Gay Against You at The Good Ship

Gay Against You

Gay Against You at The Good Ship on Vimeo

As you can see from the video, Glasgow-based electronic two-piece Gay Against You know how to make an impression. Granted, their music sometimes makes me feel a bit queasy, but that’s all part of the experience. Probably.

My band, Hundreds, Tens & Units, had the privilege of supporting them at The Good Ship in Kilburn last night (first gig!) and we had a great time. If you found the above video intriguing as opposed to terrifying, you should download G.A.Y.’s first album – for free – on Last.fm. And if you liked the look of the animation in the background, apparently you can buy it on DVD at their shows. See their MySpace for tour details.

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Les Savy Fav and cLOUDDEAD at All Tomorrow’s Parties

cLOUDDEAD

Another long weekend, another ATP. Except this weekend, the holiday camp indiefest we’ve all come to know and love was not curated by a band or artist: half the lineup was chosen by the ATP staff and the other voted for by us, “the scum”. Oh sorry, I mean “the fans”.

I was very happy to see that as a result, both Why? and Subtle were asked to play. Now, anyone who’s a fan of Subtle frontman Adam “doseone” Drucker and Why?’s Yoni “Why?” Wolf will know they’re long-time friends and musical collaborators, best known for their incarnation as the completely marvellous and sadly missed cLOUDDEAD (their project with fellow Anticon member Odd Nosdam, pictured). So with them both appearing at ATP, despite having diverged in two rather different (but equally brilliant) directions, surely, I hoped, they might perform something together. They did. It wasn’t for long, but they did. They sang the “physics of a bicycle” refrain from Bike and I managed to record the end of it once I recovered from the initial shock at a dream coming true:

cLOUDDEAD at ATP on Vimeo

I wasn’t so surprised to see Les Savy Fav on the lineup, but I wasn’t any less pleased. They managed to be the highlight of my weekend, even though I’ve seen them plenty of times before. Like Subtle, their music alone would be enough to command my attention – but their vocalist Tim Harrington consistently seems to put everything he’s got into the live performance. In fact, if he’s got more, I’m not sure I want to see it, especially after coming face-to-groin with his painted self during Rome (Written Upside Down). By this point in the set, he had stripped down to a black leotard and made his way out into the audience before deciding to make his way back to the stage via the medium of table. Like this:

Les Savy Fav @ ATP on Vimeo

It’s certainly a good way to get a crowd going.

So, good work, fans. And good work ATP. It turned out there’s really no need to fight. Now if only Fugazi had reformed especially for the occasion like I asked, it would have been completely perfect…

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Better Weird Than Dead

Better Weird Than Dead My friend Naomi has just started her own record label, of all things. It’s called Better Weird Than Dead (special kudos if you get the reference) and it launched a couple of weeks ago with The Covers EP, a split release between her (as Naomi Hates Humans) and bearded co-conspirator Tim Holehouse.

Naomi talks more about her label and London’s antifolk scene in this recent interview with Music On Air. It’s part of a series called Girls With Guitars. Lines of questioning possibly include “what’s it like being a girl?”, “as a girl, do you find it difficult singing and playing an instrument at the same time?” and “wow, you mean you even write the music?”.

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Superproduct Presents… The Art of Videogames

I was really looking forward to Edge Presents… The Art of Videogames. Over the years, Edge has featured some fantastic game-inspired artwork on its cover so I would have thought they’d be able to compile something rather special when making a magazine to celebrate it.

And did they? No. No they didn’t. “Edge Presents… Some Hastily Assembled Assets From a Highly Questionable Selection of Games Culminating in a Overwhelming Sense of Missed Opportunity” would have been a more accurate title, if a little harder to fit onto the cover. And to market.

I realise it’s supposed to be “Volume 1” so perhaps there’s more to come, but the first edition of Edge Presents… contains such glaring omissions that my faith has been shaken. A lot of what they did feature is reasonable, and, given that the universe is infinite and there are therefore an infinite number of games it would be possible to include, they were never going to be able to please everyone. It seems a bit of a thankless task. But when you’re charging £8, you’d better have produced something worthy of calling itself a “Collector’s Edition”. “Collecting Dust On the Shelves of Smiths Edition”, more like!! Sorry, I’ll stop that now.

