To fill some of the vast amounts of time we find ourselves with at University yesterday my attention turned to the reboot of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, available for download on the Playstation Store or Xbox Marketplace the blurb boasted that the game takes all the best elements of the previous pro skater releases and combines them to create one nostalgic package. Tony Hawk’s games were a permanent fixture of my childhood and I’ve spent many a night longing to go back to the days were you could string together a ridiculous combo and make your mate the donkey.
So does HD, live up to the old legacy? Yes and no. The gameplay is actually rather a lot harder than I remember you have to land your skater perfect or he’s gonna bail, and there’s no button that you can press to straighten up say if your jump has veered you away from a pipe. But there is the factor of having to buy tricks and stats to make your skater better so this might get quite a lot easier eventually and ultimately this adds a nice challenge to work through. The maps are all taken from old games and it’s cool remembering the old days. The music package is pretty good as well, again bringing the nostalgia. However there is one major, major problem here. There is no fucking split screen. On Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater there is no FUCKING SPLIT SCREEN. I don’t know what more to say other than fuck to be honest. My fondest memories of those old games were easily battling against my friends at home, there’s an online feature that I’m yet to try but online is never the same as having a few mates over and trying to terrorise each other. If they release another one of these this is something I expect to be changed, surely people must be annoyed about this.
That aside the game is just as fun and challenging as when I first played when I was younger, the goals can be infuriating but also so addictive playing the same level hundreds of times is easily done. And overall its just good to have Tony Hawk back, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an Underground HD so come campaign with me for it.
A week, or so, ago you may have read in my xx review a mention of newcomers, Alt-J. Alt-J are a band that burst onto my radar not so long ago when I read an article that they are already the bookies favourites to win the Mercury Prize, and that some guy who’s high up at Ladbrokes has donned them ‘the next Radiohead’. Now while that is obviously a rather bold statement it’s one that would provoke most people, I hope, to at least give them a chance.
An Awesome Wave, the bands debut album in question, is an unusual journey through the many varying sounds of a band so diverse an different it would be quite hard to group them with any generic form of popular music. The main tracks are split apart by three musical interludes which show off some of the groups even more unusual skills while the named tracks manage to create what sound like new rhythms with quite a dance-y feel to most of them, not unlike Friendly Fires. The vocals are another talking point, lead singer Joe Newman’s voice maybe has an element of Thom Yorke but sounds a lot more like Dougy Mandagi of The Temper Trap. The lyrics seem to often veer off into words that don’t exist and that, I found, makes it a lot easier to get completely lost within the songs. Stand-out tracks if you want try a taster would be ‘Tessellate’ or ‘Fitzpleasure’ and both should give you an idea of quite how diverse the group are.
While it may take another ten to fifteen years to see if Alt-J really are the next Radiohead this album is certainly a very strong start. Go and listen my blog followers, go and listen now…
So this week I decided to watch Down Terrace, a gritty British drama directed by Ben Wheatley. Wheatley was the director of, the sublime, Kill List which came out last year and instantly became a favourite of mine so I was drawn to watch some more of his work. Down Terrace is set within Brighton and follows a family, who don’t appear to have been given a surname, that are in some way involved in some really dodgy business, my guess was that they’re in the drug trade but nothing was ever confirmed in the script. As the film goes on the family learn that someone has tipped off the police about their business and they start killing anyone who knows anything building up to a furious showdown at the end with a very big twist.
The film is incredibly effective, there are many similarities to the aforementioned Kill List, but there are also differences that set the two apart. For example, Down Terrace’s moment of extreme violence are a lot more sparse than those in Kill List and for this particular film it adds even more of a sense of mystery surrounding its main characters, these moments of violence are handled with expert skill in a film that, clearly doesn’t have the biggest of budgets. The actors all do a fantastic job, most of whom I didn’t recognise expect the Irish guy from Kill List, who plays Pringle, and the mother of the family Julia Deakin who I know well from Spaced, but the lack of known actors brings so much more to film’s integrity. It’s not especially uplifting stuff but it’s so well written and cleverly plotted giving you slices of information only when absolutely necessary and hinting at a huge back story that you’re left figuring out on your own. This makes the movie much more thought provoking and makes it seem so much more like real life. This is a much more realistic vision of life in a crime family, it feels like it really does capture a feeling that this could well be a true story.
