On this episode, only three people could make it, but that's okay: they ramble a lot!
The ever topical Anand ponders about the possibilities that Project Café could bring to the table if the rumored specs are true, especially the touch screen integrated in the controller. Does he have a better answer than just checkers and solitaire? You will have to listen to the end to find out!
Guillaume, ever repentant, tries to be positive for once in his life and asks about the positive things gaming has brought YOU, the listener. He is immediately accused of being stealthily negative.
Finally kriswright, ever the newb, decides to simply talk about what he loves the most in the whole world: pinball. He does not, however, deign answer why he simply doesn't marry it. Kris also tackles the big question of the death of arcades and whether they could be brought back.
As usual, the music comes from Negative World's owner and dictator, Zero.
As usual, comment on the topics, the podcast, the guests, the host, etc. on Negative World! Or, be a weirdo and post them on Facebook or Twitter instead.
Hey, that's ex-hipster! I gave up on being hip 'round about the time I saw punk rock go-go dancers on Carson Daily Live. Something in my soul died that day and now I roam the Earth wondering if my Neutral Milk Hotel record is actually any good or if I only think it's good because Pitchfork told me it was.
And, trust me, I think the recent vinyl craze is hilarious. We used to buy some of these records on vinyl for 7 or 8 dollars. Now they slap a label saying 180-gram on it and then try to sell it to me for 25. Not to mention that keeping a vinyl collection in "better than digital" condition has to be a labor of love for an audiophile, or else you might as well listen to the same songs on YouTube you're going to eventually end up with so much hiss.
Also, I apparently don't have the right access level to read your review of Pinball Pulse.
I only started getting into that Elephant 6 stuff recently. And just a couple of songs, at that. But I like those songs (like StrawberryFire)! I'm always searching for more Beatlesque stuff. What are your favorite Beatles-y bands?
Oh, and that DSiWare review thread might be -3. But it'll be included in Guillaume's upcoming all-access DSiWare article. Still, here it is!
Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon
Developer: Fuse Games
Cost: 500 Points
Nintendo has once again partnered with the pinball wizards at Fuse Games to bring Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon to the DSiWare service. Although Fuse's first Nintendo collaboration, Mario Pinball Land, received a tepid critical reaction, their second game, Metroid Prime Pinball, was a quality pinball experience, and The Ancients Beckon may be their best work yet. This original stand-alone table stands apart from its predecessors in two ways:
1) It takes a physical simulation approach to pinball, rather than the unrealistic fantasy approach of the previous titles. Though packed with imaginary targets and lights and ramps (and even a 'video mode'), this is a table that could technically be built. (Granted, it would be an absolute nightmare to maintain, what with it's giant rotating stone heads and wooden ball swap...)
2) It eschews the Nintendo mascots for an original theme (as original as the theme of Ancient Greece can be, anyway), and really makes the most of it, at that. The Ancients Beckon is positively dripping with old-school pinball charm, from the sharp graphics to the amazing voice work, which, in classic pinball fashion, sounds slightly compressed. If you don't crack a smile at Zeus' blustery admonitions, then you have no soul.
For the souled among you, however, Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon is one of the safest bets on DSiWare. The modes are limited to Normal Play and a Daily one-ball challenge, and there's only one table here, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more solid, inventive, and charming pinball table. My single gripe about the game concerns the use of the touch-screen for tilt, but that tiny blemish does little to mar the excellence of Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon, hopefully only the first in a long-running series. Let's just have our old pal Zeus play us out.
@Anand Aw man that would be so awesome! Thanks, and I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I can't. Not right now anyways. I have a bit of a health problem that effects my voice. People are barely able to understand what I say anymore in person. Let alone on a telephoned audio file. When this clears up and I'm back to normal I'll probably start not-so-subtly hinting at it.
@kriswright Look deep within your soul man! Neutral Milk Hotel will always be badass! The lyrics are just too damn good for your love to not be real.
Great review. Has me stoked to try the game out, if and when it comes to the 3DS shop. The Kid Icarus fanatic in me remembers that Zeus was a character there, too, and a funny one at that (he calls you a weakling if you try to ditch out on training with him). So, yeah... sounds right up my alley. And obviously I was joking when I called you a negative nancy. But, then again, you did say something like, "Pinball will just become less and less relevant until it finally dies. And I'm okay with that." So, you know, maybe you're playing both sides, Player.
