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30 Rock Season 4 [DVD]
30 Rock Season 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alec Baldwin
Offered by Sent2u
Price: £9.85

57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There Ain't No Party Like A Liz Lemon Party, 20 Jun. 2010
This review is from: 30 Rock Season 4 [DVD] (DVD)
So here we are, 30 Rock is now 4 years old and it is still the freshest most loveable program currently gracing our television screens. To be honest not a whole lot has changed since the first episode aired way back in 2006. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is still juggling her desperate look for 'mr right' with her drastic attempts to keep the TGS staff on their toes, Jack (Alec Baldwin) is still the suave & self-assured boss he's always been, Tracy & Jenna (Tracy Moran & Jane Krakowski) are still the pampered stars of the show (although they are now joined by new cast member Danny) and the wonderfully colourful writing team consisting of Frank (Judah Friedlander), Toofer (Keith Powell) and Lutz (John Lutz) are still creating havoc wherever they roam. It has been a winning formula over the course of 3 seasons and this template has not differed a whole lot for this 4th run.

30 Rock's main attraction has always been in it's sharp writing. The show possesess a depth with is sadly missing from most comedy (or otherwise) television currently being developed. Each script seems to cram as many gags within it's 20 minutes as physically possible, and this fourth run does'nt ever let the quality slip. One thing I've noticed is that the use of old fashioned visual gags (think Police Squad) has become ever more prevelant throughout it's 4 years, I especially liked the moment in the episode 'Future Hisband' when Liz asks her dentist (a wonderfully dead-pan performance by James Rebhorn) when she can begin eating hard cheeses again, at which point he exasperatedly hands her a leaflet entitled 'Hard Cheeses & You, Liz' (or something to that effect). Its little sweet moments like this that make 30 Rock such as enjoyable show to watch. Another great story thread involves the Welsh actor Michael Sheen (of 'Frost/Nixon' & 'The Damned United' fame) playing said 'future husband' Wesley Snipes. Sheen is fantastic in the role. Anyone who has seen him play the confident David Frost will be amazed to see him playing the awkward & dispassionate Snipes, the 'date' scene between him and Liz is excrutiating and quickly becomes a 'situation' ('You use that word way too much'), with all their future encounters being equally awkward. I would hope to see more of Sheen in this role in the future.

Jack's main story thread involves his love triangle with CNBC host Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) and Boston-ite Nancy Donovan (played by one of my personal favourite actresses, Julianne Moore). Seeing Jack juggle between the two women shows us another side to his character. We get to see him look a little dishevelled & lost and acting in ways which we'd never usually associate with him (apart from the time he was hiding from Jerry Seinfeld). In the episode 'Klaus And Greta' Jack inadvertadly leaves a romantic new year's message on (the married) Nancy's answering machine, at which point he decides to break into her home with the aid of NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) to steal the discriminating tape. Obviously their plot goes drastically wrong and the sight of Jack fumbling around and losing control of the situation is fascinating to see.

But this show has more going for it than just (the admittadly wonderful) performances of Fey & Baldwin. The supporting cast are given some of their strongest storylines to date. Tracy's desperate attempt to acheive the 'EGOT' (to whit, he must win an Emmy award, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award) brings many highlights. His attempt at a one-man show on Broadway is quickly ruined when he discovers he must act out the same show at least eight times in order to be nominated for a Tony (unfortunatly Tracy is unable to do anything twice) is hilarious, his visit to the home of Whoppi Goldberg is excrutiating and when in 'Don Geiss, America & Hope' he discovers that his nanny is to publish a tell-all book where she will disclose that he has never cheated on his wife (to Tracy's mind this will ruin his career) he goes out of his way to prove his bad boy image. Jenna also benefits from some superb plots, like when she discovers that her long-time stalker has lost interest in her (Jenna to stalker: 'I always thought this would end with me in the boot of a rent-a-car') or her publicity stunt romance with actor James Franco in order to hide his love affair with a Japanes body pillow are never less than side-splitting. Throughout her storylines Jane Krakowski plays Jenna with the same deep & layered performace we've come to expect. Her fragile ego is always conflicting with her need to be loved & respected and she never lets an oppurtunity to upstage the rest of the cast slip her by.

