Search This Blog

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's recent release, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is no longer the most recently released Zelda console game. That didn't stop me from recently playing through it, though, and reviewing it at the below Link...get it?
Spoiler alert! The game's controversial legacy is deserved!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Total Obscurity! The Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance Review You Didn't Know You Wanted or Needed!

Yes, I wrote another review for a game no one cares about, on a system no one cares about. Sorry, I can't help it. Just like Demi Lovato said, this is real, this is me.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Friday, April 21, 2017

Composite Mood



Bad start today. Maybe start over?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Animal Crossing Review Up on The Gamecube Archives

I have made good on my promise to focus more of my retro-gaming on the Nintendo Gamecube, with my first review, published here.
I had a ton of fun writing it, and also rediscovering how fun and immersive Animal Crossing can be.
Looking forward to hopefully writing many more of these.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Nicsperiment's Honest Truth

When I went to college, I couldn't pick a major. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I changed majors a thousand times. For a brief time, I even co-majored in History and Religious Studies! Back then, Louisiana had a special, recently rolled out program called TOPS. TOPS would pay for a full, four-year college tuition for any willing, in-state student with a good high school GPA and high ACT test score. The only catch was, you had to go to a Louisiana college, and you had to begin in the fall semester directly following high school graduation. I had wanted to take some time away from education, to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but the lure of free college was too tempting not to bite. I gave in and took the free tuition to LSU.
Finally, in my third of nearly five years at LSU, I settled on an English major, with a core concentration in Creative Writing, with minors in Film Theory and History (added in my final semester, when I realized I only needed six hours to get it!). I don't know if I am supposed to capitalize those or not, but it sure makes them look more important! I picked Creative Writing because I knew I enjoyed it, and would enjoy taking the classes--I had been writing short stories since I was a wee lad, anyway. I thought that being a writer would be cool, but didn't really think about what my career would be, or how I would make money after college, or that I would be alive after college and have to support myself in order to continue being alive, or that I might even get married and have my very own family that I would have to support in order for them to continue to be alive, too.
I bounced around from whatever job would have me, to whatever slightly better job would have me, and now, thirteen years, a wife and a kid later, it looks like I finally have a pretty clear shot at success in life as a paper-pusher. Awesome! Just what I thought I would do in college!
I don't know if I will ever be paid to put to use what I learned in college about writing (Studying under a twice-nominated for a Pulitzer mad-genius. I was his prized pupil, and I feel like I am disappointing him every single day of my life!). In complete honesty, I must admit, I haven't written a work of short fiction in over five years. However, in that span, I have blogged quite a bit. My blog started as a way to bloviatingly barf out all my emotions...while meanwhile cultivating an image of myself that was probably not realistic. Then I gave that a rest, before finally bringing The Nicsperiment back to focus on a sort of life retrospective framed under the guise of reviewing every album in my bloviated music collection. Yeah, I know I just technically used "bloviated" in the incorrect context, but I DON'T CARE!!! HAHAHAHA! This is my space, and I can use it however I want!
That's what the blog has been. A personal space. And hidden deep within this blog are the most personal expressions of who I really am as a person. Those personal expressions are my Travelogues.
When I die, I think there is one artistic achievement I should be remembered by, the only thing I would be proud to show to Mr. Madden at heaven's gate, attached to the phrase: I did this! Well, actually, I wrote a handful of stories about a decade ago that I think he'd be really proud of, as well, but as far as honestly expressing myself artistically and who I am as a human being over the last thirteen years of my life, I don't think I've done it better in anything than the travelogues I post on The Nicsperiment. So if anyone is reading this in the future, and is curious about who the author of The Nicsperiment really was, type "travelogue" into the search bar.
That's it. That's me.
Where gloves? photo DCP_0007.jpg

Monday, April 10, 2017

Travelogue: Brownell Memorial Park Carillon and The Mystery of the Morgan City Rambler


A few years ago, I was at Grand Isle, LA, but I was not fishing, crabbing, shrimping, or beaching like the other whales. I was watching cable access television. Some glorious local program, sponsored by a local motorcycle company, featured a hip leather-jacket clad couple gallivanting around strange locations in South Louisiana. At some point, much like a fever dream in a Stephen King novel, there was a massive tower in the middle of nowhere, full of ringing bells.  I sat up, entranced by its blissful, alien melodies.
"I am going to this place," I sang in whale song.
I began my journey, aka, I did not go to that place and lived my normal life for several years, then thought, oh yeah, that bell thing, and went a couple of weeks ago. Here, translated from my native Whaleanese, which is essentially just yiddish with more bubbles, is the tale of my adventure. Please blame all of the typos and grammatical errors on the translator, a wily moray eel named Frank that I met through Craig's List.  Okay, Frank, but some dots right here, or something.
*     *     *
I set out for Morgan City not so early in the morning because the bell thing, or Carillon, located in Morgan City, LA, did not open until ten that morning. Research, which I don't really like to do for these travelogues, instead just typing whatever stupid garbage first pops into my mind, shows that the 106-feet tall Carillon features 61 bells. varying in size between 18 and 4730 pounds, and was built by someone with entirely too much disposable income back when people could afford such things. Songs of great depth can be played through the Carillon by means of an actual human sitting at a clavier. Clavier sounds like clavicle. It would be cool if the clavier was made out of clavicles.
A clavier is like a piano, and that cable access show I watched featured footage from the top of the tower, where an actual human played songs on the bells through a clavier.  Now you possibly know what a Carillon is, or you just got bored and clicked your bookmarked porn or knitting site of choice, and are still waiting for it to load.
For those still with me, Morgan City is a a town in South Louisiana. I'd say it is on the ocean, or more specifically, on the Gulf of Mexico, but in South Louisiana, outside of Grand Isle, no town is actually on the ocean.  It is generally the town, and then 10-20 miles of mud, and then the ocean. Plus, our whole state is slowly sinking into the gulf, thanks the weight of deposited sediment. Thanks a lot, Father of Waters.
I had never been to Morgan City before, even though it is 90-minutes from my house. I set out on a nearly empty stomach because I heard they feed you real good in Morgan City, and I was tired of eating nothing but krill. Eh, I'm tired of the "I'm a whale" joke already. I'll drop it now, I guess (ED. NOTE: Wait, am I still getting paid? I have a family to support. How will I feed my eel pups? The minnow harvest was low this year. My wife has been giving her portion to the kids every night. Did you know we lay over 10,000 eggs. Do you have any idea how much food it takes to feed 10,000 starving eels? My wife is wasting away! I'm so weak, I can barely type this! Pl). Yes, it is definitely time to drop this dumb whale schtick. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes.
The day before my trip, I decided to head to FYE. I have this tradition of purchasing cheap used CD's blind, and then listening to them on road trips. Not only is this fun and surprising, but sometimes you happen upon a real winner. See: this travelogue for reference.
However, this winter, FYE closed. Physical media is dead. I decided to do the digital equivalent and purchase three $5 albums blind from Amazon's digital store, because that plucky little company could use a little more capital.
I put on one of these albums, Past Life, by a new band called Unwill. This album is metalcore in the style of Underoath, by which I mean it is by 20-year-old white, middle-class dudes with their whole lives ahead of them, who hate themselves and wish they were dead, which in turn makes me feel really old and out of touch. It was pretty good.
The drive to Morgan City was very swampy, and I got to travel down one of my favorite stretches of Louisiana highway, LA 69 (also, if LA 69 PM's you, IGNORE). LA 69, once you pass the speed trap in White Castle (not the burger place, the impoverished, badly aging town that needs to catch you speeding to make rent), runs along Avoca Island Cutoff Bayou, and there are houses on the other side of the bayou that can only be reached by tiny, hand-pulled, wood-plank ferries. Lest this sound like some made-up thing I saw on a True Detective episode, here is a picture I took for proof. There are five or six houses like this along the bayou, and this is one of the reasons I love Louisiana.

I then took a right onto Highway 70 at Pierre Part, and started seeing a ton of "Abortion Is Murder" signs. In the last half decade, I have completely stripped The Nicsperiment of any political identity, but all of these signs reminded me of an ex co-worker who thinks and says in these exact words, "Liberals want to kill all the babies. In fact, they actually probably want to kill everybody." That sounds like a very well-reasoned and well-educated political argument, and a great reason to vote for conservative politicians--actually, this ex co-worker admits this is the only reason he votes for conservative politicians...and he's right. Surely every one of American's 175 million non-conservatives wakes up each day, immediately thinking, "How the hell could I kill a bunch of babies this morning? I hate those damn little things so much. Hmm...what could I eat for breakfast this morning? Man, I wish babies were edible. Two birds with one stone, there. Plus, that would cut down on climate change. We need to get more liberals like me in political office to make this happen. I hope those conservative voters don't foil my liberal plans!" Maybe that old co-worker of mine will one day run for office. He'd probably win. And this is one of the reasons I hate Louisiana.
I crossed a bridge I once saw at a distance at sunset while driving my cousin to his bachelor party at a Pierre Part Bar called Crobar. For some reason, though, I couldn't remember where Crobar was, only that there were a lot of bug and animal noises outside when we were leaving it, and Google maps it in the middle of a swamp. Hmm...

I then drove along Louisiana's most prevalent landmass, a levee, for quite some time, until I saw a sign along the highway, and took a hard left into the woods.

I crossed my fingers and hoped that Brownell Memorial Park was free to enter...and just like your mother, it was!
I drove a short distance and ended up at a classic swamp shack (still waiting to see my first "post-modern" swamp shack).

