Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on PC (8/10)

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GTA: Chinatown Wars on the DS was my first Grand Theft Auto game and it remains one of the best games on that platform. When Vice City went on sale on Steam I decided I had to try out a proper 3-D GTA game on the PC.

Reviewers always seem to note the violence and mature themes as the selling point of this franchise, but really what makes it so great is that it fulfills a video gaming fantasy that I imagine most Atari aged gamers had as kids: being able to get off the race course and just drive wherever you wanted in a game. The closest I came to this as a kid was driving off the road in Intellivision’s Auto Racing looking for shortcuts. That didn’t really satisfy the way GTA does. Vice City lets you go just about anywhere your road rage fantasies want to take you. The game incentivizes crazy driving via the strategic placement of ramps throughout the city and awarding bonuses for extreme stunts. Add to this tons of eighties radio hits blasting in the background and you have enough for a fun game.

But the game isn’t just about driving. There is a simple story which evolves as you complete a series of missions. The plot is not great, but it was enough to keep me interested and, even if the story was dumb, there was plenty of variation in the types of challenges (from delivering pizzas to flying a seaplane) to make me want to complete everything. However, when the game makes you get away from driving and into combat it gets a bit wonky. The controls are pretty terrible on the PC and half the time I found myself failing because of bad hit box detection or some other frustrating glitch. I really, really wished you could just quicksave anywhere in the game.

Technical problems aside, this was a great game and I get what the hype has been about all these years. In fact, I just bought GTA IV on sale this morning and will be back to the mayhem soon!

A-Z by Colin Newman - CD (10/10)

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After creating three of the greatest records of the early punk years, Wire fractured into various solo projects. As far as I am concerned, A-Z is Wire’s fourth record. It feels like the natural next step after 154A-Z is filled with more synthesizers and song structures are more abstract and weird. The end result is simply mesmerizing.

House at the Edge of the Dark by Giallos Flame, The - MP3 (9/10)

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Thanks to some free mp3 credits from Amazon, this is the first album that I ever purchased as a download! I have to say, I am really liking this release. The Giallos Flame is an English band which models its sound after the synth-laden prog-rock of late 70s/early 80s Italian horror movie soundtracks (Fabio Frizzi and Goblin). I have their first CD and it was good, but, at times it was maybe just a little too jazzy for my tastes. House at the Edge of the Dark is much better. They really lay on the howling analog synths and there is a much more consitent feeling from beginning to end. I can’t wait to hear more from this band.

Birdemic®: Shock and Terror™ Chicago Premiere!

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Last night I attended the Chicago premiere of James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror and got to shake hands and chat with the director (pictured above… he’s the one with the menacing claws). Birdemic is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. It’s an ultra-no-budget “romantic thriller” filled with tons of cheap digital bird effects, brain piercing eagle screeches, scenes of driving, hilarious dialogue, more driving and lots of, how shall we say, “creative” film editing choices.

Okay, it’s a bad, bad movie. But, I can’t deny that it is incredibly fun to watch’especially with a rowdy midnight movie audience. Much of the film’s charm is the sincerity and enthusiam of its director, James Nguyen. He seems to be loving the attention he is getting, and, despite the howls of unintensional laughter, Nguyen has the guts to stick to his guns regarding his seriousness his film and its mangled message. I highly encourage everyone to check this film out while it is still in theaters and bring as many friends as you can!

Murder Inc. by Murder Inc. - CD (6/10)

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The first full length release from this band is just more of the same. Impotent Killing Joke with a Chris Connelly’s David Bowie wannabe vocals. I like a couple of the songs (Last of the Urgents is quite good) and I am always glad to hear Martin Atkins’ tom-heavy drumming, but, like the EP, this material is just average.

Electrical Audio BBQ

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So, 1/3 of Nonagon posts in the Internet forums of Electrical Audio and, as a result, we will be playing at the super-secret underground music festival called the Electrical Audio BBQ (or something like that) on Saturday, June 12th at 1:40pm. We are not supposed to tell anybody about it but I figure no one reads this Web site, so I will promote it here. The address is 3722 W. Chicago Ave. Bring $15 and some raw meat, ear plugs and kevlar, I hear the neighborhood has its share of ruffians wandering the streets.