Monday, 26 July 2010

Danger, Danger...

Summer, eh?

The most overrated season of the seasons is somewhat less overrated this year thanks to the dearth of my flying nemesis (nemesisi?), the wasp. I've only seen one or two so far, and this means my mental well-being has remained relatively unmolested compared to other years, when great clouds of the yellow-and-black terrors have nearly caused nervous breakdowns.

Good thing I don't live in Japan, then.

In any case, the winter appears to have killed most of them, and that can only be a good thing. Of all the species that need to die, wasps top the list.

Norfolk! Flat land next to the North Sea. Kate and I spent a week there, and it was lovely. What is there to do in Norfolk? Go to pubs and drive around, mostly. We did some interesting stuff, like visit the nearby tank museum - in which I avidly pored over the exhibits while Kate pretended to look interested - and go on a boat trip to see some seals.

Post-Norfolking, we headed up to Sheffield, as Kate's sister's hen do was happening on the Saturday. The satnav tried to get us killed or arrested by sending us down bus lanes and over phantom roundabouts but we finally arrived at our house. Unfortunately, there was something we'd overlooked: I needed a parking permit for the car. After much worrying, we simply paid the pay-and-display machine which seemed satisfied enough with our offerings that it did not summon the Guardians of the Parking Bays (that is how pay and display machines work, right?) Well, I don't have a bill from the Sheffield City Council, so all must be good. While Kate was off making cocktails with her sister and co., I headed down to Casbah to see the always wonderful Northern Oak do their stuff, along with a bunch of other folk metal bands. Afterwards, much fun was had at Corp by all.

After a long drive home, we waited a week for the highlight of the holiday was fast approaching: the High Voltage festival at Victoria Park in London, which I so cleverly alluded to in the title of the blog entry. Along with the friggin' image.

Good god, is East London filthy. We were coated in dust and grime, the sun was attempting to burn us all to death with its cancer rays and the water was £2.00 a bottle. Still!

The Reasoning started proceedings on the Prog Stage, with frontwoman Rachel Cohen joking "Well, we're not Clutch". One of my favourite discoveries of last year, they played an excellent show to a receptive crowd- the band seemed in fine spirits, and that more than made up for a few sound problems. Their set was way too short, unfortunately. If you haven't heard their wonderful pop-prog before, here's a sample.

Kate and I wandered round a bit, and thanks to a schedule change we were unaware of we missed most of the first song of Wishbone Ash's (all right, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash) set, also on the Prog Stage, in which they played their 1972 album Argus in full. Still, the rest of it was pretty ace, even with the "heavy metal backing" wryly pointed out by one of the guitarists coming from the Metal Hammer Stage.

After that we just meandered around. Caught some of UFO's and Bachman Turner's set on the Classic Rock Stage, bought some overpriced Pimm's and looked for food that was somewhat affordable. Failing, we wandered over to the Air Guitar UK stand, and watched people claw the air to boring Pantera riffs for a bit.

Eventually, it was time to see the mighty Uriah Heep play 1972's Demons & Wizards, in full. And my god was it worth the £75 ticket price just to see these guys play. Despite pushing 60, they played like a band on the very top of their game, Bernie Shaw's vocals standing in very finely for David Byron's, and were just thoroughly fantastic. One of the best performances I have ever seen. The band was having great fun and the audience was loving it, Kate especially.

After "The Spell" had finally finished, and the band were bowing to the audience, it was time to head over to the Metal Hammer Stage to see Opeth, who played a perfectly competent and enjoyable set. Despite an unadventurous setlist containing nothing I hadn't already seen them play before (barring "The Grand Conjuration" - not exactly an obscure rarity) and some less-than-great sound quality which unfortunately gave Kate a headache hindered them a little, but they were still great and Akerfeldt's usual deadpan stage humour shone through when he introduced the band as Poison and, just before launching into set closer"Deliverance", mentioned that "the riff of this song was first stolen by Slash in 1987".

