World Cup 2014 Preview: Brazil

 

As the domestic football season comes to a close, football fans around the world are often left yearning for yet more action and every four years this will come in the form of the FIFA World Cup. The qualifying stages are over, the groups have been drawn; all that is left is for the squads to be decided and for the games to be played. Thirty-two teams split into eight groups of four, with only the top two advancing into the knockout stages. But which teams from each group will advance? In this series we take an in depth look into some of the major team’s strengths, weaknesses and chances, starting with the hosts themselves.

Brazil clinture

Nickname: A Seleção

Best Finish: 5x Champions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

Automatically qualifying this year as hosts, Brazil go into this World Cup with colossal expectations as the home country. Despite not being involved in the extensive league qualifying campaign that other South American countries must perform in, they have prepared with a series of friendlies in order to prepare, winning the majority of them, suffering just one loss in the past year in a shock 1-0 defeat to Switzerland. Other than that minor setback, Brazil have appeared strong and ready for the mountain of teams they will have to climb in order to achieve victory on their home turf. Despite the great expectations, one look at their squad will assure any football fan that this year’s interpretation is but a shadow of the legendary champions of the past.

Strengths: Having conceded just 6 goals in their last 14 games, Brazil’s obvious strength lies in their defense. A back four of Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Dante and Dani Alves includes four world class players, each from arguably the four best club teams in the world (Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich and Barcelona). The full-backs may have the tendency to push up too far, but neither particularly lack in defensive qualities either when they are in their own half, and the ability for a full-back to link up with the attack should never be viewed as a negative quality. Both Dani Alves and Marcelo should be viewed as complete players that seem to excell in the majority of situations in football. Opposition teams may therefore choose to focus their attacks through the middle rather than out on the wings, however the majority of strikers that have to face up against the formiddable duo of Thiago Silva and Dante would undoubtedly be quaking in their boots. The two towering defenders both have a valuable mix of strength, speed and readability of the game, enabling them to both physically and tactically outclass their opposition.

Weaknesses: In the rare case that Brazil’s defence is penetrated, Brazil lack a truly world-class goalkeeper between the sticks. Since the retirement of Dida, the chosen successor was Julio Cesar, who up until the last couple of years has been nothing but world-class. However, since his bizzare transfer to Queen’s Park Rangers and their unsuccessful Premier League run, he found himself dropped to ex-England stopper Rob Green and transferred to Toronto FC in February earlier this year. Despite the MLS being an ever-improving league, it is still not a top level of football and Cesar may not be offered much of a test in his run up to the World Cup. Brazil’s alternatives don’t offer much either, with other recent call-ups Jefferson, Victor and Diego Cavalieri all plying their trade in Brazil’s Série A. Another potential weakness is their reliance on the talisman that is Neymar. Barcelona’s £50m signing carries the hope of a nation on his shoulders this year. As Brazil’s top current goalscorer despite not being an out-and-out striker, a lot of people will be hoping that he can deliver this summer. The pressure for the young 22 year old may just prove too much and bring out a degree of inconsistency to his flair-based game, which will frustrate both him and his teammates to no end. Brazil will have to hope that in case this happens, fellow strikers Fred and Jô can chip in with goals of their own to propel Brazil into the final stages of the tournament.

Star Player: As touched upon already, Brazil’s talisman is undoubtedly Neymar. Having finally secured a move to Spanish giants Barcelona after years of interest from them, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others, he has thrived on the elevated platform and fully utilised his opportunity to showcase his talents. His club form has been replicated on the international stage too as demonstrated by his goalscoring record (30 goals in 47 appearances). In the summer, expect Brazil’s team to be built around Neymar and his talents.

One to Watch: Known at club level for his energy and speed, Bernard is a talent that could be overlooked by the opposition at their demise. With incredible dribbling ability and a penchant for flair, the fleet-footed Brazilian could be making waves in a few months as he weaves his way through defences and creates chances for his teammates.

Prediction: Looking at Brazil’s group, they’ve been given an easy one this year and should really capture all 9 points on offer with 3 victories, but may struggle against Mexico, who I personally tip as potential dark horses for this tournament. After winning the group stages they will be matched up against the second placed side in group B, which will most likely be either Spain or Netherlands, both a momentous test for Brazil and will hopefully produce one of the matches of the summer. I’d tip them to beat Netherlands, but Spain may be one of the few teams that can topple Brazil this year. According to my prediction bracket, Brazil will make it to the semi-finals only to be toppled by my personal favourites, Germany.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with my decisions, please post comments and feedback! This is the first of many for this series. I don’t plan to cover every single team due to time constraints and the fact that I have exams coming up soon that I MUST study for, however if anybody were to request a specific team then I’d be more than happy to oblige. Thank you for reading!

