Friday, October 22

It's Not Over, So Sorry

In all my 19 years as a football fan, never have I witnessed anything like this. And in all Wayne Rooney's 24 years on this planet, perhaps he's never really grown up. Yes, he's a wife and kid and possesses his very own Prestbury mansion complete with neo-Georgian pillars. But at 18 he wasn't revising for his A levels, prepping up to visit the Taj Mahal on a gap-year or labouring down the local KFC. He was penning a multi-million pound deal with the biggest football club in the world. Then married his six-year sweetheart at 22 and had a kid before the next Christmas. Rather than mature his character, it could be that fast-forwarding his life to such a level, all the while being led by his agent Paul Stretford, has left him somewhat lost and confused, hence the committing adultery, poor form at the World Cup and almost leaving the club he said he never would.

He's a rash personality, anyway. The statement he made on Wednesday evening, released though his 'people' two hours before United's next match, plainly did more harm than good. To question his teammates, Sir Alex's ability and, ahem, the ambition of a side who just over a year ago were lifting their eleventh Premier League title (three of which with him), it was rude beyond belief. There really was no way back. Even today, he said: "As a player here at United I care for the club. I had some concerns and I made the manager and David Gill aware of that... I've spoken with the manager, David Gill and the owners and all of them have confirmed to me that this is the right club for me to be at, and that this club is going to continue to be successful and win things." Well, if he cared that much he wouldn't have even contemplated exiting. And why does he even need it "confirmed" that Manchester United is where he should be?

Still, he hasn't left. He's decided to stay. Which, pretty frankly, is a massive gain for United. "The manager quite openly made it clear that the door was still open and that he still wanted me to sign. That's when I spoke to my agent and said, 'Let's go in and sit down with them and try to resolve it and try and get the deal down'." This maybe is the bit in Wayne Rooney's life where he truly finds his inner being, deciding to ignore whatever it was Stretford was suggesting to him. No way am I forgiving Wayne for disrespecting my team and fellow supporters the way he did, but it could be that he was just too callow before, and now he's, well, grown up. As SAF reflected: "I always feel it's a quality in a person to say he's sorry. I admire that in people." The Rooney of earlier this week may never have apologised.

Joining Manchester United wasn't the best decision Wayne Rooney ever made. Staying is. Now, when he returns to action - quite possibly against Manchester City on November 10 - let's hope he has the season of his life. Because if he does, I know I'll be cheering.

Klaxons 'It's Not Over Yet'

Wednesday, October 20

So Sorry, It's Over

"Rooney can be the best in the world at 25 if he knows you need to train hard, go to bed early and be careful with what you eat. But he could also be out of the best teams, out of England, out of the best 100 players. Completely out... The last time I saw him I wanted to say it but I saw him only quickly." What if Eric Cantona did say it to him? What if one of the most rousing players to have ever called Old Trafford 'home' saw Wayne Rooney for a good few minutes and advised him on how to become a true great just like him? But those questions are merely rhetorical now, because Rooney - the man formerly known to United fans as "the white Pelé" - is about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

So why, then? Why does Wayne - who's wife has seemingly taken him back in spite of reports that he cheated on her with a prostitute, is a popular figure amongst the United/England setups and already has enough millions to score each Chile miner X Factor final tickets directly behind the judges' table - want to leave the club that has given him so much love and so many trophies? This was the one question left over from Sir Alex Ferguson's press briefing today, as he himself could only muster: "I was dumbfounded, I couldn't understand it at all because only months before he'd said he was at the biggest club in the world and he wanted to stay for life. We just don't know what's changed the boy's mind." And despite SAF's dismissal of a fallout between the two, surely only a WWE-style tug o' war could lead the striker to exit.

That quote from King Eric, which was said in February 2006, speaks of demands Rooney has outwardly ignored in recent months. Photographed smoking and drinking on the pavements of Manchester's city centre, alongside the rumours of infidelity while Coleen was pregnant, these do not smack of a man chewing over how to become the best at the game. Perhaps during George Best's 1960s they do, but Wayne's old pal and the teetotal Cristiano Ronaldo isn't just the world's best because he relies on natural ability. Thus, rather than feature in the best teams or the best 100 players, Rooney isn't likely to give up past habits should he move in elsewhere. Not without Sir Alex looking after him, anyway.

