June 2014

Snake Creeps Down by Triple Whip (8/10)

Format: 
CD

This Champaign-Urbana trio was the first band with which Nonagon ever played a show. The songs are very much in the tradition of the C-U sound of the 90s ala the Poster Children or even Hot Glue Gun. This disc is a "kung-fu concept EP" fit for any dojo.

The Blackwell Legacy on PC (8/10)

The Blackwell Legacy - Rosa's Room

The first four Blackwell games went on sale on Steam this week for around 50¢ each. These games have been on my radar ever since I saw this Mattchat interview with Wadjet Eye company founder Dave Gilbert. Basically, he was a hobbyist using the Adventure Game Studio to create Lucasarts style point-and-click adventures. He decided to make a go at transforming his hobby into a business and some dozen or so games later the company has survived.

Spec Ops: The Line on PC (9/10)

Spec Ops: The Line - Screenshot

Have you ever wanted to be the star of your very own nihilistic, anti-war fever dream? Well, look no further than Spec Ops: The Line. This game is, for the most part, a standard cover-based third-person shooter. The mechanics are solid, but nothing out of the ordinary. Where this game separates itself from others is in its dark story that owes a lot to Apocalypse Now and its progenitor, Heart of Darkness. Instead of taking a boat up the river, you are making your way through a sand storm engulfed Dubai on a quest to find Colonel Konrad (Conrad, get it?) and his rogue 33th brigade.

Warm Voices Rearranged by Brandon Kearney & Gregg Turkington (7/10)

The subtitle of the book is "Anagram Record Reviews" and that pretty much sums it up. Take a record artist and title, rearrange the letters and out pops a snarky and fairly relevant description of the album/artist. The reviews are at their best when describing a performer with a tawdry personal life: references to overdoses and sexual escapades abound. My favorite review in the book is the one for the Wallflowers that implies that Jacob Dylan is Hitler. If you want a taste of what's in store check out the blog.

Hotline Miami on PC (8/10)

Hotline Miami - Screenshot

Hotline Miami is an ultraviolent, fast-paced arcade-style game that owes a lot to Smash T.V. and Berzerk. Although it uses both analog sticks, I wouldn't quite call it a twin stick shooter since you are using the shoulder buttons to fire and swing weapons. These controls are not easy to get used to, but eventually I got a handle on them. Yet even near the end I was still dying because I would accidentally throw my weapon rather than target an enemy.

Brütal Legend on PC (4/10)

Brütal Legend - Screenshot

I really wanted to like Brütal Legend. but once again Doublefine has created a game that is a triumph of style over substance. The story concept is there: Jack Black as a concert roadie who saves heavy metal music from obsolescence through the power of rock. There are so many great ways that this tale could have been told. How about a parable about commercial, corporate entities are watering down great music? Or how with so many entertainment choices, kids just don't care about being in bands any more? Nope. Instead we are taken to what amounts to your standard D & D fantasy world with a sheen of Eighties metal album cover art direction laid on top.

Come Spy With Us by Various Artists (10/10)

Format: 
CD

This is a great compilation of mostly 60's era spy movie theme songs (and a few T.V. series themes too). Making a good case for still buying physical media, it features an informative, picture-filled and booklet. Not all of the tracks are the original versions—I suspect there were rights issues—but the replacement choices are good: The Challengers, The Ventures and Johnny & The Hurricanes.

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg (8/10)

The thesis here is that, despite the constant cries of "fascism" when talking about right-wing policies, the real heirs of fascism are those on the progressive left. Liberals will probably take offense to this, but those of us who have read The Road to Serfdom will respond with, "No duh." The book is chocked full of comparisons between (mostly) early Twentieth Century progressives' political aspirations and those of the Italian and German fascists of the same era.

Trio by Trio (10/10)

Format: 
CD

This was a weird import CD when I got it and it turns out there are about two dozen versions of this release in various formats. I always assumed it was a greatest hits compilation since just about every song is great, but I guess this is their first record. Wonderfully minimalist rock that, in hindsight, was extremely influential on many of the indie rock bands I love. The music really skirts the line between novelty songs and serious art rock.