Monthly Archives: November 2012

Israel-Gaza ceasefire, NHS failings and more

Here’s a quick round-up of what’s been going on in the world, starting with the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza

Israel – Gaza ceasefire declared


From midnight last night a ceasefire has been declared between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip after a week of bloodshed. The fighting started as Israel executed its Pillar of Cloud operations, in an attempt to disarm Hamas of its long-range missile capabilities. Israel claimed that the operation was launched in response to Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and territory, ignoring the fact that in September and October there were over 300 Palestinian civilians injured or killed at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force. This includes a number of young boys who were killed by artillery fire whilst playing football. In the aftermath of a week of non-stop bombardment by the fourth best funded military in the world, over 150 Palestinians, including a number of elected leaders, reporters and civilians, have been killed. There were also casualties and injuries on the Israeli side, with five Israelis losing their lives.

There are obviously a number of things that I could rage about as far as this tragic loss of life is concerned, but I’ll keep it brief. First and foremost, Israeli missile strikes killed Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari in his car whilst it was moving, showing the targetting capabilities of their weaponary. On the same day an 11-monh old boy was killed when a missile hit his home, which was not near any legitimate Hamas targets. Accidents happen, but there were dozens of small children killed by missile attacks which had no chance of hitting anything that might have been a threat. The IDF has continued to show a callous disregard for their targets, favouring instead to inflict death and destruction upon a population that is being slowly starved and crushed from the face of the planet. The continually indiscriminate targetting of Palestinian civilians, especially children, shows that the heads of the Israeli state and military would prefer to send their neighbours to the grave than work to any form of sustainable peace. What we’re witnessing is a decades-long genocide.

 

Secondly, the support of Western powers for Israel’s entirely disproportionate attacks on the Gaza Strip give a glimpse of how this situation has come to be. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on this 60 year old conflict, but essentially Israel has been given the right and means to inflict apartheid on the indigenous population of Palestine in order to act as the attack dog of the West. The U.S., for example, has given Israel more funding than any other country for the last 65+ years, including a staggering $19,509,734,000 between 2001 – 2007. The 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have essentially been given a multi-billion dollar death sentence by successive Western governments who are more interested in ensuring their influence in a resource-rich region of the world than things like human dignity or life.

 

I’ll leave it there for now, mostly because if I don’t I might explode.

 

Patients Association highlights “appalling” NHS care

 

A report published by the Patients’ Association today detailed a number of cases of what it termed “appalling” care provided by NHS trusts from across the country. Included in the report were details of a dementia patient who was found dead in a river after going missing from their hospital bed and a number of patients who had “Do Not Resuscitate” cards next to their beds without consent from their family. Last year the Patients Association received over 8,000 calls regarding poor standards of care in NHS hospitals. Chief Executive of the organisation, Katherine Murphy stated that “behind each one [of these cases] are many more unheard voices. Whilst there is a lot to be proud of about the NHS, including the overwhelming majority of staff who are skilled and hard-working, these cases are a tragic wake-up call.”

 

From personal experience I am utterly unsurprised at the findings of this report; when my sister had her appendix out earlier this year she was put on a ward where me and my mum had to give additional support to half a dozen elderly patients because there weren’t nurses around to help them.

 

Given that there are a total 61,00 nursing jobs that have either already been cut or are facing the axe in the NHS, this news seems like a grim inevitability which is dommed to continue. Many commentators have also pointed to the fact that two-thirds of emergency admissions are among those with an existing long-term illness, which also points to the failings amongst GPs and community care in general.

 

We are seeing the human cost of the Coalition governments slash-and-burn policy across the NHS and, if these cuts go ahead, then thousands of the most vulnerable people in the UK will lose their lives as the NHS is unable to bear the load of one million patients a day. There’s a Gandhi quote that goes along the lines of “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” On that basis I have two suggestions:

1) Remove the “Great” from Great Britain

2) Stop the Con-Dems before they kill someone close to you.

