our Time closes the album with an insistent energy that rises from a solid start to a soaring chorus before the guitar kicks in one last time. At almost five minute, this is the longest track on the album and perhaps the best. Again anthemic and dynamic, the listener is left with feet tapping and a desire to reach straight for the repeat button.

The album is now available through all of the usual outlets to buy or download. My suggestion: go get it. Get it now!

And mark the name Envy Of The State. I have a feeling we will be hearing much more of them.

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Capello Blunders?

England 1 USA 1. A great result for the Americans, although our neighbours down south were clearly not so pleased.

This morning’s newspapers looked to apportion blame, as the English media always seem to do. But should goalkeeper Robert Green carry the can? Or should manager Fabio Capello live up to the famous maxim of Harry S. Truman: “The buck stops here”?

Capello is a fine manager with a great track record. In his time as a club manager he guided his teams to five Serie A titles and two La Liga championships, as well as a Champions League win with Milan.

It can be argued, however, that he got several big selection decisions wrong last night. Hindsight is always 20: 20 of course, but let’s look at his team last night.

There were several easy choices for the England manager. Terry, Cole, Johnson, Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney were always going to be on the team sheet. That left five positions up for grabs.

Robert Green got the nod in goal in what was a surprise to many. The choice seemed to be between long time number one David James, who can be inconsistent, and Joe Hart, who is considered inexperienced. Capello sprung a surprise and now we all know how that decision turned out.

Ledley King was chosen to play beside John Terry in the absence of Rio Ferdinand.  Dawson, Upson or Carragher were the alternatives, but Capello went with the much injured Spurs stopper. King only lasted to half time before suffering from yet another injury. Wonder what the odds on that were.

Aaron Lennon and James Milner were selected in the wide midfield roles. Lennon was perhaps a fairly obvious selection but Milner had been ill for much of the week, curtailing his ability to train. He was substituted after half an hour in which he contributed nothing. The replacement was Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has been out of form in the latter part of the season. Joe Cole, who many expected to start the game, will be wondering why he did not get the opportunity to play.

Emile Heskey was selected to play up front alongside Wayne Rooney. Now I’ve never been a fan of Heskey, but I thought he had a decent game. He worked hard and was involved in several moves, setting up England’s goal for Gerrard.

His big weakness has always been that he doesn’t score enough goals and this was demonstrated clearly when he was though on goal but shot straight at the excellent Tim Howard. Would Jermaine Defoe have scored in that position? Hypothetical question, but I think a cooler finisher might have taken the chance.


Last night’s result just goes to prove that even the best of managers can make mistakes.

Now a draw in the opening game might not affect England’s World Cup campaign too much. Algeria and Slovenia will not be as difficult opponents as the well organised Americans were and they should still qualify comfortably for the next round.

Capello is far too experienced to let one poor result derail his plans. He does however have to do a motivational job on a squad that will not be feeling too positive this morning.

And I expect to see a few changes in the English line up for the next match.

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