Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dan Sartain - Doin' Anything I Say

If you’re not familiar with the work of Dan Sartain, you may be rather pleasantly surprised by his latest single ‘Doin’ Anything I Say’ Why? Because it’s by far the most classically rock and roll thing I’ve reviewed for Gobshout. As much as I enjoy a bit of the old indie tuneage, it’s good to hear some proper rocking out courtsey of the man from Birmingham, Alabama.

The rock and roll riffs of Doin’ Anything I Say kick in after a drum heavy introduction and they actually seem to make up most of the track. However, this is no bad thing because Sartain plays so well and the guitar solos are a joy to listen to.

The few vocals there are simple yet catchy with “doin’ anything I say” forming the key part of the chorus. Their lo-fi style contrast well with the rockabilly riffs and if they were to be compared to anything it would be favourably to the vocal style of Hot Hot Heat.

There’s really not that much else to say about this release from the Americans latest album Dan Sartain Lives other than the fact that, apparently, ‘Doin’ Anything I Say’ is popular among American sportsmen.

Expect it to appear on Sky Sports montages shortly.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Breton - Sharing Notes EP

Music as ‘art’ is very much the in thing now right? Especially if you just so happen to live in certain parts of East London (assuming that nothing’s changed since I moved away).

There are people who believe giving the impression of being ‘arty’ is as important as the music. Breton is a “creative force of musicians” that this reviewer gets the impression are being arty for the sake of it.

The blurb that came with their second E.P. – part of a trilogy apparently – Sharing Notes doesn’t really quash this theory either;

“The physical copy of this E.P. will come mounted on a handmade circuit board with a list of components and directions which, when followed, creates a fully working synth”

Right, ok... let’s hope the music on this six track E.P. makes up for this general air of pretentiousness. Oh...

Within ten seconds of The Well there's a distinct feel of Audio Bullys. It’s a synth based, industrial electronic track that actually has a somewhat creepy vibe to it. Unfortunately, the track consists of the same melody throughout and it gets dull quite quickly. Not a good start.

Penultimate starts off bouncier than the opening track, but unfortunately quickly degrades into an only electronic and beeping number with some pretty bleak vocals. You start to get the impression that Breton are being ‘experimental’ and artistic for the sake of it.

The title track of the E.P., Sharing Notes, goes someway to redeeming the outfits credibility, with the almost orchestral arrangement combined with the heavy bass actually sound quite good. It’s a shame the muttered, moody spoken word lyrics – no doubt said while looking ‘cool’ – occasionally get drowned out by the bass.

The EP gets a well needed injection of adrenaline with Episodes with his high tempo vocals, beats, beeps and synths. If you had to play a track from Sharing Notes in a bar it’d probably be this one.... you could probably only get away with it in Shoreditch, mind. It’s a shame the momentum of Episodes doesn’t continue into the 1:26 long Watertight which only really provides more bleak lyrics to an electronic arrangement. 15x closes the 16 minute long E.P., and to be honest it just sounds too similar to the rest of the record.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, if Breton had released Episodes as a single than this would be getting a rather positive review. Unfortunately, Sharing Notes is a six track E.P. which just isn’t very engaging or creative. Yes, it’s good to be experimental and perhaps it’s good to be artistic and ‘different’ too, but when you take that risk, the result has to be good.

This isn’t good. Breton, you may keep your home-made synth instructions.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

Two Door Cinema Club - Come Back Home

There are two things that can seemingly happen to an artist than features in a list of artists to watch out for. They either achieve massive success a la Florence and The Machine, or they seemingly disappear into relative obscurity like VV Brown.

So, after featuring on the BBC sound of 2010 list, does Come Back Home give any indication as to which way Two Door Cinema Club will go?

Well, these three lads from Bangor, Northern Island can have their musical style best described as electro indie-rock – an arguably oversubscribed area these days with many, many artists jockeying for chart positions. Come Back Home is a decent track, but it could very well get squeezed by more established artists.

After a short, chilled out introduction, the track kicks off properly with the somewhat predictable combination of guitar, bass and synths. That isn’t to say the beat isn’t catchy – it is, thanks to the bass of Kevin Baird – but it’s just so very familiar. If you were listening to an instrumental version of Come Back Home, you could easily mistake it for something by Reverend and The Makers.

The whole combination of the vocals of Alex Trimble, combined with guitar, bass and synths just comes across as so generic. This isn’t really helped out by the repetitive lyrics:

“So now your own, won’t you come back home, to see you your not that kind, to the strength to find another way” is repeated throughout the track, and despite the key changes, the vocals and lyrics of Come Back Home seem bland. The three remixes on this release just see these lyrics repeated even more.