 

Also in the news:

EU leaders meet for budget discussions

 

As EU leaders meet for talks on the EU budget for the next seven years David Cameron has threatened to use his veto if the deal struck between the 27 heads of state is not “in Britain’s interest”. Basically, the way he plans on doing that is by making sure Britain keeps it’s sizeable EU rebate (about £3 billion a year) and pushing for cuts to the cohesion and agricultural budgets, which support the poorer members of the EU and help to keep food prices low across the 27 state bloc. On top of that the PM will be campaging for increased investment in “growth and innovation”, i.e. policy programs that will help big buinesses make more money. What a dick.

Students march against tuition fees

Yesterday around 4,000 protesters marched through London against tuition fees on an NUS-led demo which avoided Parliament Square and instead went through deserted sections of south London. NUS President Liam Burns was run off stage at the rally following the march by angry protesters who shouted “NUS, shame on you, Where the fuck have you brought us to”, showing rising frustration with the NUS’s complete inability to organise effective protests. Many have criticised the NUS as simply a breeding ground for future Labour MPs, which is a bit unfair. Some of them are Lib Dems.

Micahel Chessum from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts laid the blame for the (relatively) low turnout on the NUS, stating : “The appetite of students to fight varies proportionally and will rise with how radical you make slogans and how clear you make the political message. If you march people to Kennington with a political slogan that’s difficult to get people behind, you will end up with low numbers.” If the 50,000 strong demos from 2010 showed us anything, it’s that students will mobilise if they think there’s a chance of a tangible result. An A-to-B march that doesn’t stop at Parliament Square and ends in the arse end of London just isn’t going to cut it. Plus, they need this guy.

Rant over, thanks for reading.

 

 

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Greece faces further austerity, HSBC bankrolls drug barons and more

Here’s a quick round-up of some of the big news stories of this week that AREN’T the US election (read my comments on Obama’s vicotry here), Superstorm Sandy and paedophilia.

Greek Parliament passes latest wave of austerity measures

A riot cop burns in Greece amid national protests

Last night the Greek Parliament passed the highly unpopular austerity measures forced upon it by the European Central Bank, International Monetry Fund and the European Union. Across the country protesters clashed with riot police as their elected representatives forced through a series of new cuts , including €4.6 billion to the country’s pension funds. The latest program of cutbacks also includes 110,000 public sector redundancies and public sector wage cuts of 35%, essentially bankrupting hundreds of thousnads of Greek workers and adding to unemployment figures which currently stand at over 25%. The government passed these austerity measures in order to secure a €31.5 billion bailout from the ECB, IMF and EU.

This is the fifth time in three years that Greeks have faced severe cuts to their income, either through their salary or through pensions, and many have been pushed beyond breaking pint. Yet another general strike was called by Greek unions prior to this vote, the third in two months. Ilias Iliopoulos at the civil servants’ union, Adedy, had this to say: “These policies are clearly not working. All they have done is impoverish Greeks and this country and instead of going down our debt is simply going up. People are going hungry, more than two million are unemployed. This government isn’t going to last long, of that you can be sure.” He added: “These measures may have become law but they won’t be able to enforce them.” (quote stolen from The Guardian)

This massive attack on the lives of millions of people perfectly displays the nature of international relations: Global market leaders are worried about the effect the Greek economy will have on the Euro,  other EU economies and, ultimately, their profits, and so have… persuaded international institutions to essentially blackmail Greece into doing whatever they want by threatening to kick them out of the Euro. This would cause an enormous economic collapse in Greece that would have irreparable consequences, plunging millions more people into poverty and dooming not just one but several generations to lifelong joblessness, illness and torturous living conditions. But hey, what do the ECB care, with Greece out of the Euro they can start throwing some more money at the Italian and Spanish economies, which are much heavier weights for the Eurozone to carry.

The long and the short of it then: Financial capital, under the guise of it’s puppets in Athens, have just put the last nailin the coffin of modern Greece as we know it. All together now: One solution!

HSBC to face huge fines after bankrolling drug cartels

The human cost of money laundering

HSBC faces fines of upwards of £940 million after a US Senate report found that it was complicit in laundering money for Mexican drug cartels and potential terrorists. Though the report that confirmed HSBC’s activities was released in July, the sub-committee investigating wrongdoing by the bank has yet to give precise figures on what the bank will be fined for failing to enforce appropriate anti money laundering procedures.

