Tag Archives: 2015

Festive 15 for ’15

Award winning music journalist, Dr Jonathan O’Shea, kindly agreed to share his top 15 tracks of 2015 with Kureen – let us know your thoughts in the comment section below the article. 

Chemical Brothers

The Festive Fifteen, my favourite tracks of the year, has become an accidental annual tradition (I think this is the seventh one) and was initially inspired by John Peel’s Festive 50. Like pointless paper crowns, turkey incineration and being derisive about sprouts, this is one seasonal routine which is set to continue ad infinitum.

Between Christmas and the New Year, I like to pore over the music that’s been pumped into the ether over the past twelve months and somehow make sense of it all by pointlessly ranking it. Then I present it to the world in classic chart countdown style: 15 to 1 (not to be confused with William G Stewart’s bad-ass 90s game show).

So here’s the Festive Fifteen ’15;

15. What Went Down – Foals

Pulsing, persistent beat and increasingly frenzied lyrics from the inappropriately-named indie rockers.

14. Leaving the City – Joanna Newsom

The planet’s most unique and oblique pop-harpist takes a leap into new, questing territory, with a less sparse, more densely developed sound than usual.

13. Mr Noah – Panda Bear

Some pretty weird-ass stuff here, about a dog being bitten on his leg…? Sounds like it was recorded on a demonically distorted hurdy-gurdy in 2048 and sent back in time through a subterranean vortex.

12. Go – Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip

Begins amid frantic bongos and slashing light-sabres (honestly); Q-Tip’s muscular rap provides the backbone for a Daft Punk-style synth-a-thon.

11. Go Out Blur

The kind of swaggering anthem Damon & co relentlessly pumped out in their prime.

10. Singularity – New Order

One of the darker tracks from Music Complete focuses on dissatisfaction with everyday inertia and mourns the loss of ex-bandmate Ian Curtis.

9. Tutti Frutti – New Order ft. Elly Jackson

Could easily be filed under ‘90s nostalgia, but a beguiling duet with La Roux’s Elly Jackson elevates this playful track to something more airily uplifting.

8. Detroit – Gaz Coombes

Probably the finest moment of the ex-Supergrass frontman’s solo career. A tale of longing for home while in a distant land: effortlessly melodic, with a soul-stirring arrangement.

7. City – Spring King

Breathless stomper; designed to thrash about in the dark to. Repeat: “Who am I? What does it matter?”

6. Strange Combinations Teleman

Gently insistent and mildly hypnotic stuff. Perhaps the strangest combination here is the electro beat and mild-mannered vocal style, but it works wonderfully.

5. Borders – M.I.A

Controversial subject matter – the refugee crisis and a ‘f*ck the system’ message – delivered in typically laconic style. Sure, it’s a little lyrically banal, but at least she seems to stand for something.

4. Bodies – Farao

Totally irresistible combination of plaintive Scandinavian vocalist and inexorable rhythms.

3. Swords (Matahdatah Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Border”) – M.I.A.

Opens with the rhythmic clashing of swords and a pulsing beat which underpins a culture-clash classic. Check out the genuinely awesome M.I.A-directed double video for this new track and 2013’s ‘Warriors’.

2. Dreams – Beck

Reminiscent of his upbeat ‘Guero’-era danceable demi-anthems, this track – devoted to the restorative power of dreams – is thickly layered with catchy aural confections…it’s surely the funksome highpoint of Beck’s meandering later career.

1. Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva.

soul-stirring sample of portly baritone Barry White’s ‘Honey Please, Can’t Ya See’ forms the unlikely bedrock of this gloriously gospel-tinged track. The Walrus of Love’s slightly sickly love letter morphs into something altogether more mystical and compelling under the spell of Stockwell’s philosophical wordsmith.

Fin.

Written by Jonathan O'Shea

A keen student of sport, music and life. Can generally be found educating small people, bitterly damning Aston Villa's latest attempts at football, or writing nonsense about ephemera.

His greatest achievement so far?

Exhausted and emotionally drained, Andy Murray fell to the ground, finally releasing the iron grip that carried Great Britain to their first Davis Cup triumph since the days of long trousers and cigarettes between points.

It had been 79 years since Britain last accomplished the feat, sustained by the dream team of Fred Perry and Bunny Austin.  

As Murray’s conclusive, sublimely executed backhand lob sailed over a prone David Goffin and several inches inside the baseline, the Scottish superstar crumbled to the ground in elation, having carried his team throughout the competition. 

Andy Murray
Andy Murray

Belgium’s Flanders Expo in Ghent provided the stage from which the drama unfolded, with the home side selecting a slow clay surface in an attempt to negate Murray’s influence.

That theory proved futile, with the world number two virtually as adept on all surfaces in 2015, as showcased in a thrilling French Open semi-final earlier this year, where world number one, Novak Djokovic, required five sets to dispense with the Scot in one of their many memorable encounters.

Others contributed to GB’s four excellent wins. James Ward’s unexpected 15-13 fifth set triumph over USA’s John Isner proved pivotal in a 3-2 first round victory, and Jamie Murray backed up his younger bro’ in the doubles, with the pair winning both of their encounters against France and Belgium.

David Goffin

Still, this would not have been conceivable without the unwavering desire of the squad’s talismanic spearhead, who ticked another goal from his bucket list often, at the expense of results within solo competition.

Indeed, Andy entered the ATP World Tour Finals clearly distracted by the impending Davis Cup decider. Having trained almost exclusively on clay courts in the build-up, he struggled to adapt to the harder surface of London’s O2 Arena, crashing out in the group stages, although in retrospect those extra recovery days proved beneficial.

From the street of Dunblane to British sporting royalty, a Knighthood is destined to come his way, although preferably only after retirement has kicked in; tribute to a remarkable career.

