Categories
RPG Videogames

Scruffy Undertale Adventures (part 2)

So next thing I found amusing enough to blog about was the Joke book in Sans and Papyrus’ house.

Also in the same town, I knocked on this door and the occupant said:

So I knocked again and:

Subsequent knocks were met with:

I also went for a burger at Grillby’s with Sans. He passed me the ketchup but loosened the lid first. The entire bottle’s worth went all over my burger. Cheers Sans.

Later, at a waterfall in the pouring rain I shared an umbrella with Monster Boy. We spotted a spooky looking castle in the distance.

After falling down from the waterfall into an underground landfill I am attacked by a ghost-possessed training dummy but saved by a ghost friend I’d met earlier. The ghost invited me to it’s house and fed me. After which it invited me to lay on the floor with it. Things went pretty cosmic when I accepted the invite.

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RPG Videogames

Undertale – first impressions

I’ve just started playing Undertale this afternoon on Nintendo Switch. First impressions are pretty good. I’m around an hour and half in and I’m really enjoying it. As well as a brief explanation, I’ve taken some screenshots that I think are amazing. These screenshots alone justify this post (in my humble opinion).

The game, at least so far, plays a little like a classic JRPG. The combat, for instance, shares visual similarities with the early Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior in Japan) games. The exploration is also similar to Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. You walk around a 2D map solving puzzles and getting into random encounters.

The battle system is unique in that you don’t have to kill any of the enemies you fight. There is always another option. One monster I fought was a woodland creature a bit like a reindeer called a Gyftrot. Locals like to decorate the antlers of Gyftrots. You can “win” the battle by “undecorating” his antlers which makes him happy and you can select “Spare” from the combat menus.

I’m currently in a town called Snowdin. I love this bear’s grasp of political science.

Inside the bar, Grillby’s, that the bear is standing outside.

I previously had to fight the four dogs sat around the table in the four ground. I managed to spare them all from death with strategic petting. The two with armour and halberds had to be persuaded that I was a “strange puppy”. I had to roll around in the dirt and let them re-sniff me. Once they were convinced that I was a puppy, I then had to pet them again. Their minds were blown that dogs could pet other dogs and now they say their lives are changed forever.

Finally, I believe I may start using this picture at the top of any post I make about politics:

If you’re interested in this game, here’s a trailer to watch. Think it’s available on pretty much every platform except for Xbox. I bought it for Switch.

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Categories
Hip Hop Music Punk

Beastie Boys, late ‘80’s – Youthful Beastie Hijinks

Okay, see, what had happened was…I had a ticket to go see Bobby McFerrin, right, and you know, it was like, ’88 or’89 and Don’t Worry, Be Happy was a huge song and so I wanted to go and see what the fuss was all about. And I guess during the show I tried to start a mosh pit, and so security escorted me out. Adam and Mike were gonna pick me up outside at like 11:00, but it was only like 9, and so I hit the liquor store on the corner and sat on some steps to hang out to wait for them. They forgot to pick me up, but then remembered in the morning. I’m not sure, but I think the moral of this story is, get a tall boy instead of a 40.

Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz

And finally, here’s some music. Probably recorded around the time that the photo was taken. Depending on the reliability of Ad-Rock’s memory.

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Categories
History Music Politics

International Workers Day

To mark International Workers Day, my partner and I participated in a Zoom meeting with members of Unite the Union, the wider labour movement and people linked to the Miners Strike of 1984. To mark this day on this blog, I am sharing some of my favourite activist songs by Billy Bragg and some quotes from revolutionary leaders like VI Lenin and Ho Chi Minh regarding international solidarity.

misleading press image of anarchist protesters throwing a bomb at police, Chicago, May 1886

There are many things going on globally to mark International Workers Day. In the US, for example, I am aware of Mass Rent Strikes (the 1st of the month being rent day) and strikes at various US companies including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, Instacart, WalMart, Shipt and FedEx.

US labor movement (https://www.rlmartstudio.com)

The best way you can honour the many sacrifices of the international labour movement is by joining a union. It’s your best defence against unscrupulous employers, and in this age of rampant free market capitalism there is no shortage of those. And the defence that a union can offer you becomes more powerful as it gets bigger.

UK pro union poster

In the UK and the US, neoliberal free market zealots like Thatcher and Reagan have brainwashed many into thinking that the the unions had become too powerful before they came along. To believe that unions can become too powerful is to fundamentally misunderstand what a union is and what it is for.

Solidarity in the workplace. Educate! Agitate! Organise!

In the history of modern socialism this is a phenomenon, that the strife of the various trends within the socialist movement has from national become international.