I’ve now been blown away completely by both of Wheatley’s features as he seems to capture dark, gritty crime stories with flashes of hyper violence and does so with intricate skill. Roll on his third feature, due next year, A Field in England, this guy is definitely one to watch in future.
After a hiatus where the band split off and worked on various other projects The Killers are hoping to pick up right where they left off with their fourth studio album, Battle Born. It was certainly something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. In one interview they claimed that the album would be much more guitar based and with that my excitement grew to greater heights, but did the album meet my expectations?
The first single to be released from the record, ‘Runaways’ was slightly underwhelming, at first, but upon repeat listenings and within the context of the album its grown substantially in my estimations. It plays similarly to ‘When You Were Young’ with a bold, doomed love story at the centre of the lyrics. But although similar it still doesn’t fully have the same bite as anything on Sam’s Town and that goes some way to summing up the album as a whole. Overall the record sounds like a mix of their rock-y guitar based songs from Sam’s Town and their synth based pop from Day and Age. And that concoction of sounds provides some varied results. At times the album is superb, some stand-out tracks being, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ and ‘The Way it Was’. The closing track ‘Battle Born’ being an incredibly strong closer as well as managing to condense the length of ‘Goodnight, Travel Well’ and with that concentrate the quality making it a far superior song with a very grand sound that leaves you feeling good things. But there are weak moments as well, that don’t quite seem to fully take off, ‘The Rising Tide’ and ‘Heart of a Girl’ being examples of this. And on the whole the album leaves me slightly lost at where to place it against their previous three.
On another note there is the question of Brandon Flowers’ solo album ‘Flamingo’ which came out during the groups hiatus. I really liked the album but my theory is this; before this hiatus all three of The Killers’ albums had been drastically different from the last giving us almost a whole new style to get used to, but with Battle Born it doesn’t sound quite as different and that’s because the gap between Day and Age and Battle Born was bridged by Flamingo, rather than having to jump from one style to another, we can see a step in between and it means that instead of having two completely different albums we have three albums that sound slightly similar to each other and that is where Battle Born doesn’t quite meet expectations because its not as far away from previous stuff as the other albums were. Although, to summarise, the album is a great listen, it is by no means a bad record, it just for one reason or another doesn’t quite live up to its promise.
It was sad news about a year and a half ago when it was announced that Frank Carter would, indeed, be parting ways with Gallows, the Watford-based hardcore punk band had completely changed the game with their first two records and were without doubt one of the best live bands in the world. I was lucky enough to have a ticket to see them on their final tour with the raw lead vocalist. In my eyes Carter was the real heartbeat of Gallows his croaky shouting brought punk back to the forefront of the music scene and, in fact, improved upon the genre as a whole. When it was announced that he’d be replaced by Wade MacNeil, of alexisonfire, my immediate reaction was disappointment. It didn’t seem right that a Canadian would be screaming ‘London is the Reason’ all up and down our country. Then soon after all this Gallows released a new EP, to give a taster of their new front-man. Death is Birth was as fast, powerful and angry as a punch in the face and it was the first sign to me that Gallows may actually continue to be a decent band.
So the album is, in many ways, very similar to Death is Birth. The tracks rarely reach the three minute mark and are filled with back to basics thrashy hardcore punk. It’s a far dirtier album than the much more polished Grey Britain, and even, perhaps, more raw than their debut, Orchestra of Wolves. As it goes on there are some slightly more tuneful riffs but that’s not saying much. Wade’s yelling is much less audible than Carter’s and he gives the band a completely new feel to the group and that’s, sort of, a good thing as it separates this album from anything they’ve done previously but on the other hand it makes the band sound a lot more like the more generic American hardcore punk acts like Cancer Bats.
Overall I really like the album but its lost the magic that it had with Frank at the helm. Although having listened to the first few releases from his new band Pure Love, it looks like he would have ruined them anyway. But my main problem is that I don’t like the fact that they still have the same name, they sound completely different and it just doesn’t sound right when you hear MacNeil shouting out Carter’s lyrics. Nevertheless as a standalone album this is good stuff.