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Gorillaz - CD
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Plastic Beach picks up right where Demon Days left off as Damon Albarn brings back his pet project for another spin, just as before there are many guest appearences and Damon includes lots of new influences he has found while travelling the world.
Guests this time round include:
The National Orchestra of Arabic Music makes an appearance on White Flag also featuring rappers Bashy & Kano.
Snoop Dogg- (Welcome To The World of the Plastic Beach) my fave track on the album which considering my apathy towards modern rap music really says something WTTWOTPB is a really groove based chilled out track when Snoop enters, however things pick up later on when new sounds and synths are continously added and build the track up bit by bit, for me one of the best intros to an album for ages (note its actually track 2 but track 1 is a little orchestral intro that adds nothing to the album overall).
Lou Reed- (Some Kind of Nature) thankfully his involvement is kept to a minimum as his gravelly voice and the fact he sings off key (maybe it was actually wrote for him to do this way?) come close to ruining a good track here.
Of course there is Stylo (the first single featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) which most have probably heard and aside from 1 or 2 tracks is probably the only song that could be labelled a "single" from Plastic Beach.
The lack of no real singles does not hurt Plastic Beach as you'd think it would, as the general level of creativity, writing and performances from Damon and the guests really stand out when they are given their time to shine (see Womack on "Stylo", Snoop on ".....Plastic Beach" and an incredible turn from Mos Def on "Sweepstakes" who I'd completely forgotten was a great rapper at one time and not just a C-list movie star).
Unlike Demon Days, Plastic Beach has a more chilled out, woozy vibe in some parts, and its probably this vibe which people are, unfortunately, upset about next to greatest hits like collection of pop songs that made up Demon Days, there is a slight change in musical style from DD, as many songs feature 80's based synth sounds and a general electro feel (see Stylo, Rhinestone Eyes and Empire Ants) now this is in a no way a bad thing, but for the people who are thinking of buying PB, expecting the more hip hop based sound of DD then this a warning to get that out of your head now.
Unfortunately there are moments where the guest appearances dont shine like they should do (I particularly wanted to hear more of Little Dragon on my 2nd fave "Empire Ants", also see a virtual non-appearance from The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith on "Glitter Freeze" where Smith basically mumbles random stuff every now and again on what is surprisingly a great track consisting of synths howling at each other, over the same repetetive drum beat for 5 mins, as I said it surprisingly works and finally the title track itself features none other than Mick Jones & Paul Simonon, bassist and guitarist respectively of The Clash, aside from a brooding intro you will have a hard time hearing them at all in the rest of the track which is a shame to let their legendary talent go to waste.
Overall this is a fantastic album which any Gorillaz fan should like providing they're not expecting Demon Days part 2. I cant give PB 5* as there are some tracks that dont work for me, particularly the more Damon only sang tracks. Now I dont consider them as filler as you can tell effort has gone into them its just they all have a similar sound and dont have a definitive hook or moment to distinguish themselves from each other. However the good definitely outweighs the bad. If you like Gorillaz pick this up (especially at 7 quid for the CD version).
Sound Of Silver
LCD Soundsystem - CD
23 New from
First things first Ive never been a huge James Murphy fan. I enjoyed "Daft Punk is Playing..." like everybody else but found "Losing My Edge" vastly overrated. For me one song does not justify a near God like reputataion that the likes of NME among others have chosen to bestow on the man.
Prior to listening to SOS I decided to purchase and listen to LCD's debut album and aside from "Daft Punk..." and "Tribulations" there is not too much to enjoy, it sounds more like a collection of ideas rather than an actual album with very few ideas actually sticking to the wall. Its only when near the end of the album on "Yeah" Murphy decides to freak out does things get good.
I went into Sound of Silver with my expectations now lowered and I cant tell you how much I enjoyed this album. One of many things that come from listening to this album is you could listen to it in any situation or environment. You could listen to it in a club, while your jogging or just layed in bed (which I prefer to do when I try out new albums as I can experience all the sounds and hooks without distractions).
Sound of Silver consists of 9 songs with only one track lasting under 4 minutes which is one of the qualities I admire about this album as Murphy gives his music time to breathe and naturally grow rather than rush things. Each song on this album sounds like it has had a huge amount of time and effort spent on it, perhaps Murphy felt like he had something to prove. I also feel this an album that could appeal to all audiences the dedicated fan base, casual fans, chin strokers (myself) and club goers which is a difficult thing to achieve.