With his first child on the way, life is rosy for a 28 year-old at the peak of his powers. He should retire from Davis Cup action immediately to focus on four final career goals;

  • Become world number one for the first time

  •  Win the French Open

  • Win the Australian Open

  • Win the ATP Tour Finals

Achieve those and his career will have a feeling of finality about it, although with the irrepressible Djokovic on the scene (and born within a week of Murray), all may not be plain sailing.

For now it’s only right that Murray should bask in the glow of arguably his most unlikely triumph to date. To cajole glory from a team that in recent years lost matches to Ecuador, Lithuania and Morocco, is an accomplishment that deserves to be savoured.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

TNA: Twits n Asses

Total Non-stop Action (TNA) wrestling hosted their version of WWE’s Wrestlemania on Sunday, but the Bound for Glory Pay-Per-View hardly caused a ripple – is it time for the money haemorrhaging grap-group to admit defeat in their mission to share the mainstream spotlight? Dom Kureen shares his thoughts.

Matt Hardy – not even the most talented wrestler in his family.

Matt Hardy – a career mid-carder more than a decade beyond his prime.

Matt Hardy – Your new TNA World Champion… Who vacated the belt two days later!

If proof were needed of TNA’s long sinking ship riding its final waves, it arrived at Bound for Glory on Sunday, October 4th, with Matt Hardy’s heavyweight title success, followed by a baffling video where he vacated the championship just 48 hours later.

Dixie Carter (right): TNA President.
TNA President Dixie Carter

When World Championship Wrestling (WCW) began its descent into the abyss (as in the void, not the chubby wrestler), the company lurched from one ill-fated catastrophe to the next; ridiculous scripted-shoot main events, major titles held by actors and egotistical writers, and talk-show hosts getting into the ring.

The fall and fools of WCW

WCW’s main strap shifted waists on no fewer than 19 occasions in the year 2000, also being vacated an unprecedented six times. The company was a rudderless shambles screened on a television channel desperate to remove wrestling from their schedule.

TNA have a similar issue in 2015, with Destination America ostensibly reluctant to extend their TV contract, and Panda Energy International, a multi-billion dollar company which owns 100% of the struggling group’s shares, reportedly considering pulling their funding after 13 years.

Bound for Glory attracted a live crowd of fewer than 300 people, of which at least 75 were freebies, and a staggeringly low 17,000 PPV purchases (Wrestlemania 31 in March reportedly had around 77,000 in attendance and 1.33 million PPV buys).

 
It had all looked so promising

It’s easy to forget that this is a company that once showed so much promise, utilising elite Indy talent from around the USA, UK, Mexico, Canada and Japan to showcase a high calibre product dedicated more to actual wrestling than pizazz.

The women’s division, led by Gail Kim and Awesome Kong, stood head and shoulders above the titillation WWE was promoting, and half a dozen or so star names complimented the stellar mid-card and throng of talented tag-teams.

Some wrestlers, such as Christian (Cage) even opted to ditch Vince McMahon and co’s Stamford behemoth to join the pugnacious little company that was revolutionising the business with its six-sided ring and X-Division. Exciting times indeed.

Despite the myriad of merits, TNA continued to leak money and lack viewers, Panda Energy continuing to foot the bill courtesy of CEO Robert W. Carter, whose daughter, Dixie, just happened to be the president of the Tennessee based wrestling company – nothing like a dose of nepotism to keep things bubbling along.

Even Daddy’s girl seems to have run dry of ideas now though; not that she hasn’t tried every feasible avenue to turn around literal and proverbial fortunes.

Hogan’s  run

In 2009 TNA signed up a 56 year-old, battered, bruised and financially destitute Hulk Hogan to arrest the slide – a decision that cost the company over $100m in contracts and further dwindling television ratings.

Hogan came on board with former WCW chief booker Eric Bischoff, the pair armed with lucrative multi-year deals, and proceeded to hire a “who’s who” of his washed up pals to fill the spots previously inhabited by promising young workers.

Hogan and Bischoff’s masterplan was an ill-fated attempt to revamp the Monday Night Wars previously synonymous with WCW vs WWF, competing directly with the now WWE in a move which lost viewers, money and credibility (see vid below).

In came a ‘retired’ Ric Flair (by now in his early 60’s), lousy 1990’s tandem the Nasty Boys, annoying DJ Todd ‘Bubba the Love Sponge’ Clem, and worst of all Hulk’s disinterested daughter Brooke, who participated in a couple of pointless story-lines before heading back into the studio to record more albums for tone-deaf basement dwellers with a fetish for women who look like Hulk Hogan augmented by big, fake tits.

Ric Flair
Ric Flair: Wrestled in TNA to diminishing interest

Bro’s before… young talent

The more talented members of the roster, with a few exceptions, were marginalised or used as vessels to boost obsolete old timers (see renowned family man AJ Styles’ run as Flair’s unconvincing jet flying, kiss stealing protege).

By the time TNA finally ditched Dad’s army, they had slumped more than $100m into the red over the course of four spendthrift years. Carter Sr had seen enough, drastically downsizing his daughter’s pocket money, and forcing Dixie to cut costs.

With almost half of a bloated roster released within the past two years, only bare bones remain on a once meaty carcass.


Hall of ‘meh’

TNA’s hall-of-fame, another pale imitation of WWE’s annual event, is characteristic of the way the company is now run, viewed as little more than an unwelcome afterthought, it is one of many aspects of the corporation held in what is so often the death knell of a wrestling organisation: indifference.

Matt Hardy, a perennial mid-carder so often plodding along in his more talented younger brother Jeff’s shadow, became the face of a major(ish) wrestling franchise for the first time; it’s a move in keeping with the malaise of the a once riveting enterprise.


No viewers = no TV deal

With no sign of a new TV deal, as well as dwindling funding from above, it may be time to take Old Yeller out the back and load up the pistol.

