Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Tropical Torpedo IPA

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of California-based brewing company Sierra Nevada. Well, of the two beers I’ve tried so far; their Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA. They just come across forgettable and bland. But I am a sucker for strong, boozy tropical beers. So when I see a case-load of eye-catching Tropical Torpedo IPA bottles in Whole Foods, I grab two and hit the road.

The bottle, itself, looks like a jacked-up, NASCAR version of smooth, South African orange milk drink Tropika. Sierra Nevada describes it as a “tropical twist on the American IPA.” And straight away, they’ve got my full attention. The mango, papaya and passionfruit kicks are all there, but the flavours are subtle. It’s smooth, fruity and tropical, but gentle at the same time. Restrained. With a 6.7% ABV that sneaks up like sunscreen bottles filled with tequila.

Mosaic, Citra, El Dorado and Comet hops set the pace, while Amarillo adds that wonderfully refreshing bitter finish that makes me lick me lips. Overall, it’s definitely more memorable than previous Sierra Nevada beers I’ve tried. More of a stand out. And closer to magical. Yet, despite all of its island promise, the Tropical Torpedo never goes full Wilson, or “Island” Niles. It never gets really carried away. In other words, it’s no Beavertown Tropigamma. It is good, though.


He Left. He Did Nothing. He Returned: Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 Finally Gets A Release Date (and Trailer)

The day of reckoning is upon us. LD, the social assassin, my caucasian, is back. Well… almost. After months of gentle teasing (mostly by LD’s gorgeous daughter Cazzie David), HBO has finally announced that Curb Your Enthusiasm will make its long-awaited return this October 1.

It’s been six years, and personally, I can’t wait. The “trailer” doesn’t give much away, but just hearing Luciano Michelini’s “Frolic” again is enough – I say again, but it’s my ringtone, really.

The Burger Chronicles #25 – Big Fernand, The French Burger Bistro

I saunter into Big Fernand, the French Burger Bistro, and it feels like I’ve crossed the border. The place is empty, except for a small table of eager-eyed Burger Clubbers, tucked around the corner. After a round of secret Burger Club handshakes (kidding), I grab a seat and take in the menu.

Wow, the choices are exotic. Instead of regular burger appendages Big Fernand offers ingredients like raclette cheese, chives, sun-dried tomatoes, flat parsley and tarragon. There’s a veal burger. A lamb burger with grilled aubergine and coriander. And “la [side] salade.”

In the end, as usual, I stick with the burger that jumped out first. In this case, Le Bartholomé; raclette cheese, smoked streaky bacon, caramelized onions, chives, barbecue sauce and homemade cocktail sauce. You need to order at the till, so I leap up and place my order, pronouncing Bartholomé tentatively, like a nervous tourist trying to play it cool.

I fail miserably, of course, and the attractive French waitress behind the till corrects and re-pronounces the name perfectly. Frenchly. With la passione. Feeling ridiculous, I smile sheepishly – I might as well have a laminated map on a cord around my neck and a Lonely Planet Paris book in my hand. The beer’s as French as the waitress, so I throw in a Gallia IPA with my burger and head back to our table around the corner.

The burger arrives quickly, which isn’t surprising, as we’re still the only ones in the joint. It looks good, but delicate and petite. Bistro food, I guess. The burger patty itself is tasty but tiny, hidden and mostly overpowered by the rest of the ingredients. Every bite’s full of flavour, but in the end, the size of the £10 burger’s impossible to ignore. In fact, I’d say it’s more bun than burger. Possibly 70/30.

The beer’s light and refreshing. Although, to be fair, I probably could have washed Big Fernand’s treat-sized, full-priced Le Bartholomé down with a thimble of water. We exit to the sound of the staff sweeping up, clanging glasses around just loud enough for us to get the message without feeling too offended. We step back out into Percy Street. Into London. And head our separate ways.

Dave Grohl – The Anti-Nirvana ‘Godlike Genius’ Hits Glastonbury

Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

In 2011 Foo Fighters big cheese Dave Grohl nabbed the ridiculous-sounding Shockwaves NME Godlike Genius Award. Since then, I can’t help think it’s all gone to his head. On Saturday night, when Foo Fighters headlined Glastonbury’s legendary Pyramid Stage, Grohl walked out alone. He addressed the crowd like a classic WWF (pre-lawsuit) wrestler cutting a promo. His stadium rock-bred smirk every bit the anti-Nirvana.

“I’m about two years late tonight,” he says. Not “we’re.” “I.” Dave “mother fucking” Grohl. That’s who. In the house… Y’all. And I know he chews gum for his vocals, but it added even more of a Tennessee car salesman, Southern preacher twang to his frequent power speeches.