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World Cup 2014: England Squad Full Preview and Predictions

world cup 2014 brazil

In no less than 171 days, 32 teams from around the world will compete in the home of A Seleção for the most prestigious trophy in world football, and arguably world sport. This coming instalment is set to be one of the most unpredictable tournaments of all time, with a variety of teams that look set to threaten Spain’s position in the highest echelon of champions. As of current odds, the favourites to bring home the famous Jules Rimet trophy are in fact the hosts, Brazil, closely followed by fellow South Americans Argentina who are suggested to be on par with the ever-efficient Germans. Even current World and European champions Spain take a back seat to these three nations, with bookies suggesting that their recent period of dominance will come to a grinding halt. Outside of the top four, the predicted dark horses of the competition stretch to (in order) Belgium, Columbia, Holland, Italy and France. France whose recent displays at World Cup Qualifying were frankly dismal and required a tentative play-off victory against Ukraine to sneak in.

There’s a nation missing from the above paragraph; one that has been counted out time and time again, and probably for good reason, that thus now lie as joint 10th favourites with the strikeforce-heavy Uruguay with whom they share Group D along with group favourites Italy and the unfortunate Costa Rica. In all honesty, it’s no real surprise that England have been so heavily discounted from any chance of victory in Brazil, despite finishing top of their qualifying group (which albeit was expected). The Three Lions have floundered at competitive tournaments for years despite the commendation they received worldwide, however now it seems that everybody has finally realised just how wrong they were, and that in frank terms, England are no longer a major threat. When you compare how lowly favoured England are as opposed to less-established teams such as Belgium and Columbia, this is clear to see.

England’s chances will fully depend on who is going to be chosen to represent the country in Brazil. With the team currently undergoing an awkward transition from old stars to new, it will be incredibly interesting to see the final 23 that will board the plane. Well then; why don’t we go through the potential candidates and make judgement?

GOALKEEPERS

Joe Hart, 26, Manchester City, 38 caps – Joe Hart is undoubtedly England’s Number 1, but has suffered a poor run of form for his club as of late, resulting in being dropped to the bench in favour of the Romanian Pantillimon for a sequence of games. Fortunately, Joe has regained his place for the foreseeable future, but please, no more blunders, Joe.

VERDICT: IN

Fraser Forster, 25, Glasgow Celtic, 1 cap – Having failed to make the breakthrough at Premier League club Newcastle, Forster gained his experience at loan in the lower tiers of English football before making the eventually permanent move to Scottish giants Celtic who are currently the ultimate ‘big fish in a small pond’. While having very promising performances in the Champions League against the likes of Barcelona, Forster isn’t offered the opportunity to impress as much against much smaller opposition in Scotland. Should he favour a move away to the Premier League, however, he has a tremendous and deserved opportunity to shine on a bigger stage. Regardless of a move or not, he is the best choice for a number 2, but don’t expect him to usurp Hart any time soon.

VERDICT: IN

John Ruddy, 27, Norwich City, 1 cap – Having spent 5 years at Everton, Ruddy only managed 1 first team appearance in between his 9 loan moves, 8 of which were before his 21st birthday. He finally got his big break at Norwich City and continuously impressed as they gained promotion to the Premier League, and his form didn’t stop there, earning him an England call-up and his first cap. However, he has struggled with injuries in recent times and is struggling to maintain good form. While Ruddy could certainly return to form for Norwich, expect the third goalkeeper spot to be given to ‘one for the future’.

VERDICT: OUT

Jack Butland, 20, Barnsley (on loan from Stoke), 1 cap – While he is a young prospect that would undoubtedly benefit from the experience of a World Cup, regardless of whether he plays or not, Butland has struggled to consistently impress at club level and despite his big move to Stoke was still relegated to the number 2 spot and had been farmed out on loan to bottom-of-the-table Barnsley who have conceded the 3rd highest amount in the championship so far.

VERDICT: OUT

Ben Foster, 30, West Brom, 6 caps – Having made his return to the England team earlier this year following his international retirement in 2011, Ben Foster is officially back in the England picture, but with the mixture of other options available, injury issues and West Brom’s poor form, Foster may miss out despite his extra experience over his rivals.

VERDICT: OUT

Rob Green, 33, Queens Park Rangers, 12 caps – Unfortunately infamous his error vs USA at World Cup 2010, England’s previous number 1 is highly unlikely to make an appearance even in the provisional squad. After being second-choice to Julio Cesar in QPR’s Premier League 2012/13 campaign, he has now found himself a starting berth after the club were relegated to the Championship.

VERDICT: OUT

Alex McCarthy, 24, Reading, 0 caps – A surprise call-up to the squad in England’s recent friendly against hosts-to-be Brazil, McCarthy’s stock is on the rise. Usually deputising for Adam Federici at club level, he made a couple of very impressive appearances last season in Reading’s relegation dogfight, catching the eye of England boss Hodgson. He is now first-choice at Reading and if he puts a string of impressive performances together, he could very well contest for that third goalkeeper spot.

