Currently Playing: Mother (NES)

Thank you Virtual Console for allowing me to play Mother! Originally released only in Japan in 1989 on the NES (or Famicom), I’ve been dying to play this because it’s the prequel to one of my top three favorite games ever, Earthbound. When it was announced in June of this year that Mother was finally being released on the Virtual Console I was completely ecstatic and bought it right away. I’ve finally got a chance to get stuck into it properly this past week or so and so far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s definitely reducing my Earthbound withdrawal symptoms somewhat. because the two games are almost exactly the same in terms of game-play. It’s no wonder that Mother was released on the Virtual Console under the title Earthbound Beginnings. I prefer to use its original title of Mother but I can’t fault the underlying logic at work. The two main differences are the plot (obviously) and Mother’s use of a random encounter battle system. The battle system can be a bit annoying sometimes, especially because quite often I literally take one step forward and boom, I’m in another battle. When that happens navigating an area can be laborious because it can take a while for me to actually get my bearings – the battling in this game is very frequent. So much so that I’m at level 20 already and I’ve only just arrived at Merrysville, so I’m still pretty early in the game. It’s sucked the challenge out of the battles at the moment because I’m able to breeze through in about three attacks at most. The battles themselves are still really funny though – Earthbound was famed for having battles with anything from cups of coffee to mystical records to abstract art (I’m not kidding). Mother isn’t quite as extreme but enemies such as Momseyes, Dadseyes and Foureyes have made me giggle. Chances are, I won’t prefer it to Earthbound but even still, I expect Mother will rank very high on my all time favourite games list!

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Public Service Broadcasting – Go

Definitely a case of eating humble pie. I first became aware of Public Service Broadcasting in very early this year. A relative recommended I try them as he was convinced I would absolutely love them. So, I tried a few songs from their latest album, The Race For Space and I was completely bemused. It was strange instrumentals that were littered with samples from key events in the Space Race such as the launch of the first satellite into space, the first human to go into space and of course the moon landing of 1969. On first listen I just couldn’t grasp it and I quickly ruled them off as not being for me. Fast forward to yesterday evening when I was in the car and suddenly I heard an instrumental on the radio that I suspected was Public Service Broadcasting… and I found myself really liking it. Then came those space samples and I knew beyond doubt it was them. The song was ‘Go’ from The Race For Space. I’ll admit, I think I dismissed them too quickly. Perhaps the first time I tried them I just wasn’t in the right mood for all those space samples. All the coverage of Tim Peake’s launch to the International Space Station here these past few days has probably helped me appreciate their sound much more. Back to retry The Race For Space after all I guess…

Currently Reading: Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher

I’ve read several books about The Who but I was especially excited to read Dear Boy as the infamous life of the manic genius that was Keith Moon is perfect material for a biography. I’ve heard so many good things about this book and as far as I know it’s regarded as a classic of the genre. It’s also incredibly weighty, the latest edition being over 600 pages in length. I”m 300 pages in and my goal is to finish it by Christmas Day. The reason quite simply is that I always get a new book (usually several) for Christmas – this year I’m hoping someone has bought me that new Lee Brilleaux biography. Anyway, so far I’m loving this book. I had high expectations as I’ve already read A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga Of The Smiths which was also written by Tony Fletcher. His level of research is fantastic and whilst he writes with plenty of love for Keith Moon he also doesn’t shy away from highlighting his faults and failings. The book has been a serious eye-opener into Moon’s character. Some of the details regarding his relationship with his late wife Kim have made for very uncomfortable reading. It underscores what I’ve long suspected: that if Moon was growing up in more recent times he’d have been diagnosed with a condition such as ADHD or manic depression. For all of his genius he seemed like a very difficult person to deal with. A fascinating man but could I have been friends with him? Probably not as I’m too straight laced a person and I seriously lack in patience. Anyway, I’m at the dawn of the 1970s in the book, were Keith has just accidentally ran over and killed his chauffeur, Neil Boland in a tragic accident. Of course, I already know that this tale doesn’t have a happy ending, but the sense of inevitably regarding Moon’s early demise is just shocking. I really don’t think the man was meant to live a long life.