So where will home be, then? As a slightly-more-than-diehard Utd devotee, I'm not sure I even care. If he wants to leave my team, he can take the first flight, train, bus or tram. First being the January transfer window, of course. Until then, I say let's not even play him. Not unless he's willing to come out and explain his reasoning for spitting the fans' wholehearted love back in their now-confused faces. And, sure, I'd rather he go anywhere than relocate across the city, just as the bookies are predicting he will. The daunting thing is, if he's so stupid as to wish to depart Old Trafford, who's to say he couldn't go one further and join big fish Carlos in small pond Eastlands?

Which leaves United where, exactly? Well, such was asked after the eliminations of Ince, Hughes, Kanchelskis, Beckham, van Nistelrooy, Keane, Stam and maybe a few more. But we lived on, going on to win literally everything under the sun, in fact. It may seem different, or worse even, this time around simply because Wayne Rooney - when in form - is by far the side's second-most valuable asset... Who's the first, you ask? How about the same gent who's seen it all before, won 35 trophies in 24 years this November and has every single right-minded United fan's faith in him? Plus, if anything, this more expansive challenge, perhaps his biggest yet, will only increase Sir Alex's hunger further.

Like everyone else, I can't believe Wayne Rooney is leaving Manchester United. Not one bit of this makes any sense. He may well be off to deepen his pockets either across town or on the continent, but never again will he repeat the glory he experienced in his years at Old Trafford. "Wayne can go on to achieve unbelievable things, he's got so much talent," once declared Paul Gascoigne. Remember him?

Blink-182 'So Sorry, It's Over'

Sunday, October 10

Say "Astronaut" #19

From 'The Chinese Woman' (S6E4)

Vampire Weekend 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa'

Thursday, October 7

New Folks

Other than Mumford & Sons taking advantage of their deserved-but-sorta-too-soon great popularity by playing a one-hour, forty-minute set, something else happened at Manchester Apollo the other night. Matthew And The Atlas are their name, and they came first in the support slots before the also wonderful Johnny Flynn.

Like Bon Iver and like Band of Horses and like the sane bits of Sufjan Stevens but not like Wild Beasts 'cause they suck and even like Mumford, they're more folk'd up than a too-friendly Facebook friend. The tracks I've found kicking their sneaks around the web are all pretty pretty, though 'Deadwood' is more gorgeous than any.

It may be because I've now turned the old age of 24, but I do think there are way too many bands out there at the moment. Matthew And The Atlas, however, better not go away.

Matthew And The Atlas 'Deadwood'

Sunday, October 3

So Long, My Mumford

Mumford & Sons' debut album was exceptional. Shout And Twist's most-favourite from last year, in fact. And boy have they had the deserved adulation to revel in, too. But last night, watching them at Manchester's intimate-for-its-size Apollo, though they were brilliant in their performance, they played for a whole hour and forty minutes. We had some B-sides, four new songs, a few attempts at stand-up, an old old song or two. Personally, I think it's the result of modernity fast-forwarding bands to superstardom before they even, quite frankly, earn it. Yes, they are rightly one of the biggest and best-loved groups in the UK, but does that justify such a long show? Would Coldplay have played that long a set while touring 'Parachutes' in 2000/2001? I just don't think they would. If I'm wrong, I take it all back. And believe me, I looove M&S, I'm just writing this 'cause I care.

Saturday, October 2

Don't Go Away

A crisis, this I don't think is. I mean, it's not May and we're not on the threshold of taking the title, or the UCL, or the FA Cup or whatever. It is October. But four points from our first four away games is, quite frankly, disastrous. And the issues that were suffocating us in the first two - literally throwing away three points in the 90th minute - were defensive. But today, today we couldn't even get our attack right. We had two, maybe three, relatively good chances, but nothing, absolutely nothing, came from them.