The shack was manned by a very nice, talkative woman. An elderly Colorado couple happened to pull up at the same time as me, and bore the brunt of her sweet hospitality, but when I saw a poster for Tarzan of the Apes, I had to ask, "Was this movie shot here?"

"Yes," she replied. "We actually showed a screening of it a few years ago...it was...well...um...it was...interesting."
Well, with a tagline like "TARZAN DID NOT KNOW WHY HE CARESSED HER...HE HAD NEVER SEEN A WHITE WOMAN BEFORE," I don't understand why it could have been anything out of the ordinary, but seeing as my own wife is not white, maybe I am missing something. Do white women have some kind of magical power? Should I try to caress one?
After looking at some photos of the bells' construction, I headed back out to the walking path. Brownell Memorial Park borders Lake Palourde, which is part of the Atchafalaya Basin. Also, a manatee was spotted there last year! but I didn't see it (ED. NOTE: That's because the manatee, washed into the lake by a storm, shortly died in the fresh, cold water). Brownell Memorial Park is like my wife of non-European descent-- and this is no offense to the women whose mere presence causes Tarzan to compulsively caress them-- beautiful, but in an entirely different way, though I guess I could make a bunch of awful double-entendrees about swamp and hanging moss or something. This is a family blog, though, so you perverted, life-hating liberals will get none of that!

Also, there's a sculpture of some dude just chilling with a bunch of raccoons, with absolutely no explanation. And this is one of the reasons I love Louisiana.

Wait, it looks like there's an explanatory plaque right to his left. How could I have missed that? But wait, why is it on his left side? More liberal lies and distortion!
Speaking of lies, you know how I told you that The Carillon has 61 bells that are played by a clavier? Apparently, the one at Brownell Memorial Park is only played on special occasions.  The rest of the time, every fifteen minutes, speakers, controlled by a computer, play pre-recorded bell music. I realized this after seeing the mysterious tower rise up out of the woods, then produce beautiful music without a single bell ringing...wait a minute...oh, no. I just realized something. The bells are hammered. Not rung. So actually, the computer program might still be ringing the bells. I just wouldn't be able to see them ringing, because they wouldn't be moving. Oh crap, I need to make a phone call real quick...here's a picture I took of the tower to keep you occupied--

(30 MINUTES LATER)
--okay, I just had the most charming conversation with the lovely older woman in the visitor's center, as well as a woman in the Morgan City tourism department. It turns out that neither of them actually know if the computer program is playing the bells, or just playing pre-recorded music...but I don't recall seeing any kind of speaker up there. Maybe the bells were really ringing. Maybe, instead of just having knee jerk reactions, I should make sure my opinions are informed by thoughtful dialogue and the accrual of facts. Nah, that just sounds like some kind of snowflake jibber-jabber! This is a free country, and I can think what I want!
Anyway, as a cool peaceful breeze blew off the lake, I sat in peace and filmed the tower chiming 11, and playing a couple of songs.

I then got up to take a walk around Brownell Park's lovely, but incredibly short walking paths.
This is when I felt the pain on my butt.
Something was biting me and it wasn't existential dread, or the encroachment of time; this wasn't metaphysical, but an actual creature with teeth, sinking those teeth into the left cheek of my buttocks.
I immediately spanked myself, unfortunately in front of that couple from Colorado, and then fled to a private place in the woods where I could stick my hand down my pants, which is something I'm thinking about putting on my Linked In account. After fishing around, fearing a large black widow and leg meat-liquidification, I discovered, removed, and promptly crushed the culprit: a large fire ant. I hate those guys. By this point, the Colorado couple had fled, and I had the Park all to myself, including this lovely vista.

I then did what every sane person would do in that instance: I sat on a bench and played Chrono Trigger on my DS for an hour.

After a lovely gameplay session, I looked up to see a little friend from the game had come to life, and was sitting on a broken bench on the edge of the lake.

Most people would take this frog as a sign that God or the universe loves them, or would simply think, "What a lovely frog!" or (if you're a hypocritical, offspring hating liberal) "What a horrid frog, let me squash it with my shoe so it doesn't spawn!" but I instead thought this:
Wait a minute, did Chris from work give me this copy of Chrono Trigger, or did he just loan it to me? Will I have to give it back some day? Should I ask him if he gave it to me, or if he wants money for it, or if he wants it back some day? What if he did give it to me, but he forgot that he gave it to me, and will then want something for it if I mention it to him? But aren't material goods impermanent? Chrono Trigger is your favorite video game of all time, and has been for 20 years. You still have your original Super Nintendo copy, which still works and holds your original save file. This portable version, which you received for free, is only a convenience, and you can't take either version with you when you die! But what if they don't even make it that long? Video game systems weren't meant to last for decades upon decades. Eventually, all of the video games and systems you've collected will not only become obsolete, but non-functional. But then, won't physical media go the way of the dodo, anyway? Look at what just happened to FYE. Won't everything be easily available digitally? Even if isn't, and the physical copies of your video games still somehow miraculously work, are you going to be playing Chrono Trigger on your DS in bed in 50 years when you are in your mid-80's? No, probably not. It's not material goods that matter. It's people. It's human relationships. Wait a minute, how did I get to this section of woods? I haven't even been paying attention to my physical surroundings, I have been lost so deeply in this metaphysical, existential mental quandary. Look what's staring at me? A huge owl! My, how we can miss the beauty of creation by worrying about possessions and property. Who owns this beautiful owl? Who can know if it has a soul? But seriously, though, did Chris say I could have this, or did he just loan it to me?

After all this foolishness, I realized I was hungry and left.
I took Highway 70 into Morgan City, and searched for the near legendary Morgan's Restaurant. This restaurant, like Dolly Parton, is famous for two things (in her case, her wit and humor):
1. Its near perfect rating and status as top-ranked Morgan City restaurant on Trip Adviser. For some perspective, when people talk about Louisiana food being the best in the world, they're talking about the food in a town like Morgan City.
2. It is located in a hotel lobby.
That's right, the highest-rated restaurant in a town more full of good food than Uncle Scrooge's Money Bin is full of doubloons' best restaurant shares a space with the Clarion Inn Hotel.

Let me tell you something else ("Please" let me tell you something else?): Morgan's is a buffet--it has a full menu, but the buffet is its claim to fame. In the early 2000's, after the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi was constructed, many people, myself included, were excited about its buffet--I don't gamble, but I do eat. Unfortunately, I have never found the Beau Rivage buffet very satisfying. Morgan's kills it. It is everything I wanted Beau Rivage to be. The food at Morgan's skews more typically "Southern" than "Cajun"---think smothered fried chicken over jambalaya--but good gravy, and I ate a whole lot of gravy that day, it was delicious. I didn't take any pictures of my food because that would have just been obscene, considering the amount of plates I put away, and the three tall glasses of Dr. Pepper and Sweet Tea (always capitalized) I dumped down my gullet. At some point, my wife called me, and her sweet voice lifted me out of my eating-induced stupor. Full of good food and my wife's optimism, I drove around Morgan City aimlessly.
Morgan City, like most towns in South Louisiana, has three markers.
Giant Catholic Church around which the entire town is based:

Check.
Cemetary that holds a sum of bodies greater than the entire current population of the town.

Check.
Badly aging, down-on-its-luck downtown area that's seen better days.
Check, and mate.
Actually, I am only saying that about Morgan City's downtown to serve a narrative I already predetermined before even visiting the city, something I learned from those godless liberals I heard about on TV. The downtown is actually composed of several streets, contains a park with a cool fountain, and an awesome-looking blues bar that I will surely visit if I ever find myself in the vicinity of Morgan City after dark.
Another interesting fact: following the will of our fearless leader, who God obviously intends to use in a sort of pussy-grabbing Moses role to lead us to the promised land, you stupid godless liberals, Morgan City is a walled city. In all seriousness, there is a wall protecting the city from the Atchafalaya River, who, much like our President, can get a little too handsy. This makes for quite a strange effect, but rather than some nebulous concept, like a murdering, raping, job-stealing immigrant, it keeps out something that is only fluid on an elemental level.
The truth is, Morgan City has a cool, totally unique vibe and attitude. I mean, you are welcomed into the town by a shrimp boat.

Which is a great insult to any shrimp visiting from out of town, but for everyone else, it is an original, warm welcome.
Bolstered by this knowledge, my wife's encouragement, and the rather alarming quantity of medicinals I procured from the local Walgreen's to counter-effect the feeling of consuming double-digit pounds of food, I decided to re-visit Brownell Memorial Park Carillon on the way out of town.
I leapt out of my car, strode through the woods, past the tower, to the lapping shores of Lake Palourde, where I pissed into the waves as a conqueror.

Suck it, libtards!!!

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Police -- Every Breath You Take: The Classics


10/10

If I wanted to show someone what The Police were about in one album, I'd play, Every Breath You Take: The Classics. In our current streaming-based musical climate, a greatest hits compilation might seem silly. However, for a band like The Police, who were so musically diverse, yet never quite nailed a perfect album, this greatest hits collection is the perfect gateway to their work. It showcases the raw, reggae-influenced urgency of their first album, the jammier, more stretched out and polished version of that on their second, the combination of the sound of their second album with a more pop-leaning on their third, the complete abandonment of reggae with a dark, deeper focus on pop-experimentation of their fourth, and the focus on Sting's more adult contemporary solo sound from their fifth and final. The Police are one of my favorite all-time bands, but even I can admit that hearing all of their best work together is better for a newcomer than say, diving immediately into the heady, stretched out jams of Zenyatta Mondatta. You really get the full-range of their talents here, and thankfully, none of the songs are edited down--for instance, "Walking on the Moon" still gets to space out for its full five minutes. Also, the songs are in near chronological order (and in complete album order), marking the gradual change in sound subtle, so that the trip from track one, "Roxanne" to track twelve, "Wrapped Around Your Finger" feels like a natural journey. As a bonus, at the end you also get the drum-machine and keyboard soaked 1986 re-imagining of "Don't Stand So Close to Me," and a more muscular, but slightly compressed-sounding remix of "Message in a Bottle."
You can't go wrong with this collection. There are plenty of bloated "Greatest Hits" compilations full of head-scratching omissions. To perfectly distill everything this short-lived, but incredible band could do in 12 tracks is a miracle, and one not to be missed. You could probably even stream it!