TNA Wrestling is less sinking ship than it is ruins at the bottom of a deep ocean, and even Dixie Carter, whose baby this remains, is surely losing interest in this futile project by now.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Transfer Window 2015: How did your club do?

With the Summer transfer window now slammed shut for Premier League sides, it’s time to reflect on the increasing, surely unsustainable spending that’s occurred during two crazy months.

Arsenal

Total spent: £11m
Notable addition: Petr Cech (Chelsea, £11m)
Notable departure: Abou Diaby (Released)

Arsenal addressed the need for a top quality custodian by acquiring Chelsea’s second choice stopper, Petr Cech, who promises to add stability to the set-up. Unfortunately they still look a striker and midfield destroyer short of challenging for the title, and an additional central defender wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Aston Villa

Total spent: £52.5m
Notable addition: Jordan Amavi (Nice, £10m)
Notable departure: Christian Benteke (Liverpool, £32.5m)

Christian Benteke’s departure was inevitable, but Fabian Delph’s transfer to Manchester City was a little more contentious, with the England midfielder, having rejected City’s initial advances, pledging his allegiance the Villains, only to perform an about turn and join the Eastlands club less than a week later. Villa have raided France, bringing in some promising talent; most notably Jordan Amavi from Nice.

Bournemouth

Total spent: £23.8m
Notable addition: Max Gradel (£6.8m, Saint-Etienne)
Notable departure: Brett Pitman (£1.2m, Ipswich Town)

The Cherries have picked up from where they left off last season, playing aesthetically appealing football and getting decent results along the way. On paper their squad looks short of quality, although the likes of Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings are astute additions. With Eddie Howe at the helm anything seems possible, and perhaps their best piece of business was retaining the talented Callum Wilson.

Chelsea

Total spent: £69m
Notable addition: Pedro (Barcelona, £21.4m)
Notable departure: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £11m)

A quiet, by Chelsea standards, transfer window, coupled with some disappointing results, has emphasised the need to reinvigorate a declining squad. John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic in particular have looked as if they’re on the slide. The ultimately fruitless pursuit of Everton’s John Stones will have left Jose Mourinho bitterly frustrated.

Crystal Palace


Total spent: £25.3m
Notable addition: Yohan Cabaye (PSG, £12.8m)
Notable departure: None.

Palace have quietly assembled one of the most thrilling squads in the Premier League, having enjoyed an excellent transfer window, whilst remaining under the radar. Their capture of Yohan Cabaye could be one of the deals of the summer; the diminutive playmaker already having made an impact for the Eagles.

Everton

Total spent: £21.75m
Notable addition: Ramiro Funes Mori (River Plate, £9.5m)
Notable departure: None.

Everton have decided to keep their powder dry for the most part this summer, adding five new faces without spending (relative) big bucks. Keeping John Stones away from Chelsea may prove a short-term victory; that said, a reported £40m offer for the defender was exorbitant, and unlikely to be matched in future, less frenzied times.

Leicester City


Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz, £7.2m)
Notable departure: Esteban Cambiasso (Released)

The unexpected departure of manager Nigel Pearson left a gaping hole in the Foxes’ recruitment drive in the early weeks of the window, but that soon picked up when former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri took the reigns. The ‘Tinkerman’ has made half a dozen useful signings, the best of which looks to be talented Japanese marksman Okazaki.

Liverpool

Total spent: £80.5m
Notable addition: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5m)
Notable departure: Raheem Sterling (Man City, £49m)

The Reds started the summer as if they planned to purchase an entirely new squad, perhaps with one eye on the impending departure of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City. Benteke has the ability to become a club legend, and the signings of Danny Ings, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne provide value for money, although none are exactly marquee purchases.

Manchester City

Total spent: £154m
Notable addition: Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg, £55m)
Notable departure: James Milner (Liverpool, free)

The Citizens have resumed the spendthrift stance that was temporarily foiled as a result of the club besmirching FIFA’s “Financial Fair Play” regulations. Stockpiling players once again, they appear to have all bases covered, and anything less than European glory will probably result in Manuel Pellegrini receiving his marching orders.

Manchester United

Total spent: £115.8m
Notable addition: Memphis Depay (PSV, £24.4m)
Notable departure: Angel Di Maria (PSG, £44.8m)

A whirlwind deadline day saw United secure the services of prodigiously talented teenage attacker Anthony Martial from Monaco for an initial £36m and a deal to trade David De Gea to Real Madrid thwarted by tardy paperwork. Despite all of that, their best business was agreed before the window opened, with exciting winger Depay swapping Holland for England.

Newcastle United

Total spent: £48m
Notable addition: Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV, £13m)
Notable departure: Jonas Gutierrez (released)

The Toon Army have (finally) been treated to a host of exciting additions, as well as a much needed revamp in coaching set-up and management. Wijnaldum is, literally and figuratively, the biggest name addition to the group, although both Chancel Mbemba and Floran Thauvin have impressed thus far. Aleksandar Mitrovic should become the number nine supporters have long craved… If he can stay on the pitch for long enough.

Norwich City

Total spent: £12m
Notable addition: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7m)
Notable departure: Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, free)

Norwich haven’t managed to attract anyone particularly exciting to Norfolk, but what they have done is embellish their midfield with stable top-flight performers. Irish full-back/winger Robbie Brady is a gifted player who deserves the chance to fulfil his undoubted ability, but there is a feeling that the Canaries will end up relying heavily upon the jet-heeled Nathan Redmond.

Southampton

Total spent: £42.5m
Notable addition: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord, £10.5m)
Notable departure: Morgan Schneiderlin (Man United, £27m)

Saints have had a wonderful knack in recent seasons of getting top dollar for outgoing players and replacing them with better, cheaper alternatives. Jordy Clasie may prove to be another coup, although he’s not in the Schneiderlin mould just yet. Nataniel Clyne is a loss, but hanging on to Spurs target Victor Wanyama on deadline day was vital, while the late addition of Virgil Van Dijk is savvy.