It could be argued that Dimitar Berbatov's incredible hatrick against Liverpool was the worst thing to happen to him - now the expectancy put upon him is higher than ever, but since, in the three games he's been involved in, he's done zip. It's hard to say whether Rooney would have made a difference today. I think it'll be a long time before we see his best again, but we will see it. And Owen, who got another rare start to show the kind of impact he can have, just didn't make anything of it. Hernandez, after coming on and scoring that brilliant goal in the week, perhaps should have started today, but one can only say that in hindsight. Nani still only shows glimpses of real United-worthy talent, while Macheda, I really can't see what the big deal is - he's not shown anything substantial to indicate he can do what he did against Villa two seasons ago now on a weekly basis. And at Manchester United, that's what you're meant to do.

The only fruitful thing to say about our horrendous away form is that it is early season. And even if Chelsea do win tomorrow, they're not miles and miles ahead of us. But will we still win it all? Of course we will, we're Manchester United.

Oasis 'Don't Go Away'

Friday, October 1

Albums Of Last Month

Brandon Flowers 'Flamingo' (Island)

Brandon Flowers sure gets a lot of slack for one who bestowed us with two of the mightiest indie anthems from the past six years. Plainly, said-anthems have polluted our gray matters to the point where we might have to Perry Smith a country family at the glimpse of them again. And yes, there is the believing-in-Mormonism factor. But really, his The Killers have still churned out two highly passable endeavours following 2004's unerring 'Hot Fuss', human, dancer or a cross-breed of the two. So why he's determined to set out upon the solo dominion is open to debate, you only need to drop in on Robbie's rehab sittings to suss the viable side-effects. Yet meet 'Flamingo' - and it's here where we'll have to do away with you hoity-toity, anti-aspiring sorts - because this is BIG refrains and devout slushiness and pop-affable hooks and, like, really good.
Of course we encounter an incoming, flickering buzz of suspense to set things in motion, before 'Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas' - where "the house will always win" - powers into its march through adamant guitars and an indelible chorus. "Cameras on the ceiling tile, no place for you to hide; It's a hundred seven and you're looking for shade; That no palm tree can provide," Flowers howls of his hometown, downright ashamed by the degeneracy that helms the city's survival. Never has his bashfulness about Vegas been so apparent.
'Only The Young' - a keys-vesseled parade founded by a climate of near-hymning - speaks further on man's quest to be 'good'. "Nothing is easy, nothing is sacred, why? Where did the bow break?... Are you looking for a sign? Or are you caught up in a lie?" He's surely inquisitive, but of who? Possibly those in the Vegas houses, as Flowers too all but guides the next crop elsewhere with the line, "Only the young can break away".
It's in 'Playing With Fire' where a recognition of other notions bares itself - and, atop a warm, absorbing backdrop, finally 'Flamingo' appears not so sententious. "Perhaps his calling is the channel of invention, I will not blush if others see it as a crime... This church of mine may not be recognised by steeple, that doesn't mean that I will walk without a god," he tells, confirming his trust in one Joseph Smith, but recognising the outside's interpretation all the same. Previously, Flowers has struck home a tad preachy, yet he'd be so much less of a soul if he didn't once perceive the doubt in his own doctrine.
'Was It Something I Said?' lifts the temper up with a zippy beat and '75 Springsteen invigoration, though this motif of uncertainty won't go away. Flowers belts about a couple ready to wed on the Vegas strip, until "there was something gone... I hear church bells ringing in my head and I take them everywhere I go; Valentina met a dealer and I hear they had a baby five months ago", maybe suggesting that it was faith that was "gone" for Valentina. 'Heading down Tropicana' and 'getting a job at the Nugget', he continues to point out the haunts of Las Vegas, and in 'On The Floor', his distaste in its customs is on show again. "When the lights go down in the city something is roaring, I find myself waiting to believe; On the floor where the mice call shots, that's where I'll be... on my knees begging please." Joined by restful, tender piano and eventually a choir, Flowers seemingly prays for his fatherland to return from the Sin City it has become. A promo for Vegas tourism this is not.
You've no doubt heard 'Crossfire's bodacious thump all over everywhere of late, but there's no dismissing its sheer pop empathy, notably that gooey guitar solo which steals the close.
And 'Swallow It' at first looks like an odd choice to close the album, the tune itself not as noteworthy as what's come prior. Then Flowers calls: "Take your medicine and crawl before you walk, think it through before you open your mouth to talk; Be an advocate of joy, find your little heart's desire and follow it." This medicine we're asked to swallow could be worship, it could be truth - but it's a fitting finale because of its missive to take one's time and wander the trail one knows one should.
So, where does this all leave us? Well, if it wasn't clear before as to why a Brandon Flowers solo album exists, it sure as shootin' is now. You know those TV adverts that ask for a few £s a month to aid what they show are damaged, hard-up kids when you'd most likely be abetting right little brats? 'Flamingo' is nearly like that, only the damaged kids that yank at your heart in the ads are synth-pop'd gobbets of prowess, and the brats are holier-than-thou tactics to market, well, religion. Flowers's faith in you-know-what is self-evident, but he's still conscious of contrasting outlooks (see 'Playing With Fire' and hence the "nearly"). Plus he's not trying to sell what he's convinced of, but more confirm his own dogma - and it's that which is why this record is alive. And wouldn't it just be unchristian to cold-shoulder these tracks solely for their standpoints? Brandon Flowers has sussed who he wants to be - and 'Flamingo' is the finest way to celebrate.

