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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Jason has already mentioned this, but reading our little blurb that says Nintendo is to blame for a lack of posts I thought I should write a little bit. Yes, Nintendo is to blame… specifically Professor Layton and the Curious Village (well, also the fact that it is a quite period for gigs and all I am listening to is the strange mix of Portishead, Raconteurs and Flight of the Conchords).

Now that I have (virtually) finished the game, what is so great about Professor Layton?

1. I Like Puzzles. Yep, the puzzles are great. 120+ in there to solve is sweet. I think I only have about 5 left to find. They are great variety. Lateral thinking and logic puzzles dominate, but a smattering of move the pieces around kinda ones as well. They are all great fun. Did I cheat? Only once. There is a puzzle in there that was just really really stoopid. Plus the hint gave me a bum steer. You have to believe me! In all seriousness, it is set up really well, that if you are just really stuck, you can usually get enough hints to get through it. Only a handful of times did I get all hints… even if it took me half an hour to solve.

2. The Story. Well, kinda. I must admit I was skipping through parts of it just to get to the next puzzle, but could you play a game with cool puzzles with an insufferable story? Don’t think so.

3. The Animation. Jase mentioned this… the cut scenes are really cool. Animation has never looked so good on a DS.

4. Great Idea Well Executed. It is simple when you think about it, but it is all just done so well. If you have a DS defintely grab it.

Hopefully the sequel is a while away… playing my DS 15 hours in a week is not time well spent!

… muttler

ThirdWho thought this day would come? 11 years after the last studio album (10 even since the PNYC live album), Portishead are back with a new album, Third. You have to be a bit scared though about the prospect of a new album after so long. Lots of questions pop up… are they still relevant, was it worth the wait, and ultimately should they have even bothered? My word.

Let’s address some of the questions. Are they still relevant? Well, I would argue that Dummy and Portishead still hold up really well to this day. Forget all the “trip-hop” associations, I think these two albums transcend any decade specific genre. But more importantly how does Third stack up? Really really well. It is certainly Portishead… Beth Gibbon’s voice makes sure of that… but it is a Portishead that has moved on. That is not to say that Portishead have veered off in another direction, but it just sounds like it did take 10 years to arrive.

If you are after the more mellow, soulful Portishead on Dummy, then Third may leave you cold. But if it is the darker places of their self-titled album that you go back to I think this will sidle up quite nicely. This is by no means a bleak album (which many criticised the second album of being), but it is certainly more harsh in places. Lead single Machine Gun is testament to that. But then there are moments of Beth Gibbons beauty, albeit wrapped up in quite obtuse beats. Ultimately it is all wrapped up in a menace that says “it may have taken 10 years, but we are back”.

So was it worth the wait? Well, it’s all relative. 10 years is a long time to wait. But it is an awesome album. Given how much I have listened to this in just a very short space of time, I think this is definitely going to be near the top of my list at the end of the year. Yes, I am glad they bothered. Take note My Bloody Valentine.

… muttler

I am pretty late on to Flight of the Conchords. I had heard of them and had a couple of friends urging me to check them out. Finally I got the DVDs and watched all 12 episodes in the space of a few days. I loved it. Jermaine and Bret are great, but it is also the bit characters, Murray, Dave, and especially Mel that are fantastic too even though they don’t burst into song. I was trying to think of the last time I had watched something and found I was laughing out loud while watching it by myself. The songs I thought were genius… lyrically hysterical yet also funny as a genre-bending exercise. So when I read that the official album was coming out on Sub Pop I thought sweet.

So I now have it and have been listening to it all day. First of all, the songs have not been messed with. Sure they are “official studio” recordings but they don’t sound very far removed from their TV counterparts which is great. Next, almost all the gold is there. Sure some songs are missing, but the highlights are here… A Kiss Is Not A Contract, The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room, and everyones favourite Business Time. I mean as I type away here I have it on and I still smile. I mean how can you not love a lyric like this from Think About It:

There’s people on the street, gettin’ diseases from monkeys

Yeah that’s what I said, they’re gettin’ diseases from monkeys

Now there’s junkies with monkey disease, who’s touching these monkeys puh-lease

Leave these poor sick monkeys alone, they got problems enough as it is

Genius.

… muttler

A bit of a slow week this week. My niece’s birthday last week but you don’t need to hear about that (although it was great fun… mmm… fairy bread). So here is something cool…

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on old ABC show Recovery.

Awesome Saturday morning TV. I miss this show. Yeah, it used to suck a lot of the time, but imagine eating your Vita Brits watching this. Oh, I love the Blues Explosion too. Check out the bit where Jon Spencer terrorises the kids in the Pumpkins t-shirts in the crowd. Priceless.

