I would like to open this review with a couple points of honestly to reveal and possibly explain any biases I may have towards this game. First, Super Metroid is my favorite video game of all time; hands-down. Secondly, I did not play Metroid 2: The Return of Samus in the 90’s. I had a GameBoy but I did not invest a lot into it. I was a console gamer pretty exclusively into my early teens. So, I do not have any nostalgia bias about the original Metroid 2, but I do have a tendency to hold Metroid games to a pretty high standard. That said, I will try to be as objective as possible here.
I would start by saying that Samus Returns is a very good Metroid game. The 2/2.5D Metroidvania subgenre has been making a triumphant and successful comeback in recent years with great titles like Axiom Verge, Valdis Story and Ori and the Blind Forest, so I am so glad to see a classic franchise get the treatment it justly deserves. It plays well, looks fantastic and has that isolated, creepy feeling the franchise is famous for. As Samus Aran, you navigate the claustrophobic catacombs of an infested planet in search of 40 remaining Metroids in the hopes of eradicating the species for the sake of the galaxy. The goal is to find the statue that controls the acid flooding the world and locate the requisite number of target parasites in that area to return and lower the dangerous liquid so you can proceed deeper and deeper into the planet.
The problem with a remake like this one is you not only have to live up to the original to grab the nostalgic gamers, but you have to reel in younger gamers and players like myself who did not invest in this title as a kid. So, now you have possibly two full generations of gamers who did not have the opportunity to enjoy Metroid II when it landed. What Nintendo needed to do was stay true to the ideas of the original while modernizing the series. The risk of this sort of remake is that there is always someone who is not going to like a change here or there, so I believe keeping the concept of the original game alive while heavily modifying the world was a wise choice.
In terms of gameplay, at least for me, Samus Returns hits a few low points. First, the game is a lot quicker than I’m used to, a subjective complaint, I know, but I do believe it affects the flow of the game. However, aside from the way the movement feels here, the thing that I think keeps this from being a modern classic is the directional aiming. Having to lock in place with the triggers to aim and use missiles is dramatically slow. Differences in the controller layouts from older platforms made this somewhat necessary, but having to stop in place, aim with the stick, then fire to land your hits really kills the pace. Also, the constant need to counter with the uppercut to knock enemies into a weakened state is fun at first, but gets old really fast. It is one of those things where it is very cool to do, but because you are constantly performing this same, easy-to-land counter on enemies throughout the game, it kind of becomes repetitive and boring.
The final major complaint are the battles with the metroids in the game. As you work your way through the labyrinthine tunnels you will encounter dozens of these guys, so it is necessary to keep things fresh! Well… They don’t. With a few exceptions where you fight tougher, boss forms of the metroids, the battles are identical, the only changes being either the metroid having an elemental buff affecting its abilities and the layout of the battle arena. Some fights will have you fighting the target only to have it flee and head to another room nearby designated for such a fight. The downside being these fights are pretty much the same over and over with only a few exceptions. It would not be feasible to have 40 individual boss battles that are entirely different from each other but the solution is to at least add more major targets instead of keeping things so bare-bones.
In terms of aesthetics, it’s a very good-looking 2.5 action platformer and the 3D effects are some of the best on the platform. The models are well-animated and the world is varied in its themes and designs. The soundtrack is an excellent composition of new music and remakes of classic themes from titles past. They are faithful to the original while having a fresh, modern feel. In this respect the soundtrack is comparable to that of DuckTales: Remastered.
In all, I think Metroid: Samus Returns is a quality return to the classic Metroid model with a few flaws that may keep it from being a long-lasting classic. I think if there was a little more emphasis on variety, this would have been great, but it rests at a solid “good” for me. It is probably not a game that will go down for many gamers as a masterpiece. I wouldn’t be discouraged by this, though. There is always room for improvement and if additional content were added, and some things about the game were updated, it could be even better in the future. However, only time will tell.
“Clicking My Heels to Love” (踵で愛を打ち鳴らせ Kakato de Ai o Uchinarase) from Landmark
Another pseudo-inspirational tune from AKFG, “Kakato de Ai o Uchinarase”, describes fleeting emotions then declares they be cast aside to go back out to the world again, regardless of how one may feel in the moment. I would interpret it as being about moving on and the hope of happiness in the future; with a little effort. The song opens with a soft, warm melody expanding to yet another trademark Ajikan chorus. It’s catchy, upbeat and charged with a carefree elation despite how it may appear lyrically.
“To Your Town” (君の街まで, Kimi no Machi Made) from Sol-Fa
I can only interpret “Kimi no Machi Made” as being about there being a distance separating two people and the passing of the seasons each with yet another promise to reunite. It’s a little hard to tell. From Ajikans second studio album, the Lydian tone of the song drives it’s mood. It has a strange tendency to never feel like the chords are going to go where you think they will, but I feel this has more to do with the short lyrical melodic refrains rather than the mode itself.
“Magic Disc” (マジックディスク Majikku Disuku) from Magic Disk
Something is lost in translation in “Magic Disc”. No matter where I look, the metaphors are mixed. It definitely discusses the death of CD’s and physical media in-general. I’m not entirely sure why, but it is a prevalent message in the song. Outside of that, it goes into a different direction entirely. Musically, however, this is a masterful rock song. Mixing backbeat rhythm with simple guitar riffs and a powerful series of shouted, emotional lyrics, it really is one of the best songs to really introduce new fans to AKFG.