VERDICT: IN

DEFENDERS

Ashley Cole, 33, Chelsea, 106 caps, 0 goals – Even in the latter stages of his playing career, Ashley Cole still has the pace to keep up with the best of wingers, and despite his many critics he proves this regularly for Chelsea. Undoubtedly, this will be his fourth and final World Cup campaign, and although he is a shoe-in for the squad, will he be starting come June?

VERDICT: IN

Luke Shaw, 18, Southampton, 0 caps, 0 goals – A regular fixture for Southampton in the league with some impressive performances to boot, Luke Shaw is a player that is being highly tipped as a future prospect for England. If Hodgson is willing to take a chance on any unproven talent, it should be this man. Unfortunately the other top talents contending for the left back position will most probably leave Luke Shaw clawing at the windows of the airport café come June.

VERDICT: OUT

Leighton Baines, 29, Everton, 22 caps, 1 goal – Another certainty for his spot on the plane to Brazil, the only thing for Leighton Baines to worry about is whether he will be first-choice left back this year as he faces stiff competition from veteran Ashley Cole. Baines brings defending and attacking prowess to the team along with wicked crossing and dead-ball ability. Nobody can argue with his chance creation statistics either, with 90 chances created last season; the highest in Europe by 10.

VERDICT: IN

Kieran Gibbs, 24, Arsenal, 3 caps – Kieran Gibbs is certainly a talented player, and making 22 appearances for an in-form Arsenal side this season attests to that. Despite this, there’s likely to only be room for two left backs in the squad and if that is the case then it will be Gibbs that unfortunately misses out unless either Cole or Baines are injury-stricken.

VERDICT: OUT

Kyle Walker, 23, Tottenham, 10 caps – Walker is almost the epitome of the modern-day wing back; bags of pace and the ability to take on a man and whip in a cross, yet lacking substantially in defensive qualities. On his day, Walker is able to provide a lot of energy and pester opposition full-backs persistently and thus could be an important player for England due to the impact he creates. If he considerably improves on his defensive attributes, Walker could definitely become the complete package given time, developing in a similar way to Leighton Baines. Unsure as to whether he will be first-choice right back, but should already have his seat on the plane booked.

VERDICT: IN

Martin Kelly, 23, Liverpool, 1 cap, 0 goals – It’s highly unlikely that Kelly will be given the opportunity to represent England in Brazil, and probably rightly so. Rarely getting a look-in to the Liverpool first team, and particularly unimpressive when given the chance, too. While he may be considered by some to have an outside chance, he should be nowhere near Brazil unless he’s paying for his own holidays.

VERDICT: OUT

Glen Johnson, 29, Liverpool, 49 caps, 1 goal – Despite being error-prone and labelled a liability by many of England’s critics, Johnson has consistently been selected as first-choice right back since the retirement of Gary Neville. Slowly but surely, I believe that Johnson has improved his game, especially visible in Liverpool’s brilliant run in the first half of this season. He will, however, need to put up a fight to fend Kyle Walker off for his spot in the starting-11.

VERDICT: IN

Micah Richards, 25, Manchester City, 13 caps, 1 goal – It feels as if Micah Richards has been around for absolutely ages. Thrust into the international limelight at the young age of 19, critics thought Richards to have the world at his feet. Recently he has only been on the peripheries of the Manchester City side and struggled to find a place in the starting line-up for a few seasons now. Despite this, Richards hasn’t been reported as wanting to find a way out and some regular first-team football, so one must definitely question his ambition. It’s likely that Richards is happy sitting on what is quite possibly the most expensive bench in football (Nasri alone cost City £25m), and if he ever gets cold he can simply create a blanket out of his no-doubt ridiculously huge wage packet.

VERDICT: OUT

Phil Jones, 21, Manchester United, 9 caps, 0 goals – A great talent for his age, Jones continues to impress at club level for arguably the most reputable club in English football. Despite United’s recent poor form under new management, Jone’s versatility has proven to be invaluable and his contribution to the side is second-to-none. Expect England to take him to Brazil for the fact that he can cover several positions such as centre back, right back and centre midfield. He’s shown some real competence in the art of man-marking and could be crucial in nullifying the attacking threat of Suarez when England face Brazil.

VERDICT: IN

Chris Smalling, 24, Manchester United, 9 caps, 0 goals – Despite being a potentially good player, Smalling will most likely take the role of first reserve this summer as he has less international experience than his fellow centre backs and will end up with less game time at club level leading up to it.

VERDICT: OUT

Gary Cahill, 28, Chelsea, 22 caps, 2 goals – Cahill is a defender with a wealth of Premier League experience that has merited his recent rise to the England starting 11 and he has fashioned a robust partnership with Phil Jagielka in the centre of defense. Expect this partnership to continue in Brazil.