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, “Dogmatism And ‘Freedom of Criticism’” (1901)

All the martyrs of the working class, those in Lausanne like those in Paris, those in Le Havre like those in Martinique, are victims of the same murderer: international capitalism. And it is always in belief in the liberation of their oppressed brothers, without discrimination as to race or country, that the souls of these martyrs will find supreme consolation.

Ho Chi Minh, Le Paria, August 17, 1923
Billy Bragg playing There Is Power In A Union during the “Clap for the NHS & Key Workers”, 30th April 2020

If you are interested, here are some links to further reading about International Workers Day:

International Workers Day Wikipedia page

IWW archive

Solidarity Comrades.

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Categories
Facebook Challenges Music

10 days/10 albums Facebook challenge

Over on Facebook, a lot of people have been doing a thing where every day for 10 days you post the cover of an album which ‘greatly influenced’ your taste in music. On the Facebook posts, you’re only supposed to post the cover with no explanations or reviews etc. I decided to compile my ten into this blogpost with a little explanation/review of each one.

Day 1: Radiohead – Ok Computer

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Widely cited as one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, if not all time, OK Computer catapulted Radiohead into The Big Leagues and topped most year-end lists in 1997. Since then it has also topped countless ‘greatest albums’ lists. Before OK Computer was released, I was happily listening to Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene. These were my favourite bands. When I first heard Paranoid Android, lead single from OK Computer, I was blown away. Music could be weird. Music could be creative. Music didn’t have to be boring four-chord, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus dadrock like Oasis. Guitars, while key to the sound, didn’t have to be the only instrument. Effects were used creatively and experimentally, like the Roland Space Echo on Subterranean Homesick Alien. Live drumming was cut up and rearranged in the studio – inspired by DJ Shadow’s seminal Endtroducing – like on opening space dub rocker Airbag. This opened up worlds of possibility for me. I began seeking out weird and experimental music as a habit. A habit which I retain to this day. And I’ve not really listened to Oasis since.

Day 2: Pavement – Brighten the Corners

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Pavement’s 1997 album Brighten the Corners is not generally considered to be one of their best records. But to me it was the first time I heard what would go on to be one of my favourite bands. I heard Shady Lane a lot on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio 1 and John Peel. What attracted me to Pavement was the laid back, stoned vibes of the songs, the gentle effortlessness of the playing (which isn’t nearly as effortless as it first sounds) and the unusual, quirky lyrics – which 14-year-old me didn’t really understand but loved anyway. It’s definitely not my favourite Pavement album, but as the first I heard, it will always hold a special place in my musical tastes.

Day 3: Autechre – Tri Repetae

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The first electronic music album in my list and the first one that truly excited me about the possibilities of electronic music and made me want to produce it myself. The cold, sparse arrangements and the intricate glitches were what initially drew me in, but the warm bass and the solid drum programming and production are what made me stay. Closing track Rsdio is one of my favourite tracks of all time. A 9-minute slow build-up of various repetitive elements which form together into a glorious glitchy groove embedded in an echoey, desolate soundscape. My first copy of Tri Repetae was actually a CD-R which a friend burned for me. After the album ended, he’d added the generative glitchy mess that is Gantz Graf. This noisy electronic classic led me towards weirder, glitchier and more abrasive electronic music.

Day 4: Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump

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I could, and indeed will, write a lot more about this album than I have space for here. It’s a legitimate masterpiece, in my opinion. Jason Lytle is a ridiculously talented songwriter and the way he blends traditional rock instruments with bleeping atmospheric synths and drum machines is just so unique. And then to use this technique to tell a story about civilisation collapsing due to the Y2K millennium bug (a hot topic at the time) with a sad and beautiful subplot about an artificially intelligent humanoid robot named Jed who writes depressing poetry then drinks himself to death. I cannot recommend this album enough.

Day 5: Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap

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This is another one that caught me by surprise. I’d read reviews of their music in NME and Melody Maker but thought that they didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. I saw this album on a listening post (remember them?) in my local Virgin Megastore (remember them?) and gave it a go. The opening of the first track It Could have been a Brilliant Career absolutely hooked me. The melancholic vocal with the lush melody and the cleverly funny lyrics was so good: “He had a stroke at the age of 24, it could have been a brilliant career”. And the songs just kept getting better. This was the birth of my love for what is often described as twee pop, or just twee.

Day 6: At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command

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A definite change of pace here. After the melodic pop sensibilities of Grandaddy and Belle and Sebastian, I had to pick something a bit noisier. Aggro. Relationship of Command is a Post-Hardcore touchstone. The only album more important in the genre is probably Fugazi’s politically and ethically charged Repeater and that is high praise indeed. Relationship of Command is a savage burst of metallic punk noise and swooning melancholic melodies. It even features a cheeky cameo from the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop, on Rolodex Propaganda. Lead single One Armed Scissor blew everyone away and for me at least, killed off Nu Metal. Dead.