The songs you will likely have heard are Get Innocous (featured on the Tv advert for the Grand Theft Auto 4 video game)- which features a low bubbling bass line which grows and grows while repetetive synth stabs and Murphy's detached vocals float around in the background. The second would be North American Scum (featured on the advert for Tv drama Dirty Sexy Money) one of the many times on this album of which Murphy is in sharp lyrical form "and for those of you who still think we're from Englind we're not. no." and "new yorks the greatest if you can get someone to pay the rent, its the furthest you can live from the government".
I cant go into every track on the track on the album but my other highlights are "Time To Get Away", "All My Friends" which features a small piano riff which sounds like a train veering dangerously close to coming off the tracks it is then overshadowed by layers of guitars and cymbal crashes. Possibly my fave track on SOS is Sound Of Silver featuring the repeated line of "sound of silver talk to me, makes you wanna feel like a teenager, until you remember the feelings of a real life emotional teenager...then you think again" trust me no more lyrics are needed. Much like every track on this album Murphy allows this track to grow and constantly adds new sounds like a new drum loop here or a piano chime there like hes trying to create a new atmosphere for this one song . There is also an awesomely low funk bassline at the beginning and towards the end which is something to look out for. IMO This is the real standout and centrepiece of this album.
Im going to go out on a limb and say this is one of the best albums of my generation (im 23), a classic, something you cant say about the majority of music you hear these days, as most of it is geared to one particular (mainstream) audience something of which I believe SOS rebels against.
BUY IT. It deserves to be in your collection.
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MAG is a game that ive been interested in since I first saw a trailer last January after hearing that 256 players would be able to fight each other on the virtual battlefield. Looking back when I heard about 256 players (which has never been done on a console) I had two thoughts 1. This gonna be awesome 2. This is gonna be a car wreck. Fortunately Zipper Interactive have found a way to pull it off.Originally I never planned to buy MAG this soon (from play.com of course), but unfortunately Ive grown tired already of Infinity Wards latest offering and the people that play it.MAG arrived in the post yesterday and I played it for around ten hours to get a general feel of the controls and also the general gameplay style.
First off the controls are relatively unchanged from IW's shooter with merely pressing R2 to change guns, L2 to change grenades or RPGs and triangle to stand, crouch or go prone. Controls are not fully customisable but there are a few different configurations including one for the lefties among you.
The graphics which has been pointed out by many are not the greatest seen on ps3, its certainly no Killzone 2 or Uncharted 2 but it is at a good standard considering its got to keep to a good framerate with 256 players in the same match. graphics are certainly not a dealbreaker.
Now the whole point of MAG is to use team work and strategies (if you've got a bunch of friends with mics you will love it) this is certainly no run n gun fest. Basiacally you will get 5xp points per kill but if you kill in the vicinity of your target or base youre defending or near where your squad leader is based you will recieve 10xp instead. For example in Sabotage a 64 player match your faction of 32 takes on another, but you are to defend or destroy 2 bases meaning your faction is split into two teams of 16. If you or the enemy destroys the two bases a third base is then unlocked in which the attackers have to destroy to win the round.
There is a 128 player mode where your squad of 64 is split up to destroy, defend, acquire vehicles bunkers etc. This mode is a lot of fun, Finally there is the 256 player domination now ive only played 1 round of this type and all I can say is it was chaotic, basically all you have to do is take over control points spread about the giant map.
When I first tried out the game yesterday there are two training modes the first is used to show you how to use the controls, what buttons do what etc. The second is a 64 player mode in which 64 players of your own faction do battle in a deathmatch mode to introduce you to actually fighting on the battlefield.
Now so far I have only experienced a little slowdown or lag in the 256 player match inwhich the game slowed for around 3 or 4 seconds due to many players converging into the same area. However that aside there has been very few problems which goes to show how much effort has been put into the game by Zipper. There was a few problems yesterday trying to find a game but those were worked out within a few hours.
You can customise your soldier by choosing his face and voice at the start of the game, but after that you then unlock new apparel, weapons, equipment, medical kits, armour etc by spending skill points which you acquire by rising through the ranks.
So I give MAG a four (maybe a 5 when im able to lead 127 players into battle which is not possible until you reach level 15). For the best possible experience get a mic and some friends and listen to people who have a mic (so far mic wearers seem to be playing in the spirit the game was intended to be played), communication and team work is key to winning in this game and if you like that, youll like MAG.
Remember this is ONLINE ONLY
Ignore The Ignorant
The Cribs - CD
18 New from
The Cribs straight away took my interest as they were from Wakefield so being a fellow Yorkshireman i decided i was gonna invest my time in the local boys, and boy i was glad that i did, the cribs have made two of the best albums of the 21st Century so far in 'The New Fellas' and 'Mens Needs, Womans Needs, Whatever'
'Ignore The Ignorant' was one of 3 albums i was looking forward to this year alongside The Resistance (Muse) and Humbug (Arctic Monkeys) and i bought it first day of release after hearing the amazing 'Cheat On Me' single. Was it worth the wait?.....Just.