Stoke City


Total spent:
£29.8m
Notable addition: Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan, £12m)
Notable departure: Asmir Begovic (Chelsea, £8m)

The evolution of Stoke City continues apace, with the addition of skilful innovators such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Marco van Ginkel to the ranks. Mark Hughes has assembled a quality squad at the Britannia Stadium. The departure of the brilliant Asmir Begovic has afforded the promising Jack Butland an overdue opportunity.

Sunderland

Total spent: £25m
Notable addition: Fabio Borini (Liverpool, £10m)
Notable departure: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9m)

The Mackems don’t appear to have sufficiently addressed their leaky defence, conceding 13 goals in their five league and cup matches so far this season. The additions of Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila have at least given Dick Advocaat’s men a previously absent cutting edge.

Swansea City


Total spent:
£15m
Notable signing: Andre Ayew (Marseille, free)
Notable departure: Nathan Dyer (Leicester City, loan)

The Welsh side have been among the shrewdest Premier League operators this summer, picking up high calibre signings with minimal or zero transfer fee attached. Andre Ayew has immediately settled, while Eder provides important backup for on song target man Bafe Gomis.

Tottenham Hotspur

Total spent: £51.3m
Notable addition: Son Heung-Min (Leverkusen, £22m)
Notable departure: Aaron Lennon (Everton, £5.2m)

With Spurs fans crying out for additional fire power, Daniel Levy was only able to conclude deals for support acts and defenders. The club have done well to trim much of the fat from an inflated squad, but may rue the as of yet fruitless pursuit of West Brom’s Saido Berahino.

Watford


Total spent:
£31m
Notable addition: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham, £6m)
Notable departure: None

The most active top-flight team in this transfer window, the Hornets made no less than 15 signings during the summer. On the surface it appears to be a case of quantity over quality, although the likes of Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami at least have the capacity to supply sufficient ammunition for Troy Deeney and co. to trouble the scorers.

West Bromwich Albion


Total spent:
£33m
Notable signing: Salomon Rondon (Zenit, £12m)
Notable departure: Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa, £1m)

The Baggies have had a successful window, retaining the services of star striker Saido Berahino against his will, while adding real quality in the shape of Salomon Rondon, Johnny Evans and James Chester. Tony Pulis has steered clear of panic deals, upgrading key areas. With Rickie Lambert now on the books, Albion have a mouthwatering three-pronged front-line available if they can get Berahino to stop sulking.

West Ham United


Total spent: £35.6m
Notable addition: Dimitri Payet (Marseille, £10.7m)
Notable departure: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough, £5m)

A new manager and a dozen additions to the playing staff may seem excessive, but the Hammers needed revolution rather than evolution this term. Multiple deadline day deals so often spells impending disaster, but the quality of players such as Alex Song and Victor Moses can’t be questioned. Dimitri Payet holds the key to unlock any defence in Europe.

Did we nail it? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

2015 Ashes Review

From the rapture of Cardiff, to the anti-climax at the Oval, the 2015 Ashes series was one of the strangest in recent memory, leaving both Australia and England with far more questions than answers.

It was the home side that regained the little urn, triumphing 3-2 courtesy of a trio of wins notable by their brevity. The tourists on the other hand destroyed England to achieve their two Test wins, ensuring that they dominated the batting averages as matters tumbled to a close.

In terms of days played it set a new low for a five match Ashes series, with only 18 of 25 utilised by two sides seemingly determined to throw caution to the wind from the offset.

 

Ending of Eras

It also closed the book on some notable careers, with Aussie skipper Michael Clarke announcing his retirement along with team-mates Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers.

England stalwart Ian Bell struggled, save for a defiant display at his home ground of Edgbaston, stating that he’ll make a decision of his own during the next week or so.

Ultimately the cricket wasn’t often sparkling, but in passages the likes of new Australia captain Steven Smith, Rogers, Joe Root and Stuart Broad rose above the mediocrity to place their imprint on the series.

England Player Ratings

Numbers
Alastair Cook (Captain): 7/10
Runs: 330, Average: 36.66

Cook led the side with more assurance than previously, displaying both innovation and purposeful intent. His batting was relatively consistent, although he failed to achieve his first century in a home Ashes contest, falling agonisingly close twice with scores of 96 and 85.

Adam Lyth: 2/10
Runs: 115, Average: 12.77

Dire. Looked every inch a player with an inflated County average achieved against gentle seam bowlers on batting friendly tracks. Far from international standard, at almost 28 Lyth should probably be consigned to the overflowing scrapheap of failed English opening batsmen, with Moeen Ali promoted instead.

Ian Bell: 5/10
Runs: 215, Average: 26.87

Warwickshire fans rejoiced when Bell struck a brace of half centuries on a testing surface at home ground Edgbaston, his elevation to number three seemingly spurring a renaissance. Sadly he reverted to previous form thereafter, necessitating some deep contemplation post-series for the only Englishman to have ever won five Ashes series.

Joe Root: 8/10
Runs: 460. Average: 57.50
Wickets: 4, Average: 33.75

England’s go-to Yorkie when chasing the winning line, Root had three exceptional matches in which he struck England’s only pair of hundreds, as well as two half-centuries and an unbeaten 38. With four wickets to boot, the 24 year-old Vice-Captain did show some fallibility in the face of tactical short bowling, but was a class above his country’s other batsmen.

Johnny Bairstow: 6/10
Runs: 118. Average: 29.50

Returned to the fold at Edgbaston following abundant form for Yorkshire. A belligerent 74 helped England to take advantage of skittling Australia out for just 60 at Trent Bridge. That knock aside he fielded soundly without being entirely assured at the crease. Deserves a prolonged run at this level.

