78/87 #2: Pole Position II

Pole Position II
Released in 1987/Pack-In for 7800
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While not every system’s quality hangs in the balance from their Pack-In-Title, especially given that they are such a rarity in today’s market, keep in mind this is 1987. At the time you could still get an NES Action Set with Super Mario Brothers *and* Duck Hunt, along with two controllers and a light gun. The 7800 came packaged with two “Pro-Line” joysticks and a copy of Pole Position II, which immediately showed the system’s weaknesses right on display.

Pole Position II isn’t even a terrible game by any means, it looks close *enough* to the genuine article; the car as well as the background are similar enough to the arcade cabinet, but with the 7800’s awful sound chip, you won’t be hearing the memorable piece of music that plays before and after races, or the speech for that matter.

The control takes a big hit, just from the awful “pro-line” sticks. These joysticks are literally good for nothing, the joystick auto-resets decently enough, but with a hardly ergonomic design and buttons that constantly stick, it’s easy to see why even the pros would stay away from these joysticks.

Chances are if you purchase a 7800, it will come with this game, as most of the NTSC units sold in the late 80s and early 90s had PPII as the pack-in title. That being said, the game is also ridiculously cheap and easy to find now; even in places where Atari 7800 games are hard to find, there’s probably a copy of Pole Position II sitting in your nearest indie game shop’s Atari 2600 section: that’s how common it is.

That being said, purchase it if you can find it for less than a couple of bucks, otherwise skip this unfortunate launch pack-in. What was meant to be an example of the 7800’s processing power turned into an embarrassing look at the system’s most vulnerable spots: audio and control.

78/87 #2: Pole Position II

78/87 #1: Food Fight

Food Fight
Atari 1984
Released proper 1987
1-2 players

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Food Fight is a perfect example of everything the Atari 7800 can do RIGHT. Unfortunately early on there weren’t many titles that showed off the prowess of the system quite like Food Fight did. What exists here is an exclusive arcade port of an obscure Atari coin-op title, done just as well as can be given the limitations. In Food Fight you control Charley Chuck as he attempts to reach the end of each stage and its different flavor of ice cream, all the while trying to avoid deadly-to-the-touch chefs and the manholes that abound in each wave. Despite speed, your only hope is the food placed around each stage, which Charley can pick up and throw at the chefs, who can just as easily throw it back in your direction, so time, speed and skill are of the utmost essence in Food Fight.

One slight drawback to the 7800 port is Charley’s slow pace, even when he’s running he still goes at a slow jog, which is hardly fast enough to evade any close call moments, of which you run into many in Food Fight. Control takes no hits despite the awful 7800 “ProStick”, this is actually one of the few games where the stick’s awkward fashion actually comes in handy. Speaking to translation, everything is here, albeit downsized to the limitations. The music, backgrounds, colors, cues are all intact, including the instant replays during tense rounds. Food Fight had all the ingrediants for a killer app, but alas, time was its fate.

Released in 1987 as a launch title, but originally meant to be released in 1984, before the 7800 was shelved, Food Fight along with many of the system’s early titles sat on the shelves for years while Atari worked out arrangements with GCC, the company that designed the 7800 and its first wave of titles.

Even though Food Fight *was* an exclusive title, it doesn’t mean squat when it’s 1987 and Charley Chuck is no longer the fresh arcade face you’re used to – rather, it’s Mario and company, or 1942, Double Dragon, etc. By that time people weren’t playing the simple wave-after-wave-after-wave gameplay as much anymore, as arcades and developers had gravitated more towards shooting, platforming, or fighting games at the time.

Despite the slow movement, Food Fight is definitely a must own for the 7800, and seeing as it’s one of the most common games available for the system there’s no reason NOT to own it if you have a ProSystem.

78/87 #1: Food Fight

Beereview #1: Sticky Icky Icky

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Sticky Icky Icky
brewed by Short’s in Bellaire, MI
released August 2015

While it’s easy to point out Short’s strongest suit, the hopped-up pale ale or IPA, there’s no denying that they do not mess with success and strongly believe in getting the style completely right every time. Last month’s special release, Sticky Icky Icky was no different, as it’s truly the stickiest of the icky.

Super bitter dank hops highlight this brew from the front-to-back, yet there is a slightly fruity, juicy element to the aftertaste, so as to not completely destroy one’s palate and keeping it as a very drinkable beer. With its 6% ABV, you could easily crush half a six-pack in a night if you’re a dedicated hop-head. However, with it being released last month, this is quickly becoming a ghost in Michigan, so it may not be as easy to find now. Seek it out if you enjoy a bitter IPA.

Beereview #1: Sticky Icky Icky

Fucked Up Live in Ferndale, MI

Fucked Up @ Loving Touch, May 2, 2015

“I just want to say, thanks to everyone here for coming out tonight and deciding that live music is more important than a boxing match. That means so much to me.”

