toyGuitar – Move Like A Ghost

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toyGuitar – Move Like A Ghost
Fat Wreck Chords (2016)

I love toyGuitar frontman Jack Dalrymple; from his fuzzy, indie-punk guitar riffs and old-fashioned ’70s crooner rasp, to his perfect long hair and denim jacket, San Francisco swagger. It’s all good.

In my opinion, Dalrymple’s previous band Dead to Me peaked on their 2008 EP Little Brother. And when he left, none of his replacements had the same charisma. The same infectious, magnetic personality. Luckily, Move Like A Ghost is soaked in it.

Hot on the heels of toyGuitar’s catchy as fuck debut full-length, 2015’s In This Mess, Move Like A Ghost features six hip-jangling new anthems, which I’ve listened to on repeat for days now. Dalrymple’s timeless garage-rock, pop-punk flair is in full-swing on the EP. And in many ways, it’s the follow up to Little Brother we didn’t get to hear – yet, by the sound of things.

By now, toyGuitar’s really nailed their sound down – like Charles Bronson booby trapping a house. There’s jangly, up-tempo rock ‘n roll jams, perfectly crafted slower tunes and more hooks than a ’90s horror movie. The band sounds like a tight outfit, and Dalrymple’s groovy melodies are perfectly backed by drummer Rosie Gonce, bassist Paul Oxborrow and guitarist Miles Peck, who seem to realise they’ve got something special (and allow him to thrive). Gonce’s party-on drumming suits the band’s sound perfectly; never stepping on any toes but getting toes to step.

More than anything, Move Like A Ghost sounds like a good time. A party you’d love to snag an invite to. Short, sweet and memorable. In truth, toyGuitar cram a lot into their 13 minutes. It’s a total trip. A mixed bag of bouncy, in-your-face lightning bolts and swirly slower jams. Dark. Entertaining. And uplifting. All at once. Ending with “Turn It Around,” a “cathartic” Dalrymple ode to his former One Man Army and Re-Volts bandmate Heiko Schrepel, who, sadly, died in 2015. My only complaint is that it’s too short…

Camden Town Brewery – India Hells Lager

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I wasn’t a big fan of Camden Town Brewery. Their Hells, Pale and Gentleman’s Wit beers seem to lack flair and imagination. And the weekend after Beavertown’s Taproom experience, Camden Town’s brewery bar in Camden Road was a massive letdown. But a couple of nights ago I ended up at their newish pub Camden’s Daughter in Kentish Town, knocking back pints of India Hells Lager, and I came around.

I’m a sucker for strong, tasty, hoppy beers that go down smooth. And India Hells Lager is just that beer. It’s a weird one, really. Boasting all the flavour of an IPA, repackaged as a lager, the IHL is hoppy and citrussy, yet tantalizingly bitter and refreshing. Not as sweet as usual; a really complete experience.

To achieve this, Camden Town have thrown magnum, mosaic, chinook and simcoe hops over a knockout pilsner, munich and cara pils malt, delivering a hazy, rich and cloudy brew bursting with aroma and punch – and a powerful 6.2% ABV backbone! And as you can see, I went back for more.

L.O.B. vs Wednesday Week – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Friday night football. Not quite as tantalising a draw without Rachel Riley. Because, with two players dropping out hours before the game, the Greys went from a comfortable nine-man, one-sub situation to scouting semi-abandoned Coram’s Fields for ringers five minutes before kick-off. Luckily, they find Granit Xhaka.

Playing in blue and white stripes, tonight’s opponents, Wednesday Week, must have thought they were in for an easy ride when the Greys line up one man down. Still, the Greys look determined to maintain their undefeated status three games into the new season.

The Greys kick off and things look promising. Playing on the left, Martin looks a real threat up front. And with him doing enough running for two players, perhaps our heroes might just be able to pull this off after all.

Martin gets the ball deep in Wednesday Week’s half and darts forward threateningly, but his shot tears into the side netting. A few minutes later Rob knocks a through ball into Martin’s feet but this time he blazes it over the bar. And suddenly, Xhaka – aka 18-year-old ringer Callum in a Number 29-Xhaka Arsenal third kit – reappears with a pair of boots and shin pads and the Greys are back up to eight.

