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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

It's a Banjo Tooie Review Relaunch

Remember how I secretly reviewed an obscure video game title four years ago, then witnessed the photo-hosting site for the review go bust and take all of its pictures away? No! Well, that is a thing that happened, and I've restructured that review to mirror the format of reviews I've written after it, i.e., it has jokes now, and new pictures.
Head on over to Classic Video Game Reviews to check it out,
or experience it in its now-being refurnished old home, The Nintendo 64 Museum.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rhubarb -- Kamikaze


My favorite long lost radio tradition is the "caller number nine gets a free CD" one. CD's were once a hot commodity, $18.99 at Blockbuster music, and a free one of any quality was a fairly big deal. Anytime KLSU gave one away, I dialed them up. That's how I ended up with one of the more obscure releases in my collection, Australian alternative rock band Rhubarb's debut, Kamikaze.
Kamikaze, which was a moderate hit in Australia, features a very turn-of-the-century, few-frills alternative rock sound, mostly a couple of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. The pace is mostly chill, except for a couple of random punk songs. The relaxed feel is at first quite comforting, as is the singer's subtle Australian lilt. However, that same unrushed pace also makes the album a bit of a bore. Things pick up at times, such fourth track, "Holiday"'s fun, song-ending horns. This leads into an interesting mid-section, with vibe-changing string-ballad, "Do Do Do," and the very unexpected punk rock stylings of "Excerciser." "Excerciser," essentially a statement of faith by dissension against the secular world is fun until Rhubarb get to the unfortunate line, "Got a mom and a dad/only ones I've ever had." That's not exactly something under any child's control.
The album bogs down again on track seven, "Want Me Back," a mid-tempo drag, and track eight "Lead Me" doesn't exactly pull it out, even with its somber horns--really the two songs are interchangeable. "Waiting for Me," doesn't do anything new, either. It is at this point in the review that I adjust the 7/10 that was on top of this review to a 6/10. I can't be too forgiving to something that gets this boring. At least the last song, "Nice Girls," picks up the pace, however silly.
I won a decent amount of albums by calling in to KLSU. None of them sucked. One of them was kind of bland, though.

1999 Inpop Records
1. Zero 3:33
2. Kamikaze 5:09
3. Pennywise 3:47
4. Holiday 3:31
5. Do Do Do 2:56
6. Exerciser 1:41
7. Want Me Back 3:09
8. Lead Me 3:17
9. Waiting for Me 3:36
10. Nice Girls 2:01

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

For the first time in quite a while, I have had a perfect video game experience, and so for the first time in not quite a while, I have created a new blog to review it. Yes, in order to review The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I have created a new blog for Switch Reviews.  I think this blog will see a decent amount of action, as the built-in camera button on the Switch makes grabbing screenshots a breeze. I can't count the amount of Wii U games I have played and then not reviewed on my Wii U review blog because grabbing screenshots for that system has been such a pain. Anyway, here is my rather cheerful, yet concise review for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch. Hope it either inspires you to pick it up, or reminisce on the great time you also had playing through it...unless you played through it and somehow didn't have a great time, in which case, video games are apparently not for you.
Here's the new blog:

Monday, November 13, 2017

Coming Soon to the Nicsperiment: Gamereviewapalooza! Also, What Is the Nicsperiment?

