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Tom Hughes "tomhughes2005" (Baldock Herts)

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Price: £10.82

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good album but Muse have done better, 8 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Drones (Audio CD)
Superficially this is a superb album with the typical bombastic blockbuster sound of previous Muse albums completely intact with plenty of overblown, apocalyptic lyrics and set pieces.

No half measures here, the first 8 songs, Mercy and a couple of interludes aside this is relentless heavy bass driven Glam rock with plenty of outstanding guitar work supplemented by numerous synth electronic backbeats. However compared to previous albums it is a simpler set of arrangements with repetitive riffs and baselines being drawn out with a range of dramatic changes in musical direction including some superb guitar solos.

The downside is that this is nothing Muse have not done before and although the music is very well produced it is an album that I am already beginning to tire of. The same theme of our world basically being controlled, with a range of dominant political and social messages are repeated throughout all of the tracks. I wouldn't mind except tales of apocalypse and corruption have formed the basis of every Muse album since Absolution and the returns are seriously diminishing. This in my view stops Muse from being considered a truly great band as this one dimensional approach to lyrical concepts is in direct contrast to great bands like Queen and The Beatles who could sing about anything from Bicycle races to Yellow Submarines. Muse lack that imagination.

Worse still so many songs evoke the work of other artists to the point of direct emulation. Mercy reminds me of a Keane song for the first minute, Dead Inside has a Radio GaGa electronic synth, Psycho echoes Gary Glitter and Marilyn Manson, while later on Aftermath feels like a U2 song with Matt even copying Bono's breathey delivery. It sounds pleasant and easily assessable, but if Robin Thicke and Pharrell can be sued for "Blurred Lines" then Muse had better hope the aforementioned artists are not feeling litigious.

The Handler is a fantastic song that again has an ambience from a seminal band (Metallica) but is very well written with some wonderful soaring moments and lyrical strength that conveys a controlling relationship. Defector is another highlight that peaks with a superb soaring and squealing guitar solo finale that really gives the song a real majestic drama. Psycho is a fun, glam rock number that perhaps gives nods to the album trying hard to appeal to the American punk rock crowd. This social olive branch to America extends to JFK speech samples condemning communism as a force of evil, which is interesting given the attacks on capitalism on their previous album.

It ends fairly weakly with the classical rock opus that features on every Muse album. The Globalist is their longest song to date but heavily samples Elgar's Nimrod. At least he is dead, so presumably can't sue unless any of his relatives are around. While Drones is a choir accopella of the high Catholic church kind that just drones the word "Drones" over a faux classical music composition for 2 mins and 50 seconds.

Despite the criticism this remains a fun album full of easily accessible dramatic rock tunes that Muse always manage effortlessly. The talent and ability are beyond doubt, but this is not a classic alongside Absolution, Origin of Symmetry or even The Resistance. One for the fans but it isn't going to win anyone else over.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2015 9:01 PM BST

Offered by Timewazeuk
Price: £1,016.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great watch but you can do better or cheaper, 31 May 2015
This has been my main watch for a few years now and while it is extremely stylish with a strong brand image, the build quality is perhaps worse than a Seiko at a tenth of the price.

The bezel gets scratched easily, with the chronograph a serious pain to set properly. For a watch billed as a no nonsense sports model, it really does give you a lot of nonsense.

Replacing the battery and getting it re-sealed is £80.00 at a Tag Service Centre, while a new bezel alone is £60. A strap is £225.

It ends up being a very expensive status symbol that I struggle to justify. It does look good but not as good as an Omega Speedmaster, which costs more but if you can afford £1,000 on a watch a few extra hundred makes little difference.

In actual quality terms this provides poor value. It is on par with a Tissot, Citizen or a Seiko which all cost less to service. Higher end Tags feel better made, with even slightly dearer Aquaracers having far superior finishing.

It does have a very nice design and does feel more special than a mainstream watch but this is largely due to the emotional ties developed with consumers from years of celebrity endorsements.

If you appreciate a strong brand image then yes, this is a solid choice as it does a good job at telling the time, but there is no wow factor, solid build or individuality that a watch at over £1,000 should have.

The Desired Effect
The Desired Effect
Price: £7.99

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brandon Flowers wilts with a solo album that is more filler than killer, 26 May 2015
This review is from: The Desired Effect (Audio CD)
I'm a huge fan of The Killers, so this is a tough review to write but sadly this is the worst work from Brandon yet. Expectations had raised when he declared in the music press that this was The Killers' true "2nd album" in progression from Hot Fuss. Unfortunately I hear little evidence of this on hardly any of the tracks, that lack the dirty synths and more aggressive delivery of what remains their seminal album.