Those were the first words said by Fucked Up’s iconic vocalist and frontman Damian Abraham as he graced the stage at The Loving Touch during the last night of the Metro Times Blowout. The set was their second show at Loving Touch in the past year, and given the raucous live attitude the band has shown in the past – did not disappoint in the slightest.

The band opened with the opening cut from last year’s Glass Boys, Echo Boomer and the crowd immediately launched into a mosh pit towards the front of the stage.

Abraham kept a wild stage presence as expected, jumping into the crowd and running around, hopping onto nearby tables and never missing a beat while the band, comprising of bassist Sandy Miranda, drummer Jonah Falco and guitarists Ben Cook, Josh Zucker and Mike Haliechuk – played with precision, as if Abraham had never left the stage. Cook and Miranda shared backup vocalist duties and harmonization for Abraham’s guttural delivery, mirroring the double part harmonies found on the band’s albums.

While that was only the first track of the set, the band continued to play a mixture of tracks from their discography, several from 2011’s critically acclaimed fan favorite David Comes to Life such as The Other Shoe and Queen of Hearts as well as selections from last year’s Glass Boys, their breakthrough album The Chemistry of Common Life and several from the band’s many seven-inch singles, including live staples Police and I Hate Summer.
On record, Fucked Up represent a sound that encompasses everything progressive and punk – two words that would seem to never go together, live they represent a great time. They could play for hours and this reviewer would never bore of them. Everyone in the band plays at 100% and they put on such a fantastic live show as a result.

If the band is the control keeping the music in check and the band consistently on track, Damian is the chaotic character threatening to disrupt the balance, but instead he’s having fun and making sure everyone in the crowd is having just as good of a time as he is. Inbetween tracks he continued to make conversation with the crowd on his wide variety of interests: drug policies, police, pro wrestling, the ongoing Mayweather-Pacquio fight and record collecting among other subjects.

The crowd stayed energetic as people began to file out of the venue throughout the set. As opposed to the band’s last show in July at the same venue which was a sold out show and had very little room to breathe during the band’s performance. Despite the lesser turnout, Fucked Up rocked out as if the venue was sold out regardless.

As the band left the stage, Abraham placated the crowd by remarking “Don’t worry, we’re just going to deliberate whether or not we’ll be coming back for an encore”, only to return after a few minutes saying that “we decided”, as the band ran back on stage to play one last song as an encore as the crowd rebuilt itself back into a mosh pit. Afterwards, Abraham stayed on stage and provided a vocal-only cover of a Detroit-area hardcore band Earth Mover before ending the set proper.

Damien stayed on the floor after the set chatting with fans and taking photos, where this writer snagged a quick picture with the man, the myth, the legend. Yes, he grabbed on to my beard and gave me a hug afterwards. It was well worth it.

Despite the dithering crowd, Fucked Up’s second show in a year was another short burst of hardcore energy and well worth the price of admission.

Fucked Up Live in Ferndale, MI

METZ II Review

METZ
METZ II
Released May 5, 2015
Sub Pop Records
METZ II

Canada’s METZ, the power trio of guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies are often considered and hailed as one of indie rock’s constant reminders of the origins of its own genre, from the 1980s underground bands that created a sound known to many as “noise rock”. Meshing together the edginess and stress of noise rock, post-punk and post hardcore, METZ are unforgiving, loud and dissonant – and they’re proud of it.

With such a loud manifesto, METZ raged onto the indie scene stateside in 2012 when they were signed to Seattle’s legendary Sub Pop Records and released their self-titled album, which quickly became a critical favorite and the band hit the road for a long two-year tour across the world.

Now, returning to release METZ II, their second album proper and second for Sub Pop, the band released a warning preceding the announcement. Frontman Alex Edkins wrote, “We are not going to clean up our sound, we are not going to hire a big producer and we will not write a radio song.”

Keeping true to their word, METZ accomplished all three goals with II. If you were not a fan of METZ I, II will not change your mind about the band. This is scuzzy, dissonant, loud noise rock at its finest, produced by the team of Graham Walsh and Alex Bonefant, the duo that made the band’s first album possible, ensuring more of the same.

Opener Acetate fools the listener by beginning with moments of silence before Hayden Menzies’ booming drums kick in and Chris Slorach’s bass rings along with Edkins’ distorted vocals and metallic guitar, bemoaning a relationship that hit the skids.

The record continues on there with no stops from there to single “The Swimmer” and jerky rocker “Spit You Out”. “I.O.U.” and its blistering attack combines machine-gun drumming with angular guitar to create a headbanging punk track, describing the personal rollercoaster of a dependence on drugs.

