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by Eleanore Catolico

16 Oct 2009

Watch the handcrafted magic of “Feel Good Together” from the masterminds of Drummer, which includes Patrick Carney (Black Keys), Jamie Stillman, Jon Finley, Steve Clements, and Greg Boyd (all drummers themselves). Their album, Feel Good Together, is out now off Audio Eagle.

by Allison Taich

16 Oct 2009

When thinking of punk rock what bands come to mind? Maybe the Sex Pistols, Screeching Weasel, NOFX, or Naked Raygun? What about the Butthole Surfers? I normally would not have associated the Butthole Surfers with punk, that is, until I witnessed them headline the opening night of Riot Fest in Chicago.  The aim of the five night event was to showcase generations of punk rock music of all shapes and sizes.

Normally punk is not my first choice of music; I associate it with teenage friendships, an adolescent rite of passage soundtrack if you will.  But what drew me to Riot Fest was the Butthole Surfers, a band I have enjoyed since seeing them on Beavis and Butthead.

Photo by Patrick Houdek

Photo by Patrick Houdek

Hesitant about their association to punk rock I really did not know what to expect.  The venue was filled with an eerie glow from a screen serving as a stage backdrop.  As the band took the stage, audience members packed in as close as they could to best glimpse the imminent spectacle.  The backdrop began to flash, spastically, three different montages as the band hammered out “Something,” with guitarist Paul Leary on lead vocals.  Meanwhile usual front man Gibby Haynes danced around, honking on the saxophone.  Jeff Pinkus slammed his bass, and percussionists King Coffey and Teresa Taylor drove a steady yet intricate rhythm on various drums.  The lineup of Haynes, Leary, Pinkus, Coffey and Taylor represented the band’s original roster from the mid-‘80s.  After the first song I knew it was going to be one hell of a ride.

The music got increasingly loud, intense, and stylistically interesting.  Every song featured Haynes’ patented “Gibbytronix” voice modulator, which tweaked sounds and altered his vocal pitch.  Other effects included an abundance of distortion pedals, industrial soundtracks, a megaphone, sirens, squeaking, squawking, and plenty of noise trails.  Interacting with the crowd, Haynes chatted about how many girls were there, the number of people wearing glasses , how many were bald, and how young the crowd seemed.  He described the scene as “unprecedented.” 

Photo by Patrick Houdek

Photo by Patrick Houdek

Known for their extreme debaucheries on stage the Butthole Surfers played a relatively tame show.  The only shock value came from the blood, guts, fear, fury and skin projected on the backdrop.  Some film scenes were recognizable—such as It, Silence of the Lambs and Killer Klowns from Outer Space—while others just included surgeries, zombie/slasher films, bugs, geometric shapes, explosions, combusting heads and more.  It was not unlike A Clockwork Orange, being force fed images of violence and gore.

Their set closed with “Who was in My Room Last Night?,” with Haynes performing an inspiring interpretive dance as the song rumbled to a close. Then the backdrop went black and the stage remained still for almost half a minute.  At this point the venue reeked of B.O. and smoke, thanks to a smoke machine filling the room with a thick fog.

Coming back for an encore, Leary confided in the crowd: “Normally we’re this really good rock and roll band [who] plays normal shit…it takes special people to come see us!” Their encore, lasting almost 20 minutes, was full of monster solos from each member, and more deafening psychedelic freak outs.  It felt like a finale to one of the slasher films projected in the background, when the apparently doomed teen knows they will eventually get out alive.  The show officially ended with grinding noise, like helicopters hitting pavement, topped off with bass reverb.

Reflecting on punk, the theme of Riot Fest, and how the Butthole Surfers fit into the picture, I thought that their sound was not all-out punk, but instead their energy and ethos reflected the genre.  They took the audience for a twisted ride, razed some eardrums, and upheld their legacy of being a motley band of bizarre, discombobulated chaos, who ultimately leaves their fans satisfied.

Set list obtained by Allison Taich

Set list obtained by Allison Taich

by Tommy Marx

16 Oct 2009

A few years ago, I made a mix CD of some of my favorite songs and gave copies to my friends. One of the songs on the CD, Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”, is currently being used to advertise the Where the Wild Things Are movie, and most of the other songs I shared hold up equally well, including Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life” (one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard), Doves’ “Black and White Town”, Jill Sobule’s “Cinnamon Park”, The Thrills’ “Big Sur”, Stereophonics’ “Dakota”, Keane’s “This Is the Last Time”, Interpol’s “Evil” (which has an awesome video, btw), Deena Carter’s “In a Heartbeat”, and Easyworld’s “How Did It Ever Come to This”. Of course, I also added Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day”, but in my defense, this was before the song got chosen for American Idol and started getting played 14 times every hour on the radio.

I ended the CD with one of my all-time favorite songs, “How to Be Dead” by Snow Patrol.