Best Track
Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas

Weezer 'Hurley' (Epitaph)

The thing with the last three Weezer records ('Make Believe', 'Weezer' and 'Raditude') is that upon their first listen, one comes away feeling like the LA alt.legends have retorted to their former glory. Of course, only later were it the lead singles ('Beverly Hills, 'Pork And Beans' and '(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To') and a handful of others that exhibited any kind of resurgence. 'Hurley', however, named after the 'Lost' character of the same name - with darnright fantastic added face cover art to boot - is quite actually the nearest thing to the power-punk of 2002's 'Maladroit' since, well, 'Maladroit'. Here exists not only the cute nature of 'Island In The Sun', but also the wholesale guitar fathom of 'Keep Fishin'.
And 'Memories' is the most prudent way to get off the ground for any record, let alone this one. Almost like an antidote to Arcade Fire's whole don't-go-back-to-suburbia shtick, we're left screeching, "All the memories make me want to go back there," upon rock-ribbed energy chords and an as-zipping bass line. Rivers Cuomo, who's been uncomfortably affable of late, sings without an inkling that he's really not that much younger than your dad, too. 'Ruling Me' continues the happy-go-lucky dulcety, while 'Trainwrecks' is THE Weezer song - heck, anthem - of Weezer anthems. We're talking a leadoff hymn followed by a clobbering Fender-pluck followed by Cuomo chiming in, "We sleep all day and rock the night, we just get up to start another fight, we kiss and then we bite, we are traaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinwreeeeeeecks." Is he ragging on the grievous hoodies the West has come to known or chanting highly of his own alternative kingdom? You know, it's kind of hard to tell. But as the song - sorry, anthem - soldiers on into an all-out declaration of such dogma (whatever such may be), it's hard not lining 'Trainwrecks' up next to 'Buddy Holl', 'Undone - The Sweater Song', 'Say It Ain't So', et al. Yes, for real.
Those scouting around for Weezer's pulpier side will find soothe in 'Unspoken' and album ender 'Time Flies'. And though 'Run Away' jump-starts all gooey ("I thought you would always be my friend, now everything must end; And so the world moves on, and everything must change," Rivers whooshes with only an old-sounding piano for company), it takes to the air by virtue of a fearsome 'n' crunchy riff'd raw of a broken-love song. The Harvard grad has never been one for weighty libretto (despite his degree in English), but there's something charmingly straight about, "Sometimes I wish I was a house at the end of the block, you could smash all my windows with the throw of a rock." All this might come across a bit pensive if it wasn't for 'Hang On', which comes next and is high on ragged pop harmonies and one last yearning for romance. "Someday I'll be coming for you, you know what I'm wanting to do; I know the words to say to draw you in so close to me," could register a little freaky, but then it is the Ruler of Madcapness behind it.
The reality that this is Weezer's first venture since leaving Geffen for indie Epitaph might go some way to explaining their picking-up-where-'Maladroit'-left-off, much like Radiohead after departing EMI for XL. This really does have all the pop-punk, punk-pop'd flair of their early days - and why move forward when there's no-one in your way?

