Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Video Games - The New Frontier

Call this a stopgap entry, if you will. I'm writing it mostly out of frustration. Incredibly self-centered, suburban-white-kid-with-too-much-time-on-his-hands frustration.

I've been playing Final Fantasy VII recently... well, kind of. I started a new game back in May, and due to a few mishaps (i.e. my house burning down), it's been tough getting back in my element in terms of video games. I mean, I'm on the last disc of VII, which is pretty much the last dregs of the game before the ending. Heck, the ending is pretty much all there is to the last disc of the game, save for the side quests (which, of course, I am doing).

But see - over the summer, my entire video game "schedule" (as I like to call it) got totally out of whack. After I lost my house, I played whatever I possibly could; I needed a lot of distraction. I borrowed Resident Evil 4 from my friends and I finished that. I started a game in FFIV for the GBA and never got too far in it. When I got back to college, I polished off God of War. This was all during a time when Final Fantasy VII was still waiting there, right at the breakaway from Midgar, probably one of my favorite parts in the game.

Now, in all fairness, I didn't play FFVII at first because... well, it was still in my basement, in my old house. Later on my father grabbed everything he could out of that place before it was torn down, including pretty much all of my video games (I guess I'm lucky in that sense; I'm not sure). But before that I wasn't sure if I'd get to play it again for a long, long time, so I distanced myself from it. It was a natural reaction. So when I had it back, in almost perfectly fine condition, it was like, "Oh... great."

So Final Fantasy VII, at first, became something of a bitter reminder of how my life had been before I lost my house. Freewheeling summer days, you see. My cats were fine, I was in my beloved basement room, I was relaxed after a weird freshmen year of college. But now - now I was in a second-floor room in a somewhat bland condominium, in the middle of a 55-and-older condo complex on the other side of town. Plus, I had lost a player's guide I enjoyed reading while playing the game - the official guide from Brady Games - since it was so comprehensive and informative. But now it just didn't feel right at all. It was tough, getting back into FFVII after that. Everything just reminded me of how it used to be.

Eventually I got back in the swing of things. When I got back to UConn a couple of months back, I spent a lot more time on the game. And, thankfully, I've been reminded of why I love it. Remember that part where Cloud and Tifa fall into the lifestream? It's arguably my favorite part of the game... it plays this instrumental track "On the Other Side of the Mountain" when they talk about Tifa's mother, something I didn't expect. I've had the FFVII soundtrack for a while and I never could remember where that song fit into the game. It feels so much better, knowing. I honestly find that portion of the game to be among the most beautiful I've seen in any video game, and it lifted my spirits beyond the beyond. FFVII felt kinda short this time around - even with all the delays, the second disc whizzed by - but it still does mean a lot to me, and I hope that the next time I play it (by tradition, two years from now) will be during a less tumultuous time for me.

Now I've just gotta finish the fucking thing, though. I want to finish the sidequests and everything, but my completest attitude is pressuring me to get everyone to level 99, beat Ruby and Emerald (who I've still never beaten!), and get everybody's best weapons/limits. I might do SOME of that, but for god's sake, it's practically November already. I've got other games in mind! Damnit.

But okay. Just to be informative, the next few entries I write might very well be video game oriented, as opposed to a lot of the musical stuff I've been writing about recently. After FFVII is over, I feel it is my duty as Sean David Fucking Rose to replay Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and a crapload of Zelda games. I'm inspired. And if I can somehow divert some of the energy I have when I play video games into my writing - boy howdy, I may fucking have something!!

Then again, there's always the Wii release. That's gonna put my tightly scheduled balls into the onion grinder. But besides that - I don't want to play any more new games for a while. After what happened to my house, I feel the need to exorcise some demons - finish these older games, get the lead out, and become whole again. No more academic bullshit, no more wallowing in boredom and depression. Time to make something go right, damnit! Through the power of the FUCKING TRIFORCE!!

...ehh, maybe.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

This Is A Good Album: "Chocolate and Cheese" by Ween

I've been downloading albums like an insane nymph recently and I don't know which albums to pay attention to. Really!! I'm dividing up my music listening time way too much sir. It hasn't always been like this. I usually pace myself when it comes to music. What's happening to me??