“Little Lennon” from Wonder Future
Centering on how art can transcend race and nationality and how it even survives the test of time, “Little Lennon” invokes pop figures like the late-former-Beatle with refrains of “Now imagine, imagine, imagine”, and of famous graffiti artist and cultural revolutionary Banksy (…a side note, if you haven’t seen “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, do yourself a favor and seek it out). The melody and punk style take things back to AKFG’s early days, as does much of Wonder Future. The off-notes in the main riff give the song a unique feel and the outstanding chorus is one of their best.
“Rock n’ Roll, Morning Light Falls On You” (転がる岩、君に朝が降る Korogaru Iwa, Kimi ni Asa ga Furu) from World World World
I’m lost on the lyrics to “Kimi ni Asa ga Furu”, but it definitely seems to be about lost love, or at least some sort of separation. This is a particularly-unique song for Asian Kung-Fu Generation. It opens with a really light riff and while it does pick up, it never really gets too heavy. It’s one of the better melodic songs, with a fantastic chorus and some great guitar moments. I particularly love the guitar outro in this one.
“Blue Sky and a Black Cat” (青空と黒い猫 Aozora to Kuroi Neko) from Magic Disk
References to war and poverty make this one difficult to translate. The song’s intro strumming guided by the warm bass line and marching beat give it a welcoming tone. It leads into one of the best choruses the band has and one of my absolute favorites as we round off the top five.
“A Town In Blue” (或る街の群青 Aru Machi no Gunjō) from World World World
“Aru Machi no Gunjō” paints a picture of a person in despair by using colors to describe feelings and moments. The structure is simple, but has a perfect mix of rock and pop. It’s bright, and despite its lyrics coming off as a little… emo.., it is an awesome song. It is also a very accessible tune for them, allowing for new listeners to hear a simple taste of the Ajikan’s melodic side.
“Soranin” from Magic Disk
“Soranin” is about giving up. Essentially. A relationship that can never work, or something that happened that cannot be overcome, leaves the narrator with nothing left to say but “So, I guess this is ‘goodbye’.” Here you will find the distinct, Ajikan-upbeat-sound with the more melodic tones of their later work from Magic Disk. It is one of the best songs of the 2010’s and what makes it so is its warmth. In a period of cold, lifeless music, “Soranin” is just a classic, inviting rock song.
“Neoteny” (ネオテニー Neotenī)from World World World
This, more-technical-than-usual AKFG song is the best song of theirs’ in a decade. There is a powerful mood to it. It constantly builds upwards to a series of choruses that end in a bright 3-note guitar riff that is, for a lack of a better word, resplendent. “Neoteny” is not just a great song for fans of J-rock, but I would recommend anyone hear this tune at least once.
01.Midwinter Dance(真冬のダンス Mafuyu no Dansu) from Fanclub
That’s right, my favorite Asian Kung-Fu Generation song is an unreleased track from Fanclub. For all they hype Ajikan has received in the US after most were introduced to them through Anime, the tunes from Fanclub and onward have appealed to me much more. Not to say the older, more well-known stuff is bad, but “Mafuyu no Dance” is, at least in my mind the perfect type of rock song. It’s simple, it’s catchy, and it builds to something more than it was at its start. The final chorus of this short tune is backed by a melodic lead guitar riff that ties everything together.
I hope to do more of these band countdowns in the future but for now I have some game and movie reviews coming around the corner…
It’s rare that a song in Japanese can directly translate to English as well as “Senseless”. The lyrics paint a picture of a world projected to us only through TV screens and signs, never allowing us to feel or see anything for ourselves. The plea “do not delete me” (roughly), implies an existence so indelibly tied to the digital world that its complete removal is the loss of one’s self. This song benefits from one of AKFG’s best guitar riffs in their entire catalog; A bouncing, energetic musical refrain that wraps the song. It doesn’t have the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure, so having that riff to tie it together makes the whole feel cohesive. It’s a powerful, relevant message packed in a amazing rock tune.
“All right part2” from Landmark
Another exploration in musical escapism, “All right” is a less-poetic pop song featuring Chatmonchy guitarist and frontwoman Eriko Hashimoto. It isn’t deep, it’s just deadly-catchy! This is a song that will never leave you. If you are prone to madness from having a song stuck in your head for good, you may want to avoid this one! However, if you want a cheery pop song with a rock edge and a great riff, this jam’s for you.
“Standard” from Wonder Future
Ajikan are masters at crafting simple, steady building verses into powerful, moving choruses. “Standard” follows your standard three-chorus structure, telling the story of a young, happy girl who captivated a few people in a fleeting moment with careless singing and when she moved on, nobody remembered her. I do not know exactly what inspired this theme, but the idea that a person so small can impact people, even briefly, then keep going without knowing what, if anything, they left in their wake is an interesting image. The cheery guitars and triumphant chorus of “Standard” make this newer single one of their best.
“Well Then, See You Again Tomorrow” (それでは、また明日 Sore dewa, Mata Ashita)from Landmark
Taking their sound back to their early days, “Sore dewa, Mata Ashita” keeps a classic AKFG sound with a minor key leading into a wordy, upbeat chorus. I’m not entirely sure what this song is about from the lyrics, but it is a great rock song in its own right.
