Monday, 28 April 2008

Oh, another thing

I feel I should mention that I'm now in the Football Manager Live beta. So far it's very beta-ish - i.e the servers have kept going down. More thoughts once I've been in the game a while.

Magic: The Gathering

Yeah, yeah, it's the 'geeky hobbies blog'. I embrace counterculture, alright? Just in a very, very loose sense of 'counterculture'.

Anyway, I've found myself asking the perennial question this weekend - why the hell did I throw out my Magic cards (for those who don't know, it's the most established collectible card game going,
and is most definitely a geeky hobby)? The game's brilliant. There's a lovely blend of luck and skill, all sorts of strategy in deck-building etc, and the collectible aspect is fantastic - the designers have an amazing knack for bringing in interesting new mechanics, and opening a pack to see what new tricks the contents will give you is unfailingly entertaining.

I used to have a fairly good collection going - not up to date or anything (and it is a bloody expensive hobby to keep up to date with) but great fun for casual play. But in a fit of pique a couple of years ago, I threw it out. I think I thought I was going to stop all that nonsense and start drinking all the time and watching football and, well, not playing fantasy card games. And I have, except not all that much drinking. But God knows why I thought those things were mutually exclusive (I vaguely recall intending not to play many computer games as well - ha).

I may rectify the madness and think about getting back into it. You can never have too many geeky hobbies.

Monday, 21 April 2008


Heh. I write a post about not being lazy and then go AWOL. Basically I went home for the Easter holiday, and I guess blogging seemed less appealing up in the rainy North. Plus there was unpleasant relationship stuff and I generally wasn't in the mood. Anyway, I am officially not dead.

So, at the express request of Mr H, I'm going to wax lyrical about Nick Cave. In fact, I'm going to go a bit further, because this has been a hell of a couple of months music-wise. Cave and R.E.M release records that can sit proudly next to their best stuff from the past, and an absolutely mind-blowing debut appears in the form of The Indelicates' American Demo.

Let's start with Mr Cave. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is, well, pretty much what everyone on the internets says it is - awesome. It has a fantastic energy to it, and a gorgeous richness of sound - even the slower, less rocky tracks (and there are a good few rockers - Albert Goes West and Lie Down Here (And Be My Girl) are particularly speaker-rattling) have fantastic hooks. The post-chorus riff in Moonland springs to mind, although its hardly necessary to draw you in - the dark, almost apocalyptic landscape and bitter emotional punch ('The snow provides a silent cover/And I'm not your favourite lover') in the lyrics are vintage Cave.

The last track, More News From Nowhere, marks a slightly odd shift in tone from the rest of the record. Its more relaxed (though still rhythmic, particularly in Cave's vocals) feel, as it ambles through a poetic survey of former lovers, is almost poppy. Still fantastic, but it takes a slight shift in gear to listen to after the chaotic climax of Midnight Man (which is probably my favourite track on the record).

A lot's been said about how Accelerate is supposed to be a 'comeback' for R.E.M. Well, I'm not so sure they ever fell away. I can see what people's beef is with Around The Sun, but I quite like it, and it's sure as hell better than Monster. And the three inbetween are all excellent IMO (Up is genius, despite the naysayers). Anyhoo, comeback or not, the new one is certainly a good ride. People may be talking about them redefining themselves, but there's actually a lot of throwback going on here (Stipe even references old song titles in the lyrics of Sing For The Submarine), to the point where you can play the 'which album could this be an outtake from?' game most of the way through - Until The Day Is Done could easily be from Automatic and the afore-mentioned STFS on New Adventures. The great thing is that these tracks are on a par with the stuff they hark back to, rather than being an inferior rehash - R.E.M. are showing that they've still got it. All of it.

But even these two greats are getting pushed out of my media player by American Demo (which, given the above praise, and their pedigree, is rather impressive). I'm not sure I can describe quite how fantastic The Indelicates' songwriting is. The album is an angry, bitter, dark, sarcastic act of lashing out at a generation's failure to live up to its ideals or deliver on its promises - at rebellion for rebellion's sake (a brilliant faux-news headline in the video for Julia, We Don't Live In The 60's, reads 'Rebels demand a cause - radicals baffled'), at pretentiousness and complacency and idiocy in all its manifestations. It ranges from the fiery and confrontational (Our Daughters Will Never Be Free and America) to poignant, melodic portraits of destructive relationships (Stars and New Art For The People). Good stuff.