Video Games

Watch That First Step, Mac – It’s A Lulu

I’m not entirely sure how eager people were to hear the results of a collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. To just about anyone outside the studio in which Lulu, the fruit of this collaboration, was conceived, this seemed like a mismatch of epic proportions. Reed is a long-tenured experimental art-rocker from the Velvet Underground and is also known for solo hits like “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Perfect Day.” And Metallica – well, who isn’t familiar with Metallica on some level? They’re titans of heavy metal who need no introduction. The artists themselves seem pretty excited though – they decided to work together after performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert and have been hyping this record as one of the highlights of each of their careers.

I’m not familiar with the work of Lou Reed. I know him as the guy who did “Walk On The Wild Side” and inexplicably thought it was a good idea to release a double album filled with nothing but guitar feedback; I wouldn’t know a Velvet Underground song if it pulled a Mike Tyson and bit my ear off. Meanwhile, I see myself as a casual fan of Metallica. I dig their first five records, I like a few of the Load/ReLoad era singles, I think St. Anger is irredeemably flawed and yet still an honest artistic expression, and Death Magnetic is a step in the right direction. I was only somewhat curious to hear what Reed and Metallica would sound like together. But that curiosity was especially piqued when early reviews proclaimed that Lulu was now officially the worst thing Metallica’s name had ever been attached to – yes, St. Anger had finally been bested (or is that worsted?). I simply had to experience this thing for myself.

Let’s get my verdict out of the way right now: Lulu is an absolutely terrible album. It’s still streaming online as I write this, but please take my word for it. Don’t listen to this.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST #4: Linkin Park

A recent episode of South Park posited that there comes a time in your life when everything you once loved as a kid starts looking like crap once you’re older. While I will certainly admit to growing more critical and cynical as I’ve grown, I’d like to think people don’t change that much. Some things in life never get old – I’ll probably always have a soft spot for U2 and Green Day, for the Three Stooges and Looney Tunes cartoons (and South Park, for that matter), for Super Mario Bros. 3 and Final Fantasy VII. Then there are things that give you little to no sense of pride or nostalgia, things that make you look back and wonder, “Why the hell did I ever like that?” And for me, sometimes I look back to my teenage years and try to figure out why it took me so long to grow out of nu-metal, though I do give that particular phase credit for helping me get into heavier music.

I was never a hardcore fan of that whole late-‘90s, early-double-0s scene, but I did get my feet wet. I liked Korn’s singles back then, but never bought any of their albums. I could never really get into the Deftones (and still haven’t, even though I’ve heard lots of good things about them) or P.O.D. I flat-out didn’t like Disturbed at all (and still don’t). System Of A Down? They were okay, but I never really got into their stuff either. I didn’t hear anything by Slipknot for the first time until long after the nu-metal craze had hit its peak, though I’d seen plenty of their merchandise around school. There was a brief period where I actually considered getting that Crazy Town album with “Butterfly” on it – yes, I once thought the guys who horrifically mutilated “New Noise” by Refused were at least competent musicians. I was totally ready to buy Kid Rock as an “American Bad Ass” until I found out that he took that riff from an old Metallica song (for the record, I’m usually OK with sampling as long as you make interesting alterations or additions to the sample; leaving the sample as it is comes off as lazy, like all you did was make up new lyrics to someone else’s song). And who the hell were Primer 55 and Ill Niño? I certainly didn’t know.

Really, there were (and are) only a handful of albums in my collection that probably qualify as nu-metal at all: the first three Limp Bizkit albums, Infest by Papa Roach, The Lonely Position of Neutral by Trust Company, and of course the required soundtracks for any angsty teenager’s life from 2000 to 2004, Hybrid Theory and Meteora by Linkin Park.

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POTW #7: Telling Fortunes In American Slang

You know, this year I’ve been trying to follow a weekly posting schedule just so I can keep this blog updated and also give me something to do. Lately I’ve been slipping in that particular regard. That’s the thing about those Blast From The Past posts — they take a really long time to write. Also, I’ve had one sister graduate from college (yay Kerry!) and we had to move both of them back home. And then there’s that whole “job hunting” thing… yes, still. Oh, and I’ve been volunteering with the local MLS team, the Philadelphia Union, for their home games.

But enough about me. Here are my picks for this week… after this new Arcade Fire song.

And also this new Arcade Fire song.

And also after the jump, just like always.

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Top 5 Favorite Driving Songs

Everyone’s got songs that they love listening to while driving their cars. The music brightens your mood and makes you want to sing along. It’s something fun to do between stopping at that stupid red light that always catches you while you’re in a hurry and cussing out the jackass who just cut you off so he could drive under the damn speed limit even though there’s nobody behind you for about half a mile. And you’d better enjoy it while it lasts because once you get to work the only station you’ll be listening to all day will be the soft-rock/adult contemporary station that plays “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train three times an hour.

In other cases, the music is full of fast-paced rhythms and heavy riffage that makes your adrenaline start to flow, and you start thrashing the steering wheel all around, driving like a maniac… WHIPLASH!

…I’m sorry, that wasn’t very funny. See, if you start driving like a maniac, it puts you at risk to hit a telephone pole or something, and then your head will jerk backwards and you might actually get whiplash. Or at least that was a problem before they started putting those headrests on the front seats. Well, the whiplash part, anyway. I’m pretty sure maniacs crashing into stuff is still an issue.