Still, it’s Wednesday Week who strike first. Their right winger runs on to a defence-splitting through ball and smashes his shot past Greys keeper Yusuf. Almost immediately afterwards the Greys get a free kick on the edge of Wednesday Week’s box and while they’re still arguing about the wall Martin tucks the ball neatly into the bottom left corner. Game on.

Just before half-time Wednesday Week strike again. A hopeful shot deflects off Julien at the back and the ball falls to an unmarked striker in blue and white, who smashes it in to put Wednesday Week 2-1 up at half time.

Greys defender Koyes has an idea and switches the formation to three at the back, with midfielder Manu dropping into left back. All of a sudden the Greys look much more solid in defence, which gives the attacking players the freedom to just get on with it.

Martin passes two men down the left like a man possessed and whips in a dangerous-looking cross. Rob rises to meet it and glances his header past Wednesday Week’s keeper – who reacts just in time to bend and fish the ball out of his net. 2-2.

Wednesday Week kick-off again and play it back. Charging forward, Martin closes down the slow-thinking last defender and wins the ball back, blasting his shot past a now stunned and slightly annoyed-looking Wednesday Week keeper to put the Greys 3-2 up.

Next, Rob gets the ball just inside Wednesday Week’s half and hits a hopeful long ball up the pitch. Xhaka runs on to it, and to everyone’s surprise, he hits a sweet, Match of the Day quality half-volley into the bottom right corner. 4-2 Greys.

Smelling blood, the Greys circle their blue and white-striped prey. And again it’s Martin who seizes the initiative, ghosting past dejected-looking striped shirts and rolling an appetising pass into the box. Rob runs on to it and darts the ball into the top right corner. 5-2 Greys.

Wednesday Week can hardly believe what’s going on. They were 2-1 up at half-time and in the space of about 15 minutes the Greys have turned things upside down. Still not content, Martin charges down the right hand side this time – if you could see a heat map of his touches the pitch graphic would look like the floor of a Heinz Ketchup factory.

Still going, he cuts past another defender and squares the ball to Greys forward Hammam, who fakes to shoot, sending the last blue and white man the wrong way, and tucks the ball coolly into the top right hand corner of the goal to make it 6-2 to the Greys.

By this stage the Greys look like real title contenders. Rob holds the ball up like Diego Costa and is surprisingly delicate on his feet for a big man. Martin’s all over the place like Action Jackson. And at one point, he spins past a shell-shocked Wednesday Week defender and the small crowd gathering on the touchline gasps.

Silk-footed Manu looks comfortable at left back as well – as cool and calm under pressure as always. And Julien and Koyes are fast, determined and always ready to stick in a leg, a boot, a head and make that tackle.

But suddenly, with referee “I know everything about football” Nev about to blow the final whistle, Julien brings Wednesday Week’s right winger down on the edge of the Greys’ box. The free-kick is whipped in quickly and Koyes can only manage to flash his header past Yusuf and into his own net. And that’s how it finishes. 6-3 to the Greys. Undefeated. Hungry. And ready for more…

L.O.B. vs Haggerston – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Last week’s 7-1 win got the Greys off to a great start but an 8:00pm Monday night kick-off had team organisers scrambling around for players surprisingly early in the season. Luckily, Adam came through with two strong ringers, and come kick-off the Greys had an exciting make-shift side ready to take on Haggerston Park, aka the Greens.

The Greys kicked off but somehow, Haggerston took the initiative, pressing our heroes deep into their own half and making them sweat. The air was hot and thick but the Greys were tenacious at the back, kicking and scrapping and putting their bodies on the line to keep the Greens out.

Julien, Paul and Chris were in charge at the back, but Adam and stand-in right winger Marc were all over the place. Crosses fizzed in but the Greys always managed to get a glancing head on it and diffuse the situation.

Finally, the Greens’ mop-haired forward “Sideshow Bob” broke the lines and fired a shot on goal. Luckily, keeper Yusuf dived to his left and kept it out. And that’s how it went for the next 10 minutes, the Greys rolling up their sleeves, digging in their heels and keeping the game goalless.

Meanwhile, left winger Karim and centre-forward Rob managed to string a few chances together for the Greys up front. Karim cut in from the left wing and was brought down heavily on the edge of the box, but blasted the free-kick over the goal (and nearby fence).

Both teams struggled with long range shots, because the ball was flat and split down the middle – but it was the only one between all sixteen players.