I'm not really versed in Elephant 6, though I always liked Apples In Stereo. Neutral Milk Hotel truly is great, though. I actually avoided "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" for a number of years because, with that cover, it looked like it was going to be the usual Indie obscuritanist, bloodless crap. But there's a lot of blood in that record and I'm a huge fan of it. More Plastic Ono Band than Beatles, though. In a good way. Highly recommended.
Favorite Beatlesy groups? Whoo boy. Hard to say, because they have such a wide influence that I hear bits of them everywhere but nothing exactly like them anywhere. I'm not really solid on a lot of recent music, but I can give you a few Beatlesy bands from the course of rock history.
Squeeze is one of the great underrated Beatlesy rock bands. You probably know their stuff already. "Tempted", "Black Coffee In Bed", "Cool For Cats" etc. They're a little Beatles, a little Elvis Costello and a little groovy. I've been really into a song of theirs called "Goodbye Girl" lately - just an old fashioned pop song that I dig. They had the good sense to be influenced by the McCartney side of the Beatles, too, which a lot of later bands are afraid to do.
I was always a fan of Blur. I have to be a little careful recommending them because their albums are so English that they sometimes sound like, as Noel Gallagher once called it, "Chimney Sweep Music". But that's the Kinks influence and I don't have a problem with that. Their album Parklife is a little frothy, in the way of Sgt. Pepper, but I like that about it. Damon Albarn and Graham Coxxon are sort of like Paul McCartney and George Harrison. No John in that band, though. Sadly.
At SXSW this year I came across a group called Ivan and Alyosha. Don't know anything about them other than what I heard from the stage but they struck me as somewhat Beatlesque. Check out this song and you'll hear what I mean:
They definitely sound like someone's girlfriend's favorite band, but I liked them. Not half as offensive as a lot of simple pop music.
Oops. Phone call. We can talk more about the Beatles influence on pop music later.
I definitely had a lot to say about this podcast while listening, but I forgot a lot of it.
I'll say this, one thing that turns me off about pinball is the style. Pretty much every pinball machine I've ever played has this sort of creepy carnival feel. Just the drawings on the machines and the sounds and the lights and everything I dunno, they feel weird. I'm not just talking about the one that IS the creepy carnival with the huge scary clown on it, but even stuff that has a theme like "space" or something. Actually those end up feeling more creepy, kind of like an uncanny valley or something. Yeah that's it. Pinball machines all have this uncanny valley feel to them, where they all feel creepy, and the ones that try the hardest to not be creepy end up feeling more creepy.
My brother was watching me play the Williams collection and I was in the "lobby" section or whatever that looks like this pinball arcade and he said "that'd be a good place to commit suicide."
I do like certain gaming pinball though, like Metroid Prime pinball, etc.
Hmmm... Can I throw out a theory, Zero? I was thinking about what you were saying about the "creepy carnival feel" and it got me thinking about why we find carnivals so creepy in the first place. And some of it is just the seedy nature of a lot of carnivals. They seem dangerous and a little... sleazy. But I think a lot of that feeling comes from the fact the broader culture has moved on from carnivals. Amusement parks - the up to date ones anyways - aren't considered creepy, for instance, and they serve more or less the same purpose carnivals once did. It's still rides and slides and people in unfunny "funny" costumes.
So that lead me think: Is Zero's reaction related less to the Uncanny Valley and more to what Anand talked about on the podcast: A feeling of anachronism about pinball.
In other words, are carnivals creepy because they're culturally leftover from another era? And, if so, does pinball feel the same way to you? I know, in a way, that this is an irrational argument, but it's a legitimate emotional reaction and you hear it all the time about old cultural artifacts. It's sort of like a complaint I sometimes hear about old silent movies. People will say, "Everyone in this movie is dead now. I don't want to see a movie where everyone in the cast is dead." And, I admit, I can relate to the feeling a bit, even though I like old stuff like that. Even movies that aren't meant to be creepy, like "From The Earth To The Moon" or the "normal" parts of "Metropolis," have this weird undercurrent related to their age.
So could the anachronism of pinball be what bothers you? Or at least a contributing factor?
I think all amusement parks and carnivals and circuses are kind of creepy, just because of the imagery and omnipresent calliope. As far as pinball, GORGAR!
Old stuff is creepy, in general, though. Old people, too.
@kriswright Plastic Ono Band is pretty cool. Primal scream therapy, baby!
I like Squeeze, for sure. Didn't Elvis Costello produce their early albums? Actually, I don't care for his production. But Squeeze is cool. Blur is decent, but I was always kind of an Oasis guy. For those two albums, anyway. I should listen to Parklife. That video you posted is pretty cool.