"Chocolate and Cheese", though, this Ween album. This band, this music, has stood out. It is riveting.

I thought Ween were this cutesy, stupid country-folk band! I saw them on "South Park" and "Crank Yankers," way back in the day. They had that song "The Rainbow". "Many colors in the Homo Rainbow... don't be afriad to let your colors shiiiiiine!!" That was the only line they played in the episode, and it was hilarious. But that's all I thought of them, you know. That's what I thought of them when I first heard them mentioned by album reviewers and friends alike. "Oh... the 'Homo Rainbow' guys! Haha. That was pretty funny. They're probably a decent band for a laugh. Let's see how they are!"

Lemme just say one thing. Ween are not a joke band. And I mean that. They are jokey, joke-ish, they... well, they tell some jokes. Sure they do! But they're not a novelty, they certainly aren't cute, and they're not a bunch of songs written by some alt-rock parody band or something. I guess you really have to listen to the music to see what I mean, I like to generalize.

But you get the picture, I think. Right from "Take Me Away," you can see these guys aren't just a cute joke. Okay, Dean's voice (is it Dean or Gene? I forget which one) sounds like a Elvis impersonator after more than a few shots of Captain Morgan. But hey - the music is great! Rockabilly blues or something, I don't know. It's the same with a lot of their other songs - "Roses Are Free," one of my favorites, is kinda like Prince I think. Damn, man, it's striaght-up funkadelic shit. Lyrics about a pumpkin holding your destiny. Sounds silly, sure, but listen to the song! The way the guitar and that crazy synth noodly thing build during the bridge, right after that crazy circus-themed ditty rolls off. It's so much happening at once, and it's great! Ween, no matter how bizarre or funny they get, keep their insturmentation surprisingly powerful and tight on this album.

Oh by the way. This album is a genre-hopper - you know what I mean. "We're gonna do a bunch of different song styles 'cause we're so talented and eclectic, nyah nyah nyah." Well, yeah. Ween are that talented and eclectic, it turns out! They're not just making fun of a bunch of different song styles - they're writing songs that could be mistaken for straight-up pop and dance songs, really, if we all didn't know they were Ween. Have your mom listen to "Freedom of '76" (old-skoolz r&b), "Joppa Road" (kind of calypso feel here), "Buenas Tardes Amigo" (a seven-minute Spanish spaghetti-western acoustic thing or whatever - it sounds totally authentic, man!), or "What Deaner Was Talkin' About" (straight-up catchy pop). I bet that old fartpuss lady won't realize that they were all recorded as a JOKE! By a JOKE BAND!! (Was it all a joke? I can't tell, please tell me).

Side note, "What Deaner Was Talkin' About." So catchy. I've listened to it about thirteen times on iTunes already (omin-oussss) and hoboy I've only had the album for... like, less than a week. It's so catchy! I have no damn clue what it's about. "The sun comes up, and I'm all washed out/Is this what Deaner was talking about?" What was he talking about? I don't know. But this song makes me so happy!! It's only two minutes long so I have to keep listening to it. I cann't stop

Then okay. There are bizarre songs for all you sicko Residents fans. I don't want to separate the straight-up songs and the messed up ones - it's a disservice to the album, really, since every song flows so guddamn well. Every bizarre song has something conventional in it, every conventional song has something very weird nestled inside.

"Spinal Meningitis" is the weirdest one on the album - and it's the second track so it sets a good tone. Really catchy! And it's from the perspective of a child dying from spinal meningitis. This very unnerving, childlike voice emplores, "Why they wanna see my spine, mommy?/ Why they wanna see my spine?/ It's gonna hurt again, mommy/ much worse than last time." Creepiest part for me is "Am I gonna see God, mommy?" Oh man. This song is like a Residents song, totally. Chorus is very catchy, though. Ween, you sick fucks. Making diseasey jokes like this.

"Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?" is another very depressing story, involving a kid who's pet pony is dying. "I think it's his lung," the child sings. But it's a happy-dappy, catchy song once again!! You'll find yourself singing along to this kid's desperate pleas to help a poor, defenseless dying animal, and you won't care. Ween have gone beyond the realm of a normal novelty band; they have proven, with this song, that we are all sick little fucks who will sing along to a tune about dying ponies. Hellz yeh mizzlebizzles.