I'll admit im not a huge fan of the Smiths so I was not rejoicing when i heard guitarist Johnny Marr had joined the band as a full time member but i knew of the respect he receives from the indie community and hopefully in time the band will see more mainstream attention/success, so i was prepared to give him a shot and for me, Marr does not reinvent or ruin the Cribs sound, in some songs he adds new depths of melody and guitarwork but in others he is barely noticeable.
There are many great tracks on this albumThe first single 'Cheat On Me', We Were Aborted, Hari Kari, Last Years Snow, We Share The Same Skies, The City Of Bugs, Victims Of Mass Production.
Now ironically Johnny Marr' guitar work is more prominent on the above tracks especially Cheat On Me, Last Years Snow and album standout (for me) The City Of Bugs.However the thing I liked about The Cribs were their uber-exuberant, maniacally shouty, hook laden, 3 minute pop songs (similar in ways to another awesome band Supergrass) but on this album there are only a few to speak of 'We Were Aborted', 'Victim Of Mass Production' and possibly 'Hari Kari'.
Now to me it was a bit of shock, the tempo of most songs is mid paced, the growling shouty vocals have been toned down, even the up tempo tracks dont have that same charm. (maybe they are more subtle and refined), now I dont want to level any blame at the feet of Johnny Marr as this could have been the direction the band had chosen to go in all along and I believe it is still the Jarman brothers that write the songs it must just be a perfectly timed coincidence, you could even say the record has a more mature sound to it (and I dont like using that phrase).
I think 'Ignore... is an album that needs to grow on you as the first time i listened to it i had an overwhelming sense of letdown, in the way that any Cribs song could be a surefire single, but as I listened to it more and more each track revealed a new side to itself i had'nt heard previously.
As I said there are many great tracks, there are some classic fast paced ones- We Were Aborted, Victims Of Mass Production, Hari Kari. There are some melodic ones- Cheat On Me, Last Years Snow, We Share The Same Skies. There are some slower ones-Save Your Secrets, Stick To Your Guns and the one that sounds a bit out of place- City Of Bugs (this albums Be Safe?)
I cant comment on play.com exclusive track as i did'nt buy the album from here so if you dont already own it then download the studio version from play.com instead however its free and you cant complain about that.
I would give this album 4 stars as the good far outweighs the bad for me it is not album of the year (that honour goes to Muse) but it is certainly worth buying if you're already a Cribs fan.
I think i'll end my review with this.Sometimes a band will grow stale and they will go away for 2-3 years to find a new direction or to reinvent themselves. I get the feeling The Cribs may have felt like this, and while a change in direction is good, it does'nt always mean its right.
Killzone 2 (Platinum)
13 New from
Some say K2 has the best graphics ever seen in a video game (in realism terms) some say its just another depressing brown and grey shooter.Now of course having the best graphics around is one thing but it all means nothing if you dont have a good game underneath all the smoke and mirrors, this is where opinions are divided.
The controls- If you've not heard this is no run 'n' gun fest (you NEED to take cover) the developers decided that to add more realism to the game that weapons should be heavy, now its hard to describe without trying yourself but 'heavy ' are a good idea of what you're up against . Now i turned up the sensitivity of the sticks to the max which does improve the controls (now even better due to a high precision mode added in a patch), basically your an average soldier not superman so you stuggle to lift up your weapons cos in real life these guns would be heavy. If you want COD4 controls you wont find them here but if you persevere you'll get the hang of it. In this game the controls are the dealbreaker.
Now the Campaign/Story modeThere is nothing new or spectacular here. The back story is you the ISA travel to the planet of Helghan to wage war on the Helghast after they invaded your planet in the previous game. This consists of you playing as Sev and another soldier Rico taking the fight to the Helghast in one big set piece after another. Simple. Now getting from A to B you will encounter Helghast along the way and these guys are no pushover.
One of the best points of this game is the enemy AI, just like real life opponents they will draw you out with grenades, flank you from all sides, blind fire from behind cover and continually change positions of cover so you will never get the drop on them, at times it feels like your playing real people the AI is so good. Unfortunately your comrades dont share the same intelligence and will regularly charge into battle and need reviving.
Dialogue- Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers) voicing General Radec and Brian Cox (Bourne Identity) as Emperor Visari are 2 stand out performances apart from those its the usual profanity based squaddie speak we expect from FPS these days.