Have you heard The La's, another Liverpudlian band? Only one proper album, but it's pretty awesome (There She Goes was the radio hit). And Michael Penn does cool Beatlesque folk (especially the second album). I also like Enuff Z'Nuff (Beatles/glam) and King's X (Beatles/Metal) and dada (Beatles/???). I like a lot of Matthew Sweet stuff, and the first Bears album is fantastic. And Jellyfish and The Smithereens are pretty cool. Redd Kross has one song that is just a DEAD ringer for a classic John Lennon song - Saragon, I think?
I've pretty much spent my whole life searching for other bands who sound like The Beatles.
@kriswright Well... I think if someone were to make truly modern feeling pinball machines they would be less creepy. Even the newer ones feel... not new. Some of the licensed stuff is less creepy, maybe because I have this other thing to mentally connect them to. I dunno, the noises still creep me out though. Especially the ones with talking, the talking always sounds WRONG.
That's what I'm talking about? My friend Anand knows his music!
A few quick points on the groups/albums you mentioned:
Plastic Ono Band - That's a really good album, though after a while John just starts to sound pathetic. It's hailed as his best solo album but, I don't know. The sheer amount of confessional music recorded since 1970 sort of dilutes the impact of this one for me. It's a straight line from this to Alanis Morrisette's later, terrible, self-obsessed albums, y'know?
I'm a huge Elvis Costello fan and, yes, he produced at least one album for Squeeze. You can hear him singing on Black Coffee In Bed. We could talk all day about Costello, man. Love him.
Oasis - See, I almost mentioned them, but it's hard being an Oasis fan these days. The first 2 (and a half) albums are absolutely gob-smackingly wonderful. Plus all the B-sides. Hall of Famers, right there. But from "Standing on the Shoulders..." on, it's like they're just the terrible throwback band everyone who hated them always said they were. My complaint about Oasis is the opposite of my complaint about Radiohead. Do something different, Oasis! Give me a noise I've never heard before! Anything!
That said, possibly the single greatest live music experience I've ever had was singing along with Oasis as they played "Don't Look Back In Anger". My attachment to that particular song is a difficult thing for me to understand, since the chorus makes no logical sense, but it's always resonated with me on some level. So I'll always love Oasis. But Blur was great, too. And Pulp's "This Is Hardcore" is one of the great, underrated albums of the 90s.
The La's? Love 'em. They're in the same league with The Stone Roses as great 80s bands that broke up too soon. Never did listen to Cast, though, which is supposed to give everyone an idea of what the La's probably would have sounded like. You know anything about them?
Michael Penn is a favorite. When I was a young songwriter I stole so much from him. Specifically the chords and melody of "No Myth". Completely.
Enuff Z'Nuff - I always had the impression they were just an Australian hair band. Am I wrong about that?
King's X - I have a lot of musician friends who are fans of King's X. I recognize the quality, but they're definitely a cult band. You either get it or you don't. They never grabbed me, though I should probably give them another chance.
dada - "Dizz Knee Land" and "All I Am" were alternative radio favorites of mine back in the day. I have one of their albums that I found in a cut out bin, but it wasn't very good and didn't have either of these songs on it. Where would I start with them?
Matthew Sweet - Yeah, I'm a fan. He's a bit of a throwback guy himself, but that's okay. Probably going to name my first daughter after a Matthew Sweet song. Love his work with Susanna Hoffs, too. (The Bangles are another Beatlesesque group that doesn't get their due, partly because they were women and partly because they came along in the mid-80s when music was produced like crap.)
Bears - Okay, you stumped me here. Is that a Matthew Sweet project I'm unaware of?
Jellyfish - I have a copy of Spilt Milk somewhere. I always feel sorry for Jellyfish. They struck me as sort of a Queen style group at the exact moment groups like that were at their least fashionable. Good band.
The Smithereens - Reading my mind, my friend. I almost mentioned them when you were asking for Beatlesesque groups, but I thought they might not grab you. But I love 'em. I've been busting their videos out on Facebook lately - "Too Much Passion", "Behind The Wall of Sleep", etc. Only complaint - their perfect 3 minute pop songs are sometimes 5 minutes long.
Redd Kross - I always think of them as a kind of Love and Rockets goth-but-not-goth style band, really. But didn't the guy from Redd Kross eventually end up in Big Star? So I must have the bead on them wrong. John Lennon? That's not a writer I'd associate with Redd Kross.
Any way, you've got great taste. If I wasn't heading out of the house right now I think I'd just turn back into a teenager and make up a big list of cool bands I like. Haven't done that in a while.
