Investigating: Manic Street Preachers

Right now I’ve got my magnifying glass out, I’ve been poring over wikipedia, seeking out snippets of TV circa 1994, listening to a hell of a lot of the Manics. I’m constructing a retrospective identikit of the band, and all the insanity starts to make so much sense.

My investigation began at the record shop. An addiction to ‘If You Tolerate This…’ informed me to search for the band’s 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours Yet as I hurriedly sorted through ‘M’ and I was presented with yet another greatest hits my heart filled with disdain. In my moment of helplessness I saw it, jammed to the right of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Gleaming in spite of the poor alphabetisation, there stood The Holy Bible. Literally. The Manics released the album back in the early 90s, I’d heard of it, I’d even listened to a few snippets and promptly disregarded it, but in that moment I needed to have it. Continue reading

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Reus – Review

Reus has got me wondering whether it constitutes a god game. The four giants under my control might raise mountains, carve oceans and bless the land with whatever natural resource I see fit, and the humans react accordingly – gathering fruit, hunting game and mining ore. But if I made one criticism of Reus it would be thats its denizens are all too predictable, its rules too opaque. In essence, if you learn those rules you will succeed, which no doubt makes for a satisfying game, but it is nonetheless one which is bereft of the unexpected sparks of Black & White. Continue reading

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Something Changed in Dark Souls

When regarding words I often find it’s best to refer to Jarvis Cocker. It turns out my experience with Dark Souls is summed best with the words: ‘Something Changed’… And having just familiarised myself with the lyrics of ‘Something Changed’, its quite clear that I’m not going to get any mileage out of that allegory. Probably for the best.

Still, those two words seem pertinent as I replay Dark Souls. Like everyone else, my first playthrough was defined by the game’s infamous ‘YOU DIED’ splash-screen, Dark Souls tested my metal and I whimpered in return, eventually whimpering my way to victory!

But now things are different. These days I breeze through Lordran, I am met not by enemies but dance partners – I know this ballet, they don’t. Now I need only whimper on the occasional boss fight. In particular the one that pits you against a fat dude with a fat hammer and his lightning fast, lightning-wielding companion. Oh and whichever one you kill first is consumed by the other to make him super powerful.

I know what you’re thinking: “So what Daniel, you’ve become better at a game by playing it to excess, big whoop.” True. But I think there is more to it than that, as Dark Souls seems overwhelmingly tailored to the veteran. Continue reading

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NYPC – Hard Knocks

Music on a site of words.. what is this, Web 2.0?! Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: This is not just music, this is New Young Pony Club’s latest iteration on indie dance. Its spangly, bouncey and most definitely harks back to the band’s debut in 2007. So much so that it would be embarrassing if the band hadn’t put out an exemplary post-punk-mood-piece in the interim.

But you know what, I’d be delighted to see the return of some throwaway dancey fun to the alternative music scene. And with its casual riff on ‘Zombie Nation’, more percussion than you can shake a drum stick at, and some abrasive/catchy incantations – it’s got all the tools for the job.

Naturally, the best bits are Bulmer’s typically bizarre harmonies. So yeah, back to 2007. If MTV2 could also revert that would be greatly appreciated.

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Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Meet Erza Koenig, lyricist-magician who uses his powers to enchant fans the world over. Because of him they feel compelled to spend every passing second looking up all manner of obscure references so that they might endlessly dispute song interpretations on Youtube. Me? I seem to be impervious, maybe because the cynic in me is in love with the notion that Erza himself has no clue to the meaning of his own songs. That said, there’s no doubt that Vampire Weekend’s lyrics always feel resonant.

Musically speaking, Modern Vampires bears more resemblance with the band’s off-kilter second album than their pop-pitched-perfect debut. But although they continue to mix in lovely old pianos with a smattering of odd samples and crass vocal effects (that would be ‘Diane Young’), the production does at least seem a good deal more cohesive this time round.

With a few listens it becomes clear that the show-stoppers here are not the upbeat singles ‘Diane Young’ and (I expect) ‘Unbelievers’, but the album’s more understated tracks. For instance, I don’t reckon that the touching and subdued ‘Obvious Bicycle’ ended up as the album’s opener by accident. Neither do I think that the band simply forgot to play another round on the euphoric outro of ‘Hannah Hunt’. Rather there’s a distinct sense of purpose to the beauty of Modern Vampires of the City.

But for all its beauty, my heart still yearns for a return to the pop sensibilities of Vampire Weekend’s energetic debut, while my mind knows that such an endeavour would be bound to disappoint*. To their credit, Vampire Weekend don’t seem so divided. Instead they’ve come out with an intriguing, audacious album, but one blessed with a newfound maturity.

*The Strokes.

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Drenge & The Wytches @ Barfly – 5/6/13

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

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I’m loving: Art Brut

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

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

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

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Handpicked @ Roundhouse 22/3/13

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

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Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials – Review

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

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