VERDICT: IN

Phil Jagielka, 31, Everton, 24 caps, 1 goal – Everton stalwart and captain, Jagielka is probably the most naturally talented centre back that England now possess. His commanding performances have led Everton in a very strong Premier League campaign so far this season which sees them as top 4 contenders and potentially dark horses for the title, should teams around them drop points. Expect Jagielka to retain his starting position for England and line up alongside Cahill.

VERDICT: IN

John Terry, 33, Chelsea, 78 caps, 6 goals – One of England’s most controversial players in recent years, whether it be race rows or affairs with teammates’ wives, Terry’s private life has overshadowed his professional career. While he is disliked by many, you can’t deny that he has been one of the best defenders of this generation for England. There has been whispers (potentially Chinese) that Terry would be willing to come out of retirement to represent his country at one last tournament, however with no international football in 2013 and his diminishing pace, it is highly unlikely Terry will be going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

MIDFIELDERS

Theo Walcott, 24, Arsenal, 36 caps, 5 goals – Despite his inconsistencies, Walcott is a versatile winger/striker that can turn a game on its head. A modern adaptation of the inside forward role, he is able to run both full backs and centre backs ragged with his blistering pace. Unfortunately for England, he recently obtained a serious injury at club level for Arsenal against rivals Tottenham and has rejected the ‘quick-fix’ option and sacrificed the chance to be fit for the World Cup for the security of his long-term career. He could be sorely missed in Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Andros Townsend, 22, Tottenham, 4 caps, 1 goal – After spending several years out on loan to a whole host of clubs including QPR, Birmingham and even Yeovil Town, Townsend is finally got his shot at the big time under then-Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas. Despite the change in management, due to the positive impact Townsend has made on the team it is likely that new manager Tim Sherwood will continue to allow Andros to shine on the big stage, making an England call-up at the end of the season on the cards as long as he stays in good form. However, he will face some stiff competition at both club and international level throughout the season from fellow teammate and right-winger Aaron Lennon.

VERDICT: IN

Aaron Lennon, 26, Tottenham, 21 caps, 0 goals – It feels like Aaron Lennon has been around for a longer number of years than he actually has, having broke through the Leeds and England set up at a very young age. This season, due to the revelation of Andros Townsend and the continental flair of Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli, Lennon has found himself in a very competitive struggle for places and has only made 10 appearances this season. If he hits form and manages to get some quality game time under his belt, he may be within reach of a chance, but the reality is that he probably won’t.

VERDICT: OUT

 James Milner, 28, Manchester City, 44 caps, 1 goal – Consistent, squad player, boring. Three words that football fans of all opinions and varieties use to describe James Milner, the latter perhaps being harsh yet the most prevalent in recent times, even prompting the creation of popular Twitter parody account @BoringMilner. Despite the criticism, Milner continues to figure as a key part of both England and Manchester City’s plans and will no doubt be going to Brazil for his versatility on either wing or even in the centre of midfield.

VERDICT: IN

Jay Rodriguez, 24, Southampton, 1 cap, 0 goals – Recently introduced into the England set-up due to a good run of form with the Saints, Rodriguez couldn’t make the most of a great opportunity in his debut vs Chile, with England churning out a lethargic performance. Unless he’s given another opportunity and his form improves somewhat, Rodriguez probably won’t be going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Ashley Young, 28, Manchester United, 30 caps, 7 goals – Controversial for his common habit of diving, yet Ashley Young still remains one of England’s most dangerous threats from the wing; on his day. The only issue is consistency, but regardless, he’ll no doubt be in the squad.

VERDICT: IN

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20, Arsenal, 13 caps, 3 goals – Tipped as the future of England and featuring heavily under Hodgson, expect Oxlade-Chamberlain to rise to prominence this summer. With the injury of Walcott, the timing couldn’t be sweeter for him.

 VERDICT: IN

Frank Lampard, 35, Chelsea, 103 caps, 29 goals – I’ve always been a great admirer of Lampard; a great work ethic combined with great natural ability to become one of the iconic all-action midfielders of our recent generation. Sadly, said generation is coming towards its end. While Frank is still a solid Premier League footballer, playing opportunities are becoming ever-slimmer at Chelsea and it’s likely that he is set to end his career either next year at Chelsea, or wind his playing days down in the MLS; a popular option at current time. While there’s no doubt in his ability, I think he’ll be one of the players from the ‘former generation‘ that must make way for the ‘new blood‘.

VERDICT: OUT

Steven Gerrard, 33, Liverpool, 108 caps, 21 goals – Another incredible player that could be seen in the same boat as Lampard, yet may just escape and be thrown a life-line before that boat sails off into the sunset. Unlike Lampard, Gerrard has seemed to grow as a player into his age, and although his hard-hitting all-action style still remains from time to time, he has played a more laid-back role for Liverpool since the introduction of attacking midfielders like Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho. As England’s captain, I suppose that it’s inevitable that he’ll lead the team to Brazil in the summer, but expect him to do so in a holding midfield role.