When I first ran across the video for “Chocolate”, a Snow Patrol single that spent two weeks on the Modern Rock chart, but otherwise didn’t make a major impression in the United States, I was intrigued. The video portrayed hundreds of people reacting to the world ending, from people running frantically and a couple having sex for the last time to a woman holding her crying child, while the band members calmly played their song. Towards the end, the sand in the hourglass runs out, and everywhere, people fall to the ground and shield themselves from the inevitable horror. Except… nothing happens. As they’re beginning to comprehend that fact, Gary Lightbody, the lead singer of Snow Patrol, walks over to the hourglass and turns it over, and the panic begins anew.

Although the song wasn’t bad, I was actually more impressed by the video, so I searched for more. Fortunately, I came across “Run”, a song that peaked at #15 on the Modern Rock chart in America, but was actually a Top 5 hit in the UK. The song was provocative and unforgettable. The last time I’d heard a song that instantly created a mood and a mystique like that was almost 20 years earlier, when “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” by Mike + the Mechanics played on the radio. I bought Snow Patrol’s Final Straw CD the next day.

And that’s when I heard “How to Be Dead”. I’m not completely sure what the song is about—it sounds like an argument between a drug addict and the woman who is tired of being hurt by him—but when she says, “You’ve not heard a single word I have said. Oh my god,” there’s something so heartbreaking about the way Gary sings the line (even though everyone’s probably heard and/or said something like that a thousand times in their lives). A clichéd complaint suddenly becomes far more serious than it should be, although it doesn’t hurt that earlier, she asks him, “Why can’t you shoulder the blame? / ‘Cause both my shoulders are heavy from the weight of us both”.

by Katharine Wray

16 Oct 2009

Enjoy all the good will radiating from this, the new video for the Fruit Bats’ “The Ruminant Band”.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Oct 2009

A couple weeks ago I wrote that graphics simply can’t get much better, and while I firmly believe that, I also believe that gamers are constantly awaiting some new leap in visuals. It’s something we’ve been conditioned over decades of consoles to expect, and we still expect it now. But if graphics can’t get much better, is a new visual leap is even possible?

In September Resident Evil 5 was released for PC with an interesting new addition: It could be played in 3D, the kind of 3D that has things popping out of the screen, the kind that requires special glasses, a special monitor, and a special video card. LG, Samsung, and Sony have released or plan to release 3D HDTV’s, and Sony has plans to release a patch for the PS3 in 2010 that will allow the system to display 3D games.

There are already a surprising number of games available in 3d on the PC. NVIDA’s GeForce glasses are compatible with DirectX 7, 8, 9, and 10 games, automatically converting the normal 3D to work with the glasses. So this technology is not particularly new, but as usual consoles lag behind, and in this gaming age unless 3D catches on there it won’t catch on at all. So far, the only developer to try and break this new ground has been Sucker Punch, with their game Sly 3 Honor Among Thieves.

Sly 3 uses the now antiquated red/blue 3D glasses to make certain scenes pop out at the viewer. Given the nature of this old technology, it should come no surprise that the change is almost imperceptible at first. The 3D only becomes apparent, and even then only barely, after one starts looking closely at Sly and his position relative to the rest of the level. The effect of the glasses is less “pop” and more like a series of moving 2D images placed on top of each other; you begin to see the level in layers. In the first level the 3D was only obvious when I came to a thin ledge with moving lasers I had to sneak past. The source of the lasers was off-screen, above the camera, which seemed to be just over my head in the real world thanks to “pop” of the 3D. Overall, the 3D didn’t change the experience in any fundamental way, but it did add a new and interesting visual flair to an otherwise typical platformer.

Of course the biggest hurdle facing any implementation of 3D is the skepticism. Is it necessary?

It wasn’t necessary for Sly 3 because it didn’t add anything to the experience. Even if I exaggerate the effects of 3D in my head, I can’t imagine it’d make jumping around any more or less fun than it already was. But I think it could add to the experience of a game like Dead Space: Extraction. In that game enemies must run towards the screen in order to hurt the player. The entire game relies on enemies moving through that third dimension of depth that 3D showcases so well, making such a game the perfect vehicle for the technology. After all, 3D and horror go hand-in-hand since those “boo” moments of something jumping at the screen are only made more shocking if the monster seems to be actually jumping towards the player.

I believe it would add to any game that could exploit this added depth of field: First-person shooters for example, in which there’s always a gun hovering in front of us, and we’re constantly looking down its sights; racing games, where inferring the distance between cars is important, and the details of the cockpit view would stand out just a little bit more; but for a fighting game or any 2.5D game it would only serve as more background eye-candy.

Without going too far down the dangerous road of speculation, I imagine 3D can be very compatible with motion controllers, since it’s easier to move a character in 3D space if you can move the controller in 3D space as well. Combine it with the promised full-body tracking of Microsoft’s Natal, and you could have a truly unique experience unlike anything that has come before. But that’s getting a tad too far ahead of things, and ignores my previous question. Is it necessary?

While I think certain genres would benefit from the added depth the simple answer is no, games will play the same either way. At least motion control changes the way we interact with game, but going 3D only makes them more pretty (or less pretty if you don’t like the new look). Gamers do expect to be wowed visually, and the longer this console generation goes on the less it will wow. So if the next visual leap is not from 3D to 3D, than what will it be? Will there even be a leap? I certainly don’t know, but what I do know is that Sly 3 is fun whether in 3D or not.

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