Day 7: Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children

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Music has the Right to Children is a particularly special album. It’s universally recognised as a classic album in pretty much every single music-based Facebook group I’m a member of. It’s loved by hipsters, indie kids, hip hop fans, shoegazers, IDM fans and many more. Your grandparents have probably heard Board of Canada. As well as it’s lush arrangements and top-drawer production, it also introduced me to another concept which I have developed a slight obsession with, Hauntology. I will write a primer to hauntology at some point in the near future, so if you’re not familiar with what it is, don’t worry. Boards of Canada introduced, alongside Mogwai, introduced me to the idea of soundscapes. A common feature in many of my favourite bands.

Day 8: Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty

A photo of all Beastie Boys members sitting in a tuna can with the sun in the background

My introduction to the Beastie Boys was probably hearing Sabotage and/or Fight for your Right to Party on commercial radio or MTV. I liked them but I didn’t know any of their other music. This was also in the mid ‘90’s before you could investigate a band on Spotify or YouTube if you liked them and my primary source of income was a paper round. When you get paid £12 a week, you need to be damn sure you like the album you’re buying before you buy it. By the time the video for Hello Nasty’s lead single Intergalactic was released, I was already reading NME & Melody Maker regularly as well as watching MTV2 (MTV’s “alternative” offshoot channel) and listening to Radio One’s Evening Session (Steve Lamacq), John Peel’s show and Mary Anne Hobbes’ Breezeblock show. All of these outlets played Intergalactic constantly and I was even able to afford to buy the occasional single. I remember purchasing it on cassette and the B-Side was the wonderful Hail Sagan. As an album I believe it’s the Beastie Boys best kept secret. It’s probably my favourite of their albums (except for maybe Ill Communication) and contains some of their strongest singles. Intergalactic (obviously), Remote Control, Body Movin’, and the sublime Three MC’s And One DJ. A true late ‘90’s heavyweight.

Day 9: Beck – Odelay

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If you boiled the entire ‘90’s in a still then the end result, the distillate, would be Odelay. Beck’s magnum opus is a sprawling sound collage of pop, folk, country, hip-hop, alternative rock, grunge, breakbeat and almost any other genre which you care to think of. Produced by the Dust Brothers, its heavy use of sampling is revolutionary. Especially in the context of an “indie/alternative artist” like Beck. As well as its status as a solid album, Odelay spawned some of the most memorable singles of the ‘90’s; the laidback, line dancing hip-hop funk of Where It’s At; the crunchy post-grunge of Devils Haircut; the mutant lounge pop of The New Pollution and the melancholic psychedelia of Jackass. For a young person today, approaching indie and alternative music for the first time, Odelay is a fantastic primer and could theoretically send you out in any number of directions for further musical explorations.

Day 10: Sonic Youth – Screaming Fields of Sonic Love

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When I first discovered that the central library in my city had a CD and Tape section I felt like a child at Christmas. I took out so many CD’s and copied them to cassette that it would be very hard to argue I didn’t massively abuse the system. The album I remember lending from the library and copying to tape the most is this fantastic Sonic Youth “best of” compilation, Screaming Fields of Sonic Love. This is a collection of tracks from Sonic Youth’s ‘80’s output – up to their masterpiece, Daydream Nation – but it’s sequenced in reverse chronological order. This has the amusing effect of the songs becoming more lo-fi as the album progresses. The album begins with perhaps their most melodic song, Teen Age Riot, and towards the end you find their noisier, no-wave inspired material like Inhuman, Making The Nature Scene and Brother James. I don’t know why it works so well, but it does. And I’ve been hooked on Sonic Youth ever since. This is probably the biggest influence on me in this list except for OK Computer. Sonic Youth gently nudged my attention away from British artists like Radiohead and towards American artists like Nirvana, Pavement, Pixies and Silver Jews. Even the British bands I got into after this were heavily indebted to Sonic Youth for their sound, bands like Idlewild and Urusei Yatsura.

All record cover images in this blogpost courtesy of Discogs

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Categories
Indie Rock Music

Rosie Tucker – Arrow (Jeffrey Lewis Cover)

Singer/songwriter Rosie Tucker’s new single is a cover version of the Jeffrey Lewis track Arrow, from his 2003 album It’s The Ones Who’ve Cracked That The Light Shines Through.