So, if you like electro indie-rock, there’s nothing to say that you won’t like single number four from Tourist History, but with so many artists producing similar music, you may just end up ignoring Two Door Cinema Club.

If they want to be anything but electro pop also-rans, then album number two will need a reinvention of style in order to distinguish themselves from the competition. If they don’t then despite their decent sound, it’ll be music Room 101 for them.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sam and Max: Devils Playhouse 3 - They Stole Max's Brain

After Episodes 1 and 2, Telltale Games’ episodic Sam And Max Season 3: The Devils Playhouse continues, with Episode 3: They Stole Max’s Brain. Can you guess what the main premise behind this one is? Yes, after an ill timed bathroom break, Sam returns to find ‘they’ stole Max’s brain! He therefore sets out to find how who’s done this to his buddy and kick arse. Sam’s anger sees our favourite six foot talking dog lose his usual calm demeanour and go all film noir detective on us.

The games first act sees Sam questioning suspects about the whereabouts of Max’s brain. This is done by attempting to make your suspect drop their guard with a well-timed option from a dialogue tree consisting of threaten, hurry up, you’re lying and noir. Noir is the best of the bunch with Sam spouting a dark, questioning Film Noir style piece of dialogue. Naturally, this being Sam and Max, all of this dialogue is witty. The only problem with it is if you need to interrogate suspects more than once, hearing the same dialogue gets tedious.

Sam’s interrogations take him to the Museum of Mostly Natural History, which is exhibiting Treasures of the Forgotten Pharaoh. The Pharaoh just happens to be that of Sammun-Mak, whose tomb featured in Episode 2: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak. Who’d have thought it! There are no more interrogations from this point, with They Stole Max’s Brain following the traditional adventure game pattern from here on in – exploration, (genuinely amusing) conversations with other characters and deciphering how to use items in order to solve puzzles.

Like many, many other adventure games, the solutions to puzzles can seem farfetched, but this is Sam and Max so insanity is to be expected. However, help is at hand thanks to a hints system that will aid novice adventure gamers, or journalists that have review deadlines to meet. *cough* Moving on, Max – who mainly features this time around as a brain in a jar – has his familiar collection of toy’s. Rhinoplasty can still be used to change Max into items to key items while Future Vision can provide extra clues with solving puzzles. Like The Doctor and his Sonic Screwdriver, Max’s toys appear to aid in any situation – this may disappoint veteran adventurers.

It is possible to play They Stole Max’s Brain without having played The Penal Zone and The Tomb of Sammun-Mak, but this isn’t recommended. After all, this is part of a story stretched across a series so there are concepts, characters and even jokes that will confuse a new player, even with the help of notes about the cast in Sam’s suspect list. That said it’s still entirely possible to enjoy this episode in its own right thanks to the wicked humour. Six foot cockroach and security guard Sal really steals the show.

They Stole Max’s Brain is a highly entertaining – and nice looking - adventure game that any Sam and Max fans will love thanks to the duo’s trademark zany humour. The three to four hour episode can still very much be played as a standalone game, even if you’re new to the series, but playing the previous episodes of the series beforehand is highly recommended. However, don’t expect many questions to be answered by Episode 3 of a five part series. If anything, even more questions are raised and especially by the cliff hanger ending. Will they be answered in Episode 4: Beyond The Alley Of The Dolls?

Not bloody likely!

(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Friday, 2 July 2010

Broken Bells - The Ghost Inside

It’s summer! As I write this it’s boiling hot and there are thousands of people in a field near Glastonbury enjoying great music and the great weather. Maybe some of you dear readers are there right now (You lucky gits...) but when you return you’ll no doubt want some summery sounds to remind you of the good times. The Ghost Inside by Broken Bells could very well provide you with this fix.

You may not have heard of the American Broken Bells, who only released their debut self titled album in March this year. However, you will have heard of the bands two members: They are James Mercer of The Shins and Brian Burton – aka music producer Danger Mouse.

As soon as The Ghost Inside starts, it’s evident to anyone who heard anything by Gnarls Barkley (And who didn’t) that Danger Mouse is involved as the funky beats give it right away. The bass is heavy, the riff is simple but combined they make an incredibly catchy tune. This is especially so with the instrumental b-side, which for some reason I feel would fit in well with the cut scene introduction of Grand Theft Auto IV. Or maybe that’s just me being a massive geek.

Moving on, the vocals are mostly very high pitched – we’re talking Scissor Sisters style high here – but it goes perfectly with the funky beat of the track. A key change towards the end of the track sees Mercer take over the vocal duties.

The Ghost Inside is funky and fun, a great track to play during a summer evening barbeque.

(Originally written for Gobshout)