Tag: music

The Literal Lyricist

Most of the time I’m listening to music I try not to think too hard about it. If the song was just a solid beat over someone singing a recipe for good Pad Thai, I’d be fine with it.

The musicians would probably be fine with it, too, given that a lot of their writing really doesn’t hold up to even casual scrutiny.

Music Vomit.jpg

Songs with bad lyrics are a dime a dozen. It’s the reason we have so many different ways to change the radio station in our cars. But this column isn’t about those. (I’ll likely come back to those at a future date.) No, this is about a very particular kind of lyric – the sort that, if taken literally, sounds like the ravings of a crazy person as they try in desperation to defend their street corner from invisible monsters.

As with any list of stupid lyrics, the only rule is that I can only include Pitbull once.

And speaking of which…

Pitbull – “Give Me Everything (Tonight)”

Grab somebody sexy, tell ’em, “Hey! Give me everything tonight!” (Repeat 3x)

Okay. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume this is an attempt to get in some woman’s pants. As opposed to what it sounds like – armed robbery.

Of course, as a pick-up line, it’s not much better. I’m sure somebody out there would appreciate your forwardness. The majority, however, would be put off by the random stranger grabbing them and screaming demands at them.

A small but very painful minority would immediately hit you with the bear mace, putting you on the ground long before you were able to repeat it three times.

Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”

Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu, your sex is on fire.

I’ll give it credit. This was pretty much what I should have expected from the title.

I realize that sex talk is filled with euphemisms, but this isn’t one of the better ones. Imagine the confusion you’d cause yelling this mid-coitus. I don’t care what’s going on, if someone yells that your sex has reached the point of auto-ignition, you’re probably going to stop and make sure everything is okay. Maybe do a precautionary “stop, drop and roll” or two.

When it comes to spontaneous genital fire, you can never be too safe.

Nirvana – “Smells like Teen Spirit”

With the lights out it’s less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us.

It’s hard to pick a specific set of lyrics out of this song because it’s almost impossible to even understand. I never knew what the hell he was singing about until I had to do vocals during a game of “Rock Band 2” almost twenty years later.  And this is one of those odd cases where I think I understood the song a bit less once I knew the words to it.

Is there anything you can do with the lights off that’s less dangerous? I mean, whenever I don’t understand something in a song I usually just assume it’s a reference to sex that neither twelve-year-old or thirty-year-old me understood. But that makes the inclusion of a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito and his libido all the creepier.

Unless it’s, like, the most specific fetish of all time. And even then…

Harvey Danger – “Flag Pole Sitta” (a.k.a. that song you thought Green Day did, but didn’t)

I had visions, I was in them. I was looking into the mirror.

The mirror seems to be working as intended then.

Nickelback – “Figured you Out”

I love your lack of self-respect, while you’re passed out on the deck. I love my hands around your neck.

Well, I’ll say one thing for those lyrics – they very nearly all rhyme, at least.

Wow. I won’t say this one takes an ugly turn, because it starts out pretty rough. Nickelback sees a hole and just keeps digging. It’s basically a metaphor for…well, being Nickelback.

I sort of don’t get it, though. You’re choking people after they passed out at barbecues and you’re saying they have a lack of self-respect. I believe there’s an old saying about the pot calling the kettle black. And there’s an even older but less known saying about the pot choking the kettle because it doesn’t have any self-respect.

Perhaps Nickelback is the one who should be looking in the mirror, hmmm?

 

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Review – “Journey” (PS4)

So I have Playstation Plus, which gives me somewhere in the area of four to seven free games on the first Tuesday of every month. I figure it’s high time I started using it.

Playstation Plus does tend to focus mostly on older games. As an intelligent person, I see the sense in this, as giving your game away for free on day one is a pretty crummy marketing strategy. As a gamer, grumble grumble, I want new free games.

There’s not much point in reviewing games that have been out for months or even years by the time of their free release. Reviewers have already said pretty much everything there is to say within a few days of any game being released. In the case of preview copies, reviewers cut that time down to about a week before the release.

All that being said, let me immediately break my own rule and review Journey.

journey

The Background. Journey first came out in Spring of 2012 and was developed by Thatgamecompany. And no, that isn’t a typo. That’s their actual studio name. Which I guess makes sense, because using no creativity whatsoever to come up with their name gave them plenty to spare for their actual games.

Though they haven’t made many thus far, they have a solid pedigree as the people who made that game where your little thing ate smaller little things (Flow) and that game where you controlled flower petals in a breeze (Flower). Again, none of the preceding things were typos.