After that, tired, dusty, and with Kate looking like she was about to fall over, we decided that it was time to go home and skip Marillion's set. Yeah, I know, we're wimps, but it was nice to get a train that didn't pull into Aylesbury at stupid o'clock.

Oh and I think some band that had Greg Lake in it were headlining the Classic Rock Stage

So that was the bulk of my summer. I'm returning to Sheffield shortly to see former housemate and good friend Rob Dillon before he disappears to Russia, and will probably hop between Sheffield and Milton Keynes at odd intervals. I probably need to organise some kind of birthday thing soon, 21st and all.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

So here I am... home. I have been for a while.

I miss Sheffield, tbh. It's too quiet here. While it's nice to be home, the fact that I live in the middle of freaking nowhere is not so good.


To pass the time, I've completed all the games in the Half-Life saga yet again, and now I have no more to play. On the good ol' GoldSrc engine, at least.

And Black Mesa Source STILL ISN'T OUT YET. >:(

It's reminded me of how much I love Half-Life. As much as I love Valve's games in general, I'm more than a bit annoyed and saddened at how they've been neglecting the series that made them great. It's been L4D that and TF2 this. And Portal? Despite being set in the same friggin' universe as Half-Life, it hasn't done anything to bring its parent series out further into the limelight - to the contrary, in fact.

My gaming life has been a bit dry lately due to my laptop choking on games that it once chewed up and spat out with German efficiency. All of a sudden, L4D2 and Mass Effect have been dragging the framerate down massively until the game becomes totally unplayable. I'm more than a little annoyed about this. Being the graphics whore that I am, turning the settings down more than fractionally is blasphemy of the highest order.

What else has happened recently? Doctor Who wrapped up, that's what. And it was AWESOME. Wonderful and silly and beautiful all at once. Loved it. Made up for the duds preceding it, that's for sure.

Other than that, there's not much going on, really. I wish there was more to talk about, but there really...isn't.

Until next time.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


As of my last exam on Friday, I no longer have any academic worries until term begins again in September. Instead, I can focus on other soul-sucking worries, like dealing with our estate agent and bills. Ah, to be a proper human being.

In happier news, exams are FINISHED (fuck you, Romantic literature) and thank the cosmos for that. No more worrying about the finer points of social concerns in Europe after the Second World War or remembering the writings of whingy, moping poets from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century.

That's not entirely fair. "Ozymandias" by Percy Shelley and "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Coleridge are pretty cracking poems, and without them we wouldn't have had Alan Moore's Watchmen or Rush's "Xanadu", respectively.

But whatever.

Speaking of Rush, myself and Messrs. Phil Canton and Rob Dillon went to see Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage at a frankly ridiculous price at the local Cineworld. Upon entering the screen, we saw that we were probably the youngest people in the room.

I had never seen a documentary at a cinema before, so it was with some trepidation that I waited for it to start, but it was fantastically put together and never boring, although obviously you'd probably have to be a Rush fan to properly appreciate it. About 90% of it charted Rush's history and progression as a band, with the remaining 10% mainly consisting of artists gushing over how much they loved Rush. It was a surprisingly varied mix, actually: Gene Simmons of Kiss, Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater (what a surprise), Jack Black, Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins among others.

The film explored the strange situation Rush as a band are in: despite having a massively devoted and loyal fanbase all over the world, they haven't exactly been critical darlings. This was reflected in the choice of interviewees: everyone was either a member of the band, had worked with the band, or was influenced by the band in some way.

It was a very good film, and I recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a Rush fan.

High Voltage Festival is coming up next month! I'm going on the Sunday, and here are the bands playing that I want to see:

  • Uriah Heep (performing Demons & Wizards)
  • Wishbone Ash (performing Argus)
  • Opeth
  • Marillion
  • The Reasoning
  • Joe Bonamassa, if I can fit him in
  • Clutch, possibly
It's going to be fuggin' ace.

Sadly, Bigelf and Focus are playing the Saturday, which means I'm going to miss them. Bigelf in particular, their live show is bombastically magnificent.