In his 2011 book, Amexica, journalist Ed Vulliamy gave both a harrowing account of the effects of drug-trafficking in northern Mexico and the southern US and also drew attention to collusion of international banking groups in this deadly endeavour. The drug war between a number of rival cartels accounted for over 40,000 murders in Mexico between 2006-2011, as well as innumerable serious injuries, not mention skyrocketing levels of addiction, poverty and drug-related crimes, such as assault and rape. That a household name like HSBC has been profiting off of this immense human suffering may not be a surprise to many, but it is despicable nonetheless.

Just a couple of quick thoughts on this. Firstly, no amount of financial penalties would absolve the bank of its role in the destruction of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives. If criminal procedings are not undertaken this will show just how corrupt the criminal system is.

Also in the news:

Legalize It!: Well, they have. Sort of. The states of Colorado and Washington have just voted on whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, despite it being against federal law in the country. So what does this mean for the hazy eyed people of these states? Well, not much really. Whilst ballots to make marijuana use legal have been passed, they must now be certified before you can smoke a doobie in the street. TO SEATTLE!

Chinese Communist Party to Announce New Leaders: The Chinese Communist Party opened its National Congress today, and will announce its leaders for the next ten years on November 15th. In an opening statement to delegates, current President, Hu Jintao, gave several stark warnings to the new standing commitee, stating that the party had to face up to the “serious challenge” of corruption and find ways to “promote social harmony and improve the people’s lives.” Suggestion: use actual democracy to decide who should run tings and how, stop sending people who disagree with you to labour camps and let people access information through the internet. Plus, y’know, Tibet.

Rant over, thanks for reading!

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Four more years

I think pretty much everyone this side of the Atlantic breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday morning as we awoke to hear that Barack Obama was re-elected as leader of the most powerful nation in the world. Completely understandable given that his opposition, Mitt “I like firing people” Romney looked like a surefire bet to start a nuclear war with whoever he could get congressional approval to destroy. Many of us hailed Obama’s victory as proof that the American people aren’t all bible-beating, homophobic gun nuts (which is roughly correct) and chalked one up for progress and equality. If only it were that simple…

First of all, I want to highlight the ridiculous sums of money involved in the election campaign; between the two campaigns there was well in excess of $1.5 billion spent during the presidential campaign. Pretty sickening huh? Here‘s the full breakdown. The fact is that neither of these men can claim to speak on behalf of the American people, based purely on the amount of capital that they pissed away during the worst economic downturn of the last 50+ years. Just think of all the jobs that money could have created, the medicine it could have bought, the new homes that could have been built, all spent on a frantic scramble for power. It’s more than a little disgusting.

Secondly, and I know this isn’t exactly the popular thing to say, Obama really hasn’t had that good a record. The wars in the Middle East continue, with troops still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has totally failed to end the War of on Terror during his four years in power. This has cost the American people billions of dollars whilst multinational oil companies make even more from the exploitative free market reforms enforced upon the two countries. What’s more, he has failed to deliver on promises to restore civil liberties and actually passed an act which allows anyone held on terrorism charges to be held indefinitely. And where would they be held? Why Guantanamo Bay, of course! The infamous torture-and-execution centre is still very much open for business, despite constant promises that he would close it during his first presidential campaign.

What’s more, since Obama was elected in 2008 he has helped American banks fleece thier customers of $468 billion worth of interest payments on customer accounts, thanks to his Zero Interest-Rate Policy. By dropping interest rates to 0%, Obama has allowed the priviliged few at the top of the banking sector to rake in eyewatering sums of money through cutting the amount that banks have to pay customers with savings accounts. There’s a reason Wall Street had no problem with this guy coming into power.

A huge proportion of Obama’s votes in both 2008 and 2012 came from trade unionists and Latinos, and he has well and truly screwed them over too. During the automotive crisis the commander-in-chief supported a “re-structuring program” which allowed car companies to make huge cuts to jobs, wages and employment conditions in order for these massive international firms to maximise profits. Similarly, Obama has overseen the deportation of 400,00 people from Latin America, after assuring voters that he supported naturalisation of currently illegal immigrants. In fact he has done the opposite, sending people back to countries that have been torn apart by crime and poverty as direct result of U.S. foreign policy.

