Blink 182 – Bored to Death

Blink 182 2.0! Hoppus, Barker and Skiba. Sounds a bit like +44 +Skiba. Less one-dimensional. More “real” band. And the production, by Goldfinger‘s John Feldmann, is NUTS.

I found Tom DeLonge’s reaction pretty hilarious – free Blink 182 cover shows in the parking lots?!? “Adam’s Song over and over again.” Classic conspiracy theorist.

California is due out July 1, the 182nd day of the year.
Artwork by D*Face.

Blink182.com

Dark Arts Coffee – Shake Me Lucifer & Mother Tongue

Dark arts coffee

Lately, I’ve really got into making coffee. Grind the beans. Load up the filter basket. Froth the milk. Everything short of latte art (watch this space). And since I’ve been buying my own beans there’s one almost mythical Holy Grail roasting company I’ve been dying to rediscover.

A while back I picked up a bag of Dark Arts Coffee at Brick Lane Coffee. It was delicious. And when I went back to top up I was told that they didn’t sell it anymore. Since then the company only seemed to exist on Instagram and Twitter, and in a few select coffee shops around London.

Sporadically, I’d check on the company’s progress and always find the message “web store coming soon.” Then, suddenly, it was there. And from the looks – and sounds of things – it had been worth the wait.

Besides the delicious-sounding coffee menu, the design’s slick and fittingly dark. The three main dudes, Bradley Morrison, Colin Mitchell and Jamie Strachan – “our story coming soon” – look like a Scandinavian black metal band, posing in front of a poster for brutally dark cult b-movie Satan’s Sadists. Off-puttingly, the lead character’s waistcoat has a swastika on it. I’m sure they’re not Nazis, but it’s a strange, somewhat disturbing choice for a company portrait. Then again, their logo’s a middle finger.

(Before discovering this) I ordered a bag of Lucifer Shake Me and Mother Tongue. The beans arrived a few days later and I got grinding.

Lucifer Shake Me was my instant favourite. The Ethiopian, Rocko Mt. Reserve beans are lighter than the Jonestown Roasters beans I’ve been using lately. They’re smoother and moreish as well, and you can genuinely pick up the floral, blueberry and lime notes.

Contrastingly, the Colombian, Incan descendent-grown Mother Tongue beans are darker, more acidic and chocolatey, with notes of orange and peach. And so far, Lucifer Shake Me’s my favourite, but I’ll keep working on my Mother Tongue and see if I can get it tasting as special.

The Burger Chronicles #12 – Blues Kitchen, Camden

Blues kitchen bacon cheeseburger

For some reason there’s less expectation tonight. The lighting’s dim. The vibe’s laid back. And you order at the bar. On first impression “London’s very own home of BBQ, blues & rock n’ roll” doesn’t look like your regular, dedicated purveyor of magical burgers. The focus seems to be booze and rock ‘n roll. Then you notice the sweet smell of barbecued meat lingering in the air like a smokey cloud of Southern seduction.

Blues Kitchen on Camden High Street doesn’t offer much in terms of burger selection but it’s got the basics covered; cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, the buffalo bill chicken burger and a vegetarian creole bean option. There’s also a burger of the month. And this month it’s The Holy Cheezus, an elaborate-sounding burger, grilled-cheese sandwich hybrid. I order two cans of Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell and a bacon cheeseburger and split an order of buffalo wings.

The wings arrive first and I gulp. They’re meatier than the classic lean Orange Buffalo, New York style buffalo wings. They’re shorter as well, more slow-cooked and tender, and dripping in the kitchen’s sweet in-house blend of “hickory, oak, mesquite and fruit woods.” Blue cheese sauce is a perfect compliment.

The burger’s well presented as well, with skinny fries and slaw on a wooden board. It’s simple and to the point; a high-production 70z dry-aged Angus & Shorthorn steak patty topped with the perfect quota of bacon, cheese and salad. The sauces are mayonnaise and mustard.

Sometimes, less is more – when it’s done well. And from fluffy, homemade-tasting mayonnaise to a perfectly grilled cheese topping, the Blues Kitchen’s bacon cheeseburger exceeds expectations, delivering the goods with strong flavours and a keen eye for detail.

6.5

The Flatliners, Pale Angels – Dingwalls, Camden

Flatliners at Dingwalls, Camden
Pale Angels, The Flatliners
Dingwalls, Camden – 21.04

I’d never been to Dingwalls before and didn’t know what to expect – other than “a 500-capacity venue in the heart of Camden” that has “seen the likes of Mumford & Sons, Foo Fighters and Coldplay perform.” And when we saunter in, that’s exactly what we get. Only this time U.S./Welsh punks Pale Angels are on stage, blasting their way through a non-stop set of off-kilter grungy rock ‘n roll.