Fans of the band will be already acquainted with “Nervous System”, a fast and shaky sounding track that appeared as part of Adult Swim’s Singles Program two years ago and reappeared as an extra track for METZ II.

“Wait in Line” sees the band slowing the breakneck pace of the album and taking a more groove-oriented sound but still keeping the nerve-wracking feel of the rest of the album, despite having the closest thing to a sing-along bridge towards the end of the song.

The album closes with a noisy drone titled “Kicking a Can of Worms”, describing insecurity and a lack of confidence in oneself, to make one final plea amidst the noise to simply “let go”, and unlike the beginning of the album, it closes with pure noise.

For anyone unacquainted with the sound of METZ, if you enjoy old-school noise rock or post hardcore in the vein of Shellac, Scratch Acid, The Jesus Lizard, Girls Against Boys, Jawbox and Drive Like Jehu you won’t find anything closer than METZ.

With METZ II, much like the band’s eponymously titled first album they accomplish exactly what they sought to do from the beginning: to be loud, fast, noisy and leave a trail of dust when it’s all over. Going back to my original point of them once again proving that they’re noise rock’s new hope amidst the constant mutations of indie rock, a little reminder of the genre’s loud and unforgiving beginnings.

-A

METZ II Review

Thurston Moore – The Best Day Review

I published this for WXOU last year, and I’m dropping it here. Enjoy!

Thurston Moore – The Best Day review
Matador Records
2014

Since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011, Thurston Moore has kept himself busy collaborating with Yoko Ono and John Zorn, as well as moonlighting in black metal supergroup Twilight and his own side-band, Chelsea Light Moving, which released their self-titled debut last year.

Despite Sonic Youth’s rather heady discography, Moore has remarkably only released four solo albums in nearly four decades of musical activity. His first two; Psychic Hearts and Trees Outside the Academy were more along the lines of Sonic Youth, noisy, yet catchy and melodic, not too outside-the-box as his collaborations typically go. His last, 2011’s Beck-produced Demolished Thoughts, was much more subdued and melancholy, with Moore trading in the atypical noise for a more organic, acoustic folk sound.

Moore’s latest solo release for Matador Records, however, The Best Day, is not far from the last Sonic Youth albums that were released in the 2000s or his earlier solo work. Backed by familiar faces such as SY drummer Steve Shelley on Drums, and My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, Moore manages to return to a solo album that mirrors much of his previous work.

If you’re already acquainted with Sonic Youth, The Best Day will seem like familiar territory, for first-time listeners, the beginning may be a bit of a slog to get through, with the first two tracks clocking in at 20 minutes alone, with the rest of the album being far shorter than the beginning.

The album begins with Speak to the Wild, an eight-minute melodic jam that sets the tone and mood for the album itself, beginning with a verse/chorus structure, fraying into a psychedelic jam and then closing with a final verse, similar in nature to tracks off of Trees Outside the Academy.

Lead single Detonation is a great, speedy attack from Moore and his solo band; close to the music he made while heading Chelsea Light Moving over the last two years. Follow-up Vocabularies takes a darker turn, taking a mostly acoustic approach.

Closing tracks Grace Lake and Germs Burn would fit in great next to Thurston’s originals on the last Sonic Youth full-length, sprawling, psychedelic tracks that manage to get out of control and fall apart right to the point where he and his band manage to spin right back into control.

While one could say Moore very rarely thinks outside of his comfort zone when it comes to original solo work or his time in Sonic Youth, it’s clear that he has refined a sound that only he can make. There will be numerous Sonic Youth copycats, as there has always been in alternative rock; but only one Sonic Youth. Only one person can make that dissonant yet melodic guitar tone, and it’s Thurston Moore. Like other alt-rock luminaries, such as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame, he has found his ground and continues to move forward in a controlled fashion, not too crazy, but just enough to where it sounds like Thurston.

That being said, The Best Day is a great follow-up for fans of Sonic Youth and Moore in general – but as for first-time listeners, this writer would most likely point to a SY album such as Dirty or Rather Ripped if you have an aversion to wordless psychedelic jams.
If you don’t, however, you’re in for a noisy treat.

Thurston Moore – The Best Day Review

First!

Hi. I once used this name for a tumblr blog that contained .gif files I created from various outlets – Ren & Stimpy, NES games, old Nick/MTV broadcasts, then abruptly life hit me and I ran out of time to keep the site moving. In a push to be more involved with writing and graphic arts I’m revamping the old name as a new blog and the old tumblr, attempting to see if I’ll have enough time to keep this going on the regular somewhat. Music, beer and game reviews, nostalgic posts among other such things should be expected.

eyesearsappendages.tumblr.com – the old tumblr page, follow if you’d like, I may exhume it soon for more psychedelic imagery of the nostalgic kind.

First!