Thursday, February 17, 2011

Letters From Bands Who's CDs I've Recently Bought

All right, so I've actually bought (GASP!) music these past few months. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but the bands themselves personally sent me letters:

To Whom It May Concern:
Sorry for inventing modern emo-core music. We kinda wanted to make punk, but little did we know that yelling about relationships and wearing all black was going to be an official "thing". Gerard even dyed his hair red as his way of expressing regrets.

In order to make up for any grievance we may have caused, here is an album of party rock. Gerard's voice still cracks occasionally like he's just hitting puberty, but the man can't find himself to part with his skinny jeans.

Our new album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys still has some of the bombast leftover from our last one, Welcome To The Black Parade, but mostly we tried to stick to simpler songs that are just plain fun, like "Party Poison" and "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na)". Heck, there are even a couple dance numbers, like "Planetary (Go)!". Well, golly gee whiz, if don't get your toes a tappin', then YOU HAVE NO FUCKING SOUL.

Apologies, and have fun!
My Chemical Romance

P.S. Don't worry, it's not a concept album. We thought about it, but then we were like "fuck it", and tried to weasel some line about lights going out into every song.

Don't listen to Planetary Go! stoned while playing Geometry Wars. Just don't, trust me. You'll lose a fucking finger. A delicious finger, but a finger nonetheless.

Anyway, here's the other letter:
Dear Cadets:
Sorry about taking so long between albums, but we wanted to make sure that it was absolutely super! That, and Space Monster M attacked the bank, so we kinda had to take care of that.
Also, there was the time we had to help Axe Cop fight demon vampire warthog babies, and there were a lot of them, so....

Here's our newest, Hi Five Soup! Now, I know how much you liked Charge!! but a lot of stuff happened between now and then, so we put a couple reggae-influenced songs in as well. So while it may not be as straight up punk as Charge!!, Eagle "Bones" Falconhawk's solo on "The Legend Is True!" will more than make up for any lulls.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 12th Show At The Vault

So, what was the biggest musical event this weekend? Right, my set at The Vault on Saturday!

I've been taking voice lessons, and my teacher has a little showacase where all of her students perform. There was a fair range of people there, from third graders to older women.

The Vault though looks like it operated out of some guy's house. There is a documentary about it sitting on my desk right now, but you can check out the website.

Anyways, it was a simple, 2 song set, with "Radio Days Pt. 1":

Which I felt really good about! I kind of like this acoustic version better...

And perennial favorite "Axe Cop":

Which has since been retweeted by the official Axe Cop Twitter!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Great Plastic Guitar Gig In The Sky

Activision has decided to shelve the long running Guitar Hero series.
Lo and behold, the end of an era. For however long, who knows, but there will not be any games within the Hero franchise released this year.

So, in it's honor, let's do the Time Warp. AGAIN!

Right, quick history lesson: back in November of 2005, Boston-based developer Harmonix released the first Guitar Hero game for the PlayStation 2. It was part of a collaboration between peripheral developer Red Octane. The first game came bundled with a black Gibson SG guitar controller.

In 2006, Guitar Hero 2 was released on the PlayStation 2, and after Activision acquired Red Octane, was ported over to the Xbox 360.

In July of 2007, Guitar Hero Encore: Rock The 80s, a collection of 30 songs from the 1980s, was released for the PS2. At this point, Harmonix broke off from the Guitar Hero franchise to make the Rock Band series.

Later that year, Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock came out for all major systems (Wii, 360, PS3, and PS2), and was the first game to feature celebrity guitarists, such as Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine and Slash from Guns N' Roses.

In summer of 2008, the first band centric game, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was released, and then Guitar Hero: World Tour came out, enabling full band play. But enough about basic history, that's what Wikipedia's for.

Guitar Hero ending like this, even though I've moved on to Rock Band, evokes a similar feeling to when Michael Jackson died: "Wait, this shit can end?" Even though it has been struggling, it was such a staple that you'd think it could go on forever.

My first exposure to the game was in October of '05 during the now defunct DigialLife convention. They were sharing some space with the In The Groove game, another Red Octane product. From the looks of it, people really took the guitar peripheral. I got the game that Christmas and just barely being able to get through it.

What surprised me was how many songs I ended up knowing just via cultural osmosis. It's like they went to a Guitar Center, listened to all all the people picking up a guitar were trying to play, and then added "Cowboys From Hell".