So now I’m gonna hit you with a couple honorable mentions, and then the top 5 will follow after the jump.

HONORABLE MENTION #1:

Queens Of The Stone Age, “Go With The Flow”

HONORABLE MENTION #2:

Muse, “Knights Of Cydonia”

(Incidentally, these songs also happen to have two of the coolest music videos ever made. Coincidence, or part of something greater? … It’s a coincidence.)

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America’s Favorite Cover Band Strikes Again

I am not a Gleek. Hell, if I didn’t follow pop culture, I wouldn’t even know what that word means. It sounds like a monster from The Legend of Zelda. It’s actually a self-appointed nickname among diehard Glee fans.

Now, I’m not about to go on some kind of rhetorical rampage all about how much the show sucks. I’ve never seen a single second of it, so it’s not like I’m qualified to judge its particular merits and flaws and whatnot. I am perfectly content to let its audience have their fun, even though I look at it and see what appears to be some kind of bastard lovechild of High School Musical and American Idol.

I mean, I remember browsing around in an FYE at the mall once and hearing someone not named Steve Perry – I could tell because the singer was female – singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in an over-processed voice over what sounded like your garden variety karaoke machine backing track. I couldn’t think of any Disney stars who’d ever sung it. Nor could I name any recent Idol contestants who’d performed it. And then as I passed the soundtrack section it dawned on me… this was someone from the cast of Glee.

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BLAST FROM THE PAST #1: Silver Side Up

Yeah, that’s right. I own a Nickelback album.

It’s been resting comfortably in one of my CD towers in my bedroom, mostly untouched, for nearly a decade. I got it when I was 15, right in the thick of my nu-metal/pop-punk/post-grunge phase. In fact, I asked for it for my birthday that year. My birthday is September 27. The year was 2001. Silver Side Up, fresh off the radio success of the band’s breakout single “How You Remind Me,” had just come out a few weeks earlier, on September 11. (I think we all remember what else happened that day.)

You know what else I wanted for that birthday? Come Clean, the first album from Fred Durst protégés Puddle Of Mudd. Ah, to be 15 and so easily charmed by songs called “She Fucking Hates Me.”

Chill out, Lightning. At least YOU didn't get a Nickelback album.

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When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands #3

About a year ago Bloc Party released their third studio album Intimacy as an online download for ten bucks. The download featured ten songs (“Talons” was added for the CD release, along with a bunch of bonus tracks), and since iTunes was still charging 99 cents a song at the time it seemed fair enough. (Plus, like I said, they’re one of my favorite bands.) In the months leading up to the online release of the new album, they’d put out a couple of heavily electronic singles. First there was “Flux,” which is a straight-up synth-driven dance song, and then there was “Mercury,” which turned out to be the lead single from Intimacy.

While “Mercury” took some time to get used to (as opposed to the instantly catchy “Flux,” which I think should have been the lead single instead), I found myself wondering if Bloc Party was about to release their Kid A — that is, an album where an established rock band suddenly shifts gears and explores electronica. Their change in sound between Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City, while perhaps not the most popular of decisions, at the very least showed that they were a band who were willing to try new things and didn’t want to make the same album twice. So when the download became available, I snatched it up and decided to give it a listen.

Three minutes later, I found myself hoping I hadn’t made a big mistake. I had been greeted with a song so violently chaotic, so disorienting and confusing, that perhaps it makes sense that it was named for the Greek god of war. And no, I don’t mean this guy…

Dont mess with Kratos. He knows more ways to kill you than probably exist.

Don't mess with Kratos. Dude is so badass that he can kill you in ways you didn't even know existed.

Bloc Party’s “Ares” is just another example of what happens… When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands.

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Top 5 Songs I’d Like To See In A “Guitar Hero” Or “Rock Band” Game

(originally featured on the Oct. 10, 2008 show)

These days, the kids sure do love Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. Need proof? Go to YouTube some time and search for your favorite song. Chances are, some kid’s uploaded a video of himself playing it in a custom Guitar Hero level.

Sure, you’ve got all the detractors saying things like “PLAY A REAL GUITAR” or “JUST ‘CAUSE YOU’RE GOOD AT GUITAR HERO DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN PLAY GUITAR,” but let’s be reasonable — if you honestly think Guitar Hero will make you significantly better at guitar, it’s time to pony up for some lessons. Also, I’ve got a bridge in Philadelphia I’d like to sell you. I can’t keep my name connected to it much longer — I don’t want to be associated with the myriad of devastated Eagles fans who would like nothing more than to hurl themselves off the nearest bridge in the wake of yet another disappointing playoff loss. (For the record, I’m also an Eagles fan.)

But I digress. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are fun games. They don’t really try to be anything other than really fun games. And isn’t that what video games are all about? I mean, come on… just because you’re good at Ace Combat doesn’t mean you’re Maverick. Halo won’t turn you into an expert marksman, no matter what Jack Thompson tries to tell you. And playing Final Fantasy doesn’t make you a master at wielding giant swords that are bigger than your body either, which is fine by me — you don’t want the ladies thinking you’re trying to compensate for something, do you?

With each new installment of Guitar Hero or Rock Band, lots of people start making up wish lists for songs to include in the game. This list is mine.

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