Rejuvenated by a rare spot of evening sunshine and a can of Irn Bru I headed into Barfly. Unnerving as it was, the fact that the ceiling was thumping immediately told me where to go. Soon enough a vivacious lady thrust a batch of Drenge buttons in my face – wow, these guys must be making waves. But I sort of already knew that.
I’ve been following Drenge ever since another spectacular Sheffield-based band, Blood Sport filmed and ‘starred’ in the music video for Drenge’s first proper single – ‘Bloodsports’. Yeah, that confused me too at first. Signed on Infectious Records, the home of Alt-J and The Temper Trap, the band are playing almost every festival worth mentioning and are repped by Zane Lowe. It’s fair to say things are going well.
But anyway, on with the gig. So as I entered Breedlings were polishing off their set with some proper post-punk drive, sounded nice and tight, though the bass was mixed a bit too loud to fully appreciate them. Second on were The Wytches putting out a brand of psychedelia quite at ends with Tame Impala. They aren’t so much a stroll through strawberry fields as a despondent trudge through the desert. Continue reading
Maybe I’ll lay off hating Pitchfork for a while, since they introduced me to Art Brut. There I was browsing their latest reviews, and Top of the Pops must have jumped out at me and somehow landed in a Spotify playlist. God know’s how it happened, I mean along with talking a load of bollocks about narratives (typical bloody Pitchfork), the review in question gave the greatest hits compilation a horribly mediocre 6.0. Moral of the story: Pay attention to Pitchfork whilst simultaneously ignoring Pitchfork.
Anyway, Art Brut lay dormant on my Spotify for a while until by chance I found myself listening to the perfect opener ‘Formed a Band’. I absolutely adored it. The lyrics are hilarious, my favourite line being when Eddie Argos claims “We’re gonna be the band that writes the song, that makes Israel and Palestine get along”, and then for the next line remains awkwardly silent just to let the ridiculousness of that statement really sink in. Back those lyrics with some joyously unreticent punk rock and I’m left with a formula for ‘happy’. Continue reading
Back in 2009 the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were plainly following a trend. They ditched their punk-like purity, introduced electronic elements and slapped it in a package called It’s Blitz!. Truly one of finest albums of 00s, the response was deservedly thunderous.
Mosquito sets off with similar aplomb as ‘Sacrilege’ manages to cram a Muse albums-worth of epic into a meticulously crafted pop single. But as one delves further into Mosquito it becomes clearer that this time the band are set on inventing their own sound. Continue reading
I saw a bunch of artists at the Roundhouse in Camden, being handpicked I guess it’s not much of a surprise that they were all pretty good. Here are my thoughts:
Dark Bells – Now this psychedelic three-piece really impressed me. Theirs is a wondrous sound of drawn out vocals, beautifully rounded guitar melodies and echo swirling all over the place. But in spite of all that echo the songs never felt too cluttered thanks to an incredibly solid rhythm section. A rhythm section that also lent their songs with more drive than the similar, but often meandering, Warpaint.
As soon as I got home I made sure to find some of Dark Bells’ recordings and was pleasantly surprised to find they were exactly as I remembered them: Immediately catchy but persistently beautiful. Continue reading
I’m probably the worst candidate to review Dunwall City Trials… either that or the best, I honestly can’t tell. The point is that I’m the sort of guy who will gladly spend close to an hour shooting falling tanks of whale oil. Sure, like everyone else I laughed at the notion that the DLC to one of the year’s most brilliant games could feature such a ridiculously inappropriate challenge, but then the game awarded my original attempt with an insulting one out of three stars and I had to try again!