Other notable support comes courtesy of the reliably excellent Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer) who seems to get more naive by the day, the under appreciated Pete Hornberger (Scott Adsit) and the wonderful duo of DotCom & Grizz (Kevin Brown & Grizz Chapman). Also, the many cameos all add to the overall feel of the show rather than overpowering it (as was the case with Will & Grace) with Al Gore, James Franco, Michael Sheen, James Rebhorn and one very special guest at the end of the season (I won't reveal who for the people yet to see it) all putting in great, restrained performances which never threaten to over-shadow the original cast members or the sharp writing of any given script.

30 Rock is still consistently fresh, witty and heartfelt. It has never let the quality of the writing dip during it's 4 seasons and it could be argued that this is the strongest season since the first. I'm constantly amazed at it's relativly low ratings figures (it gets an average of about 6 million viewers in the US, which is shockingly low for a program of this calibre) and am equally amazed by it's ability to give a feeling of the love, attention to detail and hard work that must go into the making of every episode. NBC have commissioned a fifth season to be shown in 2011 (which is a credit to them for keeping this show running despite it's low ratings) and their is no sign yet of any slip-up in it's overall quality. This show will one day be acknowledged besides other american touchstones like Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Until then, all us fans can do is continue to champion the show's cause to other less informed members of the general public and hope it gains the viewing figures it so obviously deserves.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2010 6:09 PM BST


30 Rock Season 3 [DVD]
30 Rock Season 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tina Fey
Price: £8.73

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ms Fey, Please Take A Bow, 12 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 30 Rock Season 3 [DVD] (DVD)
I must confess that I came very late to 30 Rock. Call me stereotypical, patronising or judgemental if you may, but I have an in-built suspicion of 'female-penned or female orientated' television. I hate the very idea that all women must love a TV series because it is aimed squarely at them (I'm thinking of the horrid hyperbole that surrounds Sex And The City or the early days of Desperate Housewifes), I have no particular problem with either program (I just choose to ignore them) but I find the marketing ploy to treat all women as braindead sheep who will always follow the trend to be exasperating and yes, patronising. It also does'nt help my mood when I see superb drama such as The Wire or Deadwood pushed to the sidelines (in certain areas of the media) in favour of more women-friendly programs such as Ugly Betty. Once again, I have no problem with these programs exsisting, just that I find the media overdrive that follows their creaion depressing.

So you can imagine how sceptical I was of the Tina Fey created 30 Rock. Here was a program which featured a female protaganist, was originally penned by a female and has an over-riding feeling of female relationship troubles running throughout (also note that my other favourite comedies include Curb, Peep Show and The Office). No wonder I took so long to discover it, but discover it I certainly did. And coming from my previous point-of-view, I now consider this to be the finest American network sitcom since the all conquering Seinfeld.

Tina Fey plays the extremely likeable (& fallable) Liz Lemon, the head writer on NBC show TGS (originally The Girlie Show). Lemon is a superb creation, much like any great comedy creation we always see her faults (of which there are many) as endearing & loveable. She spends most her screen time desperatly trying to keep her show running smoothly by in turns stroking the inflated ego of her two main stars and keeping a hard stance with her writing team (most noteably the wonderful Frank). All the while she is looking for a man to share her (at times) heart-breakingly lonely life with. The episode where she befriends a lesbian is both warm & devastating heartbreaking, her fear of choking alone in her apartment and going days without discovery & her determined stance that lonliness is her 'lifestyle choice' give the show a depth missing from most television programming. The friendships she does strike up are all incredibly varied, the flirty stance she shares with Jack Donaghy (the monumental Alec Baldwin), the reliable work relationship with TGS's producer Pete, the long-time-always-depend-upon-me best friend Jenna and her bossy relationship with her writing team. Any moment that Fey is on screen is TV gold and her likeability is only equalled by her immense talent.

But this isn't only about Fey, this show has so much depth it is impossible to do it justice on here (but I'll give it a shot). First of all is Alec Baldwin who has a long & varied film career with encompasses everything from Tim Burton's cult classic Beetlejuice to the Michael Bay special effect laden Pearl Harbor (and every genre in between). He is truly monumental in his portrayal of Jack Donagy being extremely elegant & suave throughout whilst always holding a commanding air. He is a marvel. The supporting cast also shines right through with the 2 stars of TGS Jenna Marony (the beautiful Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (the Eddie Murphy-esque Tracy Morgan) always bringing warmth and humour to any scene. I espeically like the story thread in season 4 where Tracy decides to go for the EGOT (by which he aims to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award while actually not possessing any talent of particular note). The writing team (most notably the aforementioned Frank, the black Harvard graduate Twofer and the very secretive Lutz) offer many moments of much needed lad humour with their idiotic schemes & childish ramblings. And last but certainly not least, the incredeible page Kenneth (played by Jack McBayer). Kenneth is possibly the true star of the show, coming across as Woody's (from Cheers) simple brother (yes, he truly is that simple). He is completely naive about his role at NBC beleiving that he is living the high life even whilst he cleans pizza from the ceiling!!.

