October 2014

A Bell Is a Cup Until it Is Struck by Wire (10/10)

Format: CD

Wire continues its slide towards mid-eighties dance music with this collection of songs. There's a dreamy, goth-y quality to this album which may take a little getting used to if you jump from Wire's first records to this. I know it took me several listens to accept it and fully embrace dance-Wire. I now consider songs like "Kidney Bingos" and "Boiling Boy" to be among the band's best work.

Wasteland 2 on PC (9/10)

Wasteland 2 - Fighting a scorpitron

Soon after I plunked down a few Kickstarter bucks for Broken AgeWasteland 2's campaign popped up. Back in my Apple ][ days I knew about, but never played, Wasteland. If I was going to commit time and effort to an RPG, it was going to be Ultima. However, after my migration to Windows, the game's "spiritual successor" Fallout was one of the first big games I played (it was also the first thing I ever bought on eBay back in 1998. The box smelled like cigars). I really liked the more recent Fallout 3 / New Vegas games, but, like many old-timers, I longed for the deep, turn based combat of the first two games of the series. Brian Fargo's Kickstarter video promised to bring party-based, turn-based, post-nuclear-based gaming back... to base. To have. I was sold.

The Ideal Copy by Wire (10/10)

Format: CD

After 154, Colin Newman picked up where 154 left off with A–Z and Graham Lewis went the experimental route and formed the almost unlistenable Dome. It seemed that Wire was no more. And then, several years later, comes The Ideal Copy (well, actually Snakedrill EP was first). This second incarnation of the band has them distancing themselves from their punk roots in favor of synths and electronics.

Chairs Missing by Wire (10/10)

Format: CD

Of all the Wire releases, this one is my favorite. The music ranges from dreamy ("French Film Blurred") to punky ("Sand in my Joints") to poppy ("Outdoor Miner") to epic ("Mercy"), all while maintaining the same mix of the punk rock energy of their first LP and a more arty, synthesizer-based sound.

The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout (8/10)

Nero Wolfe is a dick. It's a wonder that this mostly unlikable character spawned such a successful series of books. This is the second book in the series that I have read and it was pretty good, especially the opening chapters. Things get a little too convoluted at the climax, with an array of underdeveloped characters vying to be tagged as the murderer. It eventually does make sense, but, by then, who cares. Thankfully it was a short read, so I left satisfied.

The Reincarnation of Isabel (4/10)

This is a confusing mess of a movie. Somewhere a midst the toplessness is a plot involving vampires, witches and ancient castles. There's a creepy bald guy, a spandex clad satanic rite, and some out-of-place comic relief. Sounds awesome, but it's not really.

Pink Flag by Wire (10/10)

Format: CD

Wire's first album is the one that all my punk rock friends consider their best. For me, it's a great record but it lacks the experimentation of later releases. That said, Pink Flag is leaps and bounds better than most of punk records of the same era. They are much more aligned with the artsy side of punk than the rock 'n' roll-y side of the movement (ala the Ramones or The Clash). There are so many great tracks on this: "Three Girl Rhumba," "Ex-Lion Tamer," "Fragile," "1 2 XU," and the list goes on...

Look (8/10)

I am a crowd supporter for Penn Jillette's upcoming Director's Cut movie and the story goes that Penn watched this movie and immediately sought out the director Adam Rifkin for a movie he had brewing in his head. The result, Director's Cut, is poised to be the ultimate meta-movie, filled with found footage and movies-within-movies (I hope it turns out awesome). Look is a found footage movie that's a tour de force of editing as a story telling device. The premise is that the movie is made up entirely of surveillance footage.

Wendy and Lisa by Wendy and Lisa (4/10)

Format: CD

This is another one of those CDs in my collection that I bought because I wanted to buy something while I was out at the Northwoods Mall Musicland. "Waterfall" was a MTV hit and I really liked it (and still do), so the rest of the record had to be just as good, right? Well, not really. There are way too many sappy ballads and nothing else comes close to the driving catchiness of that one single.

Pure Guava by Ween (8/10)

Format: CD

This was my introduction to Ween. At the time I thought of them as They Might Be Giants with profanity. In hindsight I think the appeal was that they were, like us, a couple of nerds playing around with a cassette four-track who weren't afraid to try whatever they could to make a cool song. Listening to them now I realize they haven't aged well. Nowadays, anyone with a computer can make songs a gazillion times more creative than this.