The idea behind Dunwall City Trials is pretty self evident. While Dishonored saw players bestowed with all manner of skills, supernatural and otherwise, Dunwall City Trials simply provides situations to explicitly test them. The ten challenges are roughly divided into four types – stealth, combat, puzzle and movement – and it soon becomes clear which challenges are inspired and which are more throwaway. Unfortunately for me, I find even the latter irritatingly compelling. Continue reading
Party of Sin sees the seven deadly sins personified. Gluttony is the belly-clutching slob, Pride a blonde-locked Prince Charming, Lust a buxom femme fatale… you get the idea. Embroiled in an omnishambles of hellish/heavenly proportions, the sins are forced to take some time out from tempting humanity, and do battle with both their demonic former allies and the forces of heaven.
This all translates into a side-scrolling affair comprised of solving puzzles and fighting angels, the central quirk being that players can switch between the seven sins as they please, with each sin lending a different ability to combat and puzzle solving. Continue reading
A good soundtrack can absolutely transform a game. That’s not a particularly controversial statement, but it is easy to take for granted. Thankfully, I was reminded just the other day when, in the process of trying to make Far Cry 3 work, Hotline Miami stopped working (typical). Specifically, Hotline Miami was stripped of its intoxicatingly cool soundtrack; where before its electro pulse egged me along my killing spree, now I just feel… dreadfully unclean.
By contrast, DEFCON’s nuclear war could have easily come off as overly clinical were it not graced with the haunting strings and distant sobs of its soundtrack. As an avid Introversion fan, I went so far as to buy the DEFCON soundtrack on CD. I never listen to it. Its jewel case gathers dust for the same reason I always skip David Bowie’s ‘A Sense of Doubt’ – because I don’t want to spend my days shivering in the foetal position. Which brings me to my selection method for this list, essentially I’ve opted to focus on music I actually enjoy listening to. Which is not to say that I’m disregarding what these soundtracks brought to their respective games, merely that I have treated this a secondary concern. Continue reading
A few weeks back I suddenly felt the urge to send thousands of tiny men to their deaths. Such an urge is hardly out of the ordinary, but on this occasion it was particularly strong: I’d been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace for quite some time (is there any other way?) and found myself immersed in the war part, so it felt rather fitting to give Napoleon: Total War a whirl.
Thoughts? It’s a good game, and a spectacular one at that. There is undoubtedly much satisfaction to be had from seeing a reckless cavalry charge come crashing into enemy artillery precious moments before it would have been shredded by a devastating canister shot. But something just didn’t match up with Tolstoy’s take on war.
Sure, the fields of Europe echoed with the boom and crackle of gunpowder and were left littered with corpses; yet in an attempt to emphasise text-book tactics, Creative Assembly missed the mark in replicating war’s true chaos. Continue reading
As soon as Little Inferno materialised in the Steam store its trademark childish art style betrayed its heritage to 2008′s incredibly successful World of Goo. Although a different development team means that Little Inferno is more of a half-brother, the slightest whiff of one of the slickest games I’ve played (that’s right, AAA games included) was enough for me to sink 10 quid in its direction.
You find yourself staring at a fireplace, able to conjure flame with just the click of your mouse. First job: burn the Terms & Conditions. Flame quickly engulfs the sheets of paper until there are only ashen remnants, that felt good. Right, now what? You are soon gifted with a catalogue of incongruous wacky items – toys, foods, curios, miniature planets – all for the burning. And you burn them all. Yes, that is more or less it; that is the game. Continue reading
Cargo Commander. It sounds like the sort of self important handle I might have referred to myself with back when I played the space MMO Eve Online. Ah, those were the days; stick the ship on autopilot, make myself a brew, read the latest Andy McNab novel, deliver the goods, job done. Yet Cargo Commander shares very little in common with such tranquillity… except the space setting, and the brew… and I guess you might be able to replicate that inner peace with an incessant swearing session (just press the F key).
Cargo Commander plays out more like a day in the life of that guy from Alien. You know the one: the engineer; he’s very fond of his cap, sick of being screwed over by the company, and is the first to have his brains munched on. But at least now he can rest easy knowing that caps are finally receiving their due appreciation, serving as Cargo Commander’s much sought-after currency. Continue reading