VERDICT: IN

Ross Barkley, 20, Everton, 3 caps, 0 goals – For the previous couple of years, Barkley has slowly been weaned into the Everton squad, and under Roberto Martinez he has become a figurehead in their impressive campaign so far. Likewise with the England team, Barkley is slowly being integrated into the side and given his impressive club form is likely to feature in the squad this summer.

VERDICT: IN

Adam Lallana, 25, Southampton, 2 caps, 0 goals – In a similar situation to his club teammate Jay Rodriguez, Lallana has a lot to prove at international level in very little time. His versatility may play in his favour as he could provide adequate cover anywhere across the midfield, thus making him one of the most efficient squad players.

VERDICT: IN

Tom Cleverley, 24, Manchester United, 13 caps, 0 goals – Cleverley didn’t raise many eyebrows until he began to impress on loan to Leicester, Watford and most notably, Wigan. Since returning to Old Trafford, he was quickly inserted into the fold and quickly established himself as a key player in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final squad of his incredible reign. Under new manager David Moyes, however, Cleverley has genuinely looked nothing more than average in a lazy, poor United midfield, including the (reported) £27,000,000 Marouane Fellaini (zeroes added for effect). I personally would not include him in the final World Cup squad unless his form drastically improves, but whether or not Hodgson will feel the same is a different matter. He has stuck by Cleverley recently, and will most probably continue to do so.

VERDICT: IN

Michael Carrick, 32, Manchester United, 31 caps, 0 goals – Unable to turn around Manchester United’s misfortunes alongside Tom Cleverley, Carrick’s form hasn’t been particularly inspiring as of late. He’ll be strongly considered and potentially picked purely for his experience, but in my opinion there are players in better form who deserve the opportunity more and have much more to prove than Carrick.

VERDICT: OUT

 Jack Wilshere, 22, Arsenal, 14 caps, 0 goals – If it weren’t for unfortunately timed injuries, Jack Wilshere could be considered as an England veteran by now with 30+ caps. Despite the low amount of international appearances, his world-class ability and hard-headed mindset stands him in good stead for international football and will no doubt be one of England’s key players this summer; providing he stays fit of course.

VERDICT: IN

ATTACKERS

Wayne Rooney, 28, Manchester United, 88 caps, 38 goals – The time has come for England’s star to finally shine on the international stage and prove himself as the leader of the front line. For a long time now he has remained England’s talisman, yet his form has been fluctuating for years; partly due to injuries. This will likely be the final World Cup where Rooney is in his prime, so it really is now or never.

VERDICT: IN

Daniel Sturridge, 24, Liverpool, 9 caps, 2 goals – Probably the most in form English player this season, Sturridge has scored bags of goals for Liverpool, forming a deadly partnership with soon-to-be opponent Luis Suarez. If Sturridge can convert this club form to the international level, expect a world-class showing for him in Brazil. Fingers crossed both he and Rooney can find the same wavelength and create an equally deadly partnership to the Liverpool one.

VERDICT: IN

Gary Hooper, 25, Norwich City, 0 caps, 0 goals – Over the past couple of years, Gary Hooper is one of the few players that has been rumoured to make the jump to international football but not given the opportunity. A lot of people, myself included, thought that as soon as he made the move to Premier League Norwich from Scottish champions Celtic, he would be given a chance with England. Unfortunately, Hooper has been pretty mediocre so far this season aside from a couple of nice finishes, and having no international experience is highly detrimental to his chances of going to Brazil.

VERDICT: OUT

Danny Welbeck, 23, Manchester United, 20 caps, 8 goals – Welbeck has always shown good natural ability, yet has often struggled on the goals side of attacking. Recently, he’s hit 6 goals in 10 games, showing huge signs of improvement and that United can depend upon him through both Rooney’s and van Persie’s injuries. He’s a viable second option to Sturridge, and can also fill in on either wing too.

VERDICT: IN

Jermain Defoe, 31, Toronto FC, 55 caps, 19 goals – England’s go-to backup striker for a number of years has struggled for first team football at Tottenham this year, and has therefore managed to manufacture a transfer away to a lesser team. But is Toronto FC too much of a drop down for Defoe? The MLS is always improving as a league, but is it of a good enough standard for Defoe to impress Hodgson on? In my opinion, unfortunately not.