Such is life.

Doctor Who is meandering toward the conclusion of the first series with Matt Smith as No. 11 and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond. I feel that this is an appropriate time to comment on it as it's winding down.

The series as a whole has had a good quality: it has suffered from inconsistent writing, but that's true of any given Who series. The opening episodes, penned by the Grand Moff - The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below were fantastic, although the latter suffered from a somewhat compressed storyline, and I feel it would have been better as a two parter. Likewise, The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone definitely succeeded in being the Aliens to Blink's Alien, so to speak. So all the Moffat episodes so far have been fantastic, giving me high hopes for the finale.


Victory of the Daleks was fun, if more than a little silly, and I feel that the episode to re-introduce the Daleks yet again should have had a bit more gravitas. Vampires of Venice was a good solid Who episode that didn't suck, and that's all you can say about it, really. Amy's Choice is probably my favourite non-Moffat episode of the series, with a memorable villain and an excellent plot device. The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood were frankly excreable, suffering from plot idiocy and crappy villains - not to mention killing off a major character in a way that - well, I'm going to borrow a TV Tropes term here: they Dropped A Bridge On Him. That is to say, killed off "in a way that is particularly awkward, anti-climactic, mean-spirited or dictated by producer's fiat". Vincent and the Doctor seems to be a divisive one: people either think it's a touching tearjerker or a mawkish melodrama. I fall into the latter camp, being of the opinion that it sucked great big hairy balls. The Lodger was enjoyable, but the writing of the Doctor was a bit shit, and there was not enough Amy. Also, James Corden making out. That's a mental image that will haunt me.

So on Saturday, The Pandorica Opens airs as the first of a two parter, and I'm looking forward to it immensely. The RTD era of finales is thankfully over (ever escalating and dire inescapable situation solved in the last five minutes with a magic reset button) and I'm a bit of a Moffat fanboy, so it should be rather grand.

Also, Neil Gaiman has written and submitted a script for the next series. SQUEE.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dusting off the e-cobwebs...

Holy crap, it's been a while. Two years, in fact. Last time I posted an entry on this thing, I still liked Radiohead!

I'll thank you not to read the other entries. They're bad. Like, really bad. The pretentious ramblings of an 18 year old idiot.

So yeah. Now's as good a time as any to reboot this thing, I suppose. I guess since I went to the trouble of dusting this blog off I may as well use it.

A lot's changed since then. As I'm sure you know, if you're reading this. I'm now a grubby university student in his second year and (hopefully) almost completely unrecognisable compared to me circa July 2008. And life, exams and essays notwithstanding, is pretty damned good.

Since I mentioned Radiohead, who are a band, I may just go on to talk about music.


I was thinking today, on the coach up to Sheffield, about what I like about what I generally consider my favourite genre of music, progressive rock/metal. More specifically, I was thinking about people's misconceptions. Lots of people dismiss all prog as being nothing more than widdly technicality combined with boringly long, vapid songs with no real substance to them.

This is quite patently not true.

Well, it is true in some cases. And those cases tend to create music that is often a cheesy guilty pleasure at best and a horrifically bloated abomination at worst. But it's such a nebulous, diverse genre that dismissing it all on the basis of a few - well, many - sore thumbs that stick out.

Consider Pink Floyd, one of the biggest progressive bands of the previous century - and my personal favourite band of all time. Pink Floyd are undoubtedly a progressive rock band - but there's a key difference between them and, say, Yes or King Crimson. And that's that Pink Floyd's music really isn't that technical. It's often intricate and has that quintessential prog sound, but it's nothing like the horrendously overelaborate, bloated nightmares that some bands generate.

In fact, I'd argue that the key thing a progressive band has to have is restraint.

"Now hold on, Adam," some of you will say at this point. "Dream Theater is one of your favourite bands, and they're as excessively technical and widdly as they come."