The entire cast bring a real warmth to the show and the writing is always sharp, witty and well informed. In an age where old fashioned comedy seems to be at death's door and when it is now considered comedy to mislead the public with varios inane antics, it is nice to see a show which offers the basic art of humour within the context of great writing and superb comedic performance. If you find yourself enjoying comedies such as Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Eastbound & Down then you should give this superb creation your full attention.


30 Rock Season 2 [DVD]
30 Rock Season 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tina Fey
Price: £7.40

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ms Fey, Please Take A Bow, 12 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: 30 Rock Season 2 [DVD] (DVD)
I must confess that I came very late to 30 Rock. Call me stereotypical, patronising or judgemental if you may, but I have an in-built suspicion of 'female-penned or female orientated' television. I hate the very idea that all women must love a TV series because it is aimed squarely at them (I'm thinking of the horrid hyperbole that surrounds Sex And The City or the early days of Desperate Housewifes), I have no particular problem with either program (I just choose to ignore them) but I find the marketing ploy to treat all women as braindead sheep who will always follow the trend to be exasperating and yes, patronising. It also does'nt help my mood when I see superb drama such as The Wire or Deadwood pushed to the sidelines (in certain areas of the media) in favour of more women-friendly programs such as Ugly Betty. Once again, I have no problem with these programs exsisting, just that I find the media overdrive that follows their creaion depressing.

So you can imagine how sceptical I was of the Tina Fey created 30 Rock. Here was a program which featured a female protaganist, was originally penned by a female and has an over-riding feeling of female relationship troubles running throughout (also note that my other favourite comedies include Curb, Peep Show and The Office). No wonder I took so long to discover it, but discover it I certainly did. And coming from my previous point-of-view, I now consider this to be the finest American network sitcom since the all conquering Seinfeld.

Tina Fey plays the extremely likeable (& fallable) Liz Lemon, the head writer on NBC show TGS (originally The Girlie Show). Lemon is a superb creation, much like any great comedy creation we always see her faults (of which there are many) as endearing & loveable. She spends most her screen time desperatly trying to keep her show running smoothly by in turns stroking the inflated ego of her two main stars and keeping a hard stance with her writing team (most noteably the wonderful Frank). All the while she is looking for a man to share her (at times) heart-breakingly lonely life with. The episode where she befriends a lesbian is both warm & devastating heartbreaking, her fear of choking alone in her apartment and going days without discovery & her determined stance that lonliness is her 'lifestyle choice' give the show a depth missing from most television programming. The friendships she does strike up are all incredibly varied, the flirty stance she shares with Jack Donaghy (the monumental Alec Baldwin), the reliable work relationship with TGS's producer Pete, the long-time-always-depend-upon-me best friend Jenna and her bossy relationship with her writing team. Any moment that Fey is on screen is TV gold and her likeability is only equalled by her immense talent.

But this isn't only about Fey, this show has so much depth it is impossible to do it justice on here (but I'll give it a shot). First of all is Alec Baldwin who has a long & varied film career with encompasses everything from Tim Burton's cult classic Beetlejuice to the Michael Bay special effect laden Pearl Harbor (and every genre in between). He is truly monumental in his portrayal of Jack Donagy being extremely elegant & suave throughout whilst always holding a commanding air. He is a marvel. The supporting cast also shines right through with the 2 stars of TGS Jenna Marony (the beautiful Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (the Eddie Murphy-esque Tracy Morgan) always bringing warmth and humour to any scene. I espeically like the story thread in season 4 where Tracy decides to go for the EGOT (by which he aims to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award while actually not possessing any talent of particular note). The writing team (most notably the aforementioned Frank, the black Harvard graduate Twofer and the very secretive Lutz) offer many moments of much needed lad humour with their idiotic schemes & childish ramblings. And last but certainly not least, the incredeible page Kenneth (played by Jack McBayer). Kenneth is possibly the true star of the show, coming across as Woody's (from Cheers) simple brother (yes, he truly is that simple). He is completely naive about his role at NBC beleiving that he is living the high life even whilst he cleans pizza from the ceiling!!.