“Loop & Loop” (ループ&ループ Rūpu & Rūpu) from Sol-Fa
An endless cycle of separation, sadness and reassurance, “Loop & Loop” is one of the band’s most successful and well-known singles. Released as an EP not even a year after their debut album, it is one of the first singles that I think really hinted at the sound Ajikan would land on by the time Fanclub would come out two years later. Catchy, flighty and energetic, “Loop & Loop” is a timeless entry in their repertoire.
“Black Out” (ブラックアウト Burakkuauto)from Fanclub
“Black Out” seems to discuss a continuing separation from reality, but this is not made entirely clear by the lyrical translation. The song is elevated by an excellent dual-guitar riff melody that, at least for me, will become more timeless with age. Having the same build-up to an anthemic chorus as a songlike “Standard”, “Black Out” nails it and was really one of the songs from the mid-2000’s that really got me into AKFG.
“Love Song of the New Century” (新世紀のラブソング Shinseiki no Rabu Songu)from Magic Disk
A gripping, emotional music video emphasizing a powerful song about carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders into a new Century, as though we are expected to leave the past behind by some sort of arbitrary demarcation point, “Shinseiki no Rabu Songu” uses shocking imagery to invoke memories of the not-so-distant past. Musically, this is a very technical song. From, the warm, haunting guitar riff that guides the song, to the backbeat rhythm and emphasized bass line, it builds on a heavy theme with a powerful and complex choral structure.
“Tightrope” (タイトロープ Taito Rōpu) from Fanclub
Painting a picture of a dream, “Tightrope” is a smooth, two-step-style tune with a peaceful main riff and a hefty build-up. It is melodically-moving and a masterful way to close out an album as great as Fanclub.
“My World” (マイ・ワールド Mai Wārudo) from Sol-Fa
Despite being hard to decipher, “My World” is a great song. It has a strong melody and an excellent pre-chorus that really make it stand out. This is one where it’s really hard to say anything particularly clever, so I say just give it a listen.
“A Lost Dog and the Beats of the Rain” (迷子犬と雨のビート Maigoinu to Ame no Beat) from Magic Disk
Used as the opening for the anime series “Tatami Galaxy”, “Maigoinu to Ame no Beat” is a pretty unique song for Ajikan. It features a lot of the band’s staples but adds a brass section and a touch of ska to the mix. It’s experimental for sure but works very well and it ranks high among my favorites, just outside of the top 10!
“After Images of Summer” (夏の日、残像, Natsu no Hi, Zanzō) from Connected to You 5m
A 90’s-style post-punk blankets a song about lost love; a distant summer, what was left after the season’s end, and a tireless pursuit to keep searching for what was lost. Or… something like that. That’s the problem with interpreting contextual languages. However, I can piece together that much from the various translations online. The lyrical melody is both melodic and aggressive, and has that uniquely-Ajikan catchiness that makes it a loveable track.
“A New World” (新しい世界 Atarashii Sekai) from World World World
“Music can change the world” is a very common theme in pop going back to its earliest days. “Atarashii Sekai” is a sarcastic effort about passing the time away and losing yourself in music, casting aside the worries of the day. In doing so, you drift away to “a new world”. The song’s backbeat rhythm, warm melody and belting chorus are a rallying cry for the disenfranchised. As someone who plays guitar, the images of strumming the A chord to pass the time is quite relatable.
“Blue Train” (ブルートレイン Burū Torein) from Fanclub
Imagery of never being able to move beyond the moment is the theme of “Blue Train”. “The destination of the streaking blue is the present” is not entirely difficult to understand given the cultural context. The significance of trains in modern urbana and the prevalence of self-destructive behavior (suicide in-particular) in Japan create a grimly-vivid image of what is going through the head of the subject of the song. Desperation, hopelessness, and no cares for others in the moment, or even the near future. It is one of their more musically-technical songs, with syncopated drums, quick breakdowns, fast arpeggios and a varying lyrical melody that doesn’t refrain in quite the same way a typical pop song would. “Blue Train” is one of Ajikan’s more ambitions recordings.
“Goodbye Lost Generation” (さよならロストジェネレイション Sayonara Rosuto Jenerēshon) from Magic Disk
Things were not looking good for the global economy in 2010, and “Sayonara Lost Generation” is an attempt at being somewhat inspirational in a time where it things were looking more and more dire. Returning to a slight anti-authoritarianism, Ajikan lashes out against a broken globalist system that failed not just the youth in Japan but the youth of the world. It is a theme that still resonates today. The moody alternative melody fits with theme which, as mentioned, is something AKFG is quite good at; contrasting a poppy musical tone with serious subjects.
“Winner and Loser” from Wonder Future
Singing about the greed of those in power, “Winner and Loser” is a particularly bitter tune. The chorus is fantastic, though. It’s upbeat and bouncing and like much of Wonder Future, it brings the sound back to the band’s earlier, edgier days.
“Bitter Orange” (橙 Daidai)from Magic Disk
The daidai is a very traditional ingredient in Japanese food, and the imagery in “Bitter Orange” is distinctly cultural, which is why it would require a little context. Themes of death permeate the track with many references to rainbows, which are a mythological link to the ancestors of one’s family. My hypothesis is the song is meant to be about the ongoing death and rebirth of tradition in Japan, “Daidai” is a great track that is both upbeat and emotional, with the offkey shift at the end of the first half of the chorus sounding somewhat odd at first, but it is this one chord that makes this song one of Ajikan’s best.