GAAAAHHH!! I typed a full, beautiful response and lost it all. I'll try to recreate it as quickly and sloppily as possible.
@Jargon I've only heard StrawberryFire, but it's definitely very Beatles. I like that song, and I want to explore more of their catalog.
kriswright said: Holy shit, nobody ever knows or cares about the bands that I talk about! I'm beyond impressed at your batting average.
Plastic Ono Band - I only heard the album recently, so I guess I missed out on the context. I enjoyed the rawness, and some of the songs are pretty unique in Lennon's canon. I feel like McCartney's solo stuff is generally stronger than Lennon's. Generally schmaltzier, as well, perhaps, but Lennon had his moments of solo schmaltz, too. And at least Linda McCartney didn't write half the songs on any McCartney albums. I enjoy Cloud Nine, too. Jeff Lynne doin' his Jeff Lynne thang, but it worked, like on Full Moon Fever, Into the Great Wide Open, and Wilburys. I heard someone say that ELO is what would happen if you extrapolated a whole band just from, like, I Am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields Forever. That's an interesting notion. All Things Must Pass has some cool stuff, but did it have to be three records?? I picked up the first Ringo record, which has impressive songwriting credentials, but haven't really given it a shot yet. Ah, Ringo...
I like Elvis Costello a lot, too. He gets pretty crazy experimental at times, like Neil Young. Do you like his weird forays, as well? His albums always seem like half-filler to me, but I love the highs. Have you heard the McCartney/McManus sessions? Very cool.
Oasis - Nothing to say, except that I agree. I haven't listened to Oasis in a while, but (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was huuuge. Maybe Noel will be inspired to get back into gear since he's competing with the other guys now.
I've only heard Blur's greatest hits, I think. As for Pulp, my knowledge is limited to "Common People". But it's a great song!
I think my favorite concert ever was an intimate Butch Walker acoustic show at the Abbey Pub. It was funny and exciting, and nearly every person in the audience sang along to every song. Very cool vibe. I bootlegged it, too!
The La's - The first La's album has a long, troubled recording history, which is weird, since it's such a simple-sounding record. I haven't heard Cast, but it's the band made up of The La's minus the main songwriter, Lee Mavers, right? Lee Mavers is quite the enigmatic character. Supposedly, he had some incredible songs that no one's heard, but if you brought him some drugs, he would sing them from you. Last I heard, he had kind of pulled it together and started working properly on music again.
Michael Penn - Embarrassingly enough, he was my window into folk music. Have you heard Free-For-All? One of my favorite records of all time.
Enuff Z'Nuff - They're American! People always give me shit when I bring them up, but I love this band. They did ride in on the tail end of the hair metal wave, which soon crashed, thanks to Nirvana, pretty much taking them with it, but if you can look beyond the hair and '80s production, I believe that they are genuinely one of the best power pop bands of all time. Very Beatles-y (particularly Lennon-y), with McCartney-esque bass and beautiful melodies and harmonies. Their second album, Strength, is phenomenal. To get even more obscure, their erstwhile lead guitarist, Johnny Monaco, also traffics in super-catchy power pop.
I love power pop! (And we didn't even mention Cheap Trick!)
King's X - Definitely not for everyone. A weird blend of Beatles/Metal/Gospel, but I like it! And, really, where else are you going to get it? (Living Colour, maybe.) The guitarist's songs, like It's Love, are generally more Beatle-y.
dada - Well, those two songs are on the first two albums, Puzzle and American Highway Flower, which are my favorites. Great instrumentation all around. Michael Gurley is probably favorite current guitarist. (Don't you just love that Dizz Knee Land solo?) Here's their recent cover of All My Loving, which Mustache was baggin' on:
Matthew Sweet - Evangeline? The Girlfriend album was pretty landmark for me. I still remember when I saw the video on MTV. I was like, "What the fuck is this? I must have it!!" Robert Quine had a really cool style, and Fred Maher's drumming was amazing. I like The Bangles, too. But I haven't listened to that Under the Covers thing. Too suggestive.
Bears - Do you know who Adrian Belew is? This is one of his bands. The first album is a true hidden treasure, chock full of weird pop songs with interesting production and avant-garde guitar work.
Jellyfish - Didn't they reform as Imperial Drag? I like that T-Rex-y Boy Or A Girl song. Speaking of Queen, I LOOOOVE Queen! They are pretty much up there with The Beatles for me, Brian May is my favorite classic guitarist, and I miss Freddie Mercury so much! The first three Queen albums are godly rock operas.