Looking foward to the next four years, I don’t see many reasons for things to change with Obama in charge; the rich will continue to get richer whilst the poor face crushing austerity, all in the name of the economy, i.e. private profit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still VERY glad Romney lost, but that doesn’t mean that I’m happy that Obama won.

Rant over, thanks for reading.

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NFL Gameday – Panthers @ Redskins

FINAL SCORE: Carolina 21 -Washington 13

The big focus going into this game was the two young QBs, Cam Newton and RGIII; after an incredibly dynamic rookie season, Newton has come under fire in recent weeks for some poor decision-making and a few attitude problems, whilst Griffin III has had praise heaped on him for an excellent opening to the seasons procedings. However, the real key to this game was a combination of solid D and a balanced offense for the Panthers whilst the Redskins were hurt by innumerable penalties and inconsistent play from their wide receivers. Here’s my breakdown of the action at FedEx Field:

Panthers Offense:

The key to the Panthers offensive success was a good pass/run balance (23/27), keeping the Redskins off balance and allowing the lineman to get up on the defensive line. This was particularly true when running out of the shotgun, something the Panthers did to great effect; during their first scoring drive Stewart, Williams and Newton picked up 60 yards on 4 runs, finishing with a 30-yard sprint to the outside and along the sideline into the endzone by Williams.

The second TD of the game for Panthers was a mammoth 98-yard drive that took just 4 minutes and was aided by a pair of questionable Redskins penalties (one roughing the passer, one pass interference) which totalled 22 yards. Newton rushed for 15 yards on three attempts and completed 5-of-9 passes, with a bleeding thumb, two passes to Greg Olsen on out-routes and a 19-yard TD strike to Steve Smith. Smith made his first TD catch of the year on that play after a prolific season last year and consistently beat ‘Skins CB Josh Wilson throughout the game.

The Panthers final scoring drive was similarly impressive, with a 91-yard drive in just 90 seconds, thanks largely to an explosive 82-yard play action pass to Armanti Edwards, only his second NFL reception. The play was helped in no small part by some awful coverage and a trademark downfield block by Steve Smith which gave Edwards an extra 15-20 yards. Once they were in the redzone the Panthers were helped out by another pass interference penalty on Josh Wilson and Cam pounded the ball in from the one-yard line.

Overall, it was a decent outing for the Panthers offensively, but against a faltering Redskins unit that has been plagued by injuries they could probably have done a little better. Washington are ranked last in the NFL in pass D and 28th overall, but Carolina got total of 0 points on drives where Washington didn’t commit a foul. That’s not good offense. This partly down to poor interior run blocking, with only 2 runs of over 5 yards coming up the middle, and partly down to a lack of big pass plays outside the Armanti play, as the average yards per completion came in at under 9 yards. Luckily for the Panthers their defense came through.

Panthers Defense:

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers had a pretty good game. There were standout performances from Luke Kuechly, Charles Johnson and Josh Norman. Whilst rookie running back Alfred Morris had a good game running the football and the ‘Skins read-option offense often caught the Panthers off-guard, Carolina was still able to make stops when it counted. Their redzone defense was excellent, coming up with a number of big stops, including a 4th-and-goal run by Griffin III from the 2-yard line and previously on that drive they forced Washington to go for it on fourth down. They also made Washington wait until 1:34 in the fourth quarter for a touchdown and limited them to just 20% third-down conversions.

The front four had alot of success rushing the passer in the second half, racking up four sacks and, had they not been up against one of the most athletic QBs in the game, they should have had alot more. This pressure allowed the Panthers to sit back in zone coverage and keep plays in front of them and limited RGII to 4.3 yards per completion.

There were a couple of mistakes, like the Hardy penalty that got the Redskins out a of a serious hole on their first drive, though Hardy did atone for this mistake by drawing a foul later on that drive.

Overall, whilst the Redskins did cause the Panthers some headaches with their option offense, Ron Rivera’s men proved themselves to be up to the challenge and, frankly, kept the Panthers in this game at times as the offense floundered.