“Radio Tower”(電波塔, Denpatō) from Connected to You 5m
About reminiscing on a near-forgotten moment in the singer’s youth that is only slightly described, “Radio Tower” is a charming post-punk anthem from Ajikan’s first studio album. It has that AKFG beat and a very-western-sounding lyrical melody compared to much of the songs on this album. It’s accessible, bright and is one of the best rock songs of the 2000’s.
“Signal on the Street” from Wonder Future
Another tune for 2015’s Wonder Future that sounds a lot like the older AKFG before World World World, “Signal on the Street’s” lyrics are kind of difficult to decipher. Images of streetlights and alleys theme at bright, fast chorus that really doesn’t kick in until about halfway through the song. The first few minutes of “Signal on the Streets” are build up to one of the best choruses of any rock song in the past 5 years.
“No. 9” from World World World
If “Signal on the Street’s” lyrics leave questions, “No. 9” offers little room for interpretation. Critical of war, relentless attacks from major nations, images of explosions, bombings… Put that under a track that is so cheery that if you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was about falling in love. “No. 9” is catchy as Hell, though. It’s “doo-doo-doo-dooo-doo” refrain and distorted sliding guitars leading up to a minor-key, shouted chorus. It’s one of their best power anthems by far.
“E” from Connected to You 5m
“E” is difficult to really interpret lyrically, but it is an excellent song nonetheless. A fun, energetic chorus leads into a near-screaming shout of “Hirogariyuku mirai he!”. The breakdown is excellent with a bridge driving right into a brick wall of distant, heavily-distorted strumming. So, with that we send a hearty “sayonara” to Ajikan’s first album as we head into the top half of my list of favorite AKFG songs!
Kicking off this list, we have “N2”, a song that is darker in tone than most of their other songs, especially compared to what you would hear most their more recent albums. For me, Landmark was somewhat of a disappointment, unable to live up to the high standard set by Magic Disk. A few great songs stand out, though. N2, a song about economic destitution, demoralization and anger, it’s a pretty aggressive tune.
“Planet” (惑星, Wakusei) from World World World
Keeping with Ajikan’s common themes of self-empowerment and anti-authoritarianism, “Planet” calls for everyone to aspire to be more than even you thought you could be. Inspirational as many of their tunes are, Planet is touched by a punk tone that is very “AKFG”. The rhythm changes, sudden shift to off-notes and diving bass lines make this one of their more unique tracks.
“Understand” (アンダースタンド Andāsutando) from Connected to You 5m
“Understand” is somewhat cryptic. It could be lost in the translation but it seems to be about a person who is wracked by an unbearable grief for something that is not entirely their fault and the message is somewhat of comforting empathy. While I generally like Ajikan’s later stuff a little more, “Understand” is a great modern punk song.
“World Apart” (ワールドアパート Wārudo Apāto) from Fanclub
For me, 2006’s Fanclub was the first time AKFG’s greatness would shine through, and songs from this album will frequent this list. Having a powerful lyrical melody, there is a force of passion in the vocals that would become a common element in many of AKFG’s more energetic tunes. The driving drums, guitar solo and heavily distorted guitars give this one a louder edge as well.
“Easter” from Wonder Future
From 2015’s Wonder Future, Easter paints a pretty morbid picture in its lyrics. Images of death, themes of careless abandon, even gore are scribbled throughout the lyrics. This one is a little cryptic and it may be a little lost in translation. There are references to rebirth or resurrection (hence the title), however the rest of the lyrics are more strange than anything else. “Easter” hearkens back to the sound of their first two albums, the sound that made them famous, and is an interesting return from the more dramatic, alternative sound they had embraced in albums leading up to Wonder Future.
“Bicycle Race” (バイシクルレース Baishikuru Rēsu) from Landmark
Warm, effected guitar, a peaceful sound and a charging lead in an upbeat, almost 90’s-sounding chorus make “Bicycle Race” one of the best tracks on Landmark. Themes of picking up pieces of something broken, a cheeriness highlights an optimism for a happy end. Whether it comes is another question…
“After Dark” (アフターダーク “Afutā Dāku”) from World World World
The imagery in “After Dark” implies that something really bad has happened. Something that isn’t clearly defined. The lyrics are dichotomous to the upeat song. Anime fans will know this song as one of the openings to the popular series Bleach.
“Butterfly” (バタフライ Batafurai) from Fanclub
“Butterfly” explores an idea of coming out on the other side of hardship, or just a down period, stronger than before. Showcasing Ajikan’s musicality, this song’s mixing of moods and melodic structures built on a minor key layer well. Especially in the intro leading into the first chorus. The funk-inspired bass mixed with the muted guitar make this another winner from Fanclub.
“Eternal Sunshine” from Wonder Future
A musically-moving, driving chorus caps a well-structured alt-rock tune in “Eternal Sunshine”. A song about lost love and moving on, it features mixed musical tones with a peaceful guitar riff. These picked, simple-but-melodic riffs are a specialty of Ajikan. In an era where rock riffs are stale and uninspired they try to write structured guitar tunes that carry very well. Gotoh’s shaky vocals are the only thing that keep this one out of the top 20. It’s still a great song.
“Rewrite” (リライト Riraito) from Sol-Fa
One of AKFG’s most famous song thanks to it being featured as an intro on the hit series Fullmetal Alchemist, “Rewrite” is just a great, kickass song. Utilizing some traditional rock formulas, this song has some distinctly-classic-rock qualities. The simple guitar riffs layer well and tie the heavy, aggressive chorus together.