If the songs were well written little of that matters but unfortunately they follow the same themes of romance and relationship troubles that quickly grow weary after 3 tracks. This album tries to delve deeper into gospel and folk music with an electronic twist, but fails to capture the drama or social commentary of the finest in this genre. Some of the lyrics are generally quite lazy, with one particular stand-out being "look what the cat dragged in, papa snatched your kin" from "Diggin up the Heart", the sort of meaningless nonsense that even British 70s Glam Rock groups like Slade would be embarrassed by.

The positive reviews try to claim that this is a fun pop album, but I struggle to see how it manages that. Pop to my mind is carefree, silly, fun and easily accessible. This is actually quite a tiresome listen with Flowers singing in a flat monotone voice for the majority of the tracks that only lifts for the rather tedious barn dance Country and Western stylings of "Diggin up the heart" which brings up terrible flashbacks of late 80s Billy Ray Cyrus and double denim.

He seems lost for ideas on many of the tracks with the only good song being "can't deny my love" which admittedly is a fine pop song. It differs from the others in that it has a catchy soaring chorus with a positive message. The soft gospel sections then spring to life with the cool "Daft Punk" style synth loop that works well although again it isn't an original concept.

Electronic effects with plenty of bleeps and keyboards fail to really add any life to a fairly limp collection of songs that lack any general purpose or message. The use of vocoder "daft punk" voice effects on "lonely town" just feels like a desperate attempt to inject some life into fairly standard piece of life reflection. Remove the guitars and percussion solos from a Killers album to give you an idea of what this album feels like. A selection of Killers' demos that lack any conviction in their vocal delivery.

Overall this is a very unconvincing record that has no genuine highlights or surprises. It feels like a contractual obligation than a genuine labour of love for Brandon and the fact he seems to be falling asleep on the front cover should act as a warning to the impact that this album may have on the listener.

Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written album that misses out on classic status due to feeble finale, 20 April 2015
This review is from: Matador (Audio CD)
Gaz Coombes was of course a major force in the Britpop scene of the 90s with Supergrass who perhaps never achieved the critical acclaim their contemporaries Oasis and Blur did, perhaps in my view because they had a disposable, pop image not fitting with the times.

Matador seems to be a nod towards being taken more seriously for Gaz. This album does away with bouncy rock anthems and lyrics laced with gags. Instead we find a more mature sound with heavy Radiohead and folksy chilled out vibe throughout the record.

It works, as every song is brimming with memorable lyrics and a toe tapping quality making them as accessible as anything in the Supergrass hay day.

My only issue with the album is that it is too much of a pastiche of its own influences. Gaz sings in a slightly folky, spoken Thom Yorke choir esque tone which follows through the whole album to the point of it feeling like a tribute act.

Gaz Coombes has a great voice but the range shown on previous albums is not shown here.That cool, shouted punk tone of the Supergrass era is missing, which is a shame as it was a real signature of his style.

Overall though it is an album dominated by soaring choruses and psychedelic pop moments. Mellow is a good definition for the feel of the album.

Buffalo sounds like a Coldplay song but a lovely choir section gives it real drama. Girl who fell to earth captures the modern day emptiness of online relationships, although the highlights for me are "The English Ruse" and "Needle's Eye" which have some excellent piano sections that give an almost jazzy feel to them.

I drop a star because I felt it fizzles out towards the end with weaker, more anonymous songs. Matador and Is it on? Feel like filler to make it seem a more substantial album than it is.

No Pier Pressure
No Pier Pressure
Price: £7.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of an album but let down by a lack of identity and best tracks are on the deluxe album, 7 April 2015
This review is from: No Pier Pressure (Audio CD)
Brian Wilson needs no introduction as a true Rock and Roll hall of fame legend, who will always be celebrated by millions of fans around the world. When he sticks to his Beach Boys roots this album really shines with some beautiful arrangements and harmonies as dramatic as they ever were.

The arrangements on tracks such as "Whatever Happened", "The Right Time", and "Tell me why" are extremely good, with a nice addition of some saxophone solos to the usual array of strings and horns.

I find the special guests unconvincing because they reveal an album that lacks any real invention. "On the Island" sounds like a dreadful 70s TV American soap theme tune, while "Runaway Dancer is atrocious, sounding like an early 80s synth has been played over the standard Beach Boys synth arrangement that has simply been speeded up. The rest is fairly inoffensive and forgettable that adds no real memorable moments to his legacy.