It reminded me of the time he had security kick a fan out of a 2011 Foo Fighters show at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. “You don’t fucking fight at MY show, asshole,” he said. “Get the fuck out of MY show. Get the fuck out of MY show right now. You don’t come to MY show and fight. You come to MY show and fucking dance, you asshole.” It’s strange. Taylor Hawkins is one of the best drummers in the world. Nate Mendel’s played bass since 1995. Chris Shiflett’s played lead since 1999. And Pat Smear was in Nirvana. Albeit briefly. So why does Grohl talk like they’re his backing band?

I know he gives them each a dance-monkey-dance solo during the set, with their own cringey intros, but that doesn’t take away from moments like these. Still, if you’re a fan of Foo Fighters’ current brand of crowd-pleasing mainstream rock, the band delivers the goods live. Although Grohl’s shouty voice does sound pretty wrestler-like these days as well. And I can’t help but think that, like Grohl, the music’s a million miles away from the urgency, excitement and danger of the band’s origins.

Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

Then, of course, there was the time Grohl fell off stage in Sweden in 2015, broke his leg and did the following U.S. tour in a ridiculous, guitar neck-encrusted throne he designed himself. It looked like the rock version of the Iron Throne. Or something out of Spinal Tap. In that moment, Grohl became the exact kind of self-indulgent rock star Nirvana’s stripped back, more personal ’90s sound was reacting to. Axl Rose asking to borrow said throne when he injured himself is all the proof you need, really.

Look, I’m not disillusioned. Dave Grohl’s 48. He’s rich. He’s successful. He’s one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. Shit, I didn’t used to like blue cheese and camembert but now I love the stuff. We grow. We change. And of course, the striking opposite of Grohl’s larger-than-life rock god existence is the quieter, more plaid and shoulder patch path taken by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Whereas Grohl looks like an older, chubbier version of his former self, Novoselic looks like his high school geography teacher. I imagine.

Image: YouTube/Mark Bellingham

During the Glastonbury show Grohl kept shouting at the crowd in-between song lines as well. Yelling things like, “Let me hear you!” “Come on!” and “sing it with me!” He sounded like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan calling out the Undertaker. And to me, it felt like he was killing the songs. Fans will say he was working the crowd, sure. He’s not the cool, brooding frontman, commanding the audience’s attention with sheer intensity. He’s the running up and down the aisles like Bono, pointing at people while his backing band cranks out a ten minute “Monkey Wrench” interlude frontman.

After the gig, the BBC airs a short interview with Dave Grohl. Caught up in his pre-show excitement, Grohl talks about seeing the stage, and how he plans to “light that motherfucker up,” like some kind of kickass cowboy. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He seems nice. But he doesn’t seem cool. On stage. At Glastonbury. With his puffy hair. Constantly pointing. Yelling. And swearing. And the more he swears, thrashes around and talks between songs, the blander and less offensive Foo Fighters seem, as they straddle the middle of the road on top of the world.

Fourpure – Juicebox Citrus IPA

Look, it’s great, but to be perfectly honest, I was expecting something juicier. More tropical. More off the wall. I’ve been digging fruity, citrus-packed IPAs lately, and Fourpure Brewing Co.’s lush-looking Juicebox was a long time coming – a mate instagrammed a photo of one last year and since then I’ve been on the hunt. Finally, I found it, a season later, at Utobeer in Borough Market. Needless to say, anticipation was high.

Unlike other tropical IPAs the fruitiness is understated – a massive surprise when you take in the juiciness of the can art. The subtle suggestion of tropical fruit seems to be limited to lingering whispers of grapefruit, which is quite a letdown, really. Still, like I say, it’s a good beer. Fourpure is a great brewery. I was just looking for something special. Magical. I’ll still buy it again, though – unless it’s sat next to a Tropigamma or a Not Guilty OJ IPA.

Chris Cornell – Euphoria Mourning RIP Dude

I didn’t get around to posting this in time but I still think it’s worth an “edit” rather than a “trash.” Maybe…

I’ve never been the biggest Soundgarden fan, really. And I always found Audioslave’s combination of styles too weird to get into; Rage Against the Machine’s stripped down rap-rock meets Chris Cornell’s larger-than-life, wailing-crooner crescendos. But I do love Cornell’s first solo album, Euphoria Morning. I listened to it non-stop for months when it came out. My wife (then girlfriend) loves it too. It means something special to us.

I saw Chris Cornell live once, in South Africa, and I saw Soundgarden at Hyde Park. And man, the dude could sing! I still can’t believe the news. Such a bright, iconic, world-conquering light snuffed out in such a sad, lonely, quiet seeming blink of an eye. The “voice of a generation” indeed.