… muttler

As I have mentioned in the past, there is no way I can keep up with all the news in the world of gig posters. So all you get from me is some bits about artists I like. So, some updates:

Jay Ryan: The Bird Machine have a new website up with all their goodies. Check out Jay’s 2001 movie poster. It looks totally different to anything he has done before, but it is awesome. And huge! I have one coming. Woo hoo! And the stars glow in the dark. It would only be better if it had Kubrick’s DNA in there somewhere. Also the Jeff Tweedy poster looks great too.

Leia Bell: Leia is always putting new prints up at her website. So just have a look and visit often. The Enon and Joggers poster with the giraffe particularly is making my day at the moment. What are you waiting for?

Rob Jones: Rob puts out heaps of stuff, but usually just at shows. Now that the Raconteurs have started playing shows again, expect lots of prints to surface. Main thing in the past week has been a couple White Stripes prints that have surfaced, originally for some cancelled shows last year. You can only get these from the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester, and only if you pick up some White Stripes lomography cameras. Why is the British Pound so strong?! Oh, the RGG folks are awesome too. They put up with me going in there every day when I was in Manchester fleetingly in 2006 just to salivate over their stock.

Tara McPherson: Tara is a bit quiet with the gig posters but has a new giclee art print up at her website. $300… yikes. Looks amazing though.

So what have I bought recently? Well, the 2001 poster mentioned above. I also couldn’t help myself and picked up Shag’s new print which you can see in the Shag post. It really is truly amazing. The new Rob Jones Raconteurs print arrived too in it’s silver and black glory that I mentioned the other week. Is cool, but maybe I didn’t need a poster with the Raconteurs lads on it. Otherwise, a relatively quiet time for me with posters at the moment.

… muttler

Double entendre titles are too easy in this case. But oh well.

Josh Agle (aka Shag) is back in town and has a great new show of originals and artist proofs at the Outre Gallery. The opening was Friday night and was a packed affair with the man himself there to kick back and entertain crazies like me talking to him. To his credit, he is great fun to have a chat with and was as debonair as ever.

The show itself is great. If you are only familiar with Shag’s serigraphs and books you really need to see his paintings in the flesh. The colours are truly amazing. They are so vivid they just slap you in the face. This show is entitled “The Birds and the Beasts“. A kinda loose title really, but it works. I would love to have half a dozen of the smaller bird paintings about my house (see the exhibition and you will know what I am talking about). If only I could afford a big one to be hanging in my place.

Lots of rare artist proof prints too if you are still searching for one long gone. My favourite is there… the Melbourne inspired Vinegar Girl. But I am privileged to have that hanging in my house, so that just makes me feel even more special. The one that will blow your socks off though is the exhibition-specific print Glorious Lifestyle. Based on the Peter Sellers movie The Party it is a massive 18 colour (I think) print. It is just over a meter and a half wide. See it and your jaw will drop… it is that sweet. You can pick up your very own from Outre, but get in quick as these won’t be around long I wouldn’t think as they are amazing and it is a slightly smaller run than a normal Shag.

The exhibition is on until May 6 (it is also on up at their gallery in Sydney too). It is free to have a look, so no one has any excuse not to pop in. Pick up one of Shag’s books while you are at it. Actually.. treat yourself with a print. It will look great in your house.

… muttler

Congrats to Kristen Schaal, the American comedian, for co-taking out the Barry Award for Best Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Each year I usually go to a few shows, but this year gigs seemed to occupy all my time (and money). Excitingly though, I only saw one show, and that was Ms Schaal’s on Friday night.

So while I can’t say if it was indeed the best of the festival (my mate Craig will be happy I think) I have to say that I adored the show. I didn’t know that much about her before heading to see it… just a recommendation, some press, and a couple episodes of Flight of the Conchords. But of all the shows I could have seen I was very happy with my choice. She tapped in completely to my comic sensibilities I think… absolutely absurdist humour but combined with some genuine belly laughs. My friend Anna was in tears after the gloriously wacky finale, which is about the best outcome a comedian could want I would think.

Absolute kudos to her side-kick Karl too… he certainly deserves part of that Barry. So sorry about the timing of this posting… the Comedy Festival ends today… but keep her name in the memory bank for future reference (or see her last show tonight).

… muttler

Maybe that’s a little melodramatic. What I mean to say is, yeah, the DS is pretty awesome. And I bought a stack of games over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d share my seasoned opinions (salty).

1. Professor Layton & the Curious Village

This game has been doing the rounds critically, but I’ve heard a lot of “ordinary people” whinging about how hard it is. It’s not that hard. Sure, you might need to work through some of the problems on paper, and those literal problems suck, but otherwise .. come on!

I know those Dr. Kawashima games are popular, but for an intellectual game, this is so much more fun. If you haven’t heard about this game yet, ie. if you live under a rock, it’s a murder mystery adventure game. But instead of the typical pick up item, use item, oops wrong item, get frustrated, download walkthrough you need to solve puzzles to progress. It’s ridiculous, but fun. And the game does note how inappropriate and tedious this puzzle solving is, it’s just that the people who live in this village are INSANE and love puzzles.

