Sunday, 25 February 2007

Ireland 43 England 13

Ah, shit.

I didn't think England played too badly, actually - Wilkinson kicked reasonably well, the scrum was unfairly penalised a couple of times, and there were a couple of basic handling errors, but there was some really neat passing work going on in the backs, and the rush defence seems to be getting ingrained. But thirty points, though...

I watched the second half across the road, with an Irish family, whose niece was playing with my son and a couple of kids from down our road in the back garden. They were passionate enough about it. I could see how much it meant to them, playing the English at Croke Park. We talked about the 1921 massacre at the stadium, the role of the Irish in the Second World War, everything, and we were still welcomed into their home. Even if it did mean I had to watch my team get thrashed.

Ireland well deserved it. I could see they were up for it right from the anthems, the tears streaming down John Hayes' face. From the kick-off their forwards just swarmed all over the pitch, led of course by Paul O'Connell, who seemed to be everywhere at once. I haven't seen forward play that strong apart from watching the All Blacks, Richie McCaw, Chris Jack and their teammates. And Shane Horgan looks like a proper winger now, not just a great lump. He can run, and the way he went through David Strettle at one point was just monstrous. It was unfortunate that we had a lot of young guys out there - Strettle, Morgan, Tait, these are lads that are finding their feet in the international game, and you can't expect them to go to Croke Park, of all places, and win. No chance.

But next year at Twickenham? Maybe. Ireland will take some beating, though. World Cup runners-up.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Hard to blog regularly, especially when you're working...

That said, something that caught my eye, and following on from my Amy Winehouse post (and yes, I was pleased that she won two awards, although Arctic Monkeys were well-deserved winners also), was the Brits. I watched it half-cut from cheap red wine, with the kids shouting and running in front of the telly every 15 seconds - me shouting, "GERRROUTAVITTT!" Anyway...

Last award of the night was Outstanding Achievement for Oasis. Now this was a bit of a puzzle to me at the time. Outstanding? Really? When was the last time they actually released a good record? I scratched my head cast my mind back... and realised they hadn't done anything of note since 1996. Be Here Now was stunningly crap, and none of the supposed 'comeback' singles since then (Go Let It Out, Lyla, The Importance Of Being Idle) had ever been worth the asking price. So they were getting what's supposed to be the biggest award for what is essentially a career of two albums - Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory.

Hmmm. Bit over the top?

Then - worst of all - they started playing. And Liam opened his mouth. Oh dear. What happened to that voice? I once read it described as a cross between Lennon's caustic sneer, Johnny Rotten's nasal whine, and Ian Brown's shamanistic mumblings, and what the hell was it now? Just a sort of strangled bark. This wasn't how I remembered Oasis.

They looked the same. Well, on first inspection, anyway. Liam still has that huge mane that he's been cultivating since time began, and Noel... Actually, Noel looks like a waxwork of himself. And I twigged - he's 40 now. 40 years old. I sat back and realised that this man, an icon of my youth, was now well into the 'old codger' phase of his life. Which would explain why he looks like that. An older man trying to look the same as he did 15 years ago. God, has time flown that much?

And obviously the rest of the original band have long gone - Guigsy, Bonehead, Alan White - replaced by Noel's crawling sycophants, Gem Archer and Andy Bell, who couldn't get anywhere with their own bands and had to hang onto the hull of a supertanker, leaving their sinking rubber dinghies behind. Non-entities, never of any consequence, never will be, but living proof that Oasis aren't really a band anymore, just a name and a group of people, nothing more.

It was appalling really, listening to what were just competent renditions of songs that had actually meant something once, like watching a tribute band. Including the crap vocalist, trying to ape his hero, aiming for the stars and falling way, way short. I started to question why I'd ever liked them in the first place. Wasn't this just pub rock, no imagination, no intelligence behind it?