PS, this Rock am Ring 2017 Prophets of Rage Chris Cornell tribute, featuring Serj Tankian on vocals, is pretty special as well. Nothing but love. Nothing but respect.

Rancid – Telegraph Avenue (New Album Trouble Maker Out June 9)

It’s Friday and East Bay punk rock legends Rancid have just dropped another second single, “Telegraph Avenue,” from their June-to-be-released new album Trouble Maker.

Again, it’s a glorified lyric video, really, featuring Rancid jamming in the same garage they rocked for previous single “Ghost of A Chance” – there must have been a two-for-one deal.

And again, frontman Tim Armstrong’s unkempt Castaway beard and black nail polish vibe creates such a strange visual contrast with guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s current smart-dressed American oi! look.

The song sounds great, though. Just like a Friday should. Trouble Maker is out June 9, and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one. Another comeback. Perhaps, of Indestructible proportions.

Cloudwater Brew Co. – DIPA v13 Special Edition

Cloudwater Brew Co. is one of my favourite recent beer discoveries. And DIPA v13 Special Edition is the best of the best. Everything about the Manchester-based, “modern, seasonal beer” company reeks of innovation and style. From its slick, classy designs and packaging to its experimental, boundary pushing brews and here-today-gone-tomorrow, limited edition feel.

So far, I’ve enjoyed every Cloudwater beer I’ve tried. Especially the New England IPA collaboration with craft beer mega giants Brewdog. But this one’s the best I’ve tasted. In fact, it’s currently one of my top five beers of all time.

The DIPA v13 Special Edition pours thick, golden-orange and cloudy, with a fruity, lip-smacking aroma – I’m drooling just thinking about it now. And it looks delicious, too. Like rich, velvety, magic fruit juice in a can. As usual, Cloudwater do an amazing job balancing out the beer’s heavy 9% ABV, this time by combining Citra BBC pellets and a 50/50 mix of WLP4000 and 4786th generation JW Lees yeast.

It’s fruity, tropical, juicy and delicious. It’s soft and surprisingly easy to drink. Smooth, with a nice bitter finish and, of course, a strong 9% ABV boozy backbone. With v13, Cloudwater has achieved total oneness. Inner and outer peace. But sadly, v13 is the last in Cloudwater’s ongoing v series – which is a tragedy, as it taste like pure gold. I wonder if it freezes well…

The National – The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness (New Album Sleep Well Beast Out September 8)

And then, late one night, it finally happened… I read the news on Instagram first. Dark, broody, articulate groove merchants, The National, are gearing up for total world domination. And it’s a slick operation; cream for North America, yellow for the U.K. and Europe, and an interchangeable barn/house/recording studio logo to match the NEW ALBUM cover. Oh yeah.

The extensive touring, of course, is to promote The National’s new album Sleep Well Beast, which is due out this September 8 on 4AD. And, like any well planned album marketing campaign worth its sponsored post salt, the website’s been overhauled – along with Facebook and Twitter – and there’s already a new single, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” up on Spotify, YouTube, Deezer and everywhere else.

There’s a lot going on with the song itself. From the smooth female vocals that kick things off, to the rib-buttering piano builds and the schizophrenic guitar lick that resurfaces all the way through. And then, finally, the mesmeric drums of Mr. Bryan Devendorf.

I’m not sure exactly what to make of the song – and the guitar solo. I’ve listened to it about ten times, but it’s still sinking in. Like any album by The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” needs a context. A flow. A dark surrounding sea of contrasting emotions to tether it to. And I can’t wait to hear how it fits into the rest of the Sleep Well Beast puzzle. Exciting times indeed…

Die Antwoord – Love Drug (From Dangerous to Dawson’s Creek, With Emojis)

What the fuck happened to Die Antwoord? Those guys used to sound so special, like they were riding the cusp of something dangerous, beautiful and bat-shit crazy, all at the same time. Last week, the South African rap-rave duo announced their fifth and “final” album The Book of Zef, and based on boring-as-fuck first single “Love Drug,” it’s clearly time for Ninja and Yolandi to call it a night and move on.

The song starts with a pretty interestingly sung and catchy Ninja whine, but quickly degenerates into a mess of forgettable, lame raps and wannabe Aphex Twin beats that sound more like someone bouncing a flat basketball than anything bucephalus. And the techno wave finale the song rides out on just sounds like something Die Antwoord had lying around on the cutting room floor, leftover from their disappointing third album, 2016’s Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid.

I can’t see any mention that Die Antwoord collaborated with Aphex Twin on the track – it would be funny if it is actually him – but like I say, it doesn’t sound like the real deal. I just hope the rest of the album’s better than this weak, Dawson’s Creek, Emoji take on Die Antwoord.