However I must add that the deluxe version inexplicably contains four songs in the "Beach Boys" mould that are amongst his finest work. "Don't Worry" is an uptempo song that has the trademark Wilson falsetto without the embarrassing electric horror that drowned out "Runaway Dancer".

The highlight of these songs is "Somewhere Quiet" a gorgeous crooned ballad that evokes the dreamy imagery of a warm, Californian evening like only Brian Wilson can, with a soaring chorus up there with the best Beach Boys classics. This really should be the forefront of the main album, not a deluxe additon.

"I'm feeling sad" and "Tell me why" round up these wonderful revisions of the classic "Beach Boys" sound. I was rather irritated to buy the standard version, to find the deluxe version had these gems after listening on I tunes after getting the physical CD.

For fans, I can recommend the deluxe version for these tracks, but in standard form, the attempts at new sounds are just poor derivatives of well trodden paths by other artists. The only reason the four deluxe tracks were relegated to this album is because I feel these were created when the album was originally devised as a new "Beach Boys" one. It makes no sense for him to have left out so many crowd pleasers, when it is an album crowded out by mediocrity.

The Last Sure Thing
The Last Sure Thing
Price: £6.59

5.0 out of 5 stars The finest tennis book ever written, a fitting tribute to a forgotten legend of the game, 25 Jan. 2015
I picked up this book on Kindle after watching the "Battle of The Sexes" documentary expecting it to be a fairly sparse read and baulked at the 500 odd pages in the kindle download thinking that no tennis player could justify such a lengthy tome.

Bobby Riggs was no ordinary player, with a diverse interest in gambling that fuelled a life in sport like no other. From a modest background by tennis standards he went on to win Wimbledon in 1939 before the army and war called a halt to the best years of his career. To many around the world, Riggs, if remembered for anything was a cocky chauvinist who lost to Billie Jean King in the infamous "Battle of The Sexes", but this books paints a very different reminder that he is perhaps one of the greatest players of all time, who deserves more than to be held in the esteem of tennis fans for just this match.

His life was an exhilarating joy ride that would make a fabulous Hollywood film. Aside from his battles with Budge, Kramer etc his post career as a Golf hustler, tournament promoter where he fell foul of mob bosses and later taking on Liberace or even Daredevil Evel Keneval in competitive tussles of very different kinds.

Overall it is a jaw dropping account of an era that actually made tennis look fun, almost romantic, compared to the staid characters in today's game. It helps to remind us all that Sport should be fun and there is no doubt that on that basis Bobby was the greatest winner the game has ever had.

Law for Social Workers
Law for Social Workers
by (Law teacher) Helen Carr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.86

5.0 out of 5 stars This remains the most easily accessible and relevant title for social work law that ..., 23 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Law for Social Workers (Paperback)
This remains the most easily accessible and relevant title for social work law that I have been using since my student days. This is simply the best yet with a well structured format that is as easy to digest as a textbook for learning, as it is for reference.

The key to the book achieving this is that the case law and legislation references are contained at the front, the Index at the back, making it easy to interchange between the two purposes.

Each of the chapters focuses on the purpose of the legislation, what it is and how it can be applied. It is a repetitive but easy to access structure that maintains relevancy throughout. Other law books can often be too detailed or irrelevant to Social Work practice.

On a day to day basis, this is the only Social Work law book anyone will ever need.

Uptown Special
Uptown Special
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.65

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Ronson is back to blow away your winter blues!, 19 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Uptown Special (Audio CD)
Mark Ronson has always been capable of producing good albums but this blows away anything else he has done with a varied collection of songs that hark back to the golden age of 70s soul, funk and Glam.

He brings the best out of his special guests, who rather than being unknowns as with his previous "Record Collection" this features proven stars who Ronson has brought out the very best of. Stevie Wonder bookmarks this collection with two harmonica driven harmonies with a soaring vocal chorus that was always a Motown signature.

The meat of the album starts gently with a cool piece of breezy, summer funk with Kevin Parker. The party then gets started with Mystical who gives us some blaxploitation speed rapping, before we get the centrepiece of the album, the James Brown inspired "Uptown Funk" which pushes Bruno Mars to heights he has always been capable of but never given the chance.

I can't lose is a typical 70s disco number that would befit Donna Summer, while Daffodils is an eerie piece of chilled out funk. The rest follow the same theme of uptown re-imagining and maintain the high standard throughout.

The big standout track for me is "In case of Fire", a smooth soul track backed by a mega Glam Rock riff that might even have Gary Glitter running to his lawyers to see if he can claim royalties to help with his court case! It is an interesting contrast of style, but works really well and is a welcome diversion from the numerous R&B derived tracks.