The first thing that strikes me, other than U.S. guitarist and co-frontman Mike Santostefano’s striking vocal resemblance to Kurt Cobain, is the fact that they’ve got two drummers. Well, 1.5… really. There’s the regular guy, on a conventional drum set up. And then there’s the drumming equivalent of backseat driver, whose sat right next to him, bashing away on his own set of toms and cymbals.

Pale Angels, Dingwalls, Camden, London

As a drummer, it’s unsettling watching the conventional guy look over his shoulder, like, “Come on dude, keep up.” While the backup percussionist watches the conventional drummer, like, “Dude, what are you hitting next?” I’m not sure what the situation is; did an older drummer rejoin the band and they didn’t want to kick out his newer, better replacement? Or was he a Make-A-Wish kid whose one dream was to co-drum for Pale Angels at Dingwalls?

Other than that, the most striking thing about the band is gangly bassist Jamie Morrison’s intense stage performance and killer fuzz – at times it sounds like he’s on lead bass. And suddenly, without a word, the band kicks out of Santostefano’s slower, garagey blues, as Morrison takes the lead on blistering punk rock stinger “Ditch Digger.”

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The song sounds more like Morrison’s other band The Arteries, and it’s a welcome lift. The weird thing is the two co-frontmen don’t seem to sing much on each other’s songs.

When Morrison’s done the band slips back a couple of gears and we head to the bar. At one point I thought it sounded like they were off on a weird Doors jam without keyboards.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 5

Canadian headliners The Flatliners have got to be one of the hardest-working bands in punk rock. Without even meaning to I’ve seen them six times – they even seem to be in London more than Against Me!. Last time I saw them, however, it was a letdown that left a lingeringly sour taste in my mouth. And things don’t start well.

Frontman Chris Cresswell’s guitar isn’t working on first song “Birds of England.” Rolling with the punches the band kicks into “Sew My Mouth Shut,” which sounds fierce – love that song. Then I catch a glimpse of drummer Paul Ramirez, who looks like a stoned Yoda behind his kit – his eyes look higher than his cymbals.

Last time I saw The Flatliners they played the O2 Academy Islington, supporting Lagwagon. And the sound exposed how softly Ramirez seems to hit his kit. I found it hard to get into that show. It also didn’t help that he was followed by Lagwagon’s Dave Raun.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 4

This time, same thing. Only if you don’t look directly at him he sounds fine. Better than fine, in fact – the dude’s a shredder. But the way he brushes his cymbals like he’s doing the dusting is such a turn-off. I grab a vantage point where I can’t see his face directly and get swept up – he’s like a reverse Medusa.

A few songs in the crowd gets caught up as well, fist-pumping to “July! August! Reno!” and singing along to hits like “Monumental” and “Resuscitation of the Year.” And finally, “Eulogy,” which is followed by a defiant-sounding rendition of “Christ Punchers” and a crowd-pleasing encore of “Count Your Bruises” – what a song to have on standby. We leave Dingwalls on a high.

flatliners at dingwalls, camden, london 3

The Burger Chronicles #11 – Burgerac’s Burgershack

burgershack
photo: The Royal Oak

This week Burger Club went upmarket, swapping the bearded, cartoon-creature-comfort of Stokey Bears, N16 for a swanky “Edwardian corner pub in the heart of Marylebone.” The “quality neighbourhood” pub in question is The Royal Oak, home to Burgerac’s Burgershack. And things didn’t start off well.

“Happy Hour Monday,” that’s what the menu says; “a burger, fries and any drink up to the value of a fiver, for just £10.” Of course, when we speak to our waitress the deal only includes plain burgers, cheeseburgers and veggie burgers. It also doesn’t include hot’n’blue fries, chilli cheese fries and all the best draught beers. As such, it as might as well not even exist.

Specific special specifications aside, the menu sounds 100% legit. My tongue unlatches itself from the sides of my mouth and starts to purr as I read through it. And instantly, words like “deep fried pickles,” “deep fried cheesy jalapeno bombs” and “skin-on fries drizzled with both buffalo and blue cheese sauce” need to be extinguished by a long sip of my Purity Longhorn IPA.

We order rounds of deep fried pickles, chilli poppers and chilli cheese and hot’n’blue fries for the table and I cast my eye to the burgers list. Instinctively I pick the house special, the Burgershack; a 6oz beef patty burger with “Keen’s cheddar,” smoked bacon, chipotle sauce and iceberg lettuce in a brioche bun. When in Rome…

Burgerac Burgershack
The Burgershack, with a deep fried pickle, chilli popper and blue cheese sauce

When our burgers arrive eyes light up and conversation’s extinguished. I dish up a handful of hot’n’blue fries, which taste just as delicious as they sound, and a side-order of chilli cheese fries, which taste even better. The deep fried pickles are a bit of a letdown but the chilli poppers are out of this world; creamy, perfectly breaded, decadent.