VERDICT: OUT

Andy Carroll, 25, West Ham United, 9 caps, 2 goals – The story of Andy Carroll’s career so far is a strange one that I don’t really need to go into. His move to West Ham should be seen as a fresh start for him but a plague of injuries has harmed his much-needed return to form. If he was to return to form in the second half of West Ham’s season and help save them from relegation, Carroll could a dangerous, physically imposing force for England in Brazil. Form will be a big factor coming into Brazil, and the final place in the squad could be between Carroll and our final player…

Rickie Lambert, 31, Southampton, 4 caps, 2 goals – If Ricky Lambert were to make it into the England squad for Brazil 2014, it would be an incredible story. In 2009 at the age of 26, arguably the typical age of a striker in their prime, he was playing League One football for Bristol Rovers, yet now finds himself playing regular first team football for Premier League Southampton. There’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to which strikers Hodgson takes to Brazil, and I believe that it will all depend upon form at the end of the season.

CARROLL: OUT

LAMBERT: IN

So there you have it; my full predictions for England’s World Cup 2014 squad. Leave a comment whether you agree or disagree with my reasoning, and as ever, feedback is much appreciated!

~Clint

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Album Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

Arctic Monkeys – AM

arctic-monkeys-am-album-artwork

Arctic Monkeys; the fabled band of Sheffield, the poster boys of today’s modern rock era — wait. Bet you thought I was going to be another of those bloggers that treats Alex Turner like some sort of demi-god and idolises the band with shrines and creepy fan photos. Well, no. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of Arctic Monkeys now and again, but never before have a band been so crazily overrated. This blog isn’t some corporate magazine that’s scared to tell their opinion because of potential fan backlash. Here I openly give you my honest opinions; so here you are!

Okay! Statement time over, now let’s review some music (;

Despite being an album with little variation (I complained about it; sue me), my opinions on AM varied from day to day. At times it feels lively and funky, mostly due to the new blues-rock influence in the music, however when listened to over a longer period of time the album felt a little bland and somewhat uninspired. The evolution of Arctic Monkeys style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all AM is widely revered by people everywhere already, however I feel as if AM as an album could have been handled with a bit more panache. The fact that Alex Turner and co have evolved is great for them and allows them to continue to develop as a great band, also showing they have the talent to adapt. While some certainly miss the previously Arctic Monkeys sound, it’s certainly been slowly developing into this current style through their albums, so a change was expected. This isn’t anything of a radical overhaul though, despite how many people complain about it.

The album opener is ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, which caught criticism when it was first revealed as some fans complained it sounded too similar to the song that succeeds it on AM, ‘R U Mine?’. It’s a nice, steady introduction to the new Arctic Monkeys, with a guitar riff that rolls with the drum and clap beat nicely.

‘R U Mine?’ is like ‘Do I Wanna Know?”s much cooler older brother as it’s way more lively and high tempo. The guitar sounds harsher, almost growling, with some pretty cool distortion at the start. This song is a great example of Alex’s quality lyricism.

I go crazy ‘cos here isn’t where I wanna be, and satisfaction feels like a distant memory

My favourite song on the album would probably be ‘Arabella’, which definitely has the coolest lyrics and most diverse tone throughout. A slow introduction leads into a funky riff that slows down just as naturally as it speeds up.

Arabella’s got some inter-stellar gator-skin boots
And a helter-skelter round her little finger and I ride it endlessly
She’s got a Barbarella silver swimsuit
And when she needs to shelter from reality
She takes a dip in my daydreams

‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ is probably the most hyped song on the album, and I can only agree with Alex Turner’s mantra when he says “Don’t believe the hype”… I find this song to be a bit boring and repetitive, and definitely preferred it’s B-side ‘Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You’.

Undoubtedly, Arctic Monkeys save the best until last, with Alex Turner’s voice and lyrics being the centerpiece of this great record. The lyrics of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ are classic AM, delivered with the signature Turner English twang. The song is an adaptation of the John Cooper Clarke poem of identical name, a great homage to the well-known ‘punk poet’.

It’s a love/hate album to me; there’s the good, the bad, but not much inbetween. To me, AM can only be described as a disappointment as it probably could have been much better.

If you have any feedback then leave a comment here or drop a tweet to @clinture! Cheers for reading.

~Clint~

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Gig Review: Hoodie Allen @ The O2 Academy, Birmingham

Ever the showman, Hoodie Allen produced a memorable night from beginning to end with a vibrant, excitable performance. The small venue (an smaller offset room from the main stage) only enhanced the booming atmosphere that the presence of the All-American rapper created. His second visit to the UK has built upon his success and just shows the likeable appeal of both his personality and his music.