Redkins Offense:

The Washington Redskins really shot themselves in the foot consistently in this game. Robert Griffin III, Albert Morris and Logan Paulsen all played well, but there were inconsistencies throughout the receiving core, particularly from Josh Morgan who had a couple of big drops. The offensive line struggled in pass protection at several points, and it was only through some very fancy footwork from RGIII that kept the number of sacks at 4. They also gave up some drive-killing and touchdown-negating holding penalties on a second and short and a third and goal. More worringly for the Redskins, they lost Santana Moss early on and his presence was sorely missed throughout the game. The Redskins were held to field goals in the 1st and 2rd quarters before finally punching it in on a 2-yd Evan Royster run late in the 4th.

It asn’t all doom and gloom though. Alfred Morris and RGIII combined for 129 yards on 26 attempts including a couple of very good gains. Morris has been an absolute revelation in the backfield and is performing far above his sixth round draft selection, garnering early comparisons to Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch. Similarly, the run blocking as very good at times, allowing Morris to make his cuts, lower his head and power through tacklers. In terms of Xs and Os, Kyle Shanahan did a great job in places but the execution was lacking at times, particularly in the redzone. There was also the questionable call to go for a touchdown on fourth and goal at the 3 yard line, which failed and could have put the Redskins in a better position.

As previously mentioned, the option defense kept the Panthers on their heels for large stretches of the game. When playing in the pistol the ‘Skins had success running the ball, which really opened up their play action passing, though more conventional singleback, I-form and shotgun sets were closed down quickly by the Panthers D. Washington made a few big plays as five different receivers had receptions of 15+ yards and Morris broke off a number of big runs, often requiring three players to stop him. Griffin played well, showing great poise, throwing accurately and picking up yards with his feet when his receivers couldn’t get separation or his lineman failed to protect him. And that happened alot.

Whilst alot of credit should go to the Carolina defense, ultimately the reason Washington didn’t rack up more points in this game was down to needless fouls and inconsistent play.

Washington Defense

Unlike the Redskins’ offense, there really wasn’t much good to take from this game on the defensive side of the ball in this game. Granted, the Panthers looked stagnant and frustrated at times, but that was down to bad play on their behalf rather than any great efforts by the defense.

Let’s start with the run game. Washington failed to set the edge consistently against the run, allowing Stewart and Williams to gain some serious yardage around the outside. Granted, the interior rush D did well to keep the Panthers to minimal gains up the middle, but it simply wasn’t enough. Tackling was an issue on several occasions, as runners were able to break tackles and pick up plenty of yards after contact.

Now onto the passing game. Josh Wilson had a torrid time against Steve Smith, giving up two pass interference calls and an easy touchdown. The rest of the secondary didn’t fare much better either; there was a competely blown coverage on the 82-yarder to Armanti, who found himself all alone upfield with no red jerseys around him as every single Redskin defender bit on the play fake. They also struggled to cover Greg Olsen, who finished the game with five catches. The pass rush was equally poor, not registering a single sack and only a handful of QB hurries; Barry Cofield was the only player to get a clean line at Newton more than once. Most disappointing was Ryan Kerrigan who only got in on one tackle and was out-muscled and out-played by second year tackle Byron Bell all game.

What was most apparent in this game was how badly the Redskins depend on the players currently out with injuries; had Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Merriwether (to name but a few) been on the field, this could have been a very different game. Unfortunately for the Redskins they weren’t and the defense failed to impress.

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Reviewed: Lost Songs – …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Hot on the heels of 2011’s Tao of the Dead, the punk-rock&death&death&death&FUCKYOU&rollers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have released a new, full-length LP which goes by the name of Lost Songs. As a bit of a fanboy (well, a lot of a fanboy), I was pretty excited to hear the latest offering from the Texan four-piece and boy, do my neighbours know about it. Here’s the video for Catatonic, the first single from the album.

Lost Songs is something of a change of pace from Tao of the Dead, which was a very high concept album, split into two parts. This record, on the other hand, is more of a straight up rock-out kind of affair. Whilst there are still the occasional breaks in the pace, the majority of tracks will leave you a little bit out of breath from the fist-pumping, head-banging, arse-shaking fun you’re gonna have the second you press play. I genuinely stopped taking the bus this week cos I couldn’t sit still on it whilst listening to this on my morning commute.

