I don’t like Ed Sheeran

Circumstances forced me to listen to the newest Ed Sheeran album THREE times in a row, and let me tell you, that man is the personification of every annoying musician trope I can think of.

I can just see him now, some pretentious sap huddled in the corner of a badly-lit party flicking the strings of his cheap second-hand guitar desecrating some poor Bob Dylan tune, and the easily mislead flock to him as if to say ‘Here, here is a truly interesting person.’ But no, there’s nothing amazing about being able to memorize a simple pattern and inflict it on your miserable monster of wood and string. That sort of musician really aggravates me, and I guarantee you that somewhere on this planet right now Ed Sheeran is being that sort of musician.

Deciding which song on this woebegone album is the worst would be like trying to choose the wettest fish in the sea, but the tune that offended me the most was an inane faux-protest song that asserted that with a simple piano the world can be changed. I daresay it could if it was dropped Earthworm Jim-style on the right person. But no, Sheeranface thinks that playing his piano will change the world and offers no policy beyond the same sickeningly familiar bromides about love and other useless motherhood statements. What’s the point of that? Ed, tell us something you disagree with and tell us to hate it. I’m having a hard time thinking of a single song that changed the world – I’m guessing it’d be a national anthem, a hymn or a jingle – and I doubt that any of those changed the world for the better.

There’s no ambition on the rhythmic sigh of an album. One song was a blatant U2 knock-off and another, something about a Nancy Mulligan, tortured the Irish theme even further by being a blatant hibernophiliac nostalgic piece on his grandparent’s marriage. Sheeran lays the Gaelic cliches thick, complete with that incessant fiddling and presumably drunken Irish singing, a stereotype any Irish listener is entitled to find offensive. This is nationality commodified for a global audience, frankly I’m surprised Sheeran didn’t force a leprechaun to vomit Lucky Charms over the whole thing.

Don’t even get me started on the songs describing Ed Sheeren’s chaotic yet disproportionately active sex life. Nobody wants to hear about that. Oh, you’re too pointless to remember where you lost your keys and you fell asleep under a tree? How very remarkable, I was considering writing a song about the time I mistook a barking seal for a laughing gunman but now that I’ve heard this album I can put such quotidian non-events into context – it’s clearly drunken foolishness that people need to hear about. Annoying singer-song-writers doing it is the last thing I want to think about.

Look, it’s probably not the done thing to make character judgements about musicians you’ve never met, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d describe himself as spiritual but not religious. Lacking both the clarity of atheism and passion of religion, my guess is he’d strive for the smuggest position of non-commitment possible. A lack of clarity and passion are really the defining qualities of this unambitiously derivative album that seeks to please everyone yet only enrages me.

The existence of Sheeran’s vocal fanbase indicates that he must have some form of talent, clearly imperceptible to me. My recommendation is that he take a break from this whole musician gig and try to think of something to say that distinguishes himself from the bland mainstream. I don’t care if it’s political, religious (a truly good Christian rockstar could make a mint) or even just a strong opinion on fashion. Currently Sheeran is what you’d get if you divided the sum of all the white male musicians in the world by the total number of white male musicians, and it is only by rising above that description can Sheeran truly earn his fame.

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Captain America: Prisoner of War – Ed Brubacker

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After Bucky Barnes is thrown into a Russian gulag for his crimes, Captain America decides that rescuing him isn’t worth the international incident it would cause. After that main narrative there’s lot of nice little one-shot stories, involving Captain America uncovering an evil laboratory under a small town and fighting a rabid Nazi during the Second World War. I got the feeling that this book wasn’t Captain America’s finest moment, I’ll have to read some more to make sure.

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Cemetery Girl: Inheritance – Charlaine Harris

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I enjoyed Cemetery Girl: Inheritence more than I expected. From the premise, with an amnesiac psychic hiding from her anonymous persecutors in a graveyard, I was expecting an adventure heavily derivative from Johnny and the Dead or The Graveyard Book. Happily, Cemetery Girl successfully distinguishes itself from these precedents to stand out in the small young-person-hanging-out-in-a-necropolis genre.

After Alexa Dunhill’s kindly mentor and maternal figure is mysteriously killed, it is up to her to solve the murder. Complicating matters are a will that grants her everything the old lady owned, but there’s a sensible lawyer who may be able to help her out. The only supernatural element is Alexa’s communication with the victim’s ghost, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the strangers pursuing Alexa are involved in some occult scheme. We never actually learn who they are – presumably that will be resolved in the final book of the series.

Golden’s crisp and colourful art combined with Harris’ economical script to tell a tight, well-placed narrative that was satisfying in its own right while opening bigger questions to be answered later. My question is, will Alexa Dunhill be proud of her past once she remembers her past? That’s always the risk when you’re an amnesiac fugitive fleeing from an unknown foe, maybe they’ve got a very good reason to want to catch you, maybe you’ve been the problem all along.

So yes, I enjoyed Cemetery Girl: Inheritance. I’ll keep an eye out for the prequel and the sequel, and maybe one day I’ll try out some of the novels written by Charlaine Harris.

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The Batman Strikes: Scarface is Gonna Go Boom

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Here’s a children’s comic about Batman fighting an evil ventriloquist. The stylised art was enjoyable and the simple script was effective. At the end there were these educational questions inviting the reader to invent a story for the dummy’s scar, and asking them if they understood basic comic conventions or if they could understand why Batman was sad when another character mentioned his parents. I thought these insulted the reader’s intelligence, a kid smart enough to read this comic would know all about that stuff.

The Massacre of Mankind – Stephen Baxter

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The cover of Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind does such a good job telling you what the book is about that I don’t think I really need to describe the premise.

The aliens are back two decades after their original invasion attempt was foiled by Earth’s bacteria. Honestly I’m not that surprised that a species capable of decent spaceflight could find a way around germs. Mankind has also changed. The British have reverse-engineered Martian tech and tested it on Russian soldiers during a very different 1914 war. This time round, strange beings on Jupiter take an interest in the Martians’ war , and events escalate in a direction neither side could anticipate.

Baxter has form on fiction inspired by H.G. Wells. He wrote a sequel to The Time Machine, The Time Ships, which honestly I enjoyed more than this book, although admittedly time travel has more potential to be mind-blowing than alien invasions. I’m trying to think of another Wells novel that he could do a sequel for, to form a complete trilogy. Maybe Baxter could take on Island of Doctor Moreau next.

This was a fun book. The global military conflict against an otherworldly foe reminded me of World War Z, and you don’t need to be familiar with the source material to enjoy it.