Earlier this year, I had numerous discussions with friends about how printed media is dead.
Sample comment: "A blog is pointless because kids today don't read. They just want to watch videos."
I also had several thoughts about social media.
Sample thought: "You should re-join Facebook (after your seven year absence) so that you can promote your blogs."
Interesting points, me and friends.
On top of that, Photobucket, where I hosted every blog picture from 2004 to the summer of 2016 (well over 1,000 photos over 12 years) imploded, rendering countless reviews and travelogues I have published picture-less.
All of this got me thinking:
Should the Nicsperiment continue?
Afterall, the blog zeitgiest faded long ago. Indeed, kids today would rather watch inane Youtube banter over reading a thought-out and meticulously written piece.
Also, the years I was on social media ('04-'10) certainly saw the most blog activity, as many people encountered The Nicsperiment through links on my Facebook account, and many others blogged (where they went is up for another discussion). But do I want my older relatives, distant schoolmates, and any random acquaintance who thinks I owe them the inside dirt on my personal life just that, as seen through the lens of a mid-90's punk album review?
I don't care that kids today don't read. I like to write, and I have always written The Nicsperiment for my own enjoyment. I don't care that I am missing out on a few thousand pageviews when those pageviews would come from people I'd rather not have in my personal business.
Then there's the photobucket thing. What a great example of the ephemerality of Internet-based media. All of those pictures gone. The answer to this is more difficult. I'll take the view hits to protect the integrity of The Nicsperiment, but will I revise all of that old content to again include the visual media it was meant to be augmented by?
Yes...over time.
I have already re-pictured all of the less visually-endowed 2004 and 2005, and I (thankfully!) started Google-hosting the pics on my new posts from June 2016 forward. Thus, the bookends of The Nicsperiment appear as they were always intended. The ten years in the middle will take time, especially the insanely prolific 2012 (270 legit posts!), and that includes all of the video game reviews I have posted on my other blogs.
With that said, I started a Nintendo 64 review site in 2013. I kept that blog extra secret for a while, wanting it to stay mysterious. I have decided that, as new pictures are now needed for the first two years of reviews, and as I re-launched that blog last year with a new review format, I will just re-launch again from the beginning, posting new pics and enhanced reviews in the place of the old ones (that all have dry writing, and ugly photobucket logos in the place of where the pictures used to be).
So, coming up next in my blogging world, a review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, multiple new reviews of games on various consoles, and a hopefully consistent stream of revitalized Nintendo 64 Museum reviews (the originals of which were never announced or linked to from here!). I might also sprinkle in some music reviews to finish off the leter "R," as the last ones are sort of stragglers. Plus, I'll slowly re-visualize the rest of the blog.
I'm excited! Inane Youtube video viewers and Facebook stalkers can stick it! I don't know what they can stick or where, but whatever.
The Nicsperiment forever!...or until Google decides it doesn't want to host it anymore.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Relient K -- Forget and Not Slow Down


Forget and Not Slow Down is the best album Relient K have ever released.
At some point in 2008, Matt Theissen allegedly cheated on his fiancée, and she left him. Theissen decided to go out in the middle of the woods and write an album about the experience. The band would then record it by natural methods, forgoing a lot of the computerized tracking they had done in the past. The listener is rewarded with great, focused songwriting by Theissen, and electric performances by the band. New drummer, Ethan Luck, and his spring-loaded drumming style brings a new energy to the other band members' playing. The result is Forget and Not Slow Down, a great rock record, with shades of punk (mostly found in Luck's gutsy drumming), a little piano, and a ton of emotion. With that said, I've written in the past that Theissen's songs about the opposite sex creep me out a little bit. Not here. Theissen is completely honest about his own feelings and failings, but also open about his darker emotions, of his disappointment at not getting another chance. He also plays to his all-time greatest lyrical and emotional strength, conveying the idea and feeling of getting knocked down...or tripping, and getting up again, and that everything can and will be okay. When he does get romantic, the songs are bittersweet, conveying wishes he knows won't come true. Still, the final feeling of the album is one of catharsis.
Overall, Forget and Not Slow Down is a remarkable album, one with perhaps an unfortunate catalyst, but a therapeutic experience nonetheless.

2009 Mono Vs Stereo/Jive
1. Forget and Not Slow Down (featuring Tim Skipper of House of Heroes) 3:22
2. I Don't Need a Soul 3:51
3. Candlelight 3:21
4. Flare (Outro) 1:00
5. Part of It 3:20
6. (Outro) 1:35
7. Therapy (featuring Brian McSweeney of Seven Day Jesus) 3:43
8. Over It" 3:54
9. Sahara (featuring Tim Skipper of House of Heroes, Aaron Gillespie of The Almost and Matt MacDonald of The Classic Crime) 3:49
10. Oasis (Intro) 0:41
11. Savannah 4:17
12. Baby (Outro) 0:46
13. If You Believe Me (featuring Matt MacDonald of The Classic Crime) 3:20
14. This Is the End 2:17
15. (If You Want It) 3:18