Ben Stokes: 7/10
Runs: 201. Average: 25.12
Wickets: 11. Average: 33.45

The heir to Andrew Flintoff’s throne showed glimpses of undoubted potential, as well as providing the enduring image of Ashes cricket in 2015 with a barely believable one-handed catch taken when diving full length in the slips. Batting fizzled out over the course of the summer, with bowling by contrast becoming more consistent. Promising.

Jos Buttler: 5/10
Runs: 122. Average: 15.25
Dismissals: 12

Kept wicket without any issues, yet Buttler’s batting fell off a cliff, with his last ditch knock of 42 beefing a paltry average up towards the relative heights of the mid-teens. Will need to work on his defensive skills if he’s going to succeed in the longer format.

Moeen Ali: 7/10
Runs: 293. Average: 36.62
Wickets: 12. Average: 45.50

The experiment of utilising Moeen’s batting skills in the lower echelons of the line-up worked a treat, as he regularly contributed quickfire runs among the tail. His position as a front-line bowler is less secure though, with his left arm spin not a patch of opposition tweaker Nathan Lyon.

Stuart Broad: 8.5/10
Runs: 134. Average: 19.14
Wickets: 21. Average: 20.90

One of Broad’s finest summers as a Test bowler, he was consistently thrilling, peaking with a career-best 8-15 at Trent Bridge. His batting also improved significantly from recent efforts, with a willingness to tough it out against the opposition’s quicks commendable. Passed Fred Trueman’s 307 Test scalps, ending the series with 308 of his own.

Mark Wood: 7/10
Runs: 103. Average: 25.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 39.10

Appeared jaded early on, but became integral to England’s success. His fierce bowling lacks precision at times, but he has the talent and work ethic to become world class. Chipped in with useful runs and fielded superbly; a pleasing all-round contribution.

Jimmy Anderson: 8/10
Runs: 11. Average: 2.75
Wickets: 10. Average: 27.50

His spell of 6-47 at Edgbaston swung the momentum heavily in England’s favour, although he suffered a side strain in the same Test, missing the remaining couple of matches as a result. Looks back to somewhere approaching his best, and a target of 550 wickets at this level can’t be discounted.

Steven Finn: 7/10
Runs: 9. Average: N.A
Wickets: 12. Average: 22.50

After around 18 months in the international wilderness, Finn returned with one of the most potent displays of his entire career. At 26 years-old he looks to have finally found the consistent rhythm to succeed among the elite of world cricket.

Gary Ballance: 4/10
Runs: 98. Average: 24.50

Technical flaws exposed in the first two Test matches, Ballance, who had a fairytale first year in five day cricket, looked out of his depth in the two games he played, with only a scratchy 61 of note to show for his efforts. Will need to improve his sluggish footwork to fulfil undoubted potential.

So, we move on to the limited overs game. Can England continue the impressive form they showed against New Zealand earlier in the summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Ashes Watch: Old wounds opened for England

England headed to Lord’s for the second Ashes Test match of the summer following an impressive 169-run victory in Cardiff, only to endure four days of turmoil at the hands of a vengeful Australian side.

Having won the coin toss Australia batted first on a docile track, racking up a score of 566 for 8 declared over the course of five destructive sessions, Steven Smith compiling a career best 215, and veteran Chris Rogers a Test high 173, the latter having been dropped early on by the hapless Adam Lyth.

Tough at the top

England’s response was almost immediately in tatters, four top order wickets tumbling in the face of some brutal fast bowling. Despite a decent recovery courtesy of captain Alastair Cook (96) and all-rounder Ben Stokes (87), England ended their innings more than 250 runs adrift.

Australia batted again, and once more the pitch seemed lifeless, England’s bowlers toiling under scoreboard pressure and against confident, skilled opponents.

Set a notional 512 to win, the home side were completely blown away this time, all out for a spineless 103, with Ben Stokes’ risible run-out (see video above) the nadir.

Repercussions

England’s selectors have retorted by ditching the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance and calling up the very in-form Johnny Bairstow to take his place.

In the past Bairstow has struggled to step up to the top table, but his County form, he averages more than 100 with the bat for Yorkshire this season, indicates that this is a young player very much in the ascendency.

For old hands like Ian Bell it’s probably now or never, with those in the know claiming that he must perform at his home ground of Edgbaston next week, or else face being discarded like a used tissue – the heat is on.

England second Test ratings

Alastair Cook (Captain)
96 & 11

One of the few home players to come out of the match with any credit. Cook showed plenty of fortitude to compile a painstaking 96 when all about him shouldered arms, the only pity is that he didn’t go on to make a deserved ton.

Alastair Cook

His captaincy wasn’t helped by a deliberately lifeless pitch which backfired spectacularly on England, failing to negate Australia’s quicker through the air attack, whilst blunting the likes of Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson who rely predominantly on the pitch.

6.5/10 (7/10 batting, 6/10 captaincy)

Adam Lyth
0 & 7

In his most crippling nightmares Lyth wouldn’t have forecast anything this gloomy.

Not only did he drop two critical catches, he (briefly) batted without sense, appearing entirely out of his depth, like a toddler trying to negotiate Niagra Falls with the aid of a cheap float. Is fortunate to keep his place, probably saved by his century against New Zealand a couple of matches earlier.

1/10

Gary Ballance
23 & 14

After a golden inaugural year on the Test scene, Ballance has inevitably found life harder during his second summer of five-day cricket.

A weakness against the short ball has been remorselessly exposed by both New Zealand and Australia this summer, and whilst it may seem harsh for the Zimbabwe-born southpaw to be dropped ahead of Lyth or Bell, it could be a good idea to remove him from the firing line until he explores his technical flaws further.