The first goal came early in the second half. The Greens’ left winger beat the Greys’ defence and burst forward towards the goal. Yusuf came out to close him down but the striker squared the ball to Sideshow Bob, who was unmarked in the box and tapped it in to put Haggerston 1-0 up.

Meanwhile, Greys ringer Marc won a throw in close to the Greens’ corner flag and took it early. Rob held the ball up – his back to goal – and spun around, knocking the ball across the line. Karim was first to it, and he made no mistake. 1-1.

Soon afterwards Adam played the ball wide to Karim, who shot from way too far out – or so it seemed. But he hit the ball low and true, bending it into the bottom right corner of the Greens’ goal, a bit like Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s seemingly hopeful effort against Bournemouth this season.

But… heartbreak; the Greens snuck past the Greys’ last man again and Yusuf could only parry the strike. The rebound was tapped in just in front of the line by Sideshow Bob following up.

To be fair, 2-2 was a fair result at this point. But Haggerston didn’t think so. It felt like they attacked for the last 10 minutes non-stop. Still, the Greys worked hard to cling on to the draw. It was a tough game and everyone was drenched in sweat by the end – Karim rung his shirt out like he’d swum the Channel.

Man, The How I Met Your Mother Finale Sucks!

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I know I’m two years late to the party and everyone’s moved on, but my wounds are fresh and I need to unload. I didn’t used to get CBS mega-hit How I Met Your Mother. Friends raved about the show but I didn’t think it was funny. Then, recently, I watched a few re-runs with my morning coffees and got hooked. I decided to watch the whole thing on Netflix and enjoyed the ride. But now, post-finale, I feel cheated, angry and confused. The show’s final two-parter has got to be one of the worst send-offs in television history.

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I burnt through nine years of “Legen… Wait for it.. Dary”s and sandwiches, watching Jason Segal get fat, skinny and return to normal practically overnight. It’s strange watching five people age so much in a week, really. Cobie Smulders gets better looking. Josh Radnor’s “J.D.” hair gets quiffier and more ridiculous. And Neil Patrick Harris just gets better suits. Getting to know the gang was fun but sadly, the show’s writers decided to undo nine years of heartfelt “Have you met Ted”s in the worst, most spineless way imaginable.

The problem I have with the last episode of How I Met Your Mother is how badly it cheapens and undoes Ted, Barney and Robin’s personal journeys on the show. How much it makes the whole series feel like a complete waste of time, or one big joke. And just how wrong and unsatisfactory it seems.

Spoiler alert

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During the show, serial womaniser and general well-suited scumbag Barney Stintson falls in love with aspiring news anchor – and Ted’s ex – Robin Scherbatsky. He changes his ways, develops a conscience and becomes more likeable, more three-dimensional and human. At one point he even says, “For a long time, deep down I felt sort of, broken. But I don’t feel that way anymore.” It gets pretty heavy. Then, after a drawn-out, 23-episode build up to their wedding, Barney and Robin divorce quicker than Britney Spears and Barney gets a new playbook, returning to his original two-dimensional, caricature persona.

Ted, on the other hand, finally meets Tracy McConnell, the mother of his children and the woman of his dreams. He falls head over heels in love with her and the writers go out of their way to make Tracy cool, likeable and well worth the wait – from her bass guitar to her leather driving gloves. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s played by gorgeous, Grammy winning singer Cristin Milioti.

Of course, soon after she’s introduced Tracy’s killed off by a mystery illness and Ted decides to go all Ross-and-Rachel and win Robin back. With his kids’ blessing he re-steals the blue French horn he swiped for Robin in episode one and shows up on the street outside her flat window. Taking a stab at immortality, he raises the horn over his head like Lloyd Dobler in ’80s classic Say Anything and gives Robin the look.

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The problem is, How I Met Your Mother is not Friends. You don’t actually want Ted and Robin to get back together at this stage. They’ve grown apart. They’re incompatible. And Barney and Robin are the perfect couple. Insane, but totally right for each other. Besides, Ted should have ended up with Tracy. That’s the show we signed up for. That’s the show we wanted.

The switch doesn’t even come across as a devious, well-planned twist. It’s just a cheap, tacky and spineless way to wrap up nine years of sentimentality. It’s all so sudden as well, the way it all just happens in an instance – from Ted meeting Tracy and Tracy dying to Robin and Barney getting divorced and Ted Showing up outside Robin’s window feeling horny. The big build up to nothing.

