Strange Loop Games are a funny bunch. While the majority of developers these days are using advancements in technology to improve lighting mechanics, draw distance, and texture resolution, Strange Loop are happy to sacrifice graphics in order to improve in-game physics. Vessel is a game that totally encapsulates that core value of the company – gameplay over graphics. With that principle in mind, we have a cheap, clever, and excruciatingly difficult liquid physics-based puzzler that, despite not looking as crisp as a lot of its contemporaries, still manages to pack a significant punch with its charming aesthetic style.
Oh no, I thought. A grid-based, cube-pushing puzzler. I’ve played countless puzzle games that force you to push blocks in specific patterns – and then, if you make one wrong move, you have to reset the level and do it all over again. One wrong move. I admit, when I first received MacGuffin’s Curse , I simply assumed that it’d be a charming, Monkey Island-esque point-and-click like Brawsome’s previous game, Jolly Rover. I admit that it does retain a number of elements from this genre – conversation trees, for one. But then I booted it… and… grid-based, cube-pushing puzzles? Oh no.
So, for a while (two years or so?) I’ve had a band called Mimbulus Mimbletonia. We are a big fish in a small pool – well known in the Australian wizard rock scene, but relatively unknown elsewhere. What is wizard rock, you ask? Well, it’s a genre of music popularised by Harry And The Potters, where you play songs about Harry Potter and the wizarding world in general. It’s a big underground scene in the US, with annual “Wrockstock” festivals held, as well as the “Wrock The Boat” cruise – a week long cruise featuring big names in wrock performing on-board, such as Draco And The Malfoys, the Cruciatus Curse and Catchlove.
Want to get into wizard rock? Good for you. Recently, a compilation was released featuring all the big Australian wizard rock bands, and it’s free to download (plus, a very very small download file). It’s called “Wrockin’ Down Under”, and you can get it here. I would advise you to get it right now. If you need more incentive, Mimbulus Mimbletonia is featured on it.
Also, try the worldwide home of wrock at http://wizrocklopedia.com, it’s a great place to get started, and features a massive list of every single recorded wrock band in history.
So yeah. In short, download that compilation, it’s brilliant. Stay tuned to my own band’s site, http://www.myspace.com/mmwizardrock/ for new songs, updates, and an announcement of my (extremely delayed) debut album.
Once upon a time, the John Butler Trio was one of my absolute favourite bands. This was before their breakthrough record, Sunrise Over Sea (2004). Nowadays, well, their output is just not in the same league as it was before. April Uprising is simply not important. It’s not original, or interesting, or all that enjoyable. It’s made up of about 7 mediocre, uninteresting tracks, accompanied with a handful that are absolutely horrible and cringe-worthy, and two or three that are a breath of fresh air amongst this record of mediocrity. All in all, the whole record just isn’t John Butler – the long acoustic guitar solos are replaced with typical electric guitar, the vicious, hate-filled, chastising lyrics are replaced with love songs and a few terrible attempts at being political, no longer are there any weed references.
As I said, most of the tracks just aren’t very good, to put it simply. “I’d Do Anything”, “Close To You”, “Ragged Mile”, etc, etc. They’re boring, and it really is a little sad to see the once great John Butler write such average songs, when he once could write the likes of “Take”, “Money”, and “Crazy”. But, if you want to get the whole way through April Uprising, you have to be prepared for some huge stinkers. “C’mon Now” is a poor, poor attempt at god-knows-what, which invoked numerous facepalms the first time I heard it. Same goes for “Johnny’s Gone”, a pathetic shot at ex-Prime Minister John Howard. It’s hard to believe that the same man wrote such brilliant anti-Howard songs earlier on in his career, and how he’s sunk to this.
I’ll give it some credit however. “Take Me” is quite a cool, slow, guitar-driven piece, showcasing Butler’s developing use of electric guitar. It shows that Butler really can play the guitar when it’s solid, it’s just unfortunate that he can’t play like this on every track. “To Look Like You” is a break from the constant stream of love songs on April Uprising - a dark, depressing tale from a teenage girl’s perspective, of how it is to look up to false idols from magazines. I mean, I can’t really judge, but he seems to get the emotions perfect.