3/10

Ian Bell
1 & 11

After 112 Test caps, Bell finds himself under arguably the most intense scrutiny of his career, and with good reason. Since amassing a belligerent 143 in the Caribbean,  the 33 year-old has managed just one score of more than 29 in a dozen innings.

Previous excellence has saved his bacon thus far, with a promotion to number three mooted for Edgbaston. Another failure could see the man famously dubbed “Sherminator” by Australia’s touring side a decade ago unceremoniously dumped back onto the county circuit.

1/10

Joe Root
1 & 17/2-55 & 0-32

Calls to promote Root to number three have so far fallen on deaf ears, but he was once again left to marshal the tail at the end of this match, trying to farm the strike in a vain attempt to delay the coffin being nailed shut.

Two failures with the bat for the in-form Vice-Captain, who had set Cardiff alight to strains of “Rooooot” a week earlier. His bowling continues to progress, but England will need him back to his best next week, with a promotion to number four on the cards.

4/10 (Batting: 2/10, Bowling 6/10)

Ben Stokes
87 & 0/0-77 & 0-20

After suffering a pasting with ball in hand, England’s all-rounder showcased his brutal batting ability, pummelling the three lions away from the ignominy of 30-4 on day two, as he and Cook combined for a fifth wicket stand of 145.

From there it was something of a match to forget, with Stokes’ comical second innings run-out (where he failed to ground his bat/anatomy despite being comfortably inside the crease) the enduring snap-shot of a lamentable collapse.

5/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 4/10, Daft run-out: -10/10)

Jos Buttler (Wicket-keeper)
13 & 11

Increasingly edgy at the crease, the effervescent Buttler of previous series has been replaced by a forlorn figure bereft of confidence, suffering a seemingly scrambled mindset every time he steps up to bat.

Buttler run out

Seemed unsure whether to attack or graft during England’s 2nd innings collapse, dismissed after a couple of unconvincing boundaries. The first real test of his international credentials. Did a decent job with the gloves.

3/10

Moeen Ali
39 & 0/ 1-138 & 2-78

The experiment of using Moeen, a batting all-rounder, as a front-line spinner who bats at number eight has thus far proven hit and miss. On one hand he continues to contribute useful runs from a lower order perspective, on the other he’s wasted amongst the tail and was comfortably out-bowled by opposing spinner Nathan Lyon.

An aesthetically pleasing 39 and the snaring of both Aussie wickets to fall in their second innings were positives, but Moeen went at almost 4.5 runs per over, lacking the control necessary in the context of the match.

5/10 (Batting: 5/10, Bowling: 5/10)

Stuart Broad
21 & 25/ 4-83 & 0-42

Broad, so often an Ashes pantomime villain in the past, actually has a decent record against Australia, and was one of only two touring players to leave the previous tour “down under” in credit.

This match was arguably a microcosm of that 2013-14 edition, with neat contributions throughout from the lofty Nottinghamshire paceman, including a defiant 25 which eked England beyond the 100 barrier as they toiled in the closing stages.

7/10 (Batting: 6/10, Bowling: 8/10)

Mark Wood
4 & 2*/ 1-92 & 0-39

The sparkle synonymous with the Durham seamer since his inclusion in the England side dimmed at Lord’s. Wood looked weary and uncertain, perhaps inevitable when considering the abundance of overs he’s slung down this summer.

The current recess arrived not a moment too soon for a bowler who leaves it all on the pitch every time he bowls. There’s no prospect of dropping a player destined to lead England’s attack in the future years, but nothing really went his way in a forgettable performance.

3/10

James Anderson
6* & 0/ 0-99 & 0-38

Not one of Jimmy’s finest matches, as England’s all-time leading wicket taker failed to add to his 406 Test scalps. In truth he never really looked a threat.

Jimmy Anderson

Will be desperate to find his lost rhythm before the teams line up at Edgbaston. Anderson is another whose position in the team is unlikely to come under immediate threat, but impotent displays in three of four summer Tests thus far have hinted that there might not be too much gas left in tank for a bowler who turns 33 on the opening day of next week’s encounter.

2/10

Can England bounce back next week after this humiliation? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. As usual we’ll give our ratings after the match.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

The Ashes 2015: 1st Test ratings/2nd Test preview

5-0

As usual Glenn McGrath was confident when predicting that Australia would see off their rivals with an unanswered quintet of Ashes Test wins.

Sadly for Glenn, this England team is far removed from the one that sunk “down under”, when Mitchell Johnson had opposing batsmen desecrating their whites as they tumbled like bowling pins in the face of 95mph deliveries aimed at their throats. It was a masterclass in intimidation.

 

The wait was worth it… so far

England have had to wait 18 months for their revenge, rebuilding a dispirited set-up in the process. Out have gone former blue-chippers Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann (who retired halfway through the whitewash.)

Instead England, replete with shiny new coaching staff, have taken a leaf from New Zealand’s book, placing emphasis on courageous youth to re-energise the group.

An emphatic 169-run victory in the first Test last week had almost all pundits rapidly re-evaluating the scene, Dom Kureen gives his ratings for each of the eleven who represented the Three Lions in Cardiff.

 

Player Ratings

 

Alastair Cook (Captain)
20 & 12

The intense pressure of leading his country has inevitably led to diminishing batting results from the 30 year-old, who was at one stage regarded as the premier opener in world cricket.

Another slightly disappointing batting display had attached to it the gargantuan caveat of Cook’s finest leadership to date. His inventive yet logical field placings and expert use of Moeen Ali were pivotal in the victory.

6.5/10 (4 for batting, 9 for captaincy.)

Adam Lyth
6 & 37

Yorkshireman looked at ease in his second innings knock of 37 before over embellishing to give his wicket away. 

Looks to have the technical ability and tenacity to eventually form an effective opening partnership with Cook, but needs to pick his spots rather than rely on adrenalin. Is learning how to cope at this level, but needs selectors to keep faith during what promises to be a steep curve.