Like the previous two games, Journey is a short game with no dialogue, no onscreen meters and only the barest of story lines. The graphics are stylized, looking beautiful without wandering too close to actual realism. Except for your character’s robe and scarf, which animate well and flow about in the wind believably. If nothing else, I can say that this title revolutionized scarf and robe physics in video games.

In the same way that Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball revolutionized…um…jiggle physics, except without the long sigh when you say it.

The Basics. The game starts you off as a nameless robed figure in the middle of a ruin-filled desert where you’ll spend most of your time playing. After climbing a small hill you’re presented with a view of the glowing mountain in the distance. And that’s…pretty much all there is to it. There’s no story or anything else to otherwise motivate you to go there, except that it’s constantly looming there in the distance looking all enticing and whatnot.

With so many games beating you over the head with your character’s motivations (which are oftentimes stupid or impossible to relate to) or throwing long, convoluted stories at you (which are oftentimes boring or impossible to understand), Journey was honestly a breath of fresh air.

The same objective is in sight almost the entire game with no need for detours. There are no sidequests to rescue supporting characters. No collect-a-thons to pad out the game time. Just a robed figure. A glowing mountain. And a desert between them.

There are some story pieces thrown in here and there in the form of visions and murals, yes, but because there’s no talking, almost everything you see is open to interpretation. While it’s fairly clear that something very bad went down from the paintings you find, that much is already clear to anyone who notices the ruins almost everywhere. The clues are subtle without being intentionally vague, meaning that any two players might have played very different stories on their way through the game.

The ending was admittedly open to some interpretation but by the time you reach that point you sort of get the idea that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a fulfilling enough closure that you don’t feel cheated. And, as the title suggests, the point of it all was the journey – not the destination.

Or, at least, I think so. The cynical part of me says that a lot of the praise this game gets for being philosophically deep could have just been people filling in the blanks themselves. I suppose we’ll never really know.

The Rest. Gameplay itself is simple and straightforward. You have a scarf that lets you jump and glide through the air slowly. As you progress your scarf will grow longer, allowing you to jump higher and glide longer. You’ll slide down slopes in certain sections. And that’s pretty much all there is to it.

There’s is a mechanic that seamlessly adds other players to your game as semi-permanent companions on your quest. I’ve heard it can be very fun and you can grow very attached to these people, but they’re an entirely optional experience. Unfortunately, I had a sum total of three people appear – two of which were too busy screwing around to move forward and one who kept me waiting ten minutes while they failed the same simple puzzle over and over again.

I inevitably left all three behind and didn’t look back, though your mileage may vary if you find people who are helpful and/or competent.

While I wouldn’t say the game is very challenging, I personally feel that it’s as hard as it needed to be. It’s enough to engage the player without bogging down the straightforward narrative. I don’t think the developers wanted the video game portion to detract from the story, if that makes sense.

The simple story and soundtrack get you very invested in a character you essentially know nothing about (aside from them being a robe and scarf enthusiast). The result is that you’re given swells of excitement, fear and hope as you get closer and closer to the summit. And it leaves you wondering why games that give you so much more emotional fodder to work with rarely provide the same highs and lows as Journey.

(Except for “The Last of Us.” I have paprika in my eye. I was making deviled eggs. Shut up! I’m not crying. You’re crying.)

That all said, I realize that a two-hour game with very little story and possibly less payoff for an ending might be a hard sell for some. I liked the cinematic feel of the game and its ability to get me to feel things, but I also understand that some of you are dead inside. And that’s fine. I mean, I guess it’ll just hurt less when your pets die.

Final Thoughts. I honestly haven’t come up with a concrete scoring system for reviews yet. (My best idea thus far is a sliding scale of “not fun at all” to “amazingly fun” atop a scale of “short” to “long,” but I have to tinker with it.) In the case of this game, I would even hesitate to rate it by the same scale as other games because it just is so fundamentally different as a playing experience.

The Verdict. Though not exactly rollicking fun to play, the game is nonetheless absolutely worth experiencing from beginning to end. Just prepare for the feels.

Where You Go, I Cannot Follow…

Game Dice

I don’t want to get into the whole argument as to whether one is born a nerd or it’s a choice they actively make.

I lean towards the former, if only because as far as my memories go back, I was doing something I would have probably hidden from my wife (if she hadn’t also been a nerd). There was the obvious stuff, like being a little too into video games. Or anime. But there were earlier signs, like channeling my early writing energies into so, so much Sonic the Hedgehog fan-fiction. (I might still hide that one from my wife, actually.)