1995 A&M
1. Roxanne 3:11
2. Can't Stand Losing You 2:58
3. Message in a Bottle 4:50
4. Walking on the Moon 5:01
5. Don't Stand So Close to Me 4:04
6. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da 4:06
7. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic 4:19
8. Invisible Sun 3:44
9. Spirits in the Material World 2:58
10. Every Breath You Take 4:13
11. King of Pain 4:57
12. Wrapped Around Your Finger 5:14
13. Don't Stand So Close to Me '86 4:51
14. Message in a Bottle" (New Classic Rock mix) 4:51

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Police -- Synchronicity


9/10

It is useful to look at the side change for the vinyl version of The Police's final studio album, Synchronicity, to fully understand it. The first side serves as the first half of an eclectic, slightly uneven, strangely reggae-less Police record, and the second is Sting's audition as a solo artist. The first includes the two-part album-titled  energetic rocker song cycle, the world-music-inspired "Walking in Your Footsteps," the jazzy, downbeat "O My God," Andy Summers' bonkers "Mother," and Stewart Copeland's quick, pleasant "Miss Gradenko." The latter two songs, written respectively by the band's guitarist and guitar player, are their last for the band. "Mother" is an atonal nightmare, a bit of a joke with Summers wailing about his mother, but good fun if you're expecting it. "Miss Gradenko" is another Copeland song that would sound better if someone besides Sting sang it--Sting sounds again out of his element and disinterested singing Copeland's song.
Flip the record, though, and you hear a side from an entirely different album. It kicks off with "Every Breath You Take," The Police's biggest hit, and one of the best-selling rock songs of all time. Sting shows up with an entirely new singing voice, smooth, deeper, pitch perfect, as if he's been saving it for this exact moment. The song is ubiquitous, and has been for more than 30 years...and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't great. With its strange , haunting mix of voyeurism and seduction, it's a timeless song. Sting follows this up with "King of Pain." It's near adult contemporary, and Summers and Copeland are relegated to mere supporting players, but it's another timeless one. "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is the same. The vinyl closes with "Tea in the Sahara," a haunting, atmospheric song, featuring minimalistic, but ethereal textures by Summers, subtle, lovely rhythm from Copeland, and one of Sting's most haunting sets of lyrics and vocals.
This is the final full-length work by a band who were getting into fistfights with each other and couldn't even be in the same room during the recording process. It's easy to see in the sleeve photo, with Sting wearing sunglasses and his bandmates eyes naked, that he is too cool for school here, and ready to leave the talented, but equally headstrong Copeland and Summers behind. The tension, though, resulted in a great album, not perfect due to its inconsistency, but great. Even with Sting wielding a heavy-hand, Copeland and Summers' singular talent at their respective instruments shines through in each song. Even though Sting wields that hand heaviest on the second side, it's probably the strongest four song streak the band, and Sting himself for that matter, have put to tape.
If you listen to this through a more modern medium than vinyl, you also get the bonus closer, "Murder by Numbers," a jazzy, political song that is icing on Synchronicity's cake. So on a metaphysical level, I recommend the vinyl, but on a practical level, I recommend the CD or MP3 version. If they could have stopped punching each other in the face, I really would like to see what they would have come up with next.

Such a dreamy song, even with its sinister lyrics. I remember being sick as a child, lying on the couch, fading in and out of waking, this video on the television.

1983 A&M
1. Synchronicity I 3:23
2. Walking in Your Footsteps 3:36
3. O My God 4:02
4. Mother 3:05
5. Miss Gradenko 2:00
6. Synchronicity II 5:00
7. Every Breath You Take 4:13
8. King of Pain 4:59
9. Wrapped Around Your Finger 5:13
10. Tea in the Sahara 4:11
11. Murder by Numbers (cassette and CD only) 4:36

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Police -- Ghost in the Machine


6/10

Ghost in the Machine is the weirdest Police record, and also the most disappointing. That album cover, along with the opening track, "Spirits in the Material World," gives the impression that the listener is in for some kind of dark, futuristic mysticism--all three band members operating at full capacity in a sort of endless moonlight groove, over a signature synth-line. Then, track two pops up, and it's the poppiest song The Police ever recorded. Still, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," is infectious and energetic, and features a 90-second outro full of drummer Stewart Copeland going nuts. Copeland then has a hand tied behind his back for "Invisible Sun," a dark, cool, and driving synth-focused track that relegates the master drummer to mostly hitting one tom. The song seems to continue the themes of "Spirits in the Material World," and it appears the listener is getting a concept album exploring the title of the album, with some pop hits mixed in. And then Sting starts wailing on the saxophone.
I don't want to say that tracks four, five, six, seven, and eight are all complete missteps, but that five song stretch is a definite low-point in The Police's oeuvre. Sting tries to sing in French on one of these, but no matter what language he's singing in, these songs are pretty bad. The space The Police explored so deftly on their past albums is completely missing here. Sting's "melodies" often involve constant, staccato-style singing, and during the rare moment that he isn't doing that, he's picked up the afore-mentioned sax and starting blowing away. The time-signatures are essentially all a robotic 4/4, leaving Copeland little room to improvise, and guitarist, Andy Summers, to noodle away in the wash of noise. When the time-signature and tempo finally does change, and Copeland bursts free on track eight, "One World (Not Three)," the song is so goofy and sax-saturated, it doesn't even make a difference. However, if you take the song away from the horrid river pushing it downstream, i.e., the previous four tracks, it works a lot better.

Then, as suddenly as it horrifically appeared, the sax disappears. I love the saxophone, but I do not love when Sting tries to play the saxophone on The Police records. The three closing songs mirror the three openers, as they don't sound like the album's awful middle. "Omegaman"'s chorus guitar-line sounds unfortunately like a saxophone, reawakening bad memories barely put to bed, but it's so driving in its other sections, it is a great change of pace. "Secret Journey" sounds like what "Spirits in the Material World" hinted the entire album would sound like, dark and mystical, with plenty of space for every member of the band to explore. The album ends with Stewart Copeland's greatest songwriting contribution to the The Police's catalogue, "Darkness." Interestingly enough, with Stewart as songwriter, the drums are very minimal, but the song, mostly piano-based, does a great job of creating an atmosphere of self-doubt. Most shockingly of all, Sting actually sings somebody else's song like he means it. Thus ends The Police's weakest record. Four albums in four years can do that to you.
This vinyl was around the house during my early childhood. I don't remember having this negative a reaction to it, but then again, we only listened to one side at a time. I never had to listen to tracks four through eight straight on without that merciful pause between five and six. Still, I really enjoy the first three and last three tracks, and as much as I dislike the middle five, it's still The Police. I'd rather listen to this than Justin Bieber. Beiber? Beeber?

1980 A&M Records
1. Spirits in the Material World 2:59
2. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic 4:22
3. Invisible Sun 3:44
4. Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi) 2:52
5. Demolition Man 5:57
6. Too Much Information 3:43
7. Rehumanize Yourself 3:10
8. One World (Not Three) 4:47
9. Ωmegaman 2:48
10. Secret Journey 3:34
11. Darkness 3:14

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Police -- Zenyatta Mondatta


9/10

If you're like me, and enjoy the jammy, reggae-injected side of The Police the best, their five-album catalogue peaks right in the middle, at Zenyatta Mondatta. The band is more beholden to Sting's pop experiments on their latter two albums, but the more free, less polished, trademarked trio-stylings reach their zenith right here--and each member is firing away at every talented cylinder. Perhaps this is because the band recorded Zenyatta Mondatta on such a tight schedule. There was not time to go back and tinker with songs, or for Sting to add a bunch of saxophones. In a few cases, there wasn't even time to write lyrics. This all leads to the "purest" sound The Police achieved on record. There are still huge hits, "Don't Stand So Close to Me," and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da," which practically definined the band's career. But through each track, there's the constant feel of three guys in a room, jamming together, fully exploring their potent chemistry. I talked in my Reggatta de Blanc review about how The Police were able to record some instrumental moments that I wish could go on forever. That's almost this entire album. If I had to boil it down to one moment, it's the outro of the ridiculously titled, but deceptively deep "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da." The band hit upon a groove that could very well last forever. The sound engineer fades the song out while Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland are still playing, and I wonder how long it took for the three of them to actually stop. If I was any one of them, I would have played that part until my fingers slipped from bleeding. There's also a mystical feeling produced here, mostly created in the album's two near instrumentals (there are two purely instrumental songs, as well). "Voices Inside My Head" and "Shadows in the Rain" feature minimal lyrics that are more mantras than anything, as the band hammer away at some timeless musical stone. If the album has a flaw, it's the one that eventually caused the band's demise: Sting wrote all but three of these songs, and when his bandmates write lyrics and melodies for him to sing, they both don't quite suit him, and don't seem to stir his fancy. Thankfully, two out of these three songs are instrumentals (and one won a Grammy!), but Stewart Copeland's "Bombs Away," while not lacking in musical quality, stands out from the rest of the pack for the reason stated above--Sting just doesn't seem into it, and the singing pattern and melody are quite clearly different from the ones he writes for himself. So Zenyatta Mondatta isn't quite perfect (and not giving it a ten is causing me a near existential crisis), but it is a near-perfect distillation of The Police's classic trio sound, and a sublime one, at that. Also, that Stewart Copeland is a pretty good drummer.