London Calling!!

By far the biggest thing to happen to me that’s worth writing about on here in the past two months is that on February 12th I will be flying out from Belfast to London, to see The Who play the SSE Arena in Wembley on Saturday. February 13th! Some fans have expressed anger that they’ve announced another “final UK show” of The Who Hits 50! tour but it’s the first time I’ll be seeing them live so I’m massively excited.  Every new show is an opportunity for a young fan like myself to see them live for the first time after all. Besides, Roger & Pete put on a fantastic show, so why not? At their age we should be thankful that they’re still able to do it at all, especially following Roger Daltrey’s battle with meningitis in recent months. Treasure the legends whilst we still have them – that’s my philosophy. Of course I’ll also be doing some sightseeing whilst I’m there. I’ll be definitely visiting the Joe Strummer mural and Joe Strummer subway because I’m a big Clash-nerd. 8 weeks to go!!

Update

Woah, has it been two months since I last wrote on here? I’ve been a hamster caught in a never-ending wheel of stuff to do for the past two months. The biggest change being that I’m now a University student, studying English Literature and English Language. Ironic considering I’ve had writers block really… anyway. Time to knuckle down to work. I’ll start with the design on this blog because right now it looks abysmal. Don’t have high hopes for that though because words are my thing, not visual design. After that I’ve got plenty to talk about so see you very soon!

Madonna – Living For Love (Offer Nissim Living For Drums Mix)

Ever since Madonna’s performance of a remixed ‘Living For Love’ at the Brits I’ve been busting to find a studio version of the remix used. Literally, I’ve searched for it for months, but to no avail. It’s been a real mystery. You’d think that since she was going so far to perform it live it was bound to be on the ‘Living For Love’ singles. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’s done that either. Cue the confusion when I discovered that it wasn’t on the singles or on the Super Deluxe disc of Rebel Heart. I couldn’t even find a name for the remix, much less anyway to obtain it. A studio version just didn’t seem to exist in the public domain. I even posted questions in fan forums which didn’t work either. All options exercised, I gave up.

Yesterday I looked at the Rebel Heart tour setlist, and I saw the name ‘Living For Love’ (Offer Nissim Living For Drums remix). Instinctively I knew it was the elusive remix, which turned out to be correct. YouTube and Soundcloud postings aside this studio version doesn’t seem widely publicised at all. It’s inexplicable really. Stranger still, Offer Nissim has done two other mixes of ‘Living For Love’ and they can be found on the single. It’s very strange stuff indeed. Anyway, at least there is a studio version of this excellent remix after all. It’s primal, dark and boasts a much harder hitting arrangement than the original, which is musically rather mediocre and uneventful. The arrangement in this remix more than makes up for the cliched lack of lyrics in the song. Yes, it’s one of those remixes were the original lyrics are reduced to little more than spliced up soundbites, omitting large portions of the lyrics in their entirety. Thankfully Madonna rectifies this when she performs it live and consequently the remix works even better in a live context. Until the inevitable Rebel Heart live album is released though, this will tide us over nicely!

Florence & The Machine @ SSE Arena 9/9/15

On Wednesday the How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Tour kicked off in my hometown of Belfast. Getting a chance to see the gig at the very last minute was brilliant because it’s my first time seeing Florence & The Machine live (finally!). How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is also my favourite of her three albums which was just a bonus. And on top of everything else I thought she was mesmerising at Glastonbury. My expectations for her couldn’t have been higher and, simply, she was everything I could have hoped for and then some. She was spellbinding.