Monday, November 06, 2017

Relient K -- Five Score and Seven Years Ago


This is a tough one for me. I really enjoyed how Relient K's Mmhmm featured some actual punk tempos, but also showed some progressive song-structuring. The album had an edge at moments, and was unpredictable at others. I didn't feel like a youth group pastor just putting on what the kids liked to hear when I listened to it--I legitimately enjoyed it. Five Score and Seven Years Ago is a definite step back from Mmhmm. It begins with a sort of fakeout--"Come Right Out and Say It" and "I Need You" almost sound like direct advancements of the work on Mmhmm, even if they are far more rock than punk. Then, "The Best Thing"'s polished pop-rock rears its head. I won't pretend like "The Best Thing" is a bad song, just a departure into a direction that I'm not overly fond of. I can easily be objective when reviewing genres I don't favor (take my word for it...hahahahahah! You have no choice!), but from there the album becomes a little bit of a drag. "Forgiven" is a downer, especially considering that forgiveness as a concept is quite joyful. "Must Have Done Something Right" is cloying, sticky sweet pop rock with a heavy Beach Boys influence.

"Give Until There's Nothing Left" picks back up on the "this is a huge drag" vibe of "Forgiven," and "Devastation and Reform" grabs that baton and keeps on running. "I'm Taking You with Me" brightens things up, but also makes clear that almost ten tracks in, Relient K have dropped any pretense of being a punk rock band. This is a piano-heavy pop-rock album. Let's start another paragraph.
"Faking My Own Suicide" is the logical conclusion to every creepy, strangely controlling romantic song Matt Theissen ever wrote. I've generally felt a weird vibe from any song he'd penned about relationships with females up to this point, but "Faking My Own Suicide" is out in the open manipulative garbage. It might be appropriating a chapter from Tom Sawyer, but the truth is, this is the kind of stuff my divorced female friends and family who were in abusive marriages have told me their ex's would say to them.

So I’ve made up my mind
I will pretend to leave this world behind
And in the end you'll know I've lied
To get your attention, I'm faking my own suicide

I'm faking my own suicide
Because I know you love me, you just haven't realized
I'm faking my own suicide
They'll hold a double funeral because a part of you will die along with me

I wish you thought that I was dead
So rather than me, you'd be depressed instead
And before arriving at my grave
You'd come to the conclusion you'd loved me all your days
But its too late, too late for you to say

I'll write you a letter that you'll keep
Reminding you your love for me was more than six feet deep
You'll say aloud you would've been my wife
And right about that time, is when I'd come back to life
And let you know

That all along I was faking my own suicide
Because I know you loved me, you just never realized
I was faking my own suicide
I'll walk in the room and see your eyes open so wide

Because you know
You will never leave my side
Until I the day that I die for the first time
And we'll laugh, yeah, we'll laugh and we will cry
So overjoyed with our love thats so alive
Our love is so alive

I can't really point the finger--as a spouse more than a decade in, I've got a hell of a lot of room for improvement--but "Faking My Own Suicide" is the worst "I'm a nice guy, you'll see, I'll MAKE you see" crap I've ever heard. I hope an older, wiser Theissen, ten-years post-writing this, has grown past "Faking My Own Suicide"'s sentiments. Also, it's a damn twee-country song, and I only got three hours of sleep last night.
Thankfully, Five Score and Seven Years Ago ends with its three strongest songs, the rocking headrush of "Bite My Tongue," the fiery, infectious enthusiasm of "Up and Up," and the staggering, eleven minute "Deathbed."
"Deathbed" is a career highlight, Theissen's best storytelling on full display. He does great character work here in service of the tale of a grizzled old man reflecting on his life at its end, and the band do a great job of keeping the music interesting for the duration. As much as I slagged Theissen above, he deserves credit for crafting a great, extremely memorable song here. The surprise appearance by Switchfoot's Jon Foreman at the end only sweetens deal.
Thus ends a record I'm not very fond of, but can't call terrible. It is merely okay, a mix of some truly lousy, unenjoyable songs, and some really good ones. Now that I've reviewed it, outside of "Up and Up" and "Deathbed," I'll probably never listen to it again.
The end.