"The HIV Song" is the song to play to your college-kid friends for a quick laugh. If you're nice and shallow, you'll download this song after having a friend play it for you, laugh a bit, and then never think about the song or Ween again. It'll be the cute novelty song between all your Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matisyahu. Basically it's a jaunty little instrumental that stops after every eight measures with the word "AIDS." Or "HIV." Yeah, it's funny. It's pretty much our generation's "Tequila", actually.

It's 4:30 AM and I wanna wrap up the review quickly I guess, so I'll go over some of my other favorite tracks quickly. "Baby Bitch" is a little silly, but it feels like one of the most genuine breakup songs I've ever heard. When Ween says "Fuck you, you stinkin' asshole" to a girl, I don't find it that funny. Well, okay, I do, but mostly because it makes a lot of sense. Doesn't that line just sum up breakups perfectly? Anyway. "A Tear For Eddie," is a REALLY impressive instrumental, "Voodoo Lady" is funktastic, "Drifer in the Dark" and "Don't Shit Where You Eat" are just funny, and "Candi" is just oh so silly. There... I think that's every track. Where's my blowjob.

Hahaahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!11!!!!!!! BLOWJOB

So this album is wonderful, I am saying. And so is this band. If you're a fan of comedy rock - or just music in general - totally buy this album, or download it if you aren't sure, like I did (I want to give them my money now, however). I really can't give you a full assessment on Ween as a band, since this is the first album of theirs I've ever heard. But I'll tell you this - from the sound of this album, they really are one of the most unique groups I've heard in a while. They're poppier than the Residents, they're more diverse than Primus, they're riskier than They Might Be Giants. I'm not implying that they're better than the aforementioned - I love them all in their own ways. But Ween, man.

One last thing about Ween. A friend of mine told me that there's this online reviewer who keeps comparing Ween to the Beatles. No, really. I looked this guy up, and his simple question was, "Why weren't these guys as big as the Beatles?" Now I'm not going to say that Ween are the 90's equivalent of the Beatles. For one thing, that's musical sacrelige. For another thing, it's kind of apples and oranges. They're both wonderful bands. But in all honesty, "Chocolate and Cheese" really reminds me of "The White Album." Think about it! Weren't the Beatles a really fucked up band in their own right? Remember "Wild Honey Pie"? And "Bungalo Bill"? And "Piggies"? And "Good Night"? And "Rocky Raccoon"? And "Why Don't We Do It In The Road"? Hell, even "Savoy Truffle"? They're all pretty fucking Weenish to me, if you want my opinion. Plus, the genre-hopping in CaC is practically as convincing as the White Album, I'm serious. So I hope none of you Beatles diehards find a comparison to Ween as a stupid hipster shit-in-the-face to the band. I don't mean it in that bullshit British music press way. "This random crappy band is the next Beatles! They have a poppy guitar sound!!" Bullshit.

Difference is in perspective, if you want my opinion. The Beatles were a more serious band that liked to fuck around. Ween are a band that enjoy poking fun at musical styles by writing serious songs. I know that doesn't make much sense. But that's how I see it.

...uh, anyway. Maybe my intense admiration for Ween is misguided since I've only heard one of their albums. But it's so good, and I've heard that the rest of their discography is practically just as impressive. Different, but great. I want to actually buy and album of theirs now so maybe I won't get to downloading their entire discography just yet. But still. I'm tempted.

Case in point: College kids of the United States and probably Canada, stop sucking Cake's cock. Yeah, "The Distance" isn't a bad song. And they're decent instrumentalists, I'll give you that. But they're one note, man. There's nothing to them. Trust me. Ween really feel like the real deal. They may just PRETEND to be the real deal - that's the whole joke! But they sound like it anyway!! Pick this shit up.

Before I leave. Why am I so afraid to download albums?? I don't wanna download anymore Ween, I would feel dirty, since I wouldn't genuinely have a hard copy of the album. But you know, all my friends up at UConn seem to have no problem going on DC++ and downloading as many albums as they like. What's with me, people??

...is this what Deaner was talking about?