While watching the Sony conference at Tokyo Games Show 2017, I feel like I was bombarded with a lot of information, but I must admit, I was rather underwhelmed. The Playstation Experience 2017 will certainly bring with it some huge announcements, but Sony showed a great deal of reservation for this event and it shows. It actually kind of makes me a little nervous.
Naturally, the headlining title is Monster Hunter World, a game that is going to make Capcom and, by extension, Sony, a very large amount of money. That’s good, because I like Monster Hunter and honestly look forward to the game when it launches this January. Other titles got a mention here and there, including a few I have a feeling will not come out in the US, including A Certain Magical Cyber Trooper (based on the popular anime series) and Fist of the North Star.
About a third of the event was dedicated to Playstation VR, including a segment for immersive concert viewing via the PSVR online stream for an orchestral concert performance of selections from popular JapanStudio classics like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The remainder of the information was loose hints and clips of games we already knew about.
The entire event felt to me like I was rewatching a press conference from late 2016. It did not really feel like news; rather, it felt like somebody was reading me my own grocery list after I already got back from the store and took my groceries into my house. With a few exceptions, there were no announcements during this press conference that really took me by surprise or even got me all that excited.
Such a shame, but there is obviously more to see from TGS 2017, though, so I will keep posting as I get news. Here’s hoping the rest of the event makes up for this surprise-free anti-spectacle.
Most people could easily pick their favorite musical artist, but for me it varies depending on my mood. However, if I were to go to any band as a pick for my favorite, Talking Heads is up there. A combination of their quirky sound and the experimentation with genres as they changed through the years mixed With David Byrne’s unmistakable personality makes them really unlike anything else of their era. It’s actually pretty hard to nail down just which genre they belong in. It’s easy to just say “Alternative” but with their songs blending everything from rock, punk, new wave, reggae and funk, this complicates such an easy categorization.
Now, knowing I’m going to go back into this list probably in the next few weeks and find something out of place, I preface this saying I am fairly settled on the positions of each song, but given the way I can look twice at something, I may feel the need to correct things in the future. So, consider that a comical form of fair-warning.
Without further ado…
25. “The Lady Don’t Mind” from Little Creatures (1985)
The smooth 80’s groove of this tune is one that successfully blends what Talking Heads was at their peak into their more mainstream sound of Little Creatures. The build up from the almost lounge-music style of the verse into an upbeat energetic pop chorus, complete with a flashy brass section, is seamless. As Talking Heads creeped up on their 10th Anniversary in the mid-80’s, it was fairly obvious they were getting tired, and Little Creatures, despite having some good songs, definitely reflected the band’s weary pace as they rounded off their final three albums.
24. “Perfect World” from Little Creatures (1985)
Also from Little Creatures, “Perfect World” blends a poppy blues ballad with a little bit of country and also a somewhat of an early-60’s feel. It shows some of drummer Chris Frantz’s influence on a few of Talking Heads’ jazzier tunes, but there is also an airy, almost dreamy mood to the song. Talking Heads aren’t often remembered for their softer, more melodic songs, but Perfect World is one of the best slow grooves of the 80’s, a decade filled with otherwise sleepy, boring pop ballads.
23. “Wild Wild Life” from True Stories (1986)
By the time their penultimate album True Stories came around, it was obvious things were slowing down. The distinctly “Talking Heads” sound was nearly absent, having been lost with age as the quirky, experimental period of the 80’s shifted over into artists’ mostly-failed attempts to make tunes that would outlast their time on the charts. As a result, True Stories is a distinctly-corporate-sounding album. It isn’t so much bad as it is forgettable. Wild Wild Life, however, stands out. It is a fast, energetic, and just fun track. 1986 was a year plagued by sleeping post-new wave ballads and absurd hair metal in the other extreme. Hip hop’s growing relevance in the pop charts was edging out a lot of the established artists of the time as well and as the college rock mainliners began the transformation of alternative rock that would manifest in the mainstream by the mid-90’s, it was necessary for Talking Heads to put out a single like this. It kept many of their past musical ideas far better than most of the other tracks from True Stories and is fun and catchy enough to share chart success. Wild Wild Life would be one of Talking Heads’ most successful singles as well, and featured an award-winning music video with a pre-fame John Goodman.
22. “Warning Sign” from More Songs About Buildings and Food (1979)
The strange and haunting sounds of Warning Sign filled with Tina Weymouth accentuating bass lines give this odd song a smooth feel despite having one of the oddest lyrical melodies of all of Talking Heads’ 70’s tracks, and that’s saying something! Warning Sign is catchy, though and musically it holds its own for me.
21. “Nothing But (Flowers)” from Naked (1988)
After more than a decade, Talking Heads did not transition well into the late-80’s. Most of their tracks from Naked fail to resonate however Flowers, with its plucky island sound, has a distinct charm that is a nice alternative to the cheesy dance hip hop, New Jack Swing, and sleepy love ballads of the late-80’s. It’s a particularly clever perspective on a tired environmental theme as well, as nature reclaims all that was overtaken in the past with a sort of mournful attitude, despite the surface cheer of the track. Some may know this song from its use as the opening credits theme to Kevin Smith’s “Clerks II”.
20. “Road to Nowhere” from Little Creatures (1985)
The unmistakable choral intro to Road to Nowhere leads into a bright track about falling into oblivion. The march rhythm with the accordion riff and the low vocal key give the song an almost childlike feel, and keeps that distinguishing Talking Heads charm alive nearly a decade after their debut album.