True on both counts. But I don't rate Dream Theater on the same level as a band like Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree that knows how to restrain itself and create something that is a properly structured, coherent whole - and doesn't stick solos all over the bloody place like a band such as Dream Theater tends to do. And sometimes they descend into farce and self parody too much for even me to take. In short, Dream Theater is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to my taste.

What I'm getting at is that virtuosity and song length don't by themselves a good progressive rock or metal song make. Bringing me on to my next point: in some cases, they're not even necessary.

Here's the yardstick I use. The most important thing to keep in mind is that not all of these elements need to be present, and none of them are unique to the genre, obviously.

  • Dynamic shifts in volume, mood and tempo
  • Classical influences
  • Lyrics atypical of conventional rock and metal
  • Concept albums
  • Frequently changing and/or unusual time signatures
  • Incorporation of other genres
  • Heavy keyboard emphasis
  • High level of instrumental skill
There are progressive bands that fit all of these criteria - but most, I'd argue, only fit some or a few (three or four is probably the minimal limit, I'd say). But it allows for an umbrella that covers everything from Pink Floyd to Genesis to King Crimson to Rush to Dream Theater to Tool to Porcupine Tree to Opeth to Meshuggah.

You get the bad along with the good. But that's true of any form of music.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

So I haven't really been posting much.

This is because, well, I can't think of much to post about.

I really should do something regular that I can regularly post about otherwise what little point there is in this place will vanish entirely.

Not that I imagine a lot of people read this a lot.

Where do we go from here?

I want to listen to The Bends now, goodnight

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Radiohead, Victoria Park, 25th June 2008

First off, I'm going to post the setlist, so then I can harp on about how awesome it was.

'15 Step'
'There There'
'All I Need'
'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi'
'The National Anthem'
'Faust Arp'
'No Surprises'
'Jigsaw Falling Into Place'
'Everything In Its Right Place'
- - -
'House of Cards'
'The Bends'
'Bangers + Mash'
'My Iron Lung'
'Karma Police'
- - -
'Go Slowly'
'Paranoid Android'

Now that that's over with...

This was an amazing gig. If you're a Radiohead fan you'll have seen that we got an absolutely fantastic setlist - damn near all the songs they played are favourites of mine, and even the ones that usually aren't were still great - never really liked Bangers + Mash until I saw Thom going crazy on his own drums while the entire crowd danced away. Notably the setlist of the previous night was markedly more obscure, and while some fans who might consider themselves more hardcore (cough) would have preferred that, I'm not ashamed to say I think ours was much better. The only song from their list I really would have wanted on ours is Climbing Up The Walls.

That said, there were Bad Things. These Bad Things consisted primarily of twats in the crowd, particularly the drunken teenage idiots who thought that the guitar solo in There There was an excuse to go all "WOO HOO FUCKIN' ROCK AND ROOOLL" and spoil it for everyone else by charging through the crowd moshing all the way.

The other Bad Thing was the wait, although this was par for the course, really, and worth it in the end - we had a really good place quite close up facing the centre of the stage. Kudos to Bat For Lashes (the support act) for doing their best but their set was really quite forgettable, even if Natasha Khan is a hell of a lot easier on the eye than Thom Yorke.

Oh, Thom, you crazy crazy man. I'm not sure if his dancing was ironic or genuine, but it was hilarious either way - "How you doing, Jonny?" got a few lols, mainly due to the look of surprise we got from Jonny Greenwood. You'd have to be there but I found it hilarious.

Probably the most magical part of the show was just after Karma Police when the band had just gone off before the second encore - someone started singing the last couple of verses of the song again, and the entire crowd joined in, singing our heads off and waving arms everywhere.

I was surprised (pleasantly) to get songs like Optimistic and 2+2=5 - songs that I had really been hoping they would play but not really expecting them to. With the former in particular, Phil Selway (the drummer) started a drumbeat that I didn't recognise - which got me thinking "ah, hell, obscure number coming up" and then the guitar kicked in. Awesome.