In this respect I can see this album being quite divsive for Trail of Dead fans, as this is a far cry from Tao of the Dead, Worlds Apart and, to a lesser extent, Source Tags and Codes; many of the extra instruments and electronic wizardry in those albums has been left out in favour of a stripped back, fast paced, sonic-assault approach. And fuck me does it work. Tracks like Pinhole Cameras, A Place To Rest and single Catatonic, to name but a few, really crank up the decibels and are sent racing ahead by a booming toms and guitars that sound like they’re on MD. There’s also a distinctly funky trend throughout; I’m starting to get RSI in my neck from all the head banging that 4 days of continuous listening has caused. Genuinely, it’s a health and safety hazard. When the pace does occasionally drop, it’s in favour of some damn catchy bass lines and beautifully discordant guitars. Overwhelmingly, though, is this an aggressive, high-tempo collection and I have to say that I like it alot.

Another interesting new development has been a more political edge to the bands music, not in a very overt way but it is noticeable. For example, the first single from the album, Catatonic, is a swipe at the apathetic society and music scene which is becoming increasingly prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic, whilst the immensely fun Up To Infinty was written about the uprising in Syria.

The only criticisms I have of this album are regarding the slower tracks toward the end. Personally, Awestruck and Time and Again really don’t fit and I’ll admit that I have skipped them a few times in favour of some of the louder tracks. That’s not because I want this to be a purely punk rock album, it’s because I just don’t think they fit the overall tone; the country stylings in Time and Again jar a little and the same applies for the guitars in Awestruck. However, I have a total of 0 albums released and these guys have 8, so what the fuck do I know?

Overall, then, this is a damn good listen. There are easily 5 tracks on here which any band would be proud to release as singles and as a whole the album is exciting and engaging. Source Tags it ain’t, but then if bands like Trail of Dead just made the same music all the time then we wouldn’t have bad-ass music like this to listen to. Lost Songs is well worth the money you should spend on it instead of downloading it illegally. Yes, I’m looking at you.

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A Beginners Guide To …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

After fighting with Spotify for 3 days on and off, I was finally able to get my hands on the latest album from …Trail of Dead and I have to say, I was pretty stoked. This is one of my favourite bands, and not just for their name (which is amazing); about two years ago I went to go see these guys in The Cockpit in Leeds with a good buddy of mine (HI MATT!) without having heard any of their songs and I was blown away. After the gig I immediately listened to everything I could get my hands on which, considering they’ve been going for 18 years, is quite alot. So if you like “The Lost Songs” (here’s my review of it) and you want to get into the band a bit more, or if you just want to troll my page and tell me how I know nothing about music (HI MATT!), then here is my beginners’ guide to …And You Will Know Us by The Trail Of Dead.

LISTEN TO THIS FIRST – Source Tags and Codes
So I thought I’d start by suggesting an album to listen to before you delve into 7 albums worth of music these guys have made. That album is Source Tags and Codes.

I know every other Trail of Dead fan out there is going to sigh audibly at this for my lack of originality, but let’s be honest, this album is the dogs bollocks. There’s a very good reason it’s widely recognized as their greatest work and that’s because it is. Source Tags is a fantastic album from top to bottom, and is the ideal introduction to this band as it show every aspect of their music. The opening sets a terrific atmosphere, full of bleeps, samples, a haunting piano melody and cries of “Trail of Dead” (that’s a common feature across earlier albums), then explodes into a wall of guitars, with Conrad screaming at full throttle, full of pain and honesty. The album flows beautifully from track to track, full of enthralling quick-loud moments that have you headbanging like a dick before you even realize what’s going on. This isn’t just a collection of songs thrown together, though there are a number of standout tracks, this album takes you through the perils of modern life; loneliness, passion, alienation, amorality and confusion are all laid bare with considerable skill and surprising amount of danceability (if you dance like I do at least). Combine that with some stirring, apocalyptic lyrics and you’re onto a winner.

On a slightly more hipster douchebag-y note (there won’t be many, I promise), the structure of the album is superlative; the pacing is fantastic, giving you time to breathe for a second before launching into another audio assault that storms by you, leaving you wondering who pissed these guys off THIS much. Thematically, it is fairly ambitious and executes with unassuming expertise, leading from one emotion to another without you even realising. Want proof? Take 15 minutes to listen to Another Morning Stoner, Baudelaire, Homage and How Near How Far consecutively without singing you lungs out with alternating anger and despair and having a little boogie in between.  Another striking feature of the album is the diversity of sound; this is not your standard 2 guitars, bass and drums record. There are pianos, strings (of some description) and a whole host of electronic accroutements that give real depth throughout.