19. “Mind” from Fear of Music (1979)
Mind may be one of the best tracks to convey Talking Heads’ stranger sounds to a newcomer. It’s melodic enough to keep it from being too off-putting and Weymouth is at her best with a catchy bass slide that is distinct in its execution, sounding almost synth-like and fitting the off-kilter vocals perfectly.
18. “Don’t Worry About The Government” from Talking Heads: ‘77 (1977)
Easily one of their strangest tunes, this is a fluffy little anthem about absorbing one’s self into modern comforts obliviously; almost selfishly. The first time I heard it I was captivated by just how odd it was. It is hands down unlike anything else I had heard before at that time and still today I would have trouble picking a specific song that sounds anything like it.
17. “Take Me To The River” from More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
The Talking Heads cover of the classic tune by the legendary Al Green (the original of which is considered by many to be one of the greatest songs of all time) is easily one of the best covers ever recorded, standing alongside Nirvana’s rendition of “The Man Who Sold the World” and the Late Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine In Nails’ “Hurt”. Implementing their funk and rock influences into a version of the song that keeps the soulful tones of the original but adding a new technical musicality that is distinctly their own, Byrne and crew craft a catchy classic that, at least to me, is as good as the original.
16. “Pulled Up” from Talking Heads: ‘77 (1977)
David Byrne’s ode to inspiration from his parents is a cheery pop rock piece that sets a tone for what the band will become by the time Talking Heads would peak in the early-80’s. Their unique mixing of genres and Byrne’s characteristically-cartoonish vocals are odd, but there is yet something inescapable about the childlike nature of “Pulled Up”.
15. “I Get Wild / Wild Gravity” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
By the 80’s, the band had already experimented with various genres of music but the Carribean study in “I Get Wild” is both dark and hypnotic. Tina Weymouth’s aggressive slap bass line dominates as the musical refrain and the culmination of the entire band vocalizing creates a moody, chant-like slow jam.
14. “Once In A Lifetime” from Remain In Light (1980)
At the dawn of the MTV era, a few videos come to mind, but few are as odd as the one for “Once In A Lifetime”. While other videos featured bands in costumes simply miming their performances, this video features David Byrne in his famous over-sized suit, sweating, panting, and gasping out the spoken word lyrics of this synth-pop classic while posing as though he’s taking an oath. Talking Heads did not do a whole lot of songs in this genre, but the few they did do are definitely unique, and this is one of their best.
13. “And She Was” from Little Creatures (1985)
While many of Talking Heads’ songs are experimental or just plain strange, “And She Was” just may be their most “normal” song. It doesn’t do too much out of the ordinary and could have been recorded by just about anyone. For that reason, it doesn’t exactly feel like a Talking Heads song. Still, it’s excellent; one of my favorites of the decade. It’s catchy, bright and its story of a young hippie tripping balls on a hillside is told in an almost dreamlike way, as if you could see what she’s seeing.
12. “No Compassion” from Talking Heads: ‘77 (1977)
The dreamy opening leading into the upbeat verse then driving straight into an aggressive chorus makes “No Compassion” one of their heaviest songs. One could imagine this being performed by a more rough-edge rock group and would be a pretty intense drive. Spoken from the perspective of a person with no sympathy for anyone around them, it takes a pretty nihilistic tone, but is in a way self-critical at the same time.
11. “Pull Up The Roots” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
Back to Talking Heads’ funk inspiration, this Parliament-esque jam features some of the best bass and rhythm guitar of any song of its time. Everything about “Pulled Up The Roots”, from its technical production to the odd shouted, lyrics give it fluidity, but there is still a lot of speculation on the Internet as to what the song is actually about. It is known that, while they did experiment with drugs, Byrne in-particular always found the effects to be disconcerting or even disturbing by his own admission in an interview, still there is little doubt that drug use and possibly hallucinations inspired the imagery in “Pull Up The Roots”, while alternatively it could be about leaving an old life behind, or having it taken from you.
10. “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
Love songs were not David Byrne’s forte. He actually kind of hates them. He’s described typical love songs as “corny” and “lame”. His personal life reflects this, as does the band’s unceremonious breakup, one that did not end well. Byrne was described as unsympathetic, not able to share a kinship with the rest of the band. This isolationism is reflexive in a lot of his songwriting, including in this song. Another hit from their peak, “This Must Be The Place” intentionally implements a simplistic musical melody over a series of lines which, on their own have a sentimentality, but together do not make a great deal of sense, something Byrne did intentionally.
9. “I Zimbra” from Fear of Music (1979)
As an ode to nonsense, I Zimbra chants the words of Dadaist poet Hugo Ball over an African-inspired musical piece. The lyrics mean nothing; intentionally nothing. That is the nature of Dada, a movement from the early 20th Century designed to oppose rigid standards for what could be classified as “art”. Dadaist artists intentionally chose to make things nonsensical, pointless or even ugly. As a song, “I Zimbra” may not mean anything, but it sure is catchy.
8. “Burning Down The House” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
Said to be about a sort of “personal rebirth” by some interpreters, this is yet another song by Byrne that is full of lines that stand alone, but mean nothing together; still being characteristic of Byrne’s lyricism. Not too far removed from much of the college rock of the time, including that of bands like R.E.M., the themes of Burning Down the House are likely more Freudian than objective. The song itself is a classic, though. The famous intro that leads into a pop groove is unmistakable as one of the best song intros of all time.