Before I get sidetracked by all things Florence though, I have to commend the support act, The Staves. They’re three English sisters who perform folk-rock music. Their strong point lies in their harmonies though – when they sang together, it was stunning. Their forty-five minute set was bookended by acapella segments which were spine-tingling. They could have quite easily performed forty five minutes of their acapellas and still be as good. They were a very fitting way to open a Florence & The Machine gig and I daresay many of the fans who will be attending the tour will thoroughly enjoy them. They’ve released two full length albums so far and I’ll definitely be checking those out very soon.

Then, at 9pm, the glaring SSE arena lights give way to thundering screams. My seats were perfect and as they were situated to the right of the stage, beside the steps, I could even see Florence walking on. The atmosphere when she walked on, all resplendent and regal, was electric. She has an extremely captivating presence and you can definitely see the influence of Stevie Nicks on her stage presence.

Musically, she began – exactly like Glastonbury 2015 – with one of my favourite songs by her, ‘What The Water Gave Me’. It is a rather unusual opening song but it works in that capacity in a really strange way. Exactly like Glastonbury ‘Ship To Wreck’ followed that which left the crowd dizzy with excitement

Overall the set list was quite similar, but not identical, to her Glastonbury 2015 headlining show. The running order was a bit different, last night her main set ended with ‘Dog Days Are Over’ instead of it being in the encore. The encore last night consisted of ‘Long & Lost’ (which she didn’t do at Glastonbury), ‘What Kind Of Man’ and ‘Drumming Song’. The only other song that she did last night but not at Glastonbury was ‘Mother’. Of course she didn’t cover Foo Fighter’s ‘Times Like These’ last night like she did at Glastonbury but that’s hardly surprising.

As a performer she is simply incredible though and doesn’t receive enough praise. She’s so elegant and graceful yet there’s just the right amount of manic athleticism in her performances. She’s very intense to watch (in a great way) and she pours every last drop of her energy into her performances. For instance, she had two large platforms at each side of the stage so she could interact with those of us in the tiers at either side of the arena. She ran between them at breakneck speed. She also ran down to the very back of the standing area extremely quickly and she sang a portion of a song to the fans at the very back rows. I thought that was very sweet and considerate. Her crowd interaction all night was fantastic. She came across so warm and just very likable, and very funny too. In all honesty, she was faultless. I have five gigs coming up before the year is out and it will take something special to top Florence Welch!

Last Minute Tickets for Florence & The Machine

Sometimes last minute schedule changes are a good thing – I’ve learnt that this week. Friday started off as a normal day for me, but it took an unexpected turn when a family friend suddenly said to me “Clare, I’ve got a free ticket to see Florence & The Machine, do you want to go?”. My friend knows I’m a big fan of her so – once I had metaphorically pinched myself to check I wasn’t dreaming – I said I would so excitedly that I probably sounded incoherent. I think I’m still somewhat in disbelief at that offer.

I’ve been a big fan of Florence & The Machine since Ceremonials, her second album, came out in 2011. Why Ceremonials and not her critically acclaimed first album, Lungs? Lungs did bemuse me when I listened to it when it came out in 2009. My fifteen year old self just didn’t “get” it. In the following two years though my music tastes dramatically changed (in other words, grew up). Ceremonials won me over and I’ve never looked back. My favourite album of hers is actually her third and most recent one, this year’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It’s one of my top three albums of 2015 easily so I was gutted when it looked like I wouldn’t be attending her Belfast show. This year has been so busy albums and gig wise for me and I had purchased tickets for some other shows just before Florence had announced her tour dates. The disappointment only increased when I watched her Glastonbury headlining performance live on TV. Thank goodness I had some last minute good fortune I am so unbelievably excited that I will be able to attend after all!

37 years ago today….

Thirty-seven years ago today saw the release of what I’d consider to be the best punk single of all time. When I began my initial explorations into The Clash at 18 years of age in 2012, the incomplete live footage of ‘Complete Control’ from Rude Boy was one of the first live Clash videos I saw.and it just floored me. I’d never seen anyone perform like Joe Strummer in that footage and he mesmerized me. Really, that performance coupled with ‘Know Your Rights’ from the US Festival quite simply changed my life. Joe Strummer may have ad-libbed the line “you’re my guitiar hero!” to Mick Jones but songs like this cemented The Clash as my guitar heroes.