1980 A&M
1. Don't Stand So Close to Me 4:04
2. Driven to Tears 3:20
3. When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around 3:38
4. Canary in a Coalmine 2:26
5. Voices Inside My Head 3:53
6. Bombs Away 3:06
7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da 4:09
8. Behind My Camel 2:54
9. Man in a Suitcase 2:19
10. Shadows in the Rain 5:04
11. The Other Way of Stopping 3:22

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Police -- Reggatta de Blanc


9/10

Now we're talking. The reason I list The Police among my favorite bands, even if I don't think they ever nailed a perfect album, is because they've written and performed so many musical moments that I've wanted to last forever. Regatta de Blanc, the band's second full-length album, is full of those moments.
While their debut album showcased the band's ability to fuse rock and punk to reggae, it only showed the beginnings of The Police's mastery of space. No, I don't mean space like they are the kings of the solar system or galaxy...I mean space in the music for the songs and each individual instrument to breathe. Space is one of the most important factors in music for me. One of the reasons I struggled to get into say, the metalcore craze of the late 00's, is because the majority of that music had zero space. It was generally just note note note note note note note--no room for any particular element, or even the elements together to shine. Injecting space into your music shows a certain humility and a trust in your bandmates--trust that you're better together, and that you don' have to play constantly to show you are better than they are. Granted, The Police only made it to five albums because each incredibly talented member had a huge ego, but within their greatest performances, there's a certain respect for each other's musical capabilities that makes the trio greater than any member has been since the band split apart.
Reggatta de Blanc's opener, "Message in a Bottle," highlights everything I've just said. Musically, the song is yet another display of reggae-rock fusion, but something else gives it a timeless quality that's kept it musically relevant nearly 40 years later--a fusion of urgency and space. The desperate loneliness of the song's lyrics, coupled with guitarist, Andy Summers' legendary verse guitar-line, Sting's driving bass in the chorus, and Stewart Copeland's "c'mon, guys" impatient (Sonic the Hedgehog-esque) toe-tapping drumming convey the urgency, but the airy second half of the chorus, Copeland's suddenly patient drums, Sting's reggae bass line, and Summers stretched-out playing give the song space--and consequently amp up anticipation and give the song even more urgency...urgency you probably wish this sentence had had. "Message in a Bottle"'s fantastic minute-and-a-half outro combines both elements...and creates one of those moments I wish could last forever.
As I said before, Reggatta de Blanc is loaded with these type of moments--the bridge and outro of "Bring on the Night," on top of the technical difficulty of the performances, for instance. Here's a live version...it's a ridiculous display of talent and creativity (even if Sting hits a bum note in the solo!).

However, my favorite song on this album, and one of my favorite songs ever, is "Walking on the Moon." It moves at one of the most relaxed paces of any Police song, and it flew under my radar until the spring of 1999, when I was a junior in high school. I was sitting in my car behind town after class, chilling before heading to work, when "Walking on the Moon" came on the radio. I immediately knew it was the Police because no one else has ever sounded like The Police, but the sense of space in the song was more than I had heard even they create before. Granted the song was nearly 18-years old at the time, but it felt completely new to me. The relaxed bassline, the amazingly technical drums that seem to be floating in the air, the spacey--and this time I MEAN outer space--guitar that somehow seems to exist between everything, yet leaves an infinity between each strum, and the ageless sound of Sting's vocals--it is a career highlight, and it is easily in my top five favorite songs ever--I wish it was three hours long. That outro could easily never end.

If Reggatta de Blanc has a weakness, it's that Sting didn't write all of the songs. I'm not disparaging the indispensable Copeland, without whose singular drumming, the band would not exist, but the more whimsical, jokey nature of the two tracks he contributes here, "On Any Other Day," and "Does Everyone Stare," just doesn't quite fit with the rest, even though those songs aren't bad. This would be a problem that would eventually lead to the band's demise--while each member was equally talented overall, Sting is by far the most talented singer and song-writer. While he has his missteps in the band's catalogue, as well, it's always a clear detriment when he isn't behind the pen or the mic. Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are far from supporting players--each member of The Police is The Police. The band could not have existed with other person occupying any of its roles, but it also couldn't exist when any existent member wanted a role other than his own...and I even say this with "Stewart Copeland is my favorite drummer*" bias.
Thus, ironically, Reggatta de Blanc unleashes the full power of The Police, while also planting the seeds of their eventual demise.

*Stewart Copeland and Abe Cunningham.

1979 A&M
1. Message in a Bottle 4:51
2. Reggatta de Blanc 3:06
3. It's Alright for You 3:13
4. Bring on the Night 4:15
5. Deathwish 4:13
6. Walking on the Moon 5:02
7. On Any Other Day 2:57
8. The Bed's Too Big Without You 4:26
9. Contact 2:38
10. Does Everyone Stare 3:52
11. No Time This Time 3:17

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Police -- Outlandos d'Amour


7/10

If any of the bands I was in in my late teens and early 20's had put out a low-budget, but professionally recorded debut album, and it was half as good as Outlandos d'Amour, I could die in creative peace. The soon-to-be biggest band in the world (before handing the mantle to U2) comes out full of energy, and keeps that energy flowing through all ten tracks, even as the quality dips near the end. Almost immediately, this trio, The Police, show what each individual band member brings to the table. Drummer, Stewart Copeland, brings a high-hat massacring high energy. Versatile, experienced guitarist, Andy Summers, brings a trademarked watery-chorus sound and sense of innovation. The band's soon-to-be superstar bassist/vocalist, Sting, brings his unique vocal style, early on regarded as singularly high. At this point he hasn't yet developed his famous perfect pitch. His bass playing is remarkably well-rounded, though, and the reason I caused unrest in the punk bands I played bass for--I taught myself bass from Police albums, so thought nothing of trading out punk sixteenth notes for a slowed-down groove that none of my bandmates were in the mood for. On their own, these three musicians are certainly worthwhile, but together, when everyone is pulling their own weight and firing on all cylinders, they have a chemistry that is unmatched.
Outlandos d'Amour sees them discovering that chemistry, which is a beautiful thing, even if it is a bit raw at this stage. "Next to You" sounds like what early Beatles would have sounded like in 1978. The tempo is breathless, really the only element of punk the band ever utilized (and sparingly at that), but the lyrics are pure 1963 Paul McCartney. Ten tracks of this would get old, but the next song starts off like Marley's "No Woman No Cry," in a chill, yet lockstep reggae groove, before dashing into a punk tempo in the chorus--two tracks into their career, and already The Police are showcasing genre-fusion. "
Up next is one of the band's most popular songs, the urgent, reggae-influenced"Roxanne," followed by the jammy "Hole In My Life," and the energetic "Peanuts." This ends Side One (if you're listening on vinyl! ...and you should!).
Side Two kicks off with album highlight, "Can't Stand Losing You," which is again reggae-influenced, but experiments with a sort of dubby ambient ambiance in the bridge. This is followed by "Truth Hits Everybody," the most punk song on the album in sound, subject, and form. At this point, it seems like Outlandos d'Amour is going to be one of the greatest debuts in rock history. Unfortunately, however, this is just the moment where the album begins to run out of steam.
Track eight, "Born In the '50s," is the kind of sentimental baby-boomer "hey, look at me!" drivel that caused my generation to loathe our forebears. I don't like it. It makes me want to read this book.
"Be My Girl -- Sally," will appeal to a certain demographic: those who like a minute of one line repeated over-and-over again ("Will you be my girl"), followed by a spoken-word poem about a blow-up sex doll, followed by another minute of the same line repeated again and again. I am not in that demographic.
The album closes with "Masoko Tanga." The phrase "Six-minute Police instrumental" would generally be my catnip, but in this case, the band never hits upon that groove that you just want them to play forever, instead kind of just noodling along. Of course, they'd perfect that kind of groove just one album later!



1978 A&M
1. Next to You 2:55
2. So Lonely 4:50
3. Roxanne 3:12
4. Hole in My Life 4:55
5. Peanuts 4:02
6. Can't Stand Losing You 2:59
7. Truth Hits Everybody 2:55
8. Born in the '50s 3:45
9. Be My Girl – Sally 3:24
10. Masoko Tanga 5:42

Monday, March 20, 2017

N.W.A. Was Wrong About The Police!



