March 2011

Grand Theft Auto IV on PC (9/10)

GTA IV Hero Shot

This was my third journey into the world of Grand Theft Auto and I am starting to pick up on the formula. So, this is essentially the same game mechanics as GTA: Vice City but with better graphics. I'm usually not a graphics wonk, but this game is jaw-droppingly spectacular. Every little detail has been captured, the environments are incredibly convincing and the city truly feels alive. There is so much to see in Liberty City that you could spend days just exploring (especially if your NPC buddies didn't keep nagging you to go play a round of virtual darts every five minutes). I've played the game for 50+ hours and still feel like I haven't seen everything.

Clock Street by Poster Children (7/10)

Format: 
CD

This is a 4-song CD single that includes two tracks from Tool of the Man and two new songs. "Everything Burns" is a light and peppy number that would have fit in well on the LP. "Matter Crush" isn't bad but it's a bit drab compared to the other three tracks.

Blow Up (8/10)

Blow Up is a movie that I have often heard referenced in relation to other movie's I love, most notably Deep Red. I went in not knowing what to expect other than that it involves David Hemmings photographing what he thinks was a murder. The title is a reference to a long scene in which he enlarges the photos to see the details (parodied so well in Mel Brooks's High Anxiety). My expectation was that this was going to be an intense thriller. I was wrong. The film is more of an art film about perception: can we always believe what we see?

Tool of the Man by Poster Children (9/10)

Format: 
CD

After the Poster Children moved to a major label they began to sound tighter, punchier, less-droney and they started mixing their albums louder. All of this was a great improvement and for a while it seemed as though they would just keep one-uping themselves with each new release. This CD also contained the first "Magic-Eye" 3-D image I ever saw. It literally took me hours before I was able see the dorky "PC" logo they embedded in the visual-noise. From the moment that the image converged in my eyes I was able to see beyond the bounds of time and space.

House of the Devil (7/10)

I went into this film not knowing anything about it and ended up liking it despite the slow, SLOW build-up. The retro, early 80s mom-jeans style is great. Did I mention that this one takes its time to get rolling? However, once things start happening, all bet are off. This is one of the rare low-budget films that satisfies the Joe Bobb Briggs's standard of "anyone can die at any moment." The final act feels a bit over-the-top after the quiet creepiness of the second act, but it was not so crazy as to make it seem that out of place.

Daisychain Reaction by Poster Children (9/10)

Format: 
CD

This is the first Poster Children CD that I bought at the time of its release. This was back when they were quickly becoming the kings of the Champaign-Urbana music scene (or maybe arch-dukes bested only by The Didjits). Now, in hindsight, I know that this would not be their best recording, but it certainly felt like the bar by which any following release from the band (or any other Cham/bana band for that matter) would be judged. The sound of the record more or less encapsulates the droning wall-of-guitars sound of the scene from which they emerged.

Flower Plower by Poster Children (6/10)

Format: 
CD

Just about every Poster Children album has one weird, out-of-place song that either very poppy ("If You See Kay") or takes a different musical approach (the rapping on "What's Inside the Box"). In any event, Flower Plower is like an entire record of these one-off tracks. Admittedly, some of the songs just plain suck. But, along with the bad there are some near-classics too like "Eye" and "Dangerous Life."

Slow Note from a Sinking Ship by Portastatic (6/10)

Format: 
CD

Mac McCaughan's solo project sounds more or less like Superchunk with lower fidelity and lower fun. When I listen to it I think that it is a good record, but once it's over, it's completely forgotten. Definitely, lacking in the hooks department.