“We were having a really hard time arranging it because it’s an unusually structured song,” Tucker told American Songwriter . “It’s just kind of a deluge of words and then it ends.” The first half of the cover follows the original fairly faithfully, with Tucker’s trancelike vocals floating over a sea of effect pedal guitar noise and subdued cymbals. This psychedelic guitar soundscape is courtesy of Tucker’s guitarist, Jess Kallen’s pedalboard. It’s the second half of the song, however when the bass and drumming begin, that Arrow really starts to differ from Lewis version. It morphs from an anti-folk anthem into a more straight forward indie rocker, albeit while retaining the psychedelic feel. Tucker practically screams the lyrics in places, giving it a raw edge which I imagine makes live performances of this particularly exciting. This is in stark contrast to Lewis’ original, which consists exclusively of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, voice and tape hiss. It has a much more subdued feel.

As well as the single, available from all good streaming services and digital music distributors, Tucker has put together a lyric video for Arrow. The video consists of footage of their native Los Angeles which they has taken whilst walking around during the quarantine. I particularly like the glitch-art aesthetic.

For those unfamiliar with Lewis, here is the original:

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Indie Rock Music

Kurt Cobain, starstruck with heroes

Starstruck Kurt Cobain standing with Eugene Kelly (Vaselines) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub). Both bands are well known to have been among Kurt’s favourites. Nirvana even covered Vaselines tunes Mollys Lips, Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam and Son of a Gun. Photo by Stephen Sweet.

As a bonus, because I feel bad sharing a single picture and little other content here’s some music by the men in the photograph.

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Indie Rock Music Punk

Happy Birthday Kim Gordon

Happy birthday to the indie rock megastar that is Kim Althea Gordon. Best known as the bass player in legendary indie rock innovators Sonic Youth, she also has a long career as a visual artist.

After Sonic Youth, Gordon formed the band Body/Head in 2012, a noise guitar project which released an album and toured the US. In 2015 she published her memoir, Girl in a Band, which received critical acclaim and sold well.

She returned in 2019 with her first proper solo album, No Home Record. An experimental collection of exploratory electronic music with influences as diverse as hip hop, no wave and noise rock. This album too received critical acclaim.

Today we wish Kim a happy birthday.

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Indie Rock Music

Shameless Self Promotion: Nauseous Skies & Downstreamers

Time for a little Shameless self promotion. Jason Jarratt, singer, guitarist and primary songwriter in my band Nauseous Skies has unearthed a 2018 home recording we made of our song Without You. Without You has never been recorded in a studio so Jason decided to upload it to Soundcloud as a gift for those in isolation. It is a darkly psychedelic dream pop song with a strong ‘80’s influence. We were thinking of bands like The Cure and Psychedelic Furs when we were writing and rehearsing it.

As well as Without You, Jason and I also began a more electronic based side project called Downstreamers. This consisted of guitar, voice and electronics. We finished one track, Shine On in 2019 but didn’t get around to releasing it. We uploaded it to Soundcloud yesterday. This isn’t dissimilar to our main band but has more emphasis on synth sounds and uses exclusively programmed drums.

Hope you enjoy these tunes. They make me wonder how many other bands are sitting on unreleased material which would be well received right now while we’re social distancing/isolating.

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Indie Rock Music

No Age – War Dance/Feeler/Turned to String

No Age make me feel like I’ve travelled to a parallel universe. Like the guy who travelled to a universe where the Beatles never broke up and stole a tape of a Beatles album that was released after they broke up in our universe (details) The universe No Age inhabit is one in which, instead of Thurston Moore being obsessed with the Ramones, the Ramones are obsessed with Thurston Moore. Actually, the Beatles comparison isn’t entirely unwarranted either.

No Age, who describe their sound as Dream Punk, play lovely simple punk pop music very much in the vein of the Ramones or the Beatles. Straightforward power chords chugging over precise and powerful drumming. Simple, effective melodies. The secret ingredient is the wall of sound the guitars create with the help of a plethora of effects, which give their music a Shoegaze or Dreampop like quality, and a collection of noisy and exciting synth modules. 

War Dance is a wall of lo-fi noise built around a simple guitar riff and a bleeping synth loop. The vocals have a shouted, Mark E Smith-like quality, at least partially due to the cheapness (or simulated cheapness) of the vocal mic. It reminds me of the legendary Iggy Pop vocal for The Passenger, famously recorded through a guitar amp.

Feeler is the catchiest pop song of the three. Heavily degraded distorted sounds, which could be either synth or heavily processed guitar give way to a hummable, melodic line which is embedded deep in the noise. The vocals, while simile, are more melodic and less shouty than War Dance. The chorus is incredibly catchy, revolving around a simple power chord pattern and lyrics about “my astral plane”. 

The power pop feel continues on Turned to String. This probably sounds more like Ramones than the other two songs and the production is cleaner and less noisy. It still sounds very lo-fi but relies less on the swirling walls of guitar noise for its power. Chugging powerchords, simple melodies and straightforward drums. It’s a particularly pleasing arrangement and it suits the song well.

These three songs leave me excitedly looking forward to the new album Goons Be Gone when it releases in June.

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