My earliest musical memories naturally revolve around whatever vinyl was spinning next to my crib. This can be boiled down to three essential ingredients: Barnes and Barnes "Fish Heads," Bob Marley's "Jamming'"/"No Woman No Cry" 45, and the Police's Ghost In the Machine.
While "Fish Heads" planted a love of the bizarre in my consciousness, the latter two gave me a yearning for a certain island flavor. I've already raved about Marley back when I was on "B," MORE THAN FIVE YEARS AGO. Jeez, this has taken me a long time. Anyway, I've tried to save The Police references until I got closer to reviewing them...not always possible, but I've tried. Rather fortuitously, I just got to review the reggae-soaked P.O.D. back-catalogue to prepare as a lead, but here goes my setup:
The Police may be the greatest rock trio of all time. Their unique chemistry has never been duplicated by any band since, and all three members have musically suffered for having been without each other for the past 30-plus years. Yet, with that said, some of their songs are objectively terrible. Even their best albums feature some surprising head-scratchers, and their worst album is shockingly uneven...just who are The Police, anyway?
Time to find out!
Coming up on The Nicsperiment: Reviews of all five full-length Police albums, as well as their greatest hits collection. Here are some things I have heard about these reviews:
"Stand so close to them!"
"Every little thing they do is magic!"
"These reviews have greatness wrapped around their finger!"
"I'm hungry for...more of these reviews!"
"When the world is running down, you should read all of The Nicsperiment's The Police reviews."
"It's alright for you to read all of these Police reviews."
"The bed's too big without all six of these reviews!"
"No time this time? Well, just read them later...but if you never read them, there will be a hole in your life."
"I was told there would be cake."

So you see? Even if you are straight outta Compton, you are sure to love each and every one of these reviews as if they were your own children.
I'm not saying they'll bring your dead pets back to life, but I'm not saying they won't.
Don't quote me on that.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Polaris -- Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete


7/10

The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one of my favorite mid-90's TV shows, and nostalgia for that flavor of show and general vibe is what generally makes me hate now and think that 22 years ago was way better. Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't, but Pete and Pete was a great show for a quirky, too-cool-for-school, too-smart-for-his-own-good rural teenager like mid-90's me.
Pete and Pete featured an awesome 90's alternative rock theme song, whose unintelligible lyrics somehow made it even cooler.

A band named Polaris, featuring members of the 90's rock band, Miracle Legion, came together just to record that song (and perform in the show's intro!), and also, to periodically create more songs to be featured in the show. Those songs are collected together in Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
This album is a must have for fans of the show. Even having not watched Pete and Pete regularly in more than two decades, I can recall certain episodes just from hearing the songs on this album. Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete's blend of irresistible, fun, summer hazy 90's alternative is a great mood improver. I do wish that the songs were mixed a little stronger, and also, listening to 12 of these songs in a row instead of one in an awesome episode of TV is not quite as magical, but still, even for non-Pete and Pete fans who just want some positive vibes, Music from The Adventures of Pete and Pete does the trick. Also, I had a huge crush on Ellen.

Unfortunately, in subsequent years I have discovered that I am neither that cool, nor that smart, but Pete and Pete, a testament to the unique creativity of its creators, still shines brightly.

1999 Mezzotint Records
1. Hey Sandy 2:36
2. She Is Staggering 3:08
3. Waiting for October 3:52
4. Saturnine 3:13
5. Everywhere 3:37
6. Ivy Boy 3:51
7. Summerbaby 3:24
8. Coronado II 4:19
9. Ashamed of the Story I Told 4:29
10. As Usual 5:22
11. Recently 2:40
12. The Monster's Loose (ends at 3:39, followed by 2 minutes of silence, then Apollo 11 sound clips) 9:01

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Another Review of Some Obscure Thing No One Else Cares About (Rocket: Robot on Wheels for the Nintendo 64)

I just played through and reviewed a really cool, innovative, and extremely underrated Nintendo 64 game called Rocket: Robot on Wheels. If you are interested in an eighteen year old, commercially unsuccessful video game for a video game system that ceased production fifteen years ago, click ahead. No one else will! But wait...if you are one of the 99.99% of the world's population who does not care about such a topic, maybe this will interest you: the review is also funny! That's right, it includes great jokes about physically assaulting clowns, sheep, and robots, while also promoting vandalism and featuring self-deprecation so extreme, close relatives and friends may worry about me.
WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE???!!!

Friday, March 10, 2017

P.O.D. -- The Awakening


8/10

Did you know that P.O.D. released a new album in 2015? If my wife wasn't a P.O.D. fanatic, I'm not sure I would. No one publicized it. All the attention the band received for their 2012 release, Murdered Love, was nowhere to be found. Maybe Sonny should have swore again. Whatever the case for the obscure nature of the release, P.O.D. released a new full-length album in 2015, and it is called The Awakening.
The Awakening is a concept album, a first for P.O.D. It incorporates many of the diverse genres the band have showcased in their hard rock sound for decades now: metal, punk, latin, hip-hop and reggae. This time, the band even take a stab at fusing some jazz to their sound, on album standout, "Want It All." The songwriting here is some of the strongest of the band's career, and the genre-jumping flows more naturally than ever before. However, where The Awakening falters is in the "concept" area. The story itself isn't bad, your basic "guy with issues works out those issues painfully" story, until he experiences the titular "Awakening." The telling features 90's-esque theatricality with voice actors and Foley artists hard at work. If these story interludes were given their own tracks, they'd serve their role without offense...however, they aren't given their own tracks. At points, the listener has to sit through two minutes of dialogue before a song starts. This can't be skipped with one tap of a button--they are a part of the songs themselves. This is a major blunder, but the music on display here is so good, I can't dip The Awakening below an 8/10. I feel like a younger version of P.O.D. may have been talked out of blending the "skits" with the songs here, but these veterans went with their gut. It might not have been the best decision, but The Awakening is still a winner.
I saw P.O.D. perform at The Varsity Theatre in support of this album, and they put on as good a show as ever, even if the crowd was smaller than it used to be. Even The Awakening's highly non-specific lead single, "This Goes Out to You," the one song on the album I wasn't so sure about, worked wonderfully--live it comes off as a love letter to the band's fans, and gives The Awakening itself more meaning. My favorite moment of that particular concert, though, came courtesy of some local college kids, who sadly admitted, "Nobody really puts on a performance like this anymore. We saw _____ the other day, and they just stood in front of their laptops." Indeed.


2015 Universal/T-Boy
1. Am I Awake 5:56
2. This Goes Out to You 3:50
3. Rise of NWO 3:12
4. Criminal Conversations (featuring Maria Brink) 5:02
5. Somebody's Trying to Kill Me 5:12
6. Get Down 3:39
7. Speed Demon 3:51
8. Want It All 3:33
9. Revolución (featuring Lou Koller) 4:05
10. The Awakening 7:04

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

P.O.D. -- SoCal Sessions


8/10

Acoustic albums often come across as non-essential or gimmicks. Jars of Clay, a very good band, released an acoustic album that featured songs from their 20 year back-catalog right about the time that P.O.D. released  SoCal Sessions, their own acoustic collection.  As good as Jars of Clay are, the acoustic versions just came across as stripped down, less interesting iterations of those old classics, instead of serving to reveal new facets of the band. Thankfully, P.O.D. doesn't fall into the same trap on SoCal Sessions.
It's helps that these performances are much different than their original incarnations. Jars of Clay had, in many cases, originally performed their songs with acoustic guitars. Most of the songs from P.O.D.'s SoCal sessions were originally electrified head-bangers. This gives the band good cause to re-interpret them in such a radically different fashion--it reveals heretofore unknown facets of the band, and allows certain flavors of their original sound, like reggae, to come out even more..
It helps that P.O.D., pulling from all six of their major label albums, pick such a diverse, yet excellent set of songs. These songs also greatly benefit from the recording choices P.O.D. utilize for SoCal Sessions. While they switch out the electric guitar for the acoustic, they don't neuter their rhythm section, still allowing it room too breathe. They also utilize some additional touches, like subtle keyboard, harmonica, and bells to give the songs some interesting angles. While he isn't credited, I believe the band employed touring member, Luis Castillo, to handle the aforementioned additional instruments, as well as to sing complimentary vocals to Sonny Sandoval.
The overall effect is 45-minutes in a cozy room, kicking back with P.O.D. It's a relaxed time, but not a boring one, and one that exudes an overwhelming feeling of goodwill. The band picked the perfect time to do this, high on their return to radio after a nearly decade long absence, and to more stable life situations.
SoCal Sessions is an easy recommendation for fans of P.O.D., and for those who have admired them, but maybe never dove into fandom, as well. Stripping away all of the distortion reveals whether a song is actually worth a damn. These twelve (even "Beautiful," which I previously disliked!) prove themselves more than worthwhile.


2014 T-Boy Records
1. Panic + Run 3:35
2. Will You 4:47
3. Youth of the Nation 4:22
4. No Ordinary Love Song 3:49
5. Strength of My Life 4:09
6. Alive 3:43
7. Higher 3:20
8. It Can't Rain Everyday 4:18
9. Lost in Forever 3:55
10. I'll Be Ready 4:49
11. Beautiful 4:27
12. Set Your Eyes to Zion 3:56

Monday, March 06, 2017

P.O.D. -- Murdered Love


7/10

After a four-year gap, the longest the band have taken between albums to date, comes P.O.D.'s 2012 album, Murdered Love. It begins with a heavy double-whammy, "Eyez" and "Murdered Love," the band-exploring some stabby riffs and bludgeoning rhythms, vocalist Sonny Sandoval getting a chance to exercise the nuances of his screams, amid some singing and rapping. This is followed by a double-whammy of meditative, more celestial songs (just check the titles), "Higher" and "Lost in Forever." These four songs show the band can still operate at the top of their game on both sides of the hard rock spectrum...the side that features more thoughtful, uplifting music and soaring vocals(and with P.O.D., those songs still rock), and the side that just makes you want to break stuff.