Support began in the form of New York based band AJR, a trio of brothers who performed a form of pop-based rock which to be totally honest, I didn’t really dig. It was all a little cheesy and Jonas Brothers-esque, but props to the brothers for coming all the way out from NY, putting on a show and making girls swoon. Check ’em out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/AJRBrothers

The second support act was a seriously cool drum and bass act named MckNasty, somewhat known for his successful audition on Britain’s Got Talent, and the fact that he is the older brother of insanely popular music star Labrinth. Despite those ties, after the performance MckNasty showed he can pull of that night, he deserves to be known in his own right. He got the crowd pumped with his high-tempo style and constant crowd involvement; his mix including Foo Fighter’s ‘The Pretender’ and Drake’s ‘Started From The Bottom’. It culminated in his own infectiously great single with his colleague Ben (I forget the surname and can’t find it online), ‘Let It Drop’. Check out his site and download his mixtape: http://www.mcknasty.co.uk/

Finally, Hoodie entered the stage to a rapturous applause alongside his DJ and his guitarist, Kyle (affectionately known as Paedo for reasons unknown). After his performance he showed he’s just as good, if not better live. He performed several of his songs with great crowd interaction, highlights being the orchestrated waving in ‘James Franco’, and my personal favourite when he threw a damn cake into the crowd which was subsequently caught, eaten slightly and shared around in ‘Cake Boy’! There was a great exclusive for the Birmingham crowd as Hoodie performed an acoustic version of crowd favourite ‘The Chase Is On’. Undoubtedly a great gig enjoyed by everyone in attendance and I hope that Hoodie is tempted back to the UK once again in the near future!

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Cheers for reading guys. If you have anything to add or discuss then be sure to leave a comment here or send us a tweet to @Clinture. Please share and subscribe!

~Clint~

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Album Review: Johnny Borrell – Borrell 1

Johnny Borrell – Borrell 1

johnny borrell borrell 1

A bit of an infamous name in the music industry, Johnny Borrell is a man with an agenda; a point to prove. Gone is the boy who was kicked out of The Libertines after a day, who apparently organised two people to beat up Pete Doherty (as if he didn’t have enough issues) and who claimed “[Bob] Dylan is making the chips. I’m drinking champagne”. Borrell is 33 now, and this coming of age has shown in his latest solo release ‘Borrell 1’.

The name suggests new beginnings for Borrell, as well as the start to his solo career. While it may not be a budding career due to his age, Borrell has his fans and critics alike that will always stakehold into whatever he releases; that’s probably a benefit of his infamy.

The album kicks off with an audaciously upbeat opener mixing light percussion, chirpy trumpets and a smooth piano riff running underneath the whole thing. ‘Power to the Woman’ seems to be a song about his mourning of a previous relationship, and his mis-appreciation of his ‘woman’.

You can sing power, power to the woman, shed your skin for your woman, oh but your woman is gone, gone, gone

If you liked Razorlight, you will probably like this, it’s just not as good (as the self-titled album, anyway, which remains to be one of my favourites). Borrell’s solo style doesn’t differ that much from the one of the band he fronts, as obvious as it sounds, but these songs could be released under the Razorlight name and people probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, it’s just a little bit off-the-pace both speed and quality-wise.

The ever-important closer to an album is what really hits home though. ‘Erotic Letter’, despite the absurd name (I can’t fathom any metaphorical meaning behind it), is a self-reflective piece by Johnny about his career and he sings openly about his critics who question his behaviour. The only issue with talent is a person’s ability to flaunt it excessively in a pompous manner. I think you have to admit, he’s talented, and thankfully he’s toned down the pompous attitude that gained him his egotistical, self-loving reputation.

You said you couldn’t love your body, but many others do. You said that you were leaving, but you never really do

It’s fair to say that Johnny was somewhat made an example of in the past for this issue, as described by the lyrics above. The second part suggests that Johnny is prepared for more criticism if it comes his way.

There were some problems in your rock-and-roll career. They took your jokes seriously, and laughed when you were sincere

It’s pretty clear Johnny feels as if he was misunderstood, looking back.

To conclude, it’s a decent album. Nothing incredible, nothing despicable, and it’s well worth a listen whether you’re a Borrell fan or not.

Cheers for reading guys and girls,

~Clint~

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Film Review: The World’s End

A great comedy, but perhaps not one the fans wanted. Oh well, it’s not like it’s the end of the world.

the world's end

Edgar Wright is one of my favourite directors. His grasp of comedy, along with helpings of Simon Pegg on the scripting side, is unmatched at times; nobody could make me laugh more so than this pairing. Whether it’s the Cornetto Trilogy to which this film belongs, or other films such as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the majority of films he touches are pure gold. He’s got the Midas Touch, and it’s certainly showed in The World’s End, to me anyway.

Coming out of the cinema after this film was a rather awe-stricken experience; I wasn’t quite sure I’d just seen a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film. It was somewhat different to the usual similarities in the two other films, but to me, that’s a good thing. Same is boring, and The World’s End managed to separate itself from its trilogy brothers in several ways. The most notable difference was definitely the characters of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The typical vision of the two is that Pegg plays the more serious role of the main protagonist, who despite his good-guy disposition, never gets the luck of the draw, opposed to Frost who, let’s face it, plays a bit of a dick. He’s usually the slobby, immature and dumb one. Bizarrely, the role-reversal genuinely worked for me.

