OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 3

It’s surprisingly hard to find the time to just sit down and consume media!  Here are a few tasty morsels that I’ve recently devoured:

COMICS:

Aetheric Mechanics by Warren Ellis and Gianluca Pagliarani (Avatar) – Steampunk is an odd sub-genre of science fiction that can be somewhat difficult to nail down.  That said, I think it would not be a stretch to call this Ellis’s foray into the world of steampunk, and it’s certainly an interesting story on its own merits.  Ellis presents a version of Britain amidst a world war with a Russian-allegory nation, where technology has advanced along very different lines.  Not only are there flying machines such as airplanes, but there are also small hovercraft and gigantic airships powered by aetheric means that I still don’t really understand (all rendered with spectacularly intricate black-and-white detail by Gianluca Pagliarani, who I believe also illustrated Ellis’s Crecy.)  All of this is just background, though, for an amusingly intriguing murder mystery in the style of Sherlock Holmes.  The book takes a very interesting turn during its final act, one that I won’t spoil for you by revealing the details (suffice to say that it gets a bit “meta”, with entertaining results).  If you like Warren Ellis and/or steampunk sci-fi and/or period crime comics, you could certainly do a lot worse for $6.99.

MUSIC:

Album Minus Band by Bomb the Music Industry! (Quote Unquote) –  Punk rock is more than just a sound, it’s an ethic, and no band that I’ve heard of lately epitomizes this belief better than Bomb the Music Industry!.  All of the band’s albums are available for free through quoteunquoterecords.com, BTMI! helps fans make their own T-shirts by supplying them with stencils & the like, and they refuse to play any shows that are not all-ages or that charge more than $10 per ticket.  So how’s the music?  It’s not earth-shatteringly amazing, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough.  I had hoped that Jeff Rosenstock had learned to slow down his music a bit and have all the instruments play nice with one another since his days in The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, but there are still plenty of points in Album Minus Band where it sounds like the musical equivalent of a 24-car pile-up.  It’s honest punk rock, though, and has the right attitude even when it can’t quite calm down enough to make sense musically.  When it does, on tracks like “Big Plans of Sleeping In” and “Ready, Set, NO!”, it sounds fantastic.  It’s certainly worth your nonexistent money to visit quoteunquoterecords.com and download it for free.  If you like it, they have three more full-length albums available on the site as well.

Greetings from Imrie House by The Click Five (Lava) – Funny story: The Click Five are a band from Boston, Massachusetts who formed while living in a house on Imrie Road.  I can’t officially confirm this, but I have reason to believe that friends of mine live in the EXACT SAME HOUSE.  How crazy is that?!  In light of this connection, I picked up Greetings from Imrie House and gave it the proverbial spin.  These fellows do an admirable job of putting out some genuine hard-pop / soft-rock music that would feel right at home on the soundtrack to a CW prime-time teen drama.  Their hooks are catchy enough to worm their way into your head for days on end, and their vocals are only slightly whiny. “Just The Girl” is the stand-out track on the album, and apparently earned the band a fair measure of success.  Shows how much I pay attention to pop music, I suppose.  If you’re looking for something in the vein of Fountains of Wayne that doesn’t sound too much like it was micro-managed by a money-hungry label, I highly recommend The Click Five.

VIDEO GAMES:


Phantasy Star Universe for Xbox 360 (Sega) – Some people frown on the “pre-owned game” trade popularized by GameStop, but it can be very useful when you want to pick up a game that has been out of print for years (and at a fraction of its original price.)  I picked up a copy of Phantasy Star Universe for the Xbox at my local pawn shop for $6, which is effectively 90% off.  While I can honestly say that the single-player mode is worth the $6 I paid, I certainly would not have paid full retail for this rehash of a fairly generic last-generation action RPG.  I pretty much missed the boat on the Phantasy Star series (though I do have II, III and IV on the Sega Genesis Collection for PSP) so maybe nostalgia is the X-factor that makes Universe more exciting.  It feels to me like a combination of Mass Effect’s universe and general premise (though technically PSU came first) with a clunky version of Kingdom Hearts’s battle system and a few fantasy elements chucked in for good measure.  There are some good points about the single-player experience, though, such as the ability to choose from a variety of primary weapon types and an episodic structure (complete with “next time on Phantasy Star Universe” segments) that breaks up the game into neat little clusters.  But none of this touches on the reason why I bought the game in the first place: The online multiplayer “MMORPG” feature.  My goal was to find I game I could buy cheaply and send as a Christmas gift to my few friends with XBoxes, so that we would all have at least one game that we could play together online.  PSU started out as a winning pick, but was quickly eliminated when I discovered that the Online Multiplayer half of the game costs $10 per month to play!  I know that these things cost money to maintain, but that seems awfully steep considering PSU’s place in the pantheon of MMORPGS (pretty far down the list, IIRC.)  Even $5 might have been acceptable in the short term, but I’m really looking for a game that piggy-backs on the XBox Live Gold membership and charges no additional fee.  My list is down to Left 4 Dead 1, Borderlands, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and Castle Crashers.  If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

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3 Responses

  1. My sister and my mother make fun of The Click Five mercilessly. I’ll tell them the band potentially lived in the same house your friends now live in, and see if that makes them less likely to mock. I’m not hopeful about that prognosis.

    The Warren Ellis looks cool. I’m trying to figure out if I like steampunk or not. I’m leaning toward “yes”, but that may just be because of the fact Steampunk people have been making weird things out of Altoids tins…

  2. The Click Five had a minor hit with “Just the Girl” in 2008, and IIRC, they were Fountains of Wayne-ish. I saw the Imrie Road before the rest of the entry, and that excited me, thinking that some of your friends started a band and released an album. However, the connection, however slippery, is still very, very cool. Maybe one day they’ll come back and visit.

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