Burgershack burger

As for the main event, the Burgershack bursts with flavour. The strong smoked bacon pops and the chipotle sauce kick is perfectly off-set by the sweet brioche bun and crisp iceberg lettuce. A high-quality production, indeed. But for some reason – perhaps I’m getting too spoilt – the patty itself lacks a bit of the magic dust some of my favourite joints sprinkle on/in their burgers. In truth, the sides steal the show, really.

Five Guys

Beavertown & To Øl – Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Beavertown jekyll and hyde

Another Monday. Another swimming lesson. Another detour to Kris Wines – The Craft Beer Shop. And this week I found something truly special; Beavertown and To Øl‘s two-faced Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Aiming to “push the boundaries… of creativity to the absolute limit,” London’s Beavertown teamed up with Danish brewery To Øl. And together they’ve spun quite the yarn. Light vs. dark. Jekyll vs. Hyde. Gooseberry vs. whisky.

“Inspired by an old brewing legend of industrial espionage at the turn of the 20th century. A stolen Scottish yeast strain becomes a well-known Belgian pale. A moralistic, civilizing endeavour succumbed to self-indulgent, animalistic vice.”

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First up, Dr. Jekyll. A tart, muscat barrel-aged, bretted gooseberry Belgian pale (8.1% ABV).” Recently, I tried Magic Rock Brewing‘s Salty Kiss Gooseberry Gose, which tasted too much like a straight-up gooseberry flavoured drink for my liking. And disappointingly, the Jekyll started out more or less the same. But the more I sipped it the smoother and more delicious it became. And gradually, I picked up a “hint of the Devil bubbling underneath.”

beavertown mr hyde

And now Mr. Hyde. A smooth, complex, chocolatey, imperial stout (13.7% ABV). Now this is definitely one for the connoisseurs. And perhaps I’m not quite ready yet. The taste is rich, complicated and layered. And from its time spent languishing in Speyside whisky casks, at first, it’s more whisky than beer. Then, gradually (around the last two or three sips), the smoothness of the rich, dark, smokey malts seeps through the madness. Definitely best enjoyed on a leather smoking chair, surrounded by leather-bound books on rich mahogany shelves.

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When I pour the Hyde out it looks like oil…

vocation life and death

L.O.B. vs Daily Grind – 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 the Greys took on Daily Grind with the kind of make-shift lineup you’d expect on a rainy Friday night in London. But the show must go on. Ringers Martin and Hammam made up the numbers and our heroes in grey rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Daily Grind made the first move, knocking long balls over the top and forcing Greys keeper Yusuf to soak up the wet conditions with a couple of neat catches and saves. And returning left-back Julien worked his beard off dealing with threats down the left and through the middle – which is crucial when you’re using an attacking two-man defence.

The Greys had a few chances but on the whole Daily Grind seemed most likely to score. Then, suddenly, Daily Grind’s keeper failed to deal with – what should have been – a pretty straightforward back pass. His miss-kick went straight to Greys winger Ollie, who reacted well and stuck the ball in the back of the net before the keeper could recalculate. One nil.

The second half was the same, mostly. Wet. Ugly. And filled with crucial refereeing decisions – or lack thereof. Daily Grind lived up to their name, putting in a workmanlike shift that was hard work keeping up with. But the Greys dug their heals in and dealt with it.

Again, somewhat against the run of play, Ollie came closest to making it two nil. But Daily Grind’s keeper made up for his earlier error, sticking a leg out and stopping the ball on the line. The rebound fell to a grey shirt but went sailing past the gaping goalmouth.

In the end, one goal was enough. The Greys dogged tackling and defending held firm, with defender Koyes putting in his regular share of hard tackles and strong headers. It was the kind of victory you savour, especially in the pouring rain. Especially at 8:00pm on a Friday.

Kris Wines – The Craft Beer Shop, Camden

The craft beer shop

Once a week, on a Monday afternoon, I take my daughter swimming at The Bridge School in Camden. And each week the highlight of the trip (besides the sheer, unbridled joy I get watching my wife and daughter “swim” around the school’s hydrotherapy pool, of course) is passing Kris Wines – The Craft Beer Shop in York Way.

“The best beers, ales, wines and spirits in London,” is the claim. And looking around, at a seemingly endless selection of delicious-sounding (and cool-looking) treats, it’s hard to argue – I feel like a wide-eyed Charlie lost in Willy Wonka’s exotic house of fun.

craft beers creature black lagoon

In the end I can’t resist Beavertown‘s re-issued Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA. And last week I had some Magic Rock Highwire West Coast Pale – which was awesome – so I grab some Highwire Grapefruit and a can of the brewery’s curious-sounding Salty Kiss Gooseberry Gose. Finally I take a chance on Howling Hops‘ Pale and West Coast Special IPAs and head out.