The Sequel to the Prequel

Babyshambles-Sequel-to-the-Prequel-1024x1024Well it came as quite a surprise to me a couple of weeks ago that there was a new Babyshambles album out. After having heard a couple of new songs from the group a couple of months ago I didn’t come across any kind of hype for the new record and to be honest I forgot we were expecting one completely. Then all of a sudden and it’s upon us. Titled The Sequel to the Prequel, this third studio album is the first record the Pete Doherty-led band have made since 2007.

Unfortunately though I found this new record to be rather an underwhelming entity. In the past both of Babyshambles previous records have been some of my most played albums whereas The Sequel to the Prequel and dropped off my listening radar almost as quickly as it appeared onto it. There is a real lack of bite in this record not to mention a lack of Pete Doherty’s sharp lyricism. This perhaps the worst collection of lyrics by the controversial frontman I’ve ever heard and its reflected in the music. While I wouldn’t have minded if the group was changing direction to a prettier sound with a less rock-y feel it seems they are still trying to keep their old slightly punky image with none of the music to pull it off. There are some fun songs on here, the highlight being Dr. No, which has a ska feel to it and really doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the record. And perhaps actually listening to the album isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, I still wouldn’t be bored re-listening but overall it just lacks that little something extra to make it really worthy of being called a good record.

It’s may be an ok listen but The Sequel to the Prequel doesn’t have the required uniqueness of the first two Babyshambles records and for that reason fails to hold your attention. A disappointment.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

tom-clancys-splinter-cell-blacklistThere are few game series that have managed to continue successfully on the current gen of consoles while largely retaining the same premise as their original incarnations. Splinter Cell, however, is one of the few that has remained mostly true to its roots. Despite this its last few efforts have been rather short of the quality the original trilogy had. Double Agent was fun but too short and failed to really utilise the power of these new consoles and Conviction, only being released on the 360 for some bizarre reason, I can’t judge as I haven’t played. With Blacklist though I was more than ready to jump back into Sam Fishers lightweight, custom made black boots. And as you may have noticed from this, rather rambly, opening paragraph not much has changed in the conventions of this stealth action-er but Blacklist does mark a return to form for the, once classic, series.

The missions in Blacklist are pretty rigidly structured, after you’ve done a few you know what to expect from the rest, that’s not to say though that they get more boring. Quite the contrary, as you get to grips with the control system, the AI, and different options you could take your mission it gets all the more entertaining figuring out exactly how you’re going to work your way through. Blacklist is one of the best games I’ve come across where you really can choose how you want to play, you can choose to be a ghost and leave absolutely no trace whatsoever, or a panther; remain silent but brutal. Or, of course, you smash your way through all guns blazing and kill everyone off in active combat. And for once no option seems particularly more difficult, less rewarded or, most importantly, less fun. While, as has always been the case with Splinter Cell, you want to be a slick mover and aim to get the ghost rating, in Blacklist it can be just as fun to go on the assault and you’re rewarded with gadgets and trophies for doing so just as much. When you get to the end of the main campaigns, criminally short, thirteen missions you will be pleased to find there are an array of other 4th echelon missions you can find yourself playing through. These missions actually end up being some of the most fun and hardest on the game and as an added bonus all of them have the option to be played in co-op. Its a very rare thing to find co-op playable games these days so Blacklist gives itself instantly more worth than other games that might have better main campaigns in my opinion. It seems same-console multiplayer is a dying art but it’s still a huge selling point for me. The online multiplayer is especially fun as well, offering a fresh new game modes that don’t just use exactly the same conventions as every other game.

Overall Blacklist offers one of the most complete game packages your money could buy you and though the story may leave a lot to be desired there’s more than enough extra stuff to make this the best Splinter Cell since Chaos Theory.

Doris

earl-sweatshirt-reveals-doris

 

Well this summer has seen its fair share of high profile of hip hop releases, and the latest comes from Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt. Odd Future have achieved worldwide success and acclaim within a ridiculously short amount of time but I’ve never given them a huge amount of time. Earl hasn’t been around recently due to his, much publicised, time spent at a correctional school in Samoa and perhaps thats part of the reason why I haven’t given the collective the time of day. It’s Doris, that has served as my point of entry into the weird yet awesome world of OFWGKTA.

Sweatshirt’s flow is an unusual one. His tone rarely changes, but his pace of delivery is constantly fluctuating and rhymes flow into each other and merge in a unique way that makes Doris one of the most impressive hip hop albums I’ve ever heard. The chilled production with slow beats and very few other elements that loop underneath the vocals help create a laid back and stripped down feel to the record that lets Sweatshirt, and his guests, lyrics take centre stage while still being quietly impressive and understated. There’s not a track on the album that doesn’t contain an element of greatness, all the collaborators bring top performances as well including Tyler, The Creator on two tracks offering his trademark vicious rhymes that really compliment Sweatshirt’s own style. Also making an appearance is RZA on the track Molasses, which provides one of the records catchiest hooks – ‘I’ll fuck the freckles off your face bitch’. Chum and Burgundy give perhaps the most personal lyrics that really give an insight into Sweatshirt and helps ground the record so as a listener you make more of a connection with the artist.

Overall this is simply an incredible achievement. In what can tend to be an over saturated genre Sweatshirt has emerged with a completely unique style and hooks to match. Doris could even be the best hip hop album of the year, even, maybe, ahead of Yeezus, but let’s not get completely ahead of ourselves there is still supposed to be a new Wu-Tang record after all.

Elysium

elysiumWith director Neil Blomkamps debut, District 9, the South African sci-fi enthusiast immediately became the man to watch in the industry. It’s surprising then that it took a full four years for his follow-up, Elysium, to arrive. This time with a much larger stack of cash at his disposal and big name stars such as Matt Damon and Jodie Foster it was intriguing to see what he could do under pressure. Elysium is a new space station that floats above the world homing the rich and powerful humans while the poor suffer in slums on the polluted and dangerous Earth. Damon plays Max a former car thief who’s trying to earn an honest living is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. When he is given five days to live he makes it his mission to find a way to Elysium in order to be healed but in return for his ticket up there he must retrieve some intel which could effectively bring down the evil rich folk of Elysium and save the world’s poor and struggling people.

The film bear a number of similarities to District 9, in particular it’s ideas and message about segregation. It’s depiction of poverty stricken life has the same feel, it’s ultimately a feeling of empathy that arises from Blomkamp’s film, he clearly cares for these people who are forced to do what they can to survive. And it echoes the problems of apartheid within SA as well. However, Elysium, is a much less direct film overall in terms of it’s message. Although it’s message is loud and clear this film isn’t ashamed to be a popcorn flick. While it is still a much more raw and brutal sci-fi than the majority of summer blockbusters, it does have flashes of Hollywood gloss to it, particular the love story sub plot that forms Max’s emotional drive to want to save the world but also leaves some questions unanswered about how much of a hero our protagonist really is. Before he realises how much he cares for this love interest his main goal is just to heal himself without any regard for saving the rest of the world. But then it’s this kid of inner conflict within the characters that makes Elysium a cut above the rest. While it may have these elements to draw in the mainstream it refuses to completely bow down to the usual conventions of those elements making it a film that deserves to be well received.

One of the summer’s more entertaining blockbusters that proves Blomkamp’s unique cinematic voice. A lot more grit than most is to be found but there is overall a feeling that Elysium is a more hollow effort than District 9. But nevertheless a promising, enjoyable follow-up that proves Blomkamp can be a breath of fresh air in the industry.