Archive for 2008

Hi-ya!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

One of the more interesting things I’ve done recently is taking up Mixed Martial Arts, or as we in the biz like to call it, Mixed Martial Arts. Now, I’m not normally a stand-up, knock ‘em out type of guy (actually I’m more of a sit-down, slouch, and drink tea kind of guy) but I’m kinda digging it.

MMA is (obviously) a mixture of a bunch of different disciplines, so we get training in boxing, kicking and wrestling, as well as fitness training. I’m not normally too bad with exercise (see, I take the dog for a saunter a couple of times a week) but I really detest running on a treadmill and staring at the wall. I much prefer doing something practical, so kicking people in the ribs is perfect for me.

My first lesson was a little odd, grappling with a strange sweaty man twice my size made me think twice about why the hell I was there on a Tuesday night when I could have been sitting at home rearranging the pantry. But by the end of the lesson I’d learned to move like a tiger. Well, not really. More like an albatross, but I enjoyed trying.

So now I’m a white belt and a padawan learner. But in a few months, I will own you.

Album Review: Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Ever since the excellent “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” way back in 1995, Oasis have made a very good living from mediocrity. A string of half decent albums, punctuated with the occasional good song has been the staple diet of Oasis fans for a good thirteen years. Each record has been hailed as a “return to form” and each record is just another puff of smoke.

Enter their latest recording, “Dig Out Your Soul”. Surprise, surprise, there’s nothing new here. Frustratingly, Oasis have yet again managed to create another saleable record without doing anything interesting.

One of the problems with Oasis is, they wax philosophical when they have no insight or wisdom. As Beatle fanboys, they feel they have some kind of obligation to sing about love, or souls, or somesuch. Listening to Liam Gallagher whine pseudo-spiritual rote is condescending to the point of frustration.

“I’m Outta Time” borrows a guitar part from The Beatle’s excellent “Dear Prudence”, some piano flourishes from “A Day In The Life”, similar vocal samples to “I Am The Walrus”, and adds some George Harrison style slide guitar. The result of all this plagiarism is a schmaltzy, boring meander which fakes emotion but fails dismally.

The Beatle aping doesn’t end there. After imparting their empty wisdom, Oasis will predictably throw a psychadelic number into the mix. Oh, how interesting. This happens on every album, so there are no surprises there. When the Beatles experimented with psychadelic, it was a revolutionary sound. They experimented for a couple of years and moved on. Oasis have been busy carbon copying the 1966-1967 sound for a good ten years now. It’s time to move on, boys.

I’m not saying the songs on “Dig Out Your Soul” are bad. In fact, some of them are an enjoyable listen. The trouble is, Oasis are far too busy thinking about making a good record to actually make a good record. This album will probably satisfy the old guard who keep buying the records, but this album is yet another boring chapter in the mediocre story of Oasis.

Afe’s Score: 5/10

Album Review: Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Right, so I’m twelve years old, and Guns N’ Roses are the best thing EVER. I don’t really know the first thing about being dangerous, having sex, or taking drugs, so I’ll just go into my bedroom, put on “You Could Be Mine”, and hump the air.

I’m kind of happy it worked out this way. Rather than knocking around the scene for years (a la AC/DC), becoming stale and boring, endlessly carbon copying themselves and re-releasing old material, Guns N’ Roses did what every most dangerous band in the world must do – they imploded.

Yes, it took a long time to make this record. Yes, it cost a truck-load of money. Yes, Axl is a dickhead. But did you really miss him? Really? Deep down inside? If he hadn’t gone into hiding, Axl would just be another crusty old washed-up rocker joining forces with Audioslave or somebody, flogging the dead horse. I’ve always been a fan of the old adage, “Ifyou’ve got nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”, so I’m personally glad we haven’t seen Axl’s corn-roll garnished, gargantuan egocentric head for a while.

So let’s put the record on. It’s been so long since I’ve heard this voice, that it’s kind of weird. It’s almost like a ghost from the past, or someone that should be dead. I’m having some serious teen flashbacks here. It doesn’t really sound like Guns N’ Roses, well, because it’s not Guns N’ Roses. While Axl provided the songwriting, Slash’s pioneering guitar playing was an equally important voice in that group. “Chinese Democracy” sounds more like a solo record, and for all intents and purposes, that’s what it is. Having said that, Axl’s go-to boys have done an excellent job imitating Slash here and laying down some killer guitar.

The first and title track rocks out nicely, and Axl’s poison tongue is as sharp as it was in 1991. It reminds me that half the reason Guns N Roses were so good was that Axl is a mean motherfucker. This new record touches on the nu-metal and industrial genres which came into prominence during Axl’s hibernation, but also remains somewhat true to the hard-rock serpentine spirit that was at the core of GN’R. Axl’s sampling is subtle enough to work nicely with the songs, and tighter drumming thankfully replaces the reverb-drenched stadium sound which so characterised the early 90′s period.