In the wake, Barney’s progress and emotional development is forever crushed by the senseless juggernaut you still can’t believe just tore through the show. Turning it into How I Met Your Aunt Robin and Killed Off Your Uncle Barney Forever.

I still don’t get why you’d throw nearly a decade’s worth of emotional investment under the bus like that, in a failed attempt at being witty, ironic and unpredictable. It’s forced and unnecessary. And in truth, the brave choice would have been the complete opposite.

I can watch Friends episodes over and over but How I Met Your Mother has suddenly become unwatchable, forever lost under a dark cloud of bitterness, disappointment and false tragedy. If only I’d stopped watching five episodes ago…

Moose Blood – Blush

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Moose Blood – Blush
Hopeless/No Sleep (2016)

At first, I wasn’t blown away by Kent powerhouses Moose Blood’s new album Blush. In truth I checked them out because I’d seen their name around – a lot – and it’s a cool band name. But instead of the hairy, red-blooded mountain men I was expecting I got sensitive, well-groomed dudes in skintight jeans, glasses and no socks.

I’ve used the word “emo” to describe Moose Blood to friends. More The Starting Line than My Chemical Romance, though, with a similar, well-articulated English-accent rasp to London’s Apologies, I have None. And sure enough, the catchy, emotionally wrought pop jams grew on me big time.

The most striking thing about Blush is its sincerity. It’s likeable, easy to relate to and contagious, and the more you listen, the more memorable the songs seem to become. Frontman Eddy Brewerton’s lyrics are honest, heartfelt, reflective and full of feeling. And I really like lead guitarist Mark Osbourne’s smooth, super melodic doodles, which compliment the brooding power ballads perfectly.

Sometimes, Blush does cross over into Counting Crows territory, which is when I hit the skip button. But it got under my skin. I keep coming back to it.

London-by-Zee 6 – Hackney City Farm

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Today’s the day. We’re taking Zara to Hackney City Farm. Finally. To celebrate her first birthday. And she couldn’t be happier. Then again, she’s always happy, and of course, she has no idea where we’re heading really. She does love a good train ride, though. It’s funny, to her, most experiences are new. But this time she’s in for a big surprise.

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Paul Don Smith

We get off at Hoxton and I take a few shots of the always flavoursome Art Under the Hood corner. Instagram gold, that. Suddenly, I catch a whiff of the good stuff. The couple in front of us are smoking a massive spliff, each! We catch up, pass them and I stare at their nonchalance with a mixture of disbelief and irritation. But the guy stares back at us threateningly, like, “What?”

For some reason, everyone’s carrying massive pot plants, bags of flowers and mini trees. I can’t work it out. It looks like a nearby botanical garden’s having a closing down sale. Or they’re restocking the roof garden of a department store. We walk on, past Roa’s rabbit, which has been reclaimed by the leaves.

Suddenly, we’re there. Hackney City Farm. A sign by the entrance advertises duck, goose and chicken eggs. The smell of well-trodden straw wafts towards us. A crew of ducks and chickens steam past. And suddenly, it feels like we’ve stepped into a bizarre pocket far removed from our daily jaunts around north London.

Zara’s literally jumping out of her sling, craning her neck to get a better look and pointing at the creatures from her picture books come to life. “Der… Der… Der,” she says. Pointing and looking back at me with sheer disbelief, amazement and joy.

A rooster puffs up his chest and crows at us. A group of Indian runner ducks stand on tiptoes and flap their wings. And chickens mill about like pigeons. We head in and check out the massive pig. But he doesn’t stir, his hulking body sprawled out on his cosy hay bed. We pass another giant pig passed out in his tin-roof sty, but the star of the show is the little paddock around the back.

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The sheep pretty much keep to themselves in the middle of the patch, leaving the entertaining to the more amiable goats and donkeys. Luckily, they oblige, coming right up to the fence to say hello (and eat leaves). Zara’s favourites are Larry the donkey, who’s 22 years old, and his younger girlfriend Clover, who’s 16.

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Incredibly, donkeys can mate for life and live for up to 50 years. Suddenly, an Italian friend’s comment about eating donkeys broke my heart a little. Later, Zara…

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I wash my hands on auto-pilot before leaving, brainwashed by the 500 signs telling me to do so. And on the way home I work out that the streets’ mobile flora is all streaming in from the Columbia Flower Market, which is just around the corner. I grab a cup of coffee and we walk the busy lane, stopping to smell the roses on our way home.