Then I remembered an interview with the Arctic Monkeys, saying that Oasis inspired them to pick up their first guitars. And I remembered all my years of listening to those first two albums on the bus to college. So I made a promise to myself to listen to Definitely Maybe on my Walkman the next day.

Next morning, walk to the bus stop. Rock'n'Roll Star. Oh my god. Yes, it was this good. I had completely forgotten. And fuck me was it loud! CDs nowadays are louder than ever, but this was right up there in volume, and not diminishing quality, because this was how it was meant to be played - full blast. A massive wall of guitar. Slade pounding away at the stomping guitar riff, with a sudden Smithsian jangle thrown in for good measure.

And this was before Liam had even started singing. And yes, his voice really was that good. Not joking, he almost sounded like a choirboy, almost angelic. Not innocent, of course, that goes without saying, but something pure and unaffected. This was how it was, and he wasn't trying to play the role of Liam Gallagher, he was just himself. His vocals just soared, like an eagle. And I was stuck to my earphones with a dizzy grin on my face, transported for an hour or so back to my teenage years. In a good way.

It was like that through the whole ablum, and more. Live Forever and Slide Away, still glorious love songs, those vocals achieving lift-off again. The just-too-slow-enough-to-be-cool drum pattern on Supersonic, Cigarettes & Alcohol just oozing cool, with that sleazy T Rex riff rolling along, Married With Children still as understated and affecting as it had always been, Whatever - a better anthem than Hey Jude, still pissed all over East 17 and Mariah Carey, who pushed it down into No.3 at Christamas 1994 (crime).

So even though, as I said, they received an outstanding achievement award for what amounts to two albums - it was worth it, they did their job. And I'll forgive Noel for Be Here Now.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Funny Things, No. 2.

Green Park station, Victoria Line Northbound platform, one day last week about half past four.

Over the tannoy: "Will all station cleaners please report to the station supervisor's office IMMEDIATELY."

One minute later: "Will all station cleaners, who are sitting in their mess room drinking tea and watching telly, report to the supervisor's office IMMEDIATELY."

Ten seconds later: "Will the cleaner who is walking past the mess room please open the door and tell all cleaners inside to put down their tea and report to the supervisor's office IMMEDIATELY. Thank you."

One of the few occasions when passengers actually look at each other. And smile.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

I might be a bit of a late adopter on this, but it's gonna be a total injustice if Amy Winehouse doesn't get Best Album at the Brits. I liked Rehab and You Know I'm No Good when they came out, but the album just gets better after those two tracks. I've never heard a white English girl, who's younger than me, sound more world-weary, more black, more soulful than her. No idea where it comes from - let's face it, Billie Holliday ain't much of an influence to most singers nowadays.

Also, I read that it's not released till March in the US, so anyone who might possibly be reading this in America - have a look at it, it's a step up from Beyonce singing about how she's too good for her man, and how she could get another man whenever she clicks her fingers.

I don't know what that was all about, Irreplacable, I mean. Her man's a multi-millionaire rapper! If she can get "another him in a minute", then she's doing well for herself. Anyway, I digress. Amy Winehouse. Fantastic singer, sexy (although my girlfriend doesn't think so), she deserves to be a star.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Funny Things, No.1.

Furiously scanning about 400 pages worth of signalling course material (I'm still doing it now) at half past 6 in the morning, I hear my four month old daughter crying, which is followed soon enough by my girlfriend stumbling down the stairs, so as to make up a bottle of milk.

It's the hair. I've always liked watching her wake up, usually a long process in which she gradually realises that a new day has dawned and sleep won't be coming back for a considerable period of time.

However, this morning her thick, black, frizzed hair is bursting from her head like an untamed hedge. Almost a bomb-burst of hair, you might say. The effect is accentuated by a single, tiny white hair bobble, clinging on to a few strands of hair on the right side of her head, as if to say, "well, I couldn't manage it all, but I've got what I can, and by God, I'm going to hang on to it."

She says she's getting her hair done at the weekend.