Category Archives: Reviews

Clap Your Hands


The story of Happy Mondays is one that’s been attempted a few times, with much that has been written regurgitating the same myths and half truths that made the band so tabloid friendly during their pomp. Whereas The Stone Roses projected an air of insouciant cool and are regularly awarded ‘greatest debut album of all time’ plaudits, any mention of the Mondays tends to prompt memories of the cartoonish Shaun and Bez double act rather than any appreciation of the group’s talents or their lasting musical legacy.

Happy Mondays Excess All Areas – A Biography by Simon Spence (Aurum Press, £20) attempts to delve behind the legend and hearsay surrounding the two frontmen and instead tell the definitive story of the band as a whole. The format here is the same as Spence’s previous effort, the excellent The Stone Roses – War and Peace that was released a couple of years ago. Like that book, this latest is meticulously researched and based on many hours of fresh interviews with band members, family, friends, associates and numerous industry faces.

These first hand accounts enable Spence to present a detailed history of the band and paint a vivid (and often laugh out loud funny) picture of greyed out, 1980’s Manchester undergoing its transformation into Day-Glo, early 90’s Madchester. The story of Factory and Tony Wilson has been done to death in recent years, almost becoming an industry in itself – so it’s to the author’s credit that he manages to put a fresh slant on proceedings here. Indeed, one senses that Wilson didn’t really have much time for the band until key earners New Order went into hiatus just as the Mondays suddenly and unexpectedly blossomed into the most exciting rock and roll band on the planet.

Alongside the usual tales of hedonism and excess (nothing you’ve heard previously was exaggerated), Spence’s major achievement is how he skilfully evokes the visceral thrill of the Mondays’ music on those first 3 seminal albums. In spite of being out of control and fronted by a pair of drug-fuelled nutters, the band produced a cosmic slop of sound that was miles ahead of its time then, and still sounds startlingly original now. It made me want to go back and listen properly for the first time in 20 odd years, so I’ll conclude by recommending you pick up this excellent book and then do the same.

Copyright Red News – October 2014

Tip-Toe Through The Tulip

Louis Van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal doesn’t need much of an introduction – he’s been a well known football face since he rose to international prominence as coach of the all-conquering Ajax side of the early 90’s. Outspoken and never far from controversy or shy of confrontation, he’s dominated the back pages of Spain, Germany and his native Holland for the best part of 3 decades. Now newly installed as United boss, one anticipates that a repeat scenario over here is completely inevitable.

Coinciding with his arrival at Old Trafford is the release of Louis Van Gaal – The Biography by Maarten Meijer (Ebury Press, £16.99). Meijer is a Dutch football commentator and academic who has previously published books on Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat. This latest effort offers a welcome crash course in the life and times of the man christened the ‘Iron Tulip’ by the German press.

The book is a comprehensive run through Van Gaal’s career to date and an attempt to dig beneath the public perception of him as nothing more than a bullying, dogmatic control freak. Sound familiar? Oh yes, it’s pretty striking how many parallels there are between Van Gaal and Sir Alex Ferguson. Unspectacular playing career? Check. Incredible work ethic? Check. Belief in youth? Check. Love of rotation and constant tinkering? Ch… you get the idea.

Unlike Ferguson, Van Gaal has never managed to stay in one place beyond a few years, however. The author details the reasons why tenures at Ajax, Barca and Bayern all ultimately unravelled, mainly due to his autocratic style being at odds with the political structures in place at each of these European giants. That said, Meijer also describes a man capable of embracing change who’s refined his football vision over the years. Meijer suggests LVG’s first spell at Ajax imploded as the demands of his ‘total football’ philosophy took a physical toll on his group of players. Van Gaal went on to revise this singular approach in later years, with his title winning team at AZ Alkmaar instead characterised by an ultra-direct, counter-attacking style of play.

After detailing a career built on principles of “discipline, structure and organisation”, Mejier reaches a conclusion of sorts by proposing that LVG has shown signs of mellowing in recent times and the ‘Van Gaal 2.0’ arriving in England is a more “relaxed and diplomatic” creature. The squad of players he’s inherited (not to mention the Manchester press pack) will certainly be hoping so.

During his first season at Munich (when Van Gaal took on an underachieving side and led them to the brink of the treble) Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed delight with the new appointment, “he’s the right man at the right club at the right time.” Whether that’s the case now remains to be seen – although based on the evidence presented here, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun finding out.

Strap yourselves in, people.

Copyright Red News – August 2014

Lights, Camera, Action!


True Reds – Manchester United Season Review 2013/14 (2014, PDI Media, 109 minutes)

Synopsis: 20 times English football champions appoint new manager and set off in pursuit of further glory. Disappointment ensues.

Genre: Sports/Action/Disaster

Starring: David Moyes

Supporting Cast: Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, David De Gea, Adnan Januzaj, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata.

***Spoilers ahead***

Review: Appearing to little fanfare at the start of the summer blockbuster season, this baffling movie initially promises a lot but quickly loses focus before meandering along for what seems like several hours. The storytelling is somewhat aimless – interviews with principal cast members punctuate a relentless number of repetitive action sequences and the director relies on a voiceover to make up for a lack of basic plot and narrative structure.

The scale and scope of this production is nevertheless, quite impressive. The film features an expensively hired, multinational cast, many thousands of extras and production took place over 9 months on location around England and mainland Europe. Despite this, the viewer is left with an overriding feeling of grave disappointment. Many of the actors appear guilty of failing to read the script and in a few cases, simply phoning in their performances. Indeed, former star turns such as Robin Van Persie (Robin Van Persie) and Ryan Giggs (Ryan Giggs) quite literally disappear for long periods in the middle of the feature.

Based on the evidence here, rumours that production was beset with problems behind the scenes are probably true. David Moyes fails to shine in his first starring role and unsurprisingly, was dismissed from the set weeks before filming was complete. Moyes however, brings a raw emotion to his time on screen – his range of grimaces, whether used in celebration or rueful contemplation, make for some of the film’s most memorable moments. A nod of appreciation too, for newcomer Marouane Fellaini who provides some light relief amongst innumerable harrowing scenes with his crazy haircut and gift for physical comedy.

Verdict: Avoid. A very poor sequel with a leading man who’s simply out of his depth.

True Reds is not showing in cinemas, though is available to purchase now on DVD.

Copyright Red News – June 2014