5/10

Gary Ballance
61 & 0

Came into the series under media scrutiny for the first time in his embryonic Test career, his questionable technique against the short ball having been exposed by New Zealand earlier this summer.

A gritty, invaluable 61 was compiled despite the Zimbabwe born youngster’s patent lack of form, which is probably enough to keep him at number three for at least the next couple of matches.

6/10

Ian Bell
1 & 60

Another player who began the series under pressure, Bell was dismissed cheaply in the first innings, increasing the burden on the veteran’s shoulders as his strode out second time round earlier than he would have hoped.

A fluent 60 helped England to cruise from 22-2 to an eventual score of almost 300, effectively putting the match beyond Australia, and simultaneously re-emphasising Bell’s latterly found happy knack of chipping in when under fire.

6.5/10

*Joe Root*
134 & 60, 2-28

The undisputed man of the match and arguably the most exhilarating cricketing prospect on the planet. Root’s first innings century came at almost a run-a-ball, as England recovered from 43-3 to score 430. Aussie ‘keeper Brad Haddin stewing behind the stumps, having dropped the 24 year-old before he’d scored.

Joe RootA second innings half-century was followed up with two wickets at the tail-end of the fourth day. Root continues to leave a trail of dishevelled bowlers in his wake, while his spin bowling improves with each passing series.

9.5/10

Ben Stokes
52 & 42, 1-51 & 1-23

Batted with intent in both innings and bowled far better than his figures suggest. Stokes revels in playing Ashes cricket it seems, having stood out amid the chaos of England’s 5-0 reverse down under last time out.

Has certainly secured the number six spot for the foreseeable future; England’s faith in the Durham all-rounder justified after an extended sequence of imposing displays.

7/10

Jos Buttler (Wicket-Keeper)
27 & 7

England’s most innovative player kept wicket superbly throughout the match, placing opposite number Haddin firmly in the shade with his efficient, graceful glove work.

Buttler’s batting was disappointing, two cheap dismissals undermining his prodigious talent. As Geoffrey Boycott put it; “He’ll be very disappointed, he’s better than that!”

6/10 (4 for batting, 8 for wicket keeping)

Moeen Ali
77 & 15, 2-71 & 3-59

Targeted by more than one Australian bowler pre-series, Moeen batted formidably with the tail in the first innings in the face of some hostile pace rib-ticklers and bitter sledging.

His bowling was equally impressive, with an over-zealous baggy green middle order tempted, to their demise, by subtle variations in flight and pace. If Moeen lacked confidence beforehand he should be brimming with it heading to Lord’s after a top-notch all-round contribution.

8/10

Stuart Broad
18 & 4, 2-60 & 3-39

Prolonged rest, a result of England’s new one-day policy, seems to have given Broad time to find harmony in his bowling again, as he was almost 10 mph quicker here than during a fitful effort in the Caribbean earlier this year.

Stuart Broad

Charging in, Broad unsettled all of the Australian batsmen at one point or another, nipping five of them out in the process. His first innings partnership of 52 with Moeen helped England past 400, hopefully his previously handy lower-order batting continues to blossom as the series unfolds.

7.5/10

Mark Wood
7* & 32*, 2-66 & 2-53

A not so rough diamond, Wood was a bold selection during the New Zealand series, with his 90+ mph bowling and proficient tail-end batting an immediate hit with fans and team-mates alike.

That trend continued in Cardiff, with Wood expertly supporting the new ball pair of Broad and Anderson. His emphatic 32 not out from only 17 balls extracting the final gust of wind from Australia’s sails.

7/10

James Anderson
1 & 1, 3-43 & 0-33

England’s all-time leading wicket-taker made the new ball talk during a first innings opening burst that resulted in opposing bats being relentlessly beaten by late swing and lateral seam movement.

Used sporadically second time around, Jimmy filled in a tidy support role while Messrs Broad, Wood, Moeen and Root ripped through the Aussies like a lion tearing at the flesh of a narcoleptic kangaroo.

7/10

England line-up at Lord’s with an unchanged XI from the one that prevailed in Cardiff; will they be able to replicate last week’s dazzling display? Share your musings in the comment section below.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Featured Artist – Katie Rivers

During my life I have stepped across the paths of many people with the surname ‘Rivers;’

Dan Rivers a fine chap with straight edge inclinations.
Lewis Riversthe brother of a fine chap with Straight Edge inclinations.
Joan Riversthe love of my life.

Katie Rivers 11

Yet none have been so artistically delectable as one Katie Yelda Zeretski Rivers, a performance artist,  painter, carpenter and Michelin star chef, who insists that she wasn’t the one who stole the balsa wood from the Blue Peter garden in 1998.

At 24 she has the world at her fingertips, with the callouses on the underside of her hands testament to a relentless work ethic that has only temporarily been curbed due to her relatively new surroundings.

Now residing in Queenstown, New Zealand, Katie is granted easy access to some of the most aesthetically stunning landscapes in the world on a daily basis; only the emotionless could fail to find splendour in the cacophony of conspicuous mountains, lakes and clear skies that make the town one of the crown jewels of Oceania.

With the incredible spectrum of content within Ms Rivers’ portfolio, it’s obvious that she’s one to watch in the art world over the next few years, with a captivating personality backing up some serious and varied creative talent.

To take a peek at Katie Rivers’ website simply click anywhere on this paragraph!

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Festival season 2015: Who’s playing where this summer?

With the UK music festival season rapidly approaching, there are now more choices than ever before for the weekend raver. Dom Kureen takes a look at some of the most notable events and how they’re shaping up so far.

June

Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac will kick off festival season on the Isle of Wight.