Strong personal feelings aside, ‘Complete Control’ really is such an incredible song that’s special in a number of ways. It’s unique in that it’s sung by Strummer yet the vast majority was penned by Jones and it also has the honor of being the first song recorded with a certain Topper Headon at the drums. ‘Complete Control’ was the start of a new chapter for this band, one that would see them rise to dizzying heights only to implode all too soon. It was released in 1977 as a non-album single (in the UK at least) and it comfortably bridges the gap between The Clash and Give ‘Em Enough Rope. It’s more technically proficient than The Clash, it’s more polished, yet there’s still that unmistakeable raw edge and visceral feel that made it a classic album of the genre. This is still very much punk music, and punk music of the highest order.

Books, books galore (If you like New Order/Joy Division)

This is a strange little post regarding something that’s left me quite surprised (in a good way). I’ve always been a bookworm and stemming from that I absolutely adore a good music book. You can really gain such a deeper level of appreciation of an artist thanks to a well written book. There’s plenty I have on my want-list and there’s three upcoming books that I simply can’t wait for – two of which I only discovered were coming out yesterday! Stranger still, they concern the same musicians and are coming out in relatively close proximity. I do wonder just what that’s about.

index 3Anyway, the first release is the most publicized one of the three and I was already aware of it. Joy Division and New Order’s Bernard Sumner is releasing his memoirs entitled Chapter and Verse – New Order, Joy Division and Me. We’ve obviously had Peter Hook recounting at least part of the story with his fascinating Joy Division memoirs and comparing the two accounts will be very interesting. Bernard never has come across as particularly open in interviews to me and I’m sure there’s going to be many interesting stories in his memoirs. The New Order section in particular should prove especially intriguing. I’m particularly looking forward to learning more about working with Johnny Marr as Electronic too. It’ll be a must read for Joy Division/New Order fans.

The second one is something that a friend of mine stumbled upon yesterday whilst index 2pricing Bernard’s autobiography online. I’m a big fan of the Manchester music scene in general and Kevin Cummins has taken some absolutely magnificent pictures that capture the development of that scene like no other. In 2010 he published an absolutely beautiful book on Joy Division which features many of the most iconic pictures taken of the band. He continued that relationship as Joy Division developed into New Order and he photographed them right up until their initial 1993 split. Quite simply, he has a wealth of pictures at his disposal. More than enough to create a lovely sequel to his Joy Division book and on March 31st 2015, that’s exactly what’s going to be published. Just in time for my 21st birthday….

indexLastly is the book that I’m most surprised about. Again, I only found it by chance online. On October 16th of this year So This is Permanence: Lyrics and Notebooks will be released. It’s the writings/lyrics of Ian Curtis, complete with a foreword by his widow Deborah. Some previously unpublished and incomplete lyrics featured in Deborah’s memoir. I’m surprised there’s anything at all new left to publish really. From what I can gather this will be a complete compendium of lyrics, both released and unreleased. I do wonder if there’s any other sort of writings in those notebooks too? They’ll be presented in a facsimile style, much like how Kurt Cobain’s notebooks were done for Journals. Of course, this will ignite debates about the ethics of publishing material that is fair to say was private and never intended for public eyes. Ultimately I think it boils down to the individual fan to make their choice. The life and death of Ian Curtis is a compelling subject and I’ll definitely be wanting a copy – and I also fully respect the choice of those who don’t feel it’s an appropriate purchase. That’s my two cents.

So, that’s my thoughts and musings about these upcoming books. I just hope that there’s going to be a good New Order documentary at some point as well. Mind you, I don’t think it’s all that likely given the relationship between Peter Hook and the current lineup. Whatever happens on that front, I’m most excited that we’ll gain more insight into this compelling tale with these three books!