7. “Found A Job” from More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
It’s yet another disjointed, disconnected examination of relationships from David Byrne; This time centering on a couple whose relationship is being torn apart by something as minor as the content of TV and the picture quality. Instead, the couple, in-protest, gathers everyone they know to make their own shows that saves their relationship and brightens everyone around them. The message of “Found A Job” is summed up in the line “If your work isn’t something you love, then something isn’t right”. If you cannot find satisfaction, and everything feels as though it is stalled, create the thing you are missing as best you can, and you do not have to do it alone.\
6. “Psycho Killer” from Talking Heads: ‘77 (1977)
It’s a pretty straightforward title, isn’t it? “Psycho Killer” is told from the perspective of a serial killer who is either rejecting the reality he is one, or knows what he is but is trying to cover it up. The seemingly-random French, according to Byrne, is the killer trying to mask his psychopathy in intelligence. The first verse could be a confrontation that the killer is having one a person he knows, or even with himself. He’s warning that he could kill anyone at any time. This truly ominous single was most people’s introduction to Talking Heads in the late 70’s at the iconic CBGB in New York and had to be more than a little unsettling. During a period marked by fear and paranoia about serial killers, as it was the era of Ted Bundy and The Son of Sam, “Psycho Killer” resonated despite having actually been performed as far back as 1975 and possibly written even before then.
5. “Girlfriend Is Better” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
At this point there is a theme, David Byrne is a weird guy. “Girlfriend Is Better” is incredibly cryptic. The title and chorus refer to a girlfriend, but nothing in the verse implies such a relationship exists, in fact it seems as though it is written as a response to someone there but it comes off as almost exasperated, even disturbing. The jumping music sounds like a more traditional funk-inspired Talking Heads track, but there is an eerie, even angry, mood to the music.
4. Crosseyed And Painless from Remain In Light (1980)
Attempting to make sense of a complex world by over-intellectualizing everything, Byrne examines all of the things around him, making him feel very uncomfortable. This could be another song specifically about drug use, or it could be about a person struggling to function in a confounding world. This song as awesome! The fast bass riff, the synth and the falsetto chorus succeed in emphasizing the musical capabilities of the band as a whole.
3. “Making Flippy Floppy” from Speaking In Tongues (1983)
A song about going from youth to adulthood, this one is definitely odd but not entirely cryptic. “Making Flippy Floppy” features one of Weymouth’s best basslines and the anthemic chorus highlights why Speaking In Tongues is arguably their best album.
2. “Life During Wartime” from Fear of Music (1979)
Often called their best song, “Life During Wartime” explores desperation in a time of great strife. When it comes to life or death, none of the things we think we really need can lose all of their value. Everything we care about can be stripped from us in a moment and the only thing left is the need to survive. The song’s synth intro and fast jam makes for one of their best upbeat songs and easily one of the best songs of the 70’s.
1. Slippery People from Speaking In Tongues (1980)
My #1 pick is probably their single most underrated track. “Slippery People” is a funk groove with a cryptic message. Allusions to religion and possibly hallucinogenic experiences compose an image of some sort of psychotropic awakening. The line “Turn like a wheel inside a wheel” is a line from Hawthorne’s “The Crucible”, written in inspiration from the Bible, and lines like “Look at his face (the lord won’t mind)” can make one wonder if this is in reference to a misunderstanding of images and ideas of the time as being anti-religious, as this was the heyday of the “Satanic Panic”, an era where cultural iconoclasts were finding hidden Biblical or Satanic messages in everything from rock music to bar codes. It is possible this is conveying that not everyone or everything is a sign from God, or being of the Devil. As for the music, just listen to it. “Slippery People” is so good that even the average non-Talking Heads fan would have to admit that it is a pretty excellent track.
Full disclosure before I begin: I really enjoyed Destiny when it came out and logged quite a bit of time in it, so needless to say I was quite excited about this much-hyped sequel. I didn’t expect, however, to find so much to like about this game. I wanted to at least finish the campaign and get a taste of the end game content before I really wrote this review as well, to reduce my chances of misrepresenting anything. That said, I can recognize why it wouldn’t be for everyone and this is definitely going to end up being a successful-but-niche game after the initial fervor dies down.
After the Traveler is captured by an intergalactic Genghis Khan named Gaul, all of the Guardians, revered for their strength, lose the Light, the source of all of their powers. It is up to you (and the millions of other players), to recover the Light, turn the tables of the struggle against the warlord and return the Traveler to its greatness, restoring the Light in the guardians and saving Earth. It’s a pretty epic story, albeit cliched, but Gaul is an excellent villain, and the final battle with the vile menace is arduous and menacing.
Destiny 2 is built much like its predecessor with a few changes. You have a short list of planets, each of which is its own open world, where you can travel, explore and take part in various public events and challenges but there only a few goals in the end: Complete the short-but-great campaign (including a stellar final series of levels that rank among the best of any FPS), grind public events and side missions to get gear upgrades and power yourself up for more difficult missions, prepare for Strikes to maximize your growth and face exciting bosses, then lead up to Raids which remain the ultimate challenge. It is all built around a quality gear system that tiers to your level. Rarely will you ever get a drop that is far too weak to be worth at least trying out, with the only discards generally being weapon types you do not want or old gear you’ve outgrown. It never feels like loot drops are a waste and while everything is very randomized, you can use mods that drop regularly to alter gear to your playstyle.