So, in order to do some justice to the art of great games Edge forgot, I’m going to highlight five of the most bewildering omissions and explain why I think they should have been included. These aren’t games that were just graphically unique, but also whose distinctive art direction was carried through the whole experience to make them particularly special.

Yoshi’s Island (1995, SNES)
Yoshi's Island

Yoshi’s Island, easily my favourite platform game ever, still looks fantastic today – especially on a big screen. Forget the lacklusture DS sequel – grab the Virtual Console edition when they eventually release it. The thick kiddie crayon lines, the rainbow colour pallete and the surprisingly varied, multi-layered backgrounds (like the one above) made it a joy to play.

Browse Yoshi’s Island Sprites at The Shyguy Kingdom.

Fallout (series) (1997, PC)
Fallout's Fallout Boy

Edge Presents… does include S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the recent (sort of) post-apocalyptic Ukranian FPS/RPG thing. And with good reason, I think. But it doesn’t feature the Fallout games, whose ’50s-tinged retrofuture (think Twelve Monkeys in a desert bunker) was expertly realised. Fallout Boy (above) would cheerily illustrate the horrors that lay ahead and hint at the utopia that had been lost – or perhaps never existed. Along with the attention to detail in everything from the interface (remember PIPboy?) to the tubes-n-bolts creations invented to endure the harsh environment, this helped to make the Fallout universe memorable and compelling in a market full of derivative rent-a-wizard settings.

More Fallout artwork at Duck and Cover.

Ico (2001, PS2)
Ico

The architecture of Ico’s castle setting, the framing of every fixed camera position (if not always welcome) and the strikingly bleached out, almost painted graphical style are all part of the reason that some people claim Ico is a work of art in itself. I don’t really want to get into that, partly because I can’t remember precisely who those people are, but unless Ico and its spiritual successor Shadow of the Colossus have an entire future issue of Edge Presents… dedicated to them, their omission from Volume 1 is a complete mystery. I can’t think of a game whose concept art I’d rather see on the printed page.

Print out and make your own Ico papercraft sculptures at RPGFan.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002, Various)
Vice City

I chose Vice City because it was a huge success commercially as well as critically, and it played so pleasingly with the ’80s Miami asthetic. The lurid pallete seeped through box illustration to the lights of Vice City itself, while the retro ‘loading’ screen welcoming the player served to remind us just how far games have come since the BASIC decade.

Buy Vice City Kubricks at ToyTokyo.

Katamari (series) (2004, Various)
Katamari Damacy

Besides Ico, this is possibly the most surprising omission from Edge‘s compilation. Katamari is famed for the artistic vision of Keita Takahashi (look, here’s an interview with him from Edge, of all places!!), prompting tribute art from fans on a scale large enough to impress even the King of All Cosmos himself.

Download a whole host of Katamari wallpapers courtesy of llshibata (and, originally, Namco) at Flickr.

And more…

Those are a few I would have expected to see, along with the likes of Final Fantasy, Zelda, Electroplankton, Pikmin, Quake, Wario Ware, Earthworm Jim, Street Fighter, or any graphic adventures (like Day of the Tentacle, Broken Sword or Discworld). I could go on, but why don’t you? What great game art do you think deserves to have Melvyn Bragg’s full attention, or failing that, a 10 minute slot on The Culture Show?

The Chap: Courage + Modesty

The Chap: Courage + Modesty on Vimeo

London’s The Chap played to a packed-out Buffalo Bar on Friday night in support of Thee More Shallows. As the video above demonstrates, the venue was full of Talky McBastards and Inconsiderate Tall People, which I think slightly perturbed the immensley talented SJ Esau who opened.

But The Chap are hugely accomplished and I suspect most people were there to see them. They’re my favourite local group and I’ve seen them play many times: playfully experimental and ocassionally willfully obtuse but always a great deal of fun. Plus they’ve upped the number of harmonies and tongue in cheek dance moves since I first saw them in 2005, and that can only be a good thing. It’s just a shame we have to wait until the end of the year for their new album. And why the hell aren’t they massive yet? I blame everyone else.

Like the sound of ’em? Watch The Chap play Woop Woop on Vimeo and then friend them up on MySpace.

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