There’s nothing I’d like to do more than rip the shit out of Axl for the next 400 words or so for being such a colossal knob, but this album is actually not bad. It’s confusing, it’s dark, it’s odd, and it teeters on the edge of cringe-worthy. But then again, GN’R were always a little bit cringeworthy.

It’s produced with a fine-tooth comb, and you’d assume that over a decade of production would translate to over-production, but actually, not really. The band sounds tight. There’s very little of the symphonic epic style seen in 1991′s “November Rain” or “Estranged” – Axl has pared his sound and songwriting down to acrid, smouldering, driving rock, which pulls the album together nicely. The slower songs like “Sorry” and “Madagascar” aren’t lushly produced or flowery power-ballads, they’re sleek slow-burners with a driving purpose and focused energy.

The faster, nasty, guitar-driven songs on here, such as “Shackler’s Revenge” and “Scraped” usually hit the mark, with plenty of guitar shredding to keep the Slash era fans satisfied. There are certainly a couple of scrappy moments and low points, and the album is not a masterpiece. But it’s a coherent effort and, despite the hype and legend surrounding the record, it doesn’t feel like a cash-in. On the contrary, “Chinese Democracy” sounds suspiciously like artistic expression, and it may be the most consistent GN’R album yet.

Rumours abound that his may be the first in a trilogy of albums, and the twelve-year old in me is actually kind of excited. Now that Rose has purged himself, it might actually free him up to break new ground. Whether I’ll keep listening is another question – I just don’t take air guitar that seriously any more.

Afe’s Score – 5.8 / 10

Read more album reviews at Halo-17.net

Album Review: Ben Folds – Way to Normal

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Piano virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Ben Folds has been around long enough to know what makes a good pop record, and his latest release, “Way to Normal”, captures his energy, humour, and pop instinct perfectly.

Folds has been successfully balancing his impressive piano skills with clever songwriting, discordant fist jabs, fuzzy bass, and loud exclamations of “fuck” for quite a while now. I was fortunate enough to catch an energetic Ben Folds Five live show in Brisbane’s Festival Hall back in ’99. The crowd surfing was fun, but the highlight was watching someone throw a shoe at the drummer and nearly miss.

After parting ways with his faithful band and star vehicle, Folds went solo and recorded the solid “Rockin’ The Suburbs.” It seems suburban life and domestic bliss took their toll though, and the resulting lifeless adult contemporary pop of 2005′s “Songs for Silverman” demonstrated that marriage, kids, and Rock ‘n’ Roll don’t mix.

Following this disappointment, Folds returned to his oddball roots and compiled a series of EP’s into Supersunnyspeedgraphic. The LP returned to the tradition of great songwriting and cutting sense of humour. (Note his version of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches ‘Aint Shit” for possibly the most hilarious cover of all time). Now, after a couple of years break, Folds has returned with a punchy, focused record which brings his strengths together beautifully.

The first track, “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)” is a fun and up-tempo number, seemingly recorded live, which captures his grandiose, energetic live performances and describes Folds falling from the stage in Japan. I’ve always loved artists who don’t take themselves too seriously. Amusingly, the following track, “Dr. Yang”, describes a visit to the acupuncturist and chiropractor.

The third track and first single, “You Don’t Know Me”, is an impressive piece of work. Featuring fellow oddball Regina Spektor, the duet is (dare I say it) almost the perfect pop song. By which I mean that it’s beautifully produced, it sticks in my head for days, and I never get tired of listening to it.

If you’re a piano nerd who writes fast-tempo pop songs with a dash of humour, you’re most likely in grave danger of becoming a novelty act, so it’s a good thing that Folds can turn out a gorgeously sad ballad once in a while. Nicely placed in the middle of the record is the lovely Cologne, a relationship swan-song, in which the refrain “I’m letting you go” hits the emotional target dead-centre.

The second half of the record closes slightly weaker than the first, but the songs are still fun and engaging. ‘Errant Dog’, ‘Bitch Went Nuts’, and ‘Brainwascht’ are a trilogy of testaments to Folds’ dysfunctional relationships and failed marriages. “The bitch went nuts – she stabbed my basketball, and the speakers to my stereo” is an example of Folds unique acerbic lyrical humour and skewed take on relationships.

Apparently, there is an early leaked version of the album which contains specially recorded ‘fake’ tracks, which I’d love to hear, because I’m sure the tracks are hilarious. Fortunately, my own dull domestic bliss saves me from having my basketball and speakers stabbed, but I still enjoy a good laugh – and this album is a musical pleasure.

Afe’s score: 6.4 / 10

Read more album reviews at Halo-17.net

It’s beer and t-shirt weather

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Dudes. It is WAY too hot for cups of tea, so I am officially switching to beer, effective immediately. It’s not even five o’clock and I am drinking one! It is delicious. I am even using a beer cooler because it is so HOT that perspiration is forming upon my brow. There is a fly trying to drink my perspiration, and I am telling him to go away.