Guitar Hero 2 took a different approach, giving us some B-sides from bigger bands, like The Rolling Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" and Aerosmith's "Last Child", yet throwing in some classics like "Freebird" and "Sweet Child O' Mine". Also, for some reason it rounded out the Radio X station from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

I got the new guitar, the Cherry Red Gibson SG because my old one broke. It still works to this day, and I call it "Angus".

It was around this time my Dad, noting my obsession said, "If you like Guitar Hero so much, why not try the real thing?" That January I got a Washburn Lyon at Target

Guitar Hero 80's I only rented, and thought it was was "just OK". For me, the set list really didn't pick up until the 3rd tier. Lot of good songs, but lots of "meh" too.

Now, keep in mind, up until this point, I've just been scratching the surface of Expert. Guitar Hero 3 I started on Hard and had trouble with. I rented that title as well, and I forgot hwo far I got on my Expert run, but I remember looking at the 7th tier and going "This is fucking bullshit."

Some of the movements seemed impossible, and there were a shit ton of 3-note chords. Beyond that was more metal I didn't really like and another boss battle that I couldn't quite manage.

Aerosmith was another rental. It didn't get me to like Aerosmith more, but The Clash instead. (Irony at 2:19)

Then World Tour came out, and by that time, I was officially in the Rock Band camp. At first, I thought "Why bother?" But then I saw the drum set. You gotta admit, it was a pretty neat set up, and would fare a lot better as a virtual drum set.

But it was so similar to Rock Band 2, that I didn't even rent it. Plus, it felt like a "me too" moment, and they were worse off for it. Skipped Metallica, brother bought Smash Hits when it was on sale, and it felt off. While it was nice to be able to play the songs of GH1, 2 and 80s on a modern day system, everything felt overcharted.

Guitar Hero 5 intrigued me, but again, Rock Band 2's DLC was able to keep me through that year.

Oddly enough Guitar Hero: Van Halen interested me, not because of Van Halen, but because of the bands that "inspired" them, such as Weezer and Fountains Of Wayne. Didn't get it though.

After getting my Xbox 360 to test RBN tracks, I needed new guitar peripherals. I saw GH5 bundled with the the guitar and figured "Why not?" As you can read from my review, I liked it a lot.

It was at this point that Guitar Hero was in a bit of trouble: There were so many games coming out that year, GH5 got lost in the shuffle, and it got beat out by The Beatles: Rock Band in sales. Rock Band 3 was looking to turn players into real musicians with Pro Mode, and the Rock Band Network gave the little guy a shot at the big time.

So Activision made what I'd call a "good move": instead of trying to copy Harmonix and possibly failing, it went in the opposite direction. Instead of making a game with a progression from small time band to playing in bigger venues, it went big and spiraled into the ridiculous.

The game wasn't about discovering new music, or new ways to play it, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock was about big scores and spectacle.

Turn into ManBearPig and use the God Of Rock's magic axe to earn 5x Multiplier and 10% Star Power with a 10-note streak! Holy shit, you just got 40 stars and earned the Platinum streak challenge!

You've unlocked DRAGONFORCE!!! And RUSH'S 2112!!!

Yeah, the final setlist was all S.P.E.R.G. Metal (despite an otherwise pretty good setlist), and in general catered a lot to the hardcore FC-obsessive crowd, but that's what it needed to be. That's what Activision does best: video games; final bosses and high scores and all that jazz.

Harmonix is a group of musicians who happen to code video games. Activision is a group of gamers who happen to like playing music.

Had Cluster Fuck Hero 2009 not have happened, I think we might have gotten one more game in the main line, and I would have liked to see what happened if they continued in this direction.

As a Rock Band fan, I don't look at this at think "We Won!", far from it. I'm 23 for fuck's sake.

I look at this and think about what might have been.

Look on the bright side: We might finally get more Muse!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Moving Ahead

Yeah, so the whole "learn songs from Rock Band" thing has gotten off track recently. I guess the long solo for "Flirtin' With Disaster" threw me off and I didn't really have the dexterity for it. And it's been so long since I learned a new song, that anything I write now feel stagnated.

So I guess what this means is that I'm back to square one, and start with the songs from Guitar Hero 1. I'll put it in the main setlist if the song overlaps with Rock Band.

I'll still give Run To The Hills a shot, though.