 

Isle of Wight Festival

Venue: Seaclose Park, Isle of Wight
Dates: 11-14 June
Weekend camping price: £208

Headline acts
Fleetwood Mac, Blur, The Black Keys, The Prodigy, Max.Lyrical.

Isle of Wight Festival website
Kureen 2014 Isle of Wight Festival review 

Download Festival

Venue: Donington Park, Leicestershire
Dates: 12-14 June
Weekend camping price: £215

Headline acts
Muse, Slipknot, Kiss, Faith No More, Motley Crue

Download website

Glastonbury Festival

Venue: Worthy Farm, Pilton.
Dates: 24-28 June
Weekend camping price: £225

Headline acts
Kanye West, Lionel Richie, Foo Fighters

Glastonbury website
Kureen 2014 Glastonbury review

Wireless 10

Venue: Finsbury Park, London
Date: 28 June
Day ticket price: £76.45

Headline acts
Drake, Rita Ora, Chance the Rapper, Katy B, Public Enemy

Wireless 10 website

July

Drake
Drake goes Wireless in July

Wireless Festival

Venue: Finsbury Park, London.
Dates: 3-5 July
Weekend camping price: £209.50

Headline acts
Drake, Jesse J, Avicii, Mary J Blige, David Guetta

Wireless Festival website

T2015

Venue: Strathallan castle, Perthshire, Scotland
Dates: 10-12 July
Weekend camping price: £194

Headline acts
Kasabian, Sam Smith, The Libertines, Kasabian, The Prodigy

T2015 website

Latitude Festival

Venue: Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
Dates: 16-19 July
Weekend camping price: £200.50

Headline acts
Portishead, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Alt-J, Alan Davies, Jon Richardson 

Latitude website

Love Box

Venue: Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London.
Dates: 17-18 July
Weekend camping price: £93.50

Headline acts
Snoop Dogg, Rudimental, Bonobo, Jessie Ware, Cypress Hill

Love Box website

Secret Garden Party

Venue: Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton
Dates: 23-26 July
Weekend camping price: £190.50

Headline acts
Jungle, Public Service Broadcasting, Palma Violets, Menace Beach

Secret Garden Party website

August

Sam Smith
Sam Smith: Far too clean looking for the festival crowd

 

Boomtown Fair

Venue: Matterley Estate, Winchester, Hampshire
Dates: August 13-16
Weekend camping price: £155

Headline acts
Stephen Marley, Gogol Bordello, Flogging Molly

Boomtown Fair website

V Festival

Venues: Weston Park, Staffordshire / Hylands Park, Chelmsford
Dates: August 22-23
Weekend camping price: £189

Headline acts
Calvin Harris, Stereophonics, Sam Smith, Tom Jones

V Festival website

Reading and Leeds Festival

Venues: Richfield Avenue, Reading / Braham Park, Leeds
Dates: August 28-30
Weekend camping price: £205

Headline acts
Mumford and Sons, The Libertines, Limp Bizkit, Metallica

Reading Festival website
Leeds Festival website

Creamfields

Venue: Alex James’s Farm, Kingham, The Cotswolds
Dates: August 28-30
Weekend camping price: £154.50

Headline acts
Paloma Faith, Grandmaster Flash, Groove Armada

Creamfields website

September

Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers sent in the clowns last summer

 

Festival No.6

Venue: Portmeirion, Wales
Dates: September 3-6
Weekend camping price: £170

Headline acts
Grace Jones, Belle & Sebastian, Ghost Poet

Festival No.6 website

Bestival

Venue: Robin Hill, Isle of Wight
Dates: September 10-13
Weekend camping price: £195

Headline acts
Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Duran Duran

Bestival website
Kureen 2014: 10 local acts you won’t want to miss

OnBlackheath

Venue: Blackheath, London
Dates: September 12-13
Weekend price: £89

Headline acts
Manic Street Preachers, Elbow, Madness

OnBlackheath website

Let us know which festival catches your eye, in the meantime here’s ‘Never going back again’ from the legendary Fleetwood Mac.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Featured Artist – Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was born Vincent Willem van Gogh on March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands.

Van Gogh 2

His father, Theodorus van Gogh, was an austere country minister, and his mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus, was a moody artist whose love of nature, drawing and watercolours was transferred to her son.

Van Gogh was born exactly one year after his parents’ first son, also named Vincent, was stillborn. At a young age—his name and birth date already etched on his dead brother’s headstone—the artist was melancholy.

In the fall of 1880, van Gogh decided to move to Brussels and become an artist. Though he had no formal art training, his younger brother Theo, who worked as an art dealer, offered to support him financially.

He began taking lessons on his own, studying books like Travaux des champs by Jean-François Millet and Cours de dessin by Charles Bargue.

Van Gogh had a catastrophic love life. He was attracted to women in trouble, thinking he could help them. His cousin, Kate, was recently widowed, and when van Gogh fell in love with her, she was repulsed and fled to her home in Amsterdam.

Van Gogh 4

He then moved to The Hague and fell in love with Clasina Maria Hoornik, an alcoholic prostitute. She became his companion, mistress and model.

When Hoornik went back to prostitution, van Gogh became utterly depressed. In 1882, his family threatened to cut off his money unless he left Hoornik and The Hague.

Van Gogh left in mid-September of that year to travel to Drenthe, a somewhat desolate district in the Netherlands. For the next six weeks, he lived a nomadic life, moving throughout the region while drawing and painting the landscape and its people.

Van Gogh 3

After more than 100 years since van Gogh’s death, more of his artwork was released. A painting of a landscape entitled “Sunset at Montmajour” was discovered and unveiled by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in September 2013.

Before coming under the possession of the Van Gogh Museum, a Norwegian industrialist owned the painting, storing it away in his attic, doubting that it was authentic.

The painting is believed to have been created by van Gogh in 1888—around the same time that his artwork “Sunflowers” was made—just two years before his death.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.