Or possibly teaching myself how to read just to spite the teachers who said I couldn’t be taught by reading every book in our house. And consequently reading the first Wheel of Time book at the age of eight because it had the coolest cover.

People would assume, then, that I like anything and everything that’s even remotely nerdy. And for the most part that’s true. But even I have my limits.

I’ll start with probably the nerdiest thing I’m involved in and then move on from there.

Subtitled anime. I’ve actually never understood why some people just couldn’t watch anime in the original Japanese. I sort of get the argument some people make about not wanting to read while they watch a movie, but only if that’s how they feel about everything.

If you refuse to watch “KonoSuba” (arguably one of the funniest anime series ever made) and then turn around to watch “Les Miserables” (not arguably just really, really boring) in the original French then you, sir (or madame) are a filthy liar.

Japanese Pop Nightcore music. Okay. I realize I was supposed to start the list of things too nerdy for even me here, but I just remembered this one, and it’s probably a bit worse than subtitled anime.

In my defense…well, I don’t need a defense. Nightcore music is awesome. And some English song lyrics are cringe-worthy, at best. (That’s a whole other column, though. Stay tuned.)  Musical lyrics attained perfection in the Queen era and, to a slightly lesser degree, during William Shatner’s on-again, off-again interest in spoken word albums. In short, I’d much rather have no idea what anyone was saying than hear them say something really, really stupid.

Okay. Seriously. Now we’re starting the list…

Tabletop games. Let me preface this by saying that I really want to enjoy these. I should also explain that a good part of why I never got into them was because I’ve been perpetually isolated from other nerds that might even play them with me. I’ve had exactly one real experience playing Dungeons & Dragons, and it didn’t go well.

I was playing as the typical rogue/thief character and exploring the depths of one ancient ruin or another when I found a door that was locked and couldn’t be opened. I later learned that this was “flavor text” by the dungeon master just meant to flesh out the scenery. I took it as a challenge. And, after a streak of rather uncanny luck in my dice rolls (three 20’s in a row), I’d managed to pick the lock and wedge the door open so it didn’t fall again. The dungeon master promptly conjured up some chest to be in that room and told me to just loot the thing and stop derailing his story.

I then proceeded to bash my skull open on the door because I didn’t crouch low enough and died due to a rather uncannily bad streak of dice rolls.

It’s certainly not something I’d mind trying again. But for the moment, it’s not something that’s really feasible for me. And it’s probably the one item on this list I honestly regret not getting into.

Live Action Role-Playing (or LARPing). Basically, you take tabletop gaming, remove the tabletop and then go outside instead.

Sometimes you dress up in cosplay first.

I have nothing against it, strictly-speaking. My only real issue is that its one of those things that requires all the individual gears to be moving in the same direction. All you need is one person who decides they’d rather never be hit and it turns into a bad day playing pretend at recess. “I throw fireball! It hit you and…” “Nope. You missed.” “Um…I throw a lightning bolt! It paralyzed you.” “Nuh-uh. It made me stronger!”

My problem with this is, I had too many friends at recess who were “that kid.” If we were playing superheroes, they were Superman. Oh, and kryptonite couldn’t hurt him. Also, he had a gun for some reason? It made my Batman infected with the Venom symbiote look downright reasonable in comparison.

Latching onto some scrap of nerdy territory and then judging everyone who wanders by. When I grew up, being a nerd wasn’t socially acceptable like it is today. You had to do that sort of thing on the down-low.

So I understand why some people who have defended comics, anime, etc., for decades being a little annoyed that now everyone and their kid dressed as a stormtrooper is getting involved. These people put a lot of hard work into being part of a counter-culture that everyone hated them for. It’s like driving in the slow lane for miles and then having someone cut over at the last moment to skip all the waiting – except replace “miles” with “thirty-six years.”

And “waiting” with “having goat blood poured on you at prom.”

I don’t believe in judging people as being “true fans” or “real gamers” or the like, because I want these things to be welcoming and hospitable to newcomers. Because as much as some people might hate people not as devoted as they are getting involved in their interests, they should just be happy that this is something they can openly enjoy now without being stuffed into a locker. That or, you know, the goat blood thing.

Not to mention, there’s always someone nerdier out there. So before you go judging someone for only watching Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, remember there are people out there who could just as easily put you to shame. Only they won’t, because they’re too busy actually enjoying their lives.