2007 Gotee/Capitol
1. Pleading the Fifth (a cappella) 1:13
2. Come Right Out and Say It 3:00
3. I Need You 3:18
4. The Best Thing 3:28
5. Forgiven 4:05
6. Must Have Done Something Right 3:19
7. Give Until There's Nothing Left 3:27
8. Devastation and Reform 3:41
9. I'm Taking You with Me 3:28
10. Faking My Own Suicide 3:23
11. Crayons Can Melt on Us for All I Care 0:12
12. Bite My Tongue 3:30
13. Up and Up 4:03
14. Deathbed 11:05

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Relient K -- Mmhmm


I purchased Relient K's Mmhmm from a brand new Wal Mart on the way to vote for a man who didn't win. Afterward, while snacking on Wal Mart-purchased Apples, I drove through a downpour, waving to sign-holding supporters of the man who didn't win while I sat in my warm car, listening to Relient K's Mmhmm.
The fall of 2004 holds a special place in my heart. For one thing, it was (FINALLY) my last semester of college, and for another, I had recently kicked that 9-month migraine thing, and in the process, was feeling free from a lot of the chains that had been holding me down. Wow, now that I type that, I realize that migraine was sort of like a pregnancy for my own sanity and freedom.
Enough of all that personal history, though. I just wanted to get it out of the way to show I may be a bit biased in this review. However, objective is my middle name. Or maybe it's objectionable?
Regardless, Mmhmm shows vast growth for pop-punk brigands, Relient K. From the start, the guitars have more punch, the band, drummer included, actually plays a fast, aggressive punk beat, there's a punchy, tempo-changing pre-chorus, an everything but the guitars fall-out blink-182 2nd pre-chorus, and then finally, a real chorus. It's a rush, full of energy, and unpredictable. Second track, "Be My Escape" keeps the unpredictability going, injecting a healthy share of piano, as well. Even the bass player sounds like he wants to prove something. "High of 75" continues the energy blast, with a rapidly-strummed acoustic guitar, an unexpected drum-machine appearance, and a carefree attitude.
"I So Hate Consequences," a career highlight, follows. This song continues the high energy, high unpredictability streak, but takes it to a higher emotional place than the band often reach, with a particularly powerful piano bridge about religious forgiveness.

Relient K are one of the worst offenders in the "is this song about God or girl" songwriters coalition (membership requirement: "USE PRONOUNS!"), so it is always nice when they differentiate. As someone who is religious and also loves a female, I get pretty bored with that kind of vagueness. The subject of "I Hate So Hate Consequences" is transparent.
Track five, "The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse Is Betting on One", is a short (except in title), but sweet political ditty, and then the energy flags just a bit. "My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend" keeps up the trend of vocalist, Matt Theissen's romantic songs creeping me out a bit, as I find them possessive and strangely controlling. "More Than Useless" is synth-heavy and disposable, leaning on the "I'm a screw-up, but it's okay" trope a little too heavily. The album gets back on track with the two parter "Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet?/Let It All Out" a break-up mini-rock opera, which changes gears about a million times, features a banjo, and ends in a strange, peaceful, ethereal piano cloud that Coldplay used to live on before they got obsessed with proving that they are not old. This is wisely followed by the high-energy "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been," reminiscent of the album's opening tracks, but without as many twists and turns.
"Maintain Consciousness" is as disposable as "More Than Useless," as Theissen rails against prescription drugs or something. It always bothers me when someone who doesn't suffer from (or doesn't admit to suffer from) mental illness tries to comment on it. I think he is actually trying to say something about the public's waning attention span, but the lyrics are muddled. Whatever, it's three-minutes, and it's over. "This Week the Trend" picks things back up, though like "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been," does so pretty straightforwardly.
"Life After Death & Taxes (Failure II)," is appropriately thematically heavy for a penultimate track, setting things up nicely for epic finale, "When I Go Down," another one of Theissen's classic, "get knocked-down, get back up again," closers. "When I Go Down" changes gears many, many times, and as I tossed and turned one night after graduation, wondering what the heck I was going to do with my life, it actually brought me great peace, just like it probably did for all of those just-started-college millennials who had likely just voted in their first election because P Diddy told them to.
The end.

2004 Gotee/Capitol
0. MMHMM -0:17
1. The One I'm Waiting For 3:02
2. Be My Escape 4:00
3. High of 75 2:27
4. I So Hate Consequences 4:01
5. The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse Is Betting on One 1:13
6. My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend 2:28
7. More Than Useless 3:50
8. Which to Bury, Us or the Hatchet? 4:11
9. Let It All Out 4:21
10. Who I Am Hates Who I've Been 3:52
11. Maintain Consciousness 2:52
12. This Week the Trend 2:59
13. Life After Death & Taxes (Failure II) 4:23
14. When I Go Down 6:42