For people who like to use vehicles there aren't that many chances to do so. Without going into details there are the standard vehicles that you get in every FPS these days and its a bit of a let down until near the end when you get to use a .....(I wont spoil it for you).
Warzone Online Multiplayer is where this game shines. You can choose to create max 32 player battles where you decide the maps, guns, badges, ranks, match types (team deathmatch, assaasination, search and destroy and more) etc. Similar To COD4 you are constantly rewarded for gaining XP, rewards include new classes and abilities such as Medics (revive fallen comrades) Engineers (repair ammo piles and set up turrets) to Snipers ( don the invisibility cloak) plus many more. The way it works is you unlock a new class and its primary abiliy, use the ability 8 times and you unlock the second ability, do that 8 times and you get a badge meaning you can mix and match abilities with other classes you've already unlocked. You will always have something to play for.
If you're offline then you have Skirmish mode, basically a 16 player Warzone, except with AI bots, you get all the same options as in Warzone. Bot AI can be changed to be more challenging pesonally i used this as a training mode for Warzone and to get the feel of the maps. DLC maps can also be used in Skirmish mode.
Killzone 2 isn't innovate or original, but that does'nt make it any less impressive. I loved K2 and at £18 its worth the gamble, adapt to the controls and you will love it too. If you dont, well.....
Muse - CD
32 New from
Muse are my favourite band ever and i was worried about the new direction Matt Bellamy was taking the band in (clarinet solos, 3 part symphonies, slap bass) you would be forgiven to think that Muse have finally gone too far, well after buying on release day all i can say is... i had no reason to doubt them.
The Resistance is Muse most experimental album to date, featuring less of the heavy riff laden songs like Plug In Baby, Stockholm Syndrome and Knights of Cydonia that we all love and it is this that has put off the so called 'hardcore' Muse fans.For those worried about the new classical direction, there was no need to as in most cases the orchestral strings merely add another element to the songs rather than dominate them... that is until you reach Exogenesis Symphony. If you're the kind of Muse fan that likes their experimental side for ex. Blackout, Map Of The Problematique, Falling Away With You, Hoodoo, City of Delusion you will like this album. If you're just in it for the riffs download Unnatural Selection featuring a classic Matt Bellamy 'New Born' era heavy riff.
The Resistance has mainly two themes those been love (Resistance, Undisclosed Desires, Guiding Light) and conspiracy (Uprising, United States of Eurasia, Unnatural Selection), by now you'll have heard 'Uprising' the one that sounds like T-Rex, Marilyn Manson and the Doctor Who theme rolled into one, and the first sample of the album United States Of Eurasia- which features the much talked about Queen vocal harmonies sung to an Indiana Jones/James Bond movie soundtrack yet to be made.
Going through the album tracks there are no bad songs on here, everyone is different yet all feature the great hooks and quirks Muse bring to the table.
'Resistance' uses the 80's electronic drum sound of 'Map of The Problematique' and adds Queen-esque harmonies to an epic overblown Muse chorus.
'Undisclosed Desires' features a more RnB feel, sounding like 'Supermassive Blackhole' after the guitar has been stripped away replaced with slap bass and produced by Timbaland.
'Guiding Light' My worst track on the album, a slow, lighter waving power ballad complete with a Van Halen guitar solo. Similar in structure to BHAR 'Invincible', but also incorporating the drum beat from Ultravox hit 'Vienna'.
'Unnatural Selection' features an organ intro, then comes a classic Bellamy riff, before more lyrics about conspiracies, thought police and fighting the power (The Illuminati?) in what is one of two traditional Muse songs on The Resistance.
'MK Ultra' is another good album track sounding like an 'Absolution' era Muse song, (personally reminds me of 'Fury' the B side of 'Sing For Absolution').
'I Belong To You' wow this will upset the hardcore fans, easiest way to describe it is 'Feeling Good' mixed with Scissor Sisters, also features Matt singing in French and a clarinet solo... a guilty pleasure for me. You have to hear it to believe it.
'Exogenesis Symphony' Matt Bellamy has had this in his head for years and now is the time to release it on the world. Simply its amazing my favourite is part 1 (Overture), any strings you've heard in any Muse song pale in comparison to this. Parts 2 and 3 (Cross Pollination and Redemption) are slighty more mellow, but none the less brilliant, featuring less heavy guitar and more string arrangements, each part starts off slow and builds to a fitting climax. 'Exogenesis' tells the tale of humans leaving to re-populate another planet. 12 minutes long and easily the most ambitious piece to date. Play on a proper stereo.
The Resistance is a 5 star album, how you rate it depends on the type of fan you are. Its an awesome achievement, just dont expect BHAR/Absolution part 2