March 2015

Absolute Polysics by Polysics (9/10)

Format: CD

Absolute Polysics is Polysics at their spazziest. It was pretty jarring a first but I have come to like this record quite a bit. In addition to the speed increase there are also more blatant allusions to Devo, especially their sound from Duty Now for the Future. The guitar parts take a back seat to synths and programming which may be why I prefer this over the previous record (which seemed a little tired).

Walkin' with Link by Link Wray (10/10)

Format: CD

This CD compiles Link's early sixties recordings on Epic records. Half the tracks are unreleased versions of songs including alternate takes of "Comanche" and "Ain't that Lovin' you Baby." I like that they include studio chatter before a few of the songs. Stuff like, "Don't let down for God's sakes. The drive is the thing with these kids today!" This is Link in his prime and I might even prefer this over the Rhino best-of disc I posted earlier.

Saints Row IV on PC (8/10)

Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV is an obvious rip-off of Grand Theft Auto all the way down from the open-world mechanics to the gangster themed plot. In realizing this, the makers of Saints Row opted to differentiate themselves by completely disregarding the gritty realism of GTA for an insane sci-fi fantasy plot twist in IV. Aliens have destroyed Earth and the last remaining humans are the Saints gang leaders, all of whom are trapped in a Matrix-style virtual world. The game never takes itself seriously and is filled with amusing quips and plot moments. As the game progresses you begin to overcome the simulation, causing it to glitch and pixelate and giving you unstoppable super powers.

Rumble! The Best of Link Wray by Link Wray (10/10)

Format: CD

Rhino knows how to create an excellent compilation and they have done it again her with this Link Wray sampler. It opens with his best known song, "Rumble," and continues on from there. At least three of the twenty tracks try to emulate the feeling of that first hit, but none of them can quite match its rawness. But that's okay because every one of these songs has plenty of Link's stripped down and fuzzed-out guitar riffing and a couple even feature his screeching single-lunged vocal talents. This CD is the obvious starting point for anyone new to Link.

Servant: The Dark God Book 1 by John D. Brown (8/10)

This is a fantasy novel I picked up based strictly on the reviews and auto-recommendations online. I enjoyed it for the most part, but, unlike the Mistborn or Kingkiller books, I didn't feel the unique magic system upon which the story hinges was explained in a way that felt grounded and real. I am now on the second book and am starting to get comfortable with the world but it took a while. That aside, the plot keeps up an exciting pace and the main villain is sufficiently villainous while remaining quite sympathetic in his (its?) motives.

Streets of Chicago: Missing Links Vol. 4 by Link Wray (10/10)

Format: CD

Unlike Volume 1, which focused on a more rockabilly and countrified Link, this compilation of rarities is full on chains and switchblades Link. Listening to this now, I'm surprised I didn't buy every volume in this series. I should fix that.

Whore: Various Artists Play Wire by Various Artists (6/10)

Format: CD

Tribute/cover albums are a hit or miss. My liking of a track can unfairly depend on two things: first, do like the band doing the cover and, second, did I like the original song? Well, I know all these songs but I only really knew about 3 or 4 of the bands featured. Sure there are quite a few recognizable 90's alternative names here, but by the time Nirvana broke through my tastes were drifting towards garage/surf rock. All that said, this compilation is a ho-hum affair. It's not bad, I just would rather listen to the originals than these somewhat liberal reworkings.

Dragon Age: Origins on PC (6/10)

Dragon Age - Origins

Man, this game was a bit of a mess. I guess I wanted it to be a Baldur's Gate style tactical role playing game with all the characters and story of Bioware's other big RPG, Mass Effect. Well, despite the zoomed-out tactical battle mode, this is not an Infinity-Engine style game. Most of the game is played in a stilted third-person view with super-wonky controls. You can zoom out, but you aren't allowed to pan around the battlefield much. Eventually I got the hang of it, but I had to put the game aside for a while out of sheer frustration.

Change Becomes Us by Wire (10/10)

Format: CD

For this record the band finished recording songs that they had been writing back when they broke-up in the late 70's. There are live versions of these songs from that era on Document and Eyewitness, but I wasn't very familiar with those recordings. This isn't a complete throwback and the tunes are firmly within the sonic range of their post-2000s incarnation. Had this come out in 1980 I suspect it would have been far more experimental which may have been spectacular, but it may also have been Dome. As it is, I would still consider this to be among the band's best work.

Strays by Wire (9/10)

Format: CD

I got this CD as a bonus from ordering Red Barked Tree directly from Wire mail order. The disc opens with re-recordings of a couple of Bell Is a Cup era songs, "Boiling Boy" and "German Shepherds." Stripped of their electronic dance arrangements these songs are great straight up rock tunes—A hint at what was to come next.

Guardians of the Galaxy (8/10)

Probably my favorite of the recent Marvel to film movie productions. It helps that it wasn't an idiotic superhero movie. Fortunately the focus is mostly on the characters and dialogue. However, like most modern CGI fests, the movie loses me during the big set pieces where I can't tell what the heck is going on half the time. That said, a surprising amount of the action at least seems like it was done on a set with real people.