Beyond the novelty, the artwork is great, and the French-style animated cutscenes are truly rewarding. I mean that literally, you really want something after solving some of those stupid puzzles. The best thing I’ve seen about this game so far is at Penny Arcade.

2. Advance Wars Dual Strike

It’s just like Advance Wars, with some superficial updates. Sure, there’s a different back story and the characters are “new” (but almost identical to the old ones), and there are a few new units .. okay, maybe it’s a bit different.

I know there’s an even newer Advance Wars DS game out, but I heard it was dark and serious. I really liked the whole yeah we’re at war, but do you wanna go catch a movie? high school-esque feel from the first game. The second one is pretty similar in that respect (so far).

I find it fascinating that a game about warfare and strategy has so little overt violence or cruelty. All the in-your-face immediacy and war genre tropes are completely absent – this is, in essence, a set of problems that require certain strategies to solve. It’s pretty amazing in that respect. Peel back the infantile dialogue and Righteous Cause (we’re saving the world, didn’t you hear?) and it’s like playing some kind of ├╝ber chess.

3. Cooking Mama

I’m old enough that I don’t throw controllers (or, consoles in this case) in frustration any more, I just swear a lot instead.

This game made me swear a lot.

Nevertheless, this is something of a guilty pleasure. If you’re going to play stupid mini-games then you might as well learn something about Japanese cuisine in the process, yeah? It’s kind of fun, even though it feels like luck has as much to do with success as talent.

4. Etrian Odyssey

I picked this game up on a recommendation from the webs, and also because it was made by Atlus, the brains behind Riviera. What’s.. what’s a Riviera? Only the most kickass awesome RPG on the GBA (..OIC). Sure, it’s no Shining Force II, but I loved Riviera, probably more for the art than anything else.

And in Etrian, the great character designs endure. Only, unlike the extremely linear storyline to Riviera, Etrian Odyssey is somewhat open-ended. I suppose it’s like Nethack or Moria or Diablo, in that you’ve got a multi-level dungeon (only it’s a forest in this game.. so far) where you wander about killing things and getting killed. It’s also hard to see past the similarity to Eye of the Beholder or the various Bard’s Tale games, with that groan-inducing nearly-3D grid format. It’s all turn-based combat though, so, phew.

At its core, this game still has a lot in common with the Final Fantasy series, but there’s a scary amount of those old SSI D&D games thrown in as well. And, man is it tough. There have been moments of real tension, running like crazy from battles with half of the party dead and monsters at your heel. Similarly, it often feels like this game is a big fat grind with nothing else to do – but I’ve only completed a handful of missions so far, so it might feel a bit less pointless later on. It’s still utterly addictive regardless of this.

The Atlus site has more info and screen grabs of the awesome artwork.

I came across Clinic by accident. Somewhere I read a few glowing reviews of their 2002 album Walking With Thee and on an impulse bought it. I think the review said something about “Like nothing else” or somesuch and I took a punt. I love it when you uncover something great like that. Reading about bands, studying your favourite mags, finding that new act, taking a punt of your 20 bucks and uncovering a gem of an LP. Walking With Thee was one of them.

So I now pick up each Clinic without reservation. But Clinic are a funny one. You could make a mix tape and I defy most fans to be able to name what album each song comes from. But with Clinic it is not really a bad thing. I love picking up their new album and getting 30 mins of wacked out psych-pop all kinda cut from the same cloth. So this makes Do It! an interesting one.

This is the first album where I hear a fairly distinct difference. Don’t get me wrong… this sounds just as “Clinic” as all their other albums, but there is a slightly different dynamic. It is hard to put your finger on… the strange organ is there, vocals are the same, but there is something new. And it is very cool. I know there is a different producer on board, and maybe that is it… just a fresh set of ears to add to the sound. It may even be the most accessible that they will ever sound.

The Witch (Made To Measure) is the lead single and is vintage Clinic. It has that nervy vibe to it, but is complete warped pop. The rest of the album follows suit. 11 tracks, about 33 minutes. Nice to see some things don’t change. Now if only they could bring their surgeons masks to Australia…

… muttler

Everyone I know who reads Pitchfork has a love/hate relationship with them. Lots of great news but sometimes you just want to punch the reviewers. Anyway a quick heads up for Pitchfork.tv.

They have launched a site where they will have exclusive live clips, music docos etc etc. Visit now for a few awesome things including Radiohead joining the likes of the Dirtbombs and Modest Mouse as a band with two drummers, banging out Bangers and Mash (go Thom go!), and a super sweet Jay Reatard set.

Sorry if this sounds like an ad, but yep, the clips are really that cool.

… muttler