Best Track

Mark Ronson 'Record Collection' (Columbia)

Mark Ronson seems like a nice guy. In interviews, on TV, on the radio, he comes across funny, astute and also cutely bashful by his own self-consciousness. But he only has himself to accuse for the 'KILL MARK RONSON' propaganda that has branded the Shoreditch kids' tees in the last few. I mean, he did make a second album refashioning/kiboshing/transmogrifying some of the worthiest numbers from the past decade or so. Yes, Amy Winehouse meowed the heck outta 'Valerie', but he further touched up The Smiths, Coldplay and Radiohead... Like, how dare he? Yet surely Ronson was very much mindful of the to-do that potentially followed, that beneath the Brit Award and double-platinum sales disc would be an incessant wrathful gawk from the other side of the room, asking: 'Who is exactly are you and what have you done with my Morrissey?' Or maybe it was his duty all along to piss us real music fans off and then switch via a new album, not charged with others' ideas, but honest-to-goodness, intriguing creativeness, leading to an expression of regret from the ones that snubbed his initial coming-out party. If so, then I'm sorry Mr Ronson. 'Record Collection' is, like, holla good.
It is actually he and his Business Intl (no, not International) who have tailored this all together. In fact, you could very well, much like on 'Versions', go deep inside this record and wonder, 'But what does Mark Ronson actually do?' "I'm producing every song. On a couple I'm singing and I'm playing the guitar or keys on every song. There's certain songs where I wrote all the music and Jonathan Pierce (of the The Drums-fame) just wrote the lyrics," he said recently, confirming that if there was ever a clarification needed for 'music producer', he is most positively it.
And lead single 'Bang Bang Bang' is about the best place to start. Featuring the wordplay of Queens rapper Q-Tip ("We're never gonna believe in the stories that you're weavin', we're believin' in the proof, we're believin' in the truth") and the lesser-known Amanda Warner's vocals from synthpop duo MNDR, one can't help but sway to the peppy, feel-good throbs and thrashes pounding off into the sun. Sure, it's enough already with the '80s, but not before this leaked out.
The too-short 'Lose It (In The End)' has a horn 'n' whistle-fuelled fuzziness to it that coulda dripped off the last Kaiser Chiefs record, while some societal divergence on, well, heartbreak lobbies atop. "I know what way to go when it comes to the ladies... I'm still picking them crazies, you wanna battle a court, like Kim and Slim Shady," raps Ghostface Killah (he of Staten Island). "Yeah, I said too much again; Yeah, I pushed too hard again; And I wanna start but when? I always lose it in the end," sings Alex Greenwald (he of Phantom Planet, they of 'California', which of 'The O.C.'). It's an enchanting disparity Ronson has cast here, and as significant as it is fun to listen to.
'The Bike Song', however, now seems like a weak second single bearing in mind what else there is to choose from, such as 'You Gave Me Nothing' - a klaxon-muscling whish-whash of pop resulting from a Calvin Harris dominion. In sooth, it's like a less galling version of that Harris and Dizzee track last year, only with ex-Pipette Rose Dougall and Miike Snow's leader Andrew Wyatt holding down the fort.
Even the instrumentals - and there are about four of 'em - are righteous movements in their own right. The indelible bleepmospheric jungle of the 4 mins, 24 secs 'Circuit Breaker' especially.
And 'The Night Last Night', marking the finale, is where the disco slows down - although only slightly, as Greenwald and Dougall take it in turns to sing all sweet-tempered upon dreamy landscapes like nothing else could close this album.
So see, what Mark Ronson has displayed over these 14 tracks is that we need him now as much as he needed The Zutons then. The man plainly has one of the best tastes in music, in music, and, as 'Record Collection' makes clear, some majorly talented allies to boot. Sure, those 'Version' apologists will eat this up no end. But so will the haters, too.

Best Track
The Night Last Night