Enough of the shameless fanboy adulation, just listen to the fucking album. Here are 3 tracks I recommend you listen to immediately:

It Was There That I Saw Your Face

Homage

Days of Being Wild

Honourble mentions: Another Morning Stoner, Source Tags and Codes

Liked Lost Songs? Check out The Century of Self

As previously mentioned, Lost Songs shows a much punkier side to this band than can be found on many of there albums. In terms of a straight like-for-like comparison, I would liken the bands newest offering to the 2009 album The Century of Self.

The Century of Self was actually the first Trail Of Dead album I listened to fully and I would rate it as one the best albums the band have released. Much like Lost Songs it has a very healthy bpm throughout but also has a smattering of slower tracks that complement the album as a whole. Whilst CoS has a bit more in the way of piano parts, it is still largely a straight up guitar and drums album with different sounds coming in to add depth to the mellower parts, not that there are many.

As ever with these guys, there is a great overall feel to this record as each track stands alone but works best as part of the whole and CoS is much greater than simply the sum of its parts. You are welcomed to the show with an epic prelude, which gives way to a squeal of feedback then boom! ripping guitars and a bouncyasfuck rhythm which gets you looking around for someone to mosh with as Far Pavilions comes into full swing. After a solid 15 minutes of the best airdrumming workout this side of thrash metal comes a fantastically melodic break from Fields of Coal and from there on out you’re kept guessing by a seamless section of quiet, thoughtful tracks that bite the second you get lulled in by Conrad’s voice. It’s a bit like being at sea; you think your being gently rocked by the serene waves, then get smashed by a tidal wave of sound.

I could prattle on a little more as to why this album is worth listening to, but since you’re probably already listening to it, here are my 3 favourite tracks:

Far Pavilions

Halcyon Days

Fields of Coal

Honourable mentions: Pictures of an Only Child, Insatiable Two

 

My Favourite: Madonna
The albums I’ve recommended so far have been shown what Trail of Dead do at both ends of the spectrum. I really like this band precisely because every album is different but similar at the same; the actual music in each record can be worlds apart from the last but always feels like Trail of Dead. Personally I’d pick Madonna as my favourite album as it blends both styles brilliantly. Plus the opening “Trail of Dead” is weirdly catchy, to the point that I have walked down the street quietly chanting “trail of dead” to myself whilst worried pedestrians cross the road to avoid me.

This is an album that has a lot of edge to it, with stark, honest lyrics that catch you a little off-guard. As with many of the bands albums it also has a certain funkiness that gets you bobbing away in no time, like my personal favourite Totally Natural. The music is driven by a barrage of tribal toms and some brilliantly discordant guitars at the start, then unfolds into some beautiful, sweeping soundscapes,  with haunting piano pieces thrown in for good measure.

Madonna is my favourite album for the reasons mentioned above, but also because of the depth of the tracks on it. It has a hell of a lot of play on my iTunes and I’m not even close to finished listening to it. Though the songs appear to be quite straightfoward, each has a number of great little touches and there are a number of recurring drum and guitar parts which give the album a sense of identity which is sorely lacking in the majority of music outside of very proggy prog. This is most notable in Aged Dolls, a soaring 7 minutes which is filled with echoes of previous tracks and displays more sorrow than a My Chemical Romance song could dream of. Don’t get me wrong, this is a million miles from an emo song, mainly because it is able to express genuine despair through candid lyrics and technically excellent music without whining.

Probably the greatest strength of this record, though, is it’s diversity. Songs like Totally Natural and A Perfect Teenhood rip along with a sense of arrogance that’s infectious, whilst slower tracks like Clair de Lune always get me swaying melancholically within seconds. There are also a few short interludes which tie the whole thing together, making Madonna an intensely enjoyable listening experience.

Top 3 tracks:

Totally Natural

Clair de Lune

Mark David Chapman

Honourable mentions: Mistakes and Regrets, Aged Dolls

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