Overall this is a fine celebration of 70s Motown and soul staples with plenty of nods to the classic artists of the period. It is one of the most instantly accessible albums I have heard in years, it is fun, up-beat and full of energy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2015 11:08 AM GMT

Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste
Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste
Offered by Shop Spectrum
Price: £19.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good toothpaste but failure to live up to rebuilding claims leaves a bitter aftertaste, 18 Jan. 2015
This toothpaste appears to be on the road to fulfilling the promises made, chiefly the grandiose claim that it can "reverse 90% of enamel erosion in three days".Logic would therefore dictate that surely a 100% reversal would be possible, certainly within 6 months of daily use and monthly use of those expensive booster packs. Unfortunately it sadly isn't true as areas where enamel has been eroded have not returned, although in some places it has worked and sensitivity is reduced. Science would suggest it is impossible to create enamel once it has gone, but that did not stop me getting excited at the "rebuilding" claims.

More accurate would be to describe this as a restorer and strengthening paste, which is where it exceeds expectations. Over the past six months sensitivity is a thing of the past and my teeth, in areas of no visible enamel erosion, look thicker and shinier than ever before.

It loses a star as it does not live up to the more grandiose claims and while it is a superior product to blanx biorepair and Corsodyl pastes for the teeth on balance, I do find my gums have started to become more sensitive to bleeding. Not a major issue, but when I returned to Corsodyl, it stopped once more. The price is also a bit high but the £10 price at boots is bearable for the benefits, but I hate to say it, you do need to buy the additional booster kit. I stopped after 2 months worth and noticed a decline in efficacy after about a week of solo paste use.

The Establishment: And how they get away with it
The Establishment: And how they get away with it
by Owen Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

6 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A muddled mess of a book that relies too much on OJ's own conclusions, 10 Jan. 2015
This book has been given far too much precedence from Socialist Commentators as an epoch making new socialist strategy for improving society. Sadly, it is simply the pub bore level of opinions from one man, Owen Jones, devoid of any clear consistent argument or indeed any actual ideas to cure the malaise diagnosed throughout this book.

When a book is written to criticise and moan about the state of the world it only even preaches to those who already share similar ideas. Therefore it isn't going to have any wider impact aside from those who actually subscribe to Owen's views and want to hear more of them.

I wanted to after " Chav's" because it was a well rounded assessment into how this country has marginalised the established majority into becoming a separate "ghettoised" section of society. The general overview being that the traditional working class is dead and that it has become an underclass with no hope opportunity or direction because of this lack of opportunity through this process of marginalisation.

This book unfortunately has no fresh argument, instead it makes a ham fisted attempt at identifyng new socialist bogeymen who are in effect the perpetrators of the marginalisation identified in "Chav's". It opens poorly with an ill focused overview into who he defines the establishment to be, including the rather vague term "powerful groups" and then goes off to have tea with Madsen Pirie who shows himself to have more self awareness then Jones does by admitting that with all his money and opportunity he is probably indeed part of the establishment.

This book misses the whole point of what an "establishment" comprises and although the book opens with a clear nod to this message, it never follows through convincingly on this premise. Fundamentally our establishment is based on maintaining opportunity for the status quo at the expense who fall outside the status quo or "powerful groups" identified by Jones.

Despite clearly falling into this category himself, indeed OJ is a key figure in socialist media largely due to his Oxbridge and family heritage, these opportunities even though I agree he is a hugely talented man and well earned are downplayed to levels of almost absurdity. His own family are described as an "anti-establishment one" while his Northern roots are explicitly detailed, no doubt because most people believe in the South-East that anyone up North who has come good is a working class hero.

As a book it completely misses the point and is obsessed with purely monetary gain. The reality is, the real abuse of power comes from the lack of opportunity for other people outside the establishment, which enables those within to do what they want. It does touch on that, through the destruction of the trade unions, but for the most part it creates a view that society is set up for those outside the establishment to provide monetarily to those within. Yet the actual social divisions are far more relevant and it is a story of opportunity, yet the one here is one purely of wealth.

The two are entirely different things and Owen struggles to define this into a clear, concise argument. Great books spike despite and allow the reader to weigh up the arguments to form their own views. OJ takes the wheel of opinion and joyrides it into the nearest skip. You don't get to draw your own conclusions here, you just have to listen to Owen's opinions, which unfortunately in this instance are highly unconvincing and missappropriated.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2015 4:31 PM GMT

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