It's after these songs, though, that Murdered Love falters a bit. "West Coast Rock Steady," one of the band's many "Yay, California!" songs features some of Sonny's silliest lyrics ("With all these California girls, how can you not be straight?"), and a chorus that's just a bit cheesy, though Marcos Curiel's huge guitar riff is laudable. This is followed by "Beautiful," a quiet song with very simple instrumentation that I would also classify as "cheesy." However, "Beautiful" apparently resonated with a lot of folks and was a surprise hit...shows how much I know. "Beautiful" is followed by "Babylon the Murderer," a sort of hardcore reggae song that would be a lot better if it had left out the lightning and gunshot sound effects--seriously, I don't know who at the top okayed keeping those in, but if you've released five straight albums that have made the Billboard 200 without adding movie sound effects to your songs...maybe keep not adding movie sound effects to your songs.
"On Fire" is next, a deliberate throwback to the band's earlier work that call's out its own Rage Against the Machine influence. The chorus of the song is, "Stop, drop, roll, I'm on fire." Again, I hate to nitpick, but if you have released five straight albums that have made the Billboard 200 without using a 90's safety slogan as the chorus...maybe keep not adding 90's safety slogans as the chorus.
My problem with this album, and the reason I rank it below almost all of the band's work is this sudden sense of a lack of quality control. Some of Sonny's goofy lyrics throughout Murdered Love, as well as some of its sillier sonic flourishes, would never have been included on past albums. They are not only not necessary, but bring down the album. This occurs nowhere moreso than track nine, "Bad Boy," about a "bad boy" who wants a "good girl." I think I know what they were trying to do here, but it just comes off as haphazard, immature songwriting from a band full of seasoned veterans with a war chest full of great material.
"Panic & Run" follows, a fun punk-reggae hybrid that thankfully doesn't encroach on any of the negative territory I highlighted in the previous paragraph. It leads into "I Am," the album's final track, unless you bought Murdered Love from a Christian bookstore, in which case, sorry, your CD is over. "I Am" is, on a musical level, classic P.O.D., with its huge, spacey guitar chords and heavy rhythms. It could have closed Satellite and satisfied. However, "I Am" courted much controversy due to Sandoval's use of profanity in the lyrics, though technically, those words are sonically blurred even in the non-Christian bookstore version...which is redundant, as Christian bookstores didn't even include the song (You can hear "I Am" completely unedited on Youtube).
For those who took issue with Sandoval's word choice on "I Am"...have you listened to the song? It's some of his absolute best work, as he takes on the identity of the lowest of the low, and cries out to be told about the real Jesus from those who claim to know him. It's incredibly powerful, especially coupled with the music backing it. I think "I Am" should be counted among P.O.D.'s best songs--it raises a somewhat mediocre album to solid ground, and argues for P.O.D.'s continued relevance in the world around them--who else in the Christian realm has attained the commercial position this band has, and has yet consistently reached out to the crowd that they have, the people given voice in "I Am?" Just peruse the Youtube comments on some of P.O.D.'s songs and count how many times you read either "I was completely broken," or "My life was at rock bottom," followed by, "and this music really helped me." Or I guess you could just focus on the curse word.


I saw the band in the summer of 2012, while they were touring this album, which was the first time I had seen them live in eight years (and the third time I had seen them play, overall). I took my wife and my sister, both huge P.O.D. fans who had never seen the band live, and assured them, based on my previous experience, that if we waited by the band's bus after the show, we'd be able to hangout with them. My girls were skeptical, but sure enough, the band came out and hung with us, just like they did when I saw them in their Satellite days in late 2001. I complimented Marcos' soul-infused guitar playing, and encouraged Sonny to stay the course, despite the flack he was getting. Then I snapped this shot of the ladies with the band. Great night.


2012 Razor & Tie
1. Eyez (featuring Jamey Jasta) 2:47
2. Murdered Love (featuring Sick Jacken) 3:45
3. Higher 3:22
4. Lost in Forever 4:06
5. West Coast Rock Steady (featuring Sen Dog) 3:05
6. Beautiful 3:53
7. Babylon the Murderer 4:19
8. On Fire 3:44
9. Bad Boy 3:18
10. Panic & Run 3:16
11. I Am 5:10

Friday, March 03, 2017

P.O.D. -- When Angels & Serpents Dance


9/10

Many P.O.D. fans rejoiced when the band made the December 30, 2006 announcement that original guitarist, Marcos Curiel, who had left between the band's Satellite (2001) and Payable on Death (2003), was returning. Nothing against Jason Truby, who acquitted himself admirably in that position, but it had become apparent that Curiel played the biggest part in P.O.D.'s sound in the past. His rejoining surely meant a return to those earlier sounds, except...
In the five years since P.O.D.'s mega-hit Satellite, Curiel had adjusted to playing without the three other members of P.O.D., and the other three members had adapted to playing with Truby. Not only that, but all four had grown in musicianship and influence in their own right. There was no picking up right where Satellite left off.
Thus, many fans were disappointed as soon as they heard the first single released from When Angels & Serpents Dance, P.O.D.'s first album with Curiel back behind the strings. That song, "Addicted" is mean, lean, and dark, with a video to match the mood. "Addicted," which also serves as WAASD's opening track, features a nasty distorted guitar line and aggressive vocals--fans were expecting that soaring Satellite uplift, and instead got this.

"Addicted" is followed by "Shine with Me," and "Condescending," more straight-forward rock songs, which would sound at home in the Truby-era if not for the amount of space they contain. However, the band put to bed any notion that they are going to go vanilla rock on this album with "It Can't Rain Everyday," which sees the glorious return of that latin-influenced soul Curiel brings to the band. After a guitar into which would make Carlos Santana proud, the group dive into a chilled out "only P.O.D. could write this song" rock ballad that also re-introduces the song-changing dynamics the band excel at when Curiel is a part of the writing process. While the song focuses on life's hard knocks, it features a killer, late-song post-chorus groove, featuring a certain beautiful feeling of yearning that again, only P.O.D. can invoke. Also, and I can't say this enough, P.O.D.'s rhythm section is a national treasure--there's a reason Wuv Bernardo and Traa Daniels have been on the cover of so many musician magazines.
Hardships and temptation rise as the major themes of this album. Vocalist, Sonny Sandoval, riding a huge Curiel riff, paints a picture of the streets of the band's home state, in the next track, "Kaliforn-Eye-A." This song segues excellently into "I'll Be Ready," a glorious, classic P.O.D. reggae jam featuring two of BOB MARLEY'S DAUGHTERS. The song is a trembling prayer against temptation, and the performances by the daughters of the greatest, most respected reggae artist of all time lends the band's work in that particular genre even more authenticity. Curiel's preferred guitar sound for WAASD also becomes apparent here: it's a distorted, yet clear latin rock tone that--and I know this is abstract, but I mean this in the best random sensory nostalgia possible--reminds me of an arcade. I really enjoy it.
This isn't a perfect album, though. "End of the World" and "This Ain't No Ordinary Love Song" ain't bad songs in the least, particularly the epic strings and Sonny screams at the end of the former, but the latter throws off the pace a little. I think the band put the song in that spot because they didn't want the vibe of the album as a whole to be too intense, yet while "This Ain't No Ordinary Love Song" isn't bright and sunny in the least, it slows things down. I'm not saying a fun track, like the earlier "Kaliforn-Eye-A" is needed here, either...I just think that the ramping intensity of the album's second half should have been allowed to flow freely.
The intensity certainly returns on the next song, "God Forbid," the heaviest track that P.O.D. have recorded. With a bludgeoning metal riff and menacing guest vocals from Helmet's Page Hamilton, it seems that Sandoval's sanity itself is on the line. This may seem histrionic, but to give some summer of 2008 context, the country was entering one of the biggest economic recessions in its history, was embroiled in two seemingly endless wars with no clear enemy, and P.O.D. themselves faced turmoil in their career and personal lives. Life seemed confusing and in some part, hopeless. I identified with the emotions of the album just fine. In fact, I think WAASD is the oft-misunderstood P.O.D.'s misunderstood, imperfect opus. It offers a disturbing alternative to the band's first two major label albums -- "you know what...I'm actually not sure everything will be okay."
"God Forbid" is followed by "Roman Empire," an instrumental that again, instead of soaring on celestial wings, conjures images of standing at a dusty crossroads, and hoping the devil doesn't show up. This leads into the title track, a slippery rock song which fully explores the album's themes-

Rhythmically moving
Emotions are rising
Quivering to music
Trembling bodies in song
Go unsteadily sliding
Devious gliding
So beautifully sailing and floating on

Life's real when angels and serpents dance

Twistedly slipping
Radiant soaring
Winding. maliciously creeping
Flowing Righteous, moral and just.
Deceitful. the creature is crawling
The guardian's flying. the dance is breathing
Who's leading?

Who's leading you?
Everything you say?
Everything that you do?
Believing what is true?
One must lead in the dance
Who's leading you?

The band then play a mournful acoustic track, "Tell Me Why," a surprising protest against war and man's darker natures (and just five years after the band's jingoistic "Freedom Fighters"). I think it becomes apparent by this track that WAASD is P.O.D.'s must musically diverse album.
I love that "Tell Me Why" ends with the line "How do we know?" This flows brilliantly into next song "Rise Against"'s opening line, "What's the point in knowing?" "Rise Against" is the album closer, a call to action that is certainly the darkest ending to a P.O.D. album to this point. It brings the lyrical and musical themes of WAASD to a close, Curiel's awesome guitar tone reaches its optimal effected conclusion, and then the band went on hiatus for four years.