Pegg is The King (Gary King), a man-child who was once the self-proclaimed King of Newton Haven. Once being the keyword, Gary refuses to let go of his past, craving a return to the days that he and his band of merry-men wreaked havoc among the village. A suffering alcoholic, he comes to the realisation that the reason his life is incomplete is because he has ‘unfinished business’ that has lead to his affinity with alcohol, The Golden Mile. A pub crawl of legends across Newton Haven, starting from The First Post, and climaxing at The World’s End. Gary and his men’s previous failure of this has haunted him (and only him) since the very day, and it’s the reason that he hasn’t made contact with any of his friends; until now.

The film continues to showcase the current, regular lives of each of King’s friends, mainly about how all of them have matured and moved on with their lives. He meets with each of them, eventually convincing them to rejoin the crew into one last adventure and a final attempt at The Golden Mile. We see some undeniably perfect chemistry between Pegg and Frost during their first reunion; it’s almost as if the two of them were made to act for each other.

Another aspect that separates The World’s End from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz is its abundance of action-packed fight scenes, as man goes toe to toe with robots… no, robots that aren’t robots. Nobots? (The eventually settled upon term is ‘blanks’). The fight scenes are actually so good that they would be entertaining to even the most die-hard Die Hard fan (other action films are available). There’s an influx of comedy into the punch-ups too; who can’t laugh at the surrealism of Nick Frost delivering a metal-crunching WWE style back-breaker to the invading robots. The intensity is maintained throughout the scenes with fast-paced kinetic cinematography.

The difference between this and the other films in the Cornetto Trilogy has caused a bit of a stir amongst fans and critics alike, and thus The World’s End has received a bit of criticism. Some people just can’t handle change, it seems.

The underlying message throughout seems to notion that even when you’ve grown up, never forget to embrace your inner-youth. It’s a positive, heart-warming message that is easily understandable from the film. It’s obviously not particularly intricate, but sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most.

Other actors in a rather British star-studded cast include the ever impressive Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman and the voice of Bill Nighy.

It’s a step away from the norm, but it’s a step in the right direction for Wright, Pegg and Frost, and I look forward to any future collaborations.

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Film Review: World War Z

Who ever thought fast zombies would be less scary?

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Zombie films can often act very much like the creatures within them. If it’s a great film, then it tends to spread a frenzied pandemic of hype among film fans everywhere (28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead); but if it’s a bad film, despite the masses of zombie fans out there, it will fall flat on its face like a zombie, deprived of its desired flesh. It rather pains me to say that World War Z fits the latter description.

I went into the film with high hopes, being a huge fan of zombie culture, however I left disappointed and frankly a little deceived. Initially, the trailer had done a great job of exciting audiences for this film, with a CGI-heavy show-off of a new kind of fast, predatory zombie, exploiting a previously unseen niche to the mainstream audiences, and it seemed to be interesting as to how director Marc Forster (also known for Quantum of Solace) would work this into the true horror of the zombie monster. Personally as a viewer, it never at all felt like Gerry (Brad Pitt) was ever in extreme danger, especially considering he’d managed to survive a plane crash of all things.

Let’s not beat around the bush, the narrative is poor. The way in which the story flows from scene to scene, action sequence to a little bit of narrative then right back to action sequence is all too convenient to the point where it becomes disinteresting. How Gerry was able to escape from Israel just in time, and how that getaway plane happened to crash within walking distance of the exact medical facility that they were looking for in Cardiff, is just far too convenient, almost annoyingly so.

One interesting angle from WWZ was the fact that Marc Forster presented zombies with a somewhat interesting weakness… their strength. Wait, what? No, I don’t really comprehend it either. It was explained in a bit of a hurried, confusing manner in the film, and while it’s a novel idea, giving zombies any weakness other than the traditional destruction of the brain actually makes them a lot less threatening and exciting for audiences.

The only character that actually has any depth whatsoever, let alone the only one with a properly introduced back-story, is the acclaimed Biologist Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) who rather haplessly accidentally shoots himself in the face causing his immediate death; very smart. He has a rather intriguing monologue during the flight to Korea though which is definitely one of the stand-out lines from the script.

Mother Nature is a serial killer. She wants to get caught, she leaves bread crumbs, she leaves clues… Mother Nature knows how to disguise her weakness as strength. – Andrew Fassbach

In its advertising WWZ were never shy to tell us that it features a soundtrack by Muse. Now I love Muse, Matt Bellamy’s vocals in particular, but obviously in a film there are limitations of what music can be featured in a film and I don’t remember hearing Bellamy’s legendary voice if I’m honest. Overall Muse make a decent contribution on the sound-side of things, however it’s unfortunately not enough to save WWZ from becoming yet another generic film in a zombie genre that is quickly losing its momentum and appeal.

Feel free to agree / disagree and let me know what you think by commenting below or dropping me a tweet (@clinture). Cheers for reading!

~Clint~

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