Recently, I predicted that Bananarama Orama would win the U.S. election, and I was right. Congratulations to Bananarama and his raggedy team of misfits. Now everything is going to be OK again. The financial crisis will be averted by a wave of optimism, the beers will be ice cold, and the polar bears will stop dying.

Speaking of financials, I was recently shocked to learn that I made a stupid decision earlier in the year. You see, everybody was predicting that interest rates would go down, so I fixed my home loan at 8.4%. Now that everything is going down the tubes, the interest rates are plummeting like nobody’s business. That makes me sad because I am paying more than everybody else.

As far as I can make out, the game of capitalism is won by accumulating comparatively more points than everybody else. When you have more points than another person, you can tell them what to do. My current score is approximately 50,000 points, which is a pretty good score, however there are still many people with more points than me, so I have to do what they say most of the time. If I play my cards right, I’ll have a few hundred thousand points by the time I am 65 and I can sit around on my arse telling people what to do. Then people will look at me and think, “That is a man who has many points”, and they will obey.

Election Plomises

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Here at the internet, we always like to keep abreast of the latest developments in the world. Recently my faithful homing pigeons have brought word that they are having a presidential election the United States of America.

Jumping junipers! Remember that you heard it first here, and that you now owe me forty cents.

There are two peoples who really want to be president, an old dude and a black dude. The black dude says “Let’s do some change!”, and the old dude says “Let’s put the country first!”, whatever that means. These are both very strong policy platforms. On the one hand, you have a gentleman who will employ a general changiness around the place, possibly changing the curtains in the Whitehouse and walking a different way to work each morning. On the other hand, you have a gentleman who promises to put the Country before EVERYTHING, even you! So even before he has his Weeties in the morning, you’ll know the country has been attended to, and that the terrorists have been vanquished.

So, who will win? Barack Obama or John McCain? If there’s one thing Wesley Snipes has taught us, it’s always bet on black.

The consumption

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Sometimes I like to just start typing and see what comes out of my fingers. What’s on my mind lately is that I haven’t been reading much (at all, in fact) which could be why I’ve got little motivation to write. After reading quite a few books in my wonderful world-travelling days of 2007, I think I’ve only read one book this year. Riding the tube to work every day in London was a brilliant reading incentive. That, and lazing around in hostels.

I’ve got a bunch of good books within reaching distance but I got stuck on a Dickens a few months back and I lost my reading mojo. A couple of nights ago I started afresh with ‘Heart of Darkness’ by um, someone (I forget right now). Seems interesting. At least it’s short, and might help me get back on the horse.

We may possibly be watching far too many movies and TV shows. Lately I’ve been super-enjoying Dexter, as well as a bit of I’m Alan Partidge (tip of the hat to Curly). Also on my list of things-to-get-hold-of is more of The West Wing, the first series of which we really enjoyed a couple of years back.

Watching stuff on the screen is so passive though, I mean, there’s nothing that feels quite as engaging as reading a good book.

Yes

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I am bored. Would you like to play with me? It’s just the dog and I at home tonight, and I am watching mildly interesting financial news on the television. I am thinking of flossing my teeth, or perhaps dreaming of how I can accumulate more material possessions. Perhaps I should drink some wine?

That is all.

Panic! at the Stock Market

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Is bearYeah, the financial crisis is hitting pretty hard. This morning I only had 3 Weet-Bix instead of 4 and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to cancel my pedicure appointment tomorrow.

Apparently, our Prime Minister is going to give a wad-load of cash to pensioners and first home buyers around Christmas-time. I’m neither of those things, so I’m feeling left out. I guess I’ll just have to cheat on my taxes.

As a small business owner I guess it’s possible that I might find myself running short of work as a result. Don’t people always need websites though? Wouldn’t everything be alright if everyone just relaxed and carried on as usual? Stupid panicky stockmarket investors! Stop panicking! STOP IT!!!

Anyhoo, I’ve run out of work just now so I’m going to stare at the wall for a bit. Actually that feels kind of good. I guess if the world went to shit I’d still have a wall to stare at. Or at least somebody else’s wall.

WTFWJD

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

HA HA!

I have just been reading some old shit from back in the day and realised that I am hilariouius!! Things were much funnier back then. There were funny people visiting my blog and they were also saying funny shit. I think the current suckiness of my blog might have had something to do with working for other people rather than myself. Now that I’m footing the bill it’s a lot harder to waste everyone’s time. Being a grown-up sucks.

Last week I had a virus on my computer and I had to wipe the hard drive. Damn! That was the end of my experiment in downloading TV shows off the internet illegally. Jesus has taught me a lesson, and I’m going to stick with him.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION TIME:

Do you download stuff off the internet? If so, how do you safeguard against viruses? Have you ever had a computer virus? What is a virus? What colour was your poo this morning? Do you think anti-virus software companies write the viruses?

Please discuss.