Thom introduced The Bends with "Some of you might know this one...I don't know" - well, he would, wouldn't he? I knew that they were about to play that song because of Thom's soundcheck of his guitar sounded identical to when they played that song at their small January London gig. We also got an equally fantastic performance of My Iron Lung, the only other song from that album.

Bodysnatchers was amazing - who says Radiohead can't get heavy? - Idioteque was superb and I even enjoyed Everything In Its Right Place - a song I usually skip. My favourite moment, though, has to go to 2+2=5 - the entire crowd shrieking "All hail to the thief /All hail to the thief /But I'm not /But I'm not!" and going completely mental was not something that should have been missed. Oh, and Paranoid Android. Karma Police and Paranoid Android? We were blessed. God my throat was sore at the end.

The journey back could have been hell - but thanks to some fence-jumping and Claire's knowledge of the tubes it was pretty efficient, although by the end of it I was knackered. To the friends that I was with - I'm glad I was with you guys. *sniff* You were all awesome and I hope you all had as good a time as I did. I LOVE YOU GUYS-okay, that's enough. I wouldn't have gone with anyone else -well, that's a lie, I would have but I wouldn't have enjoyed myself as much.

(special mention to the rabid Muse fan I was chatting with between songs)

Monday, 23 June 2008

Pure Reason Revolution

Before you read this:

If you have heard of this band and you haven't heard of it from me or you're not one of the people who told me about them consider yourself a brilliant, intellectually balanced, erudite person with muchos respect from me.

If you haven't, shame on you.

Pure Reason Revolution are a charming new-prog rock band that no-one has heard of because no fucker bought their album meaning they were dropped from Sony BMG. Shame on you, world.

See? It isn't only your shitty indie-pop bands that no-one has heard of, you damned indie-kids!

These guys have only released on album so far - The Dark Third, which was released in 2006. Their next album is due this autumn and it is one of the things that I absolutely cannot wait for. Recently, I've really fallen in love with them and am going through a bit of a craze. But before I wax lyrical on the band itself, there's a few things I should mention, specifically how I heard of them.

Back in ye olde 2005, at the tender age of 16, myself and a bunch of friends were supposed to be seeing them in MK at a small club in the Xscape. Now I should point out that I hadn't heard of many bands at this point - I was still largely listening to videogame soundtracks (dark days) and had very little time for real music as I'd prejudged it according to the shit on the radio. Back on topic, we went to the Xscape but alas the club was 18+ and only one of our party was actually 18. Some people were quite upset - not myself particularly, for aforementioned reasons - but the band heard of our plight and came to meet us. In fact, the biggest fan of theirs among us - and thus considerably unhappy - was taken down to KFC to have a chat with them. Plus he got a signed copy of their EP which hadn't yet been released. Needless to say, he was quite a bit happier after that. ANYWAY.

The band were all charming lovely people and gave us all signed posters so we'd have something at least (they petitioned the club to let us in to no avail), but I, like a complete douche, left mine lying on an air-hockey table in the arcade. (D'oh). I wasn't as upset about this as I am now because I didn't actually know whether they were acutally any good or not.

Due to other things in my life happening subsequently I didn't rediscover them, despite being sent their EP, until I found their album in HMV and bought that. The real epiphany came sometime after that - quite recently, maybe four, five months ago. The Dark Third might be described as a "concept album" but whatever the fuck that concept might be about is not clear. Dreaming seems to be a strong theme (the "dark third" refers to the third of our lives we spend sleeping, I think), especially given the abstract nature of the lyrics (not to the same extent as The Mars Volta for example but still not exactly plain in their meaning), and it's quite "spacey". But it's packed with lovely guitar solos, keyboards and violins and a female vocalist/bassist who I'm in love with and...oh just go buy their album and listen to it, it's brilliant.

Unlike a lot of prog bands it's not at all hard to listen to, and the songs don't outstay their welcome. Did I mention the bassist is hot and has an amazing voice?

Yeah, she's hot and has an amazing voice.

I know you are fickle people and believe me if I knew how to put mp3s in the blog I would give you a sample. But since I can't, please just take my word for it.