Apart from these two, and maybe (possibly) “Revolution”, the record is made up of either bland, boring, repetitive tracks, or absolutely horrible, cringe-worthy songs. April Uprising is really just a boring effort from a washed up artist, which shows specks of brilliance that are, sadly, hidden amongst all the mediocrity.
Choice tracks: Revolution; Take Me; To Be Like You
If you like: Grand National; late Jack Johnson; Donavon Frankenreiter
I first discovered Wagons at the East Coast Bluesfest 2010, when I chanced upon their show because there were very few people there and I was bored. So, when their set started on one of the smaller stages, I walked unobstructed straight to the front of the standing area and watched. Behind me, the crowd started to get bigger and bigger, until, by the end of Wagons’ hour-long set, the tent was crowded.
Wagons are a good example of a band that no one has heard of but everyone should see live. They absolutely blew my mind. The lead singer, Henry, is incredibly charismatic and puts his full energy into every show, jumping around, making hilarious jokes, breaking guitar strings, screaming, and frequently calling upon the audience to sing.
Their album, however, is a lot more country-orientated then their live set is. While they’re, for the better part, the same songs, the band’s sound in general is just a lot more country/western than they are live. But that’s not to say they can’t rock out, either. A few of the songs are heavy, slow, and hard-rocking, and, even though I’m not a country fan, the rest of the songs are just-enough-but-not-too-much-country for me to be able to enjoy them. For me, the song “The Gambler” is the best example of this – an epic tale of a gambler who loses everything but is still addicted to betting, this track is everything country and still brilliant.
Henry’s vocals are deep, wavering, and very fitting to the music, reminiscent of Johnny Cash. The rest of the band works well to back Henry, having fun in the process. That’s what The Rise And Fall Of Goodtown is – while it tells the same epic tales as country music, many of the songs are done with tongue firmly in cheek, such as “Keep Your Eyes Off My Sister” – Wagons are having a joke while, at the same time, being deadly serious. And the combination of this joking while being honest really works for them.
All in all, Wagons’ debut release is recommended if you’re into a little bit of Southern Comfort with your rock and roll. Whether you do or not, however, if you ever have the chance to see them live, you simply have to.
Choice tracks: Goodtown; Love Me Like I Love You; The Gambler; Never Been To Spain
If you like: Johnny Cash; Willie Nelson; The Basics; Elvis Presley’s later years; Mark Seymour
I honestly don’t know where to start with this one. It’s just so… bad. Yeah, bet y’all weren’t expecting that one. Bluejuice’s second album lacks what every good album (or any album at all, for that matter) should have – originality, functionality, and an overall enjoyment factor.
So, after raping this album right up the poophole in my opening paragraph, can I draw any positives from it? This is what you may be asking yourself right now. And, the answer is not as funny as you may hope – yes, I suppose, there are some good things about this record. Well, one good thing. The second single, “(Ain’t) Telling The Truth”, isn’t half bad, I’ll give them that.
But the first single? “Broken Leg”? When I first heard it, I thought they were covering “Be Good Johnny” by Men At Work – the keyboard-based intro is exactly the same. Like, I’m not even kidding here, it’s even in the same key. So, they’ve completely ripped a lead melody and chord progression off Men At Work, which is a sin in itself; but, as well as that, the Who influence sticks out unwelcome like a sore nail out of a thumb, or the Queen influences in Muse’s “United States of Eurasia”. And even with all that, I can’t get the image out of my head of Bon Jovi-style haircuts in glam suits smiling and jumping, swinging the mic stand around. Even though I know that that’s probably not what they look like.
What about that stupid “Medicine” song? What the hell is up with that? That is not entertainment. No no no. What was the aim? If it was supposed to be dance-y, it failed; if it was supposed to be funny, it failed; if it was supposed to be entertaining, it definitely failed.
All the songs sounded the same to me. Really, that was half an hour that could have been better spent listening to… well, anything else. Except for Brokencyde.
Choice tracks: (Ain’t) Telling The Truth