Destiny 2 plays a lot like your typical FPS, though a bit faster, and the ability to use various skills speeds things up significantly. Different class perks also change the approach to the game. I invested most of my efforts so far into the Titan, a resilient class built for close-quarters combat with numerous foes. Essentially, the Titan is Destiny 2’s tank class. Each of the three classes (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) have 3 subclasses, and each of those subclasses have two passive skill sets that affect how that subclass functions in combat. Subclasses also allow for a selection of 3 types of grenades and the differing functions of the double-jump. You can freely swap between each subclass and skillset, grenade and jump type you’ve unlocked at any time, even mid-combat.
Outside of that, it’s standard loot-based-FPS fare. Think Borderlands, only more frenetic. Public events place you right in the center of onslaughts of enemies, boss battles take place in massive arenas that fill with enemies, open worlds are slathered with randomized mobs, and everything is ready to ruin your day! Optional missions allow for longer excursions with greater rewards and are often similar to story missions.
Once you defeat the villainous final boss, more content opens up for you, including giving the option to replay side missions for further rewards, take part in patrols (very short, random side missions that can be chained for easy loot), and take part in more public events to get medal drops that allow you to raise your reputation with the NPC from that area.
Destiny 2 looks great, but it isn’t going to blow your mind. Comparing this to Far Cry, Just Cause, or a PS4 exclusive like Horizon: Zero Dawn, seems unfair as this is an online game and thusly some visuals may be throttled for performance (which so far for me has never taken a hit, or even so much as lagged). Some areas of Destiny 2’s worlds are dark and the absence of a toggleable flashlight can make navigation in some areas difficult. The open worlds themselves vary in aesthetic appeal as well. For-instance, Earth’s overgrown, post-Apocalyptic wastes have a desolate feel to them, especially as you navigate further and further away from the starting section of the planet. Titan is a series of cold steel and concrete platforms built outside of a massive arcology that is filled with lush greenery and a colorful mall that seems eerie in its abandoned nature, its holographic and neon signs still spinning on and flicker as though nothing has changed. Nessus is filled with lush, bright-red fall greenery and giant rectangular pillars of marble that tower and shape the world. Lastly, Io is a toxic wasteland of golden soil filled with dangerous radioactive liquid and dank, hazardous caves.
It is obvious a lot of care went into sections of these worlds, but some sections can feel like rehashes of each other, with a few map segments seeming as though they could be placed in other worlds with different textures and it wouldn’t matter at all. This isn’t typically to the detriment of the game itself, but it does make the initial awe of the new world’s visuals lose its appeal quite quickly. Sadly, these few planets are the only open worlds you can really explore and while they are somewhat large, it would have benefitted Destiny 2 to offer a little more variety in the areas themselves.
With each planet having its own theme, you can be assured that each area has its own story. These plots are head up by a single NPC that represents that world who also provides commentary as you fight through the map but their constantly-repeated lines get very, very old. In an obvious attempt to add some humorous banter to the grind to give it a little character, you can get “witty”, overwritten dialogue that may be occasionally funny at first but can wear on you making you reach for the volume controls for your TV after the story missions are complete.
That said, the voice cast is quite good, complete with an A-list of respected performers in the field including Nolan North of Uncharted fame, who is near-unrecognizable as your companion Ghost, Firefly’s Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres as two of the guardians who join you in the struggle against Gaul’s forces, and The Wire’s Lance Reddick as the righteous leader Commander Zavala. The voice acting, when it isn’t grating with repetition, is very good and helps shape the tone of the game.
For most, Destiny 2 may slow as it ages due to its grindy nature. There is variety in what you can do, but after just a few days of doing the same patrols, strikes and public events over and over, it can feel exhausting. The push to level 20 goes by quickly enough, but then you have to very slowly raise your average gear rating by finding more and more valuable drops. There are many ways to grind in the game, but if the repetition turns you off, there will be little for you after completing the campaign. However, there are rewarding events that come to those willing to stick it out.
I would say Destiny 2 is a worthy sequel and it came out at a great time, preceding the onslaught of fall releases by a little over a month, giving players time to become invested in the online action. It was smart to get it out to players before the barrage of online shooters and co-op action games that are right around the corner slam gamers with a near-insurmountable backlog. Sadly, the PC version of this game is being pushed back to mid-October because of the contractual obligation of Bungie to release the game on consoles first. This is unacceptable for me but if you are willing to wait, that version is coming as well, only expect a brutal framerate cap and throttled graphics to keep it from being too competitive to the console releases. This is the tragic reality of today’s gaming.
It’s Monday and the start of the storm began to hit us this morning although it was very minor. I hope to have a First Impressions game review posted sometime today or tomorrow. I’m working from home today, so I’m sitting in my usual chair, hoping I do not get too bored, though I doubt I will have a chance to be. I am going to be working on an article for the site PlaySomeVideoGames as well. So standby despite the weekend and the freaking superstorm, by God I am still going to write!
I wanted to make a quick update on MoviePass. I did get an update from their support that there is a delay in delivery of new cards due to the large influx of new subscribers. This is entirely understandable. The current wait is 2-3 weeks. Tomorrow will mark two weeks since the order was placed, so there’s a chance it will arrive sometime in the next few days. By next weekend I should be able to give an honest review of the service. I hadn’t lost hope and the fact that they did issue a public apology and explanation is good enough for me.
All of the Pop Culture You Care About… But Not Really