The Smithereens - Who doesn't like The Smithereens?? You know what's a good Smithereens song? Blue Period. But, yeah, a little bit of the lead guitarist can go a long way.
Redd Kross - You're probably thinking of someone else. Redd Kross are punk/pop, but way more punk at times than something like Green Day. I only have one of their albums, but it's pretty good. After hearing Saragon on the radio, I had to have it. It sounded like a lost Beatles single.
It goes without saying that you have great taste, as well, since it's the same as mine, haha. Post some of your faves! Let's exchange mixtapes! J/K, I'm lazy.
(Don't feel that you have to watch every video that I posted, btw. I just included them in case you were curious.)
Heh, not surprised to see this thread went way off-topic, but I'm here to talk about the podcast!
So I listened to the first 2/3rds, and I quite enjoyed it. I was listening while doing some data analysis at the lab, and I was thoroughly entertained while crunching numbers and graphs in excel. The topics are interesting, and the three of you really seem to have a good banter going on.
@Guillaume Great host as usual. I love the PictoBits transition music, that's just what the podcast needed. I had suggested before that the Bit.Trip Flux remix of the Runner theme could be used at the beginning, it's an awesome track! Zero's beat is cool, though. Maybe he could do a remix of the Flux theme?
Anyways, I liked your topic and how you presented it. You're a pretty good speaker! The personal anecdotes were great, and I was really happy to see you mention my Wii Fit/DDR story.
@Anand Anand, you're very entertaining. I think you're my favourite podcaster on the Negative World! You're also one of my favourite posters on the boards, but let's not get off-topic here.
Nice analysis of the Cafe situation and its possibilities. I appreciate how much you are into the cool innovative stuff Nintendo puts out. I had a GBA link cable myself, and only ever used it with Animal Crossing, which was pretty damn cool. I loved going to the island in the winter, and having a ton of different fruit and storage space. I used to put all my gyroids in the house there. I really hope you're on-the-mark with your thoughts on the Cafe, it sounds like the type of platform I could enjoy. While everyone else on the internet is talking about how much power the console will have, and the graphics and third party games, here you are talking about connectivity stuff and social gaming. Loved the commentary, and keep up the good work man.
@kriswright I'm gonna get to your part whenever I have the chance, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it as I love pinball myself. Probably not as much as you, but still! It's great! Nice commentary on the other two topics, and I especially liked your anecdote about video games. You know what, your story of playing through Wind Waker with your wife was awesome. I hope I can do that someday with my girlfriend. Well, she might be a wife by then.
I highly recommend their first album, Fun Trick Noisemaker. They have some of the catchiest music, if they had written catchier hooks I think they could have been huge (although I'm not sure they really wanted to be).
Her Wallpaper Reverie, the album with Strawberryfire is very good too, but not really a full album. It has a strange layout, as you'll see if you listen to it.
@Anand This'll be short because I'm posting from my phone. I'll be out of pocket for a few days so, while a longer response is due, this'll be it until I get more time after the weekend.
- I just learned that Red Kross and Red Flag are actually two different bands! And neither of them has anything to do with Big Star. Whoops.
- Don't know where I got the impression Enuff Z'nuff came from Oz. But if they're in the Cheap Trick tradition then I'll look into them. Love me some Cheap Trick.
- I am on the record saying McCartney has the stronger solo career, for the exact reasons you state, and that Brian May is my favorite classic rock era guitarist. And Holy Shit you know who Robert Quine is. Don't freak out, but I'm going to hug you now.
@anon_mastermind Awwww... if I knew how to make one of those ASCII bro-fists, one would be coming your way, my Monster Hunting pal.
Isn't it weird that people haven't speculated more about the actual hook of Project Cafe? There was an enormous amount of Wii speculation before the reveal. I really hope that my guess is correct, too, because that sounds like a very exciting console. E3 is definitely going to be interesting. By the way, most of those ideas came from my Cafe thread that no one read. I didn't want to do a topic that would become obsolete, but the possibilities were too exciting to not discuss!
I also visited the island on Animal Crossing quite a bit, in hopes of getting Wario's Woods, which I NEVER DID, no matter how many treasures I buried! (Until years later, when I cheated by using the Animal Crossing code generator.)
@Jargon Okay, I'll pick it up. Since you're differentiating 'hooks' and 'music', are you defining the vocal melodies as the hooks?
@kriswright Another Brian May fan?? Hug accepted. (R.I.P. Robert Quine.)
And now I realize that we also forget mention Crowded House and XTC and the Marvelous 3. And World Party, although they never resonated with me.