2008 INO/Columbia
1. Addicted 3:32
2. Shine with Me 3:32
3. Condescending 4:02
4. It Can't Rain Everyday 4:42
5. Kaliforn-Eye-A (featuring Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies) 4:29
6. I'll Be Ready (featuring the Marley Sisters) 4:43
7. End of the World 4:34
8. This Ain't No Ordinary Love Song 3:43
9. God Forbid (featuring Page Hamilton of Helmet) 3:55
10. Roman Empire 2:42
11. When Angels & Serpents Dance 3:16
12. Tell Me Why 3:19
13. Rise Against 4:52

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

P.O.D. -- Testify


7/10

The strangest stretch of P.O.D.'s career reaches its zenith with Testify. Anytime a band's chief songwriter leaves, things can get weird. I think P.O.D.'s three years of work with Jason Truby on guitar clearly proves that Marcos Curiel was and again is the driving force behind "the sound" of P.O.D. While it takes all four original members to fully realize that sound, and while Truby is a fine guitarist, Truby-era P.O.D. is a decidedly less P.O.D.-sounding era of P.O.D.
And yet, who am I to say that? Plenty of kids cut their teeth on these two Truby-era albums. "Will You" and "Goodbye for Now," made it to number one on MTV's now defunct megashow, Total Request Live, That's the same amount of TRL topping songs as the first Curiel era (and all the Curiel era). Maybe I should shut up about what does and doesn't sound like P.O.D. I should judge this album I'm supposed to be reviewing here on its own merits. And after all, what was I doing when this came out anyway? Not listening to it. Despite being a huge P.O.D fan from 2000-2005, I didn't purchase Testify until 2009. I bought the P.O.D. album that came out after it before I bought it.
My life at that time is a circuital blur, to the point that when I did buy Testify, I immediately thought, wait, why haven't I bought this already? It seems I was missing some great songs on an only okay album.
Things start well enough, with "Roots in Stereo" showcasing some great song shifts, and a standout guest performance by Chassidic reggae rapper Matisyahu. For some reason, Matisyahu and Sonny's vocals sound made for each other, and the band are able to juxtapose some crunchy riffs and heavy grooves with the duos soaring, mystical vocals...it's cool. "Lights Out" follows, an attempt at a sports jam ala "Boom." While it doesn't quite pack the punch of "Boom," its start-and-stop riff and swagger-filled vocals still do the trick. "If You Could See Me Now" is one of Sonny's reflection songs, thinking about his deceased mother and the band's achievements, set to one of Truby's spacier guitar lines--not bad at all. This is where Katy Perry sticks her head out for just a moment.
A long time ago, Katy Perry was "Katy Hudson." During a transformation interim, she recorded about twenty seconds of vocals for the outro of Testify's lead single, the mournful "Goodbye for Now." The song apparently accomplishes its mission, because I've had it stuck in my head the entire time I've written this review. It also continues the bands perilous trek from diverse hard rock band to generic radio rock band, and unfortunately, that road is not averted on this album many times after this fourth track.
"Sounds Like War" is great, am excellent combination of aggression and spacey atmosphere, a reworking of The Warrors EP, Volume 2's"Ya Mama." This is followed by the bizarre "On the Grind," a song that sounds more Insane Clown Posse than P.O.D. ...um, not that I know what IC...Insane Clown Posse Sounds Like. Sonny barely even makes an appearance on "On the Grind," between the guest vocalists.
A trio of not bad, but generic and forgettable rock songs follow (and they're all sort of downers). This album has 13 tracks, which, in the case of these three songs, is too many, except the last two (tracks 12 and 13) could probably also be cut, as well. Before those last two though, there is a remake of the solid "Teachers" from The Warriors EP, Volume 2, and "Strength of My Life," one of the best songs P.O.D. have ever recorded.
"Strength of My Life," is a mystical reggae slow jam, one Marcos Curiel apparently enjoys, as he currently plays this Truby-written song live with the band.

This is followed by "Say Hello," which isn't horrible--I didn't give this album a seven because it sucks--but isn't anything special, either. Same for the closer, "Mark My Words," which sounds like it could have appeared anywhere else on Testify--it does nothing to signify that any journey has been undertaken, as Testify is more a collection of songs than an album. Granted it's a collection of mostly good songs, along with a couple great ones, but when compared to the band's previous albums, which were full of great ones, Testify doesn't measure up, whether it has a P.O.D. sound (or even an identifiable one), or not.

2006 Atlantic
1. Roots in Stereo (featuring Matisyahu) 4:42
2. Lights Out 2:47
3. If You Could See Me Now 3:07
4. Goodbye for Now 4:34 (featuring Katy Perry)
5. Sounds Like War 3:53
6. On the Grind (featuring Sick Jacken and Boo-Yaa Tribe) 4:25
7. This Time 4:41
8. Mistakes & Glories 3:38
9. Let You Down 4:15
10. Teachers 4:21
11. Strength of My Life (featuring Matisyahu) 3:37
12. Say Hello 2:32
13. Mark My Words (featuring Sick Jacken) 3:43

Monday, February 27, 2017

P.O.D. -- The Warriors EP, Volume 2


7/10

The Warriors EP, Volume 2 comes at a strange time in P.O.D.'s career, and in an interesting time in mine. P.O.D. were now two years removed from 2003's Payable on Death, which proved the band  could make post-Marcos Curiel music that didn't suck...Marcos Curiel being the band's (then) ex-guitarist. Of course, they hadn't really proved they could release an album post-Marcos Curiel that "sounded like P.O.D, " as the band's once very-present latin, punk, and reggae influences seemed marginalized on Payable on Death for a more generic rock sound. After Payable on Death, the band, since that album featuring ex-Living Sacrifice guitarist, Jason Truby, entered a period of writer's block, perhaps stemming from P.O.D. wondering just what they wanted to be. Whatever the case, P.O.D. didn't want their fans to go more than two years without new music, and released an EP to let those fans know just what they had been up to. Perhaps wanting those same fans to know the band hadn't forgotten their roots, they posited the EP as a sequel to their 1998 The Warriors EP from seven years earlier.
The Warriors EP, Volume 2 kicks off with "If It Wasn't for You." the song sees vocalist, Sonny Sandoval, go back to a rap-style delivery in the verses, but the chorus and the song's musicality hearken to more straight-forward rock. "Teachers" continues with this sound, though the vocals, outside of some screaming, are more traditional. However, it is a catchy song, even if it isn't particularly distinctive. "Ya Mama," reimagined on next year's LP, Testify, as "Sounds Like War," is the standout of this opening trio, featuring an aggressive rap in the verse, a soaring, yet ferocious chorus, and then an atmospheric bridge showcasing Truby's strengths as a guitarist. The bridge is further explored in the outro, as Truby gets to put his classical influences on display, albeit slightly amplified. The quiet-loud-dynamic here is excellent, a reminder of the more adventurous dynamics of Curiel's time in the band.
Speaking of Curiel...
"Why Wait," is a classic, upbeat reggae song. It doesn't quite have the soaring mysticism of Curiel's work, but it is a lovely song, nonetheless. P.O.D. keep this reggae feeling flowing with a cover of the classic Payola$ song, "Eyes of a Stranger." I love the original, but P.O.D. really make this song their own. Truby sounds like he is having a blast exploring these textures, and Sonny gives the vocals a passionate reinvention. The result is a dreamy, spaced out translation of the already hypnotic original.

The EP ends with two solid live recordings from Cornerstone, of "Boom" and "Wildfire." "Boom" includes a very cool, sludgy metal intro the band had been playing exclusively live during that era (at least they did it when I saw them in '04).
By the end, it isn't clear what direction P.O.D. are heading after The Warriors EP, Volume 2, but it is clear that they aren't showing any signs of stopping. Also, I got a full-time job at the library (stayed for about the same time Truby stayed in this band), and got engaged and married (still going...) in a seven-month period. Strange times, indeed.

2005 Atlantic
1. If It Wasn't for You 3:40
2. Teachers (Palm Springs Demo) 4:28
3. Ya Mama (Palm Springs Demo) 3:10
4. Why Wait? 3:41
5. Eyes of a Stranger (originally written and performed by Payola$) 4:18
6. Boom (Live at Cornerstone) 5:14
7. Wildfire (Live at Cornerstone) 3:22

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rediscovering the Nintendo Gamecube

As far as inanimate objects go, there aren't many things I love more than video games. I'll never forget being woken up from a childhood nap early one afternoon by the bloops and bleeps of my father's Atari 2600. I knew as soon as I saw him taking out the colorful bricks of Breakout that I had found my thing. As the 2600 waned, I asked for a Nintendo, saved my money a few years later for a Super Nintendo, bought my cousin's recently released Nintendo 64 a few years after that. While I remained loyal to Nintendo, I vastly enjoyed Sega's output (I've got all their systems but the Saturn), and even enjoyed some Playstation. I waited in line on November 17th, 2001, til midnight at the Siegen Lane Wal-Mart, to buy the new Nintendo Gamecube on release night (I also went on a ten-mile hike and saw Monsters, Inc. in the theater earlier that day--it was an all-time great one!).
However, something strange happened to me during the George W Bush administration--for a short time, I fell out of love with video games.
I don't know what it was. I can't blame getting married, or having a child (if anything, having a child is what brought me back to them!). It started with some kind of general malaise I picked up in in college. It started, unfortunately, during the tenure of the Nintendo Gamecube.
I did have some genuinely great experiences with the Gamecube, but compared to those experiences I had on previous systems, they were few and far between. During the Gamecube's run (2001-2007), I only played through seven games, with short, incomplete runs on a handful of others. When Gamecube was discontinued, I didn't even buy a Wii. I skipped that entire generation of systems. It was only about five years ago that my passion for video games reignited. I then gave much love to my Nintendo 64, the system I had the most games for. I also played the heck out of my Dreamcast. However, something soon became apparent to me:
The neglected stepchild of my video game consoles is the Nintendo Gamecube. Of all the systems in my collection, I own the least amount of games and have the least amount of love for it.
But why?
By all accounts, the Nintendo Gamecube's library features a handful of the most heralded games of all time, and many other great ones. Metacritic, a review aggregation website, has a chart ranking games by an average of every major review written since the site's inception. Of the top 19 critically acclaimed games released in the 21st century to date, three belong to Gamecube, second most of any system games have been released for in that time period. This includes the PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSP, Nintendo 64, Wii, Wii U, XBox, XBox 360 (the only system with more top-ranked games), Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and many more. That is ridiculously good.
And yet, my rejection of the Gamecube isn't a unique experience. Its main competitor, the Playstation 2, sold 155 million units. Nintendo only sold 21 million Gamecubes, DESPITE the fact that the PS2 is technically less powerful. Even the X-Box, Microsoft's first foray into console gaming, sold more. Why didn't the world love the Nintendo Gamecube?
Why didn't I love it? When I look at my experiences with it, I should have an incredible fondness for that awkward little box.

1. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

I bought this title at launch, and played it as soon as I got home...which was very late. Of the twelve Gamecube launch games, I only own, and in fact, have only played one other to this day, Super Monkey Ball, which was fun, but apparently not fun enough to get me more than halfway through it. This begins a trend: in earlier days, I took beating a game I purchased as a point of pride. I beat and 100 percented (yep, just made that a verb) almost every game I purchased before buying the Gamecube. As you'll see here, as my passion petered out, I completed far less. But I did complete Rogue Leader in short order, taking away the impression that it was visually splendid, but offered little more in the gameplay department than its decent Nintendo 64 predecessor. A few weeks later, a friend showed up at my apartment with a gift: the previously mentioned Super Monkey Ball. Truth be told, it may not have been the fun-factor that drew me away from Super Monkey Ball early--it was most likely Smash Brothers.

2.Super Smash Bros. Melee

Shortly after it was released, Super Smash Bros. Melee took over my Gamecube. My cousin essentially moved into my compartment and we unlocked every character and stage. However...something was lacking in the experience. Myself, that cousin, his younger brother, and my younger brother played the Nintendo 64 original against each other until our hands were bloody--and sometimes that blood wasn't our own. Our competitions were so fierce they sometimes ended in fistfights. The Nintendo 64 owned four-player multiplayer. Something about this Gamecube version just didn't stoke the fires as hotly. Maybe it was just my life stage. Maybe the controls, and the more chaotic stages just didn't feel as right. Whatever the case, while I completed the game...it didn't complete me. It immediately got placed back on the shelf...and then my Gamecube just sort of languished for a few months. It's not like I was playing anything else either...my slide away from video games had already begun (and arguably started when I quit Donkey Kong 64 on the final boss...a boss I've since annihilated). That fall, I purchased Super Mario Sunshine. I was offput by the strange new "water-sprayer" dynamics of the game. I just didn't feel like the Mario I loved. It also seemed to lack the polish of previous Mario games. I've never completed it. This could have been the end of my Gamecube, but lo, on the horizon

3. Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime is one of the greatest video games of all time. tied for second on the Metacritic list I mentioned above. I wasn't the biggest Metroid fan before purchasing it, but the ridiculously high reviews piqued my curiosity, and I purchased it on release week--Metroid Prime then owned my 2002 Winter Break. My experience with Metroid Prime mirrors the one I had with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time just four years prior (in the fall of 1998): complete immersion. I quickly felt myself lost, submerged in Metroid Prime's depths, and I didn't resurface until the game was completed. That was, to this day, one of the most special and singular video game experiences I have ever had. This, if anything, should have made the Gamecube a system I revered. I am pretty sure I hugged my Nintendo 64 after Ocarina...why the cold shoulder for Gamecube?

4. Animal Crossing

If my time with the Gamecube had a "golden period," I'd say it was the 2.5 years between Metroid Prime's release and the summer of 2005...if a golden period can be categorized as a time I played through 4 games in 30 months. Animal Crossing came for me at a moment I was really attempting to lie low and chill, and it's a great game to play for an hour a night for a few months...I bought Animal Crossing shortly after finishing Metroid Prime, paid my in-game loans off by spring, and then let my brother borrow the game indefinitely. I remember having a lovely time with the game, but then immediately moving on because a sort-of-big title was being released that March: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I love Zelda games so much, but I felt about Wind Waker the same as I did with Mario Sunshine: it just didn't feel like Zelda, and it didn't seem as polished as previous titles. To the shock of my close friends and relatives, I didn't even complete Wind Waker, stopping 3/4 of the way through, during a fetch quest I didn't feel like completing (Last year, I played through the Wii U Remaster and really enjoyed it). Truth be told, at that time, a good friend gave me a PS1. I'd had Chrono Cross, the sequel to my favorite game of all time, Chrono Trigger, in my possession for several years, with no method to play it. As soon as the PS1 was in my hands, my Gamecube started accumulating dust. Chrono Cross took over my video gaming world...

5. Hunter: The Reckoning

...but not for too long, and there's a "literally" coming up in the next sentence. Literally two hours after I beat Chrono Cross, on a late summer 2003 afternoon, two of my best friends came over and a new tradition was born: Game Night. For some reason, the game of choice for this trio was Hunter: The Reckoning for the Nintendo Gamecube, owned by Daniel, one of the two friends. I'll be the first to say that Hunter: The Reckoning is not a great game. However, for a game three friends can play together while eating pizza and chugging coffee and M&M's at 3 am, you can't do much better than Hunter: The Reckoning, for the Nintendo Gamecube. The multiplayer cooperative zombie and monster-killing action might be sloppily executed, but that's almost half the fun. Those were some of the best nights of my life. Daniel's copy eventually bit the dust, but I bought a new one. All these years later, on the rare occasion that the three of us are in the same zipcode at the same time, Hunter still gets the job done. Over the rest of 2003, and throughout 2004, we played through the game many times. It seems, from my near outsider perspective, like this time period was the Gamecube's heyday. During this 18-month era, I did buy some games, like F-Zero GX, Sonic Collection, and Beyond Good and Evil, but I didn't finish any of them. However, my video game life wasn't completely narcoleptic--I did play through Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the PS1 a few times, and wow, what a game!

6. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

During this period, I also bought several PS1 games that I didn't complete, either. I was also watching quite a bit of X-Play and other video game programs on the then new, now defunct G4 channel. I was certainly still interested in video games...just more as a passerby than a partaker. However, when Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released, I knew that I had to complete it. I bought it, spent several sleepless night progressing through, then found myself dead-ended by a game-ending glitch. I contacted Nintendo, and was sent a memory card several weeks later with a file progressed just past the glitch. While I appreciated the gesture, the fire was gone. I mechanically finished the game, which is great, but not as great as its predecessor, and wondered if I was through with video games. Then came the Gamecube's pièce de résistance

7. Resident Evil IV

Capcom shot themselves in the foot with Resident Evil IV. Every Resident Evil game they've released since has been negatively compared to it. It's also on the Metacritic list I mentioned above. It is one of the greatest video games every released. It is easily in my top five.
Imagine this: you are unemployed. You have no friends. You aren't sleeping. You have no prospects. Your only two friends are your cat and a video game. For me, in that exact situation, that video game was Resident Evil IV. Finding myself in the above situation seemingly without warning, I was forced to survive. Resident Evil IV is the greatest "Survival Horror" game ever made, perhaps because it focuses more on the former. That isn't to say it's not scary--those evil priests' chants still haunt my dreams. But suddenly left with seemingly nothing but Fats the cat and Resident Evil IV, I have never connected on a metaphysical level with a game like I have Resident Evil IV. I played through it over and over again, running for my life, conserving ammo, searching for sanctuary, struggling to find places to hide, and often, when I knew I had the resources, going berserk on my foes. Since the foes in my real life were intangible, it was incredibly cathartic to have evil hoards into which I could pour my aggression. In some ways, my 2005 was that damn guy holding up the chainsaw on the game cover. But as I do with Resident Evil IV, I now look back on that year fondly. You would think this would have endeared the Gamecube to me forever. However, I gave all my love to the game, at the time a Gamecube exclusive, instead of to the console itself.
And that was it. Despite another Zelda game on the horizon (also played that Wii U remaster last year, and enjoyed it, as well), and a huge back-catalogue to pull from, my Gamecube went into storage for nearly a decade. All my video games did. I felt like I didn't need or have time for them anymore. But slowly, they started coming back into my life:
A few rounds of SNES here and there.
A full-fledged recommitment to my Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast.
A full-bore obsession with my Sega CD.
But my poor Gamecube still collected dust.
I've been asking myself recently, why not show my Gamecube some love? Hasn't it given me some of my most memorable gaming experiences? It has more than a 500-game library. It carried on Dreamcast's sunny, "it's a new millennium and everything is awesome" vibe, even as our nation looked back at the ashes of the twin towers, and forward into war.
The Gamecube didn't do anything wrong, and yet I've neglected it its whole life.
It is time to finally love my Gamecube.
Now, its time to go from the passerby who saw a lot of cool games from a distance, to the player.
And thus, I am launching yet another blog, this one dedicated to the much neglected Nintendo Gamecube.  I'll be playing through and reviewing games I've never before given the time of day to, and even revisiting some old classics that I have.
The Gamecube Archives.