The entire cast bring a real warmth to the show and the writing is always sharp, witty and well informed. In an age where old fashioned comedy seems to be at death's door and when it is now considered comedy to mislead the public with varios inane antics, it is nice to see a show which offers the basic art of humour within the context of great writing and superb comedic performance. If you find yourself enjoying comedies such as Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Eastbound & Down then you should give this superb creation your full attention.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2010 12:23 PM BST


30 Rock - Season 1 - Complete [DVD]
30 Rock - Season 1 - Complete [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tina Fey
Price: £8.57

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ms Fey, Please Take A Bow, 12 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I must confess that I came very late to 30 Rock. Call me stereotypical, patronising or judgemental if you may, but I have an in-built suspicion of 'female-penned or female orientated' television. I hate the very idea that all women must love a TV series because it is aimed squarely at them (I'm thinking of the horrid hyperbole that surrounds Sex And The City or the early days of Desperate Housewifes), I have no particular problem with either program (I just choose to ignore them) but I find the marketing ploy to treat all women as braindead sheep who will always follow the trend to be exasperating and yes, patronising. It also does'nt help my mood when I see superb drama such as The Wire or Deadwood pushed to the sidelines (in certain areas of the media) in favour of more women-friendly programs such as Ugly Betty. Once again, I have no problem with these programs exsisting, just that I find the media overdrive that follows their creaion depressing.

So you can imagine how sceptical I was of the Tina Fey created 30 Rock. Here was a program which featured a female protaganist, was originally penned by a female and has an over-riding feeling of female relationship troubles running throughout (also note that my other favourite comedies include Curb, Peep Show and The Office). No wonder I took so long to discover it, but discover it I certainly did. And coming from my previous point-of-view, I now consider this to be the finest American network sitcom since the all conquering Seinfeld.

Tina Fey plays the extremely likeable (& fallable) Liz Lemon, the head writer on NBC show TGS (originally The Girlie Show). Lemon is a superb creation, much like any great comedy creation we always see her faults (of which there are many) as endearing & loveable. She spends most her screen time desperatly trying to keep her show running smoothly by in turns stroking the inflated ego of her two main stars and keeping a hard stance with her writing team (most noteably the wonderful Frank). All the while she is looking for a man to share her (at times) heart-breakingly lonely life with. The episode where she befriends a lesbian is both warm & devastating heartbreaking, her fear of choking alone in her apartment and going days without discovery & her determined stance that lonliness is her 'lifestyle choice' give the show a depth missing from most television programming. The friendships she does strike up are all incredibly varied, the flirty stance she shares with Jack Donaghy (the monumental Alec Baldwin), the reliable work relationship with TGS's producer Pete, the long-time-always-depend-upon-me best friend Jenna and her bossy relationship with her writing team. Any moment that Fey is on screen is TV gold and her likeability is only equalled by her immense talent.

But this isn't only about Fey, this show has so much depth it is impossible to do it justice on here (but I'll give it a shot). First of all is Alec Baldwin who has a long & varied film career with encompasses everything from Tim Burton's cult classic Beetlejuice to the Michael Bay special effect laden Pearl Harbor (and every genre in between). He is truly monumental in his portrayal of Jack Donagy being extremely elegant & suave throughout whilst always holding a commanding air. He is a marvel. The supporting cast also shines right through with the 2 stars of TGS Jenna Marony (the beautiful Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (the Eddie Murphy-esque Tracy Morgan) always bringing warmth and humour to any scene. I espeically like the story thread in season 4 where Tracy decides to go for the EGOT (by which he aims to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award while actually not possessing any talent of particular note). The writing team (most notably the aforementioned Frank, the black Harvard graduate Twofer and the very secretive Lutz) offer many moments of much needed lad humour with their idiotic schemes & childish ramblings. And last but certainly not least, the incredeible page Kenneth (played by Jack McBayer). Kenneth is possibly the true star of the show, coming across as Woody's (from Cheers) simple brother (yes, he truly is that simple). He is completely naive about his role at NBC beleiving that he is living the high life even whilst he cleans pizza from the ceiling!!.

The entire cast bring a real warmth to the show and the writing is always sharp, witty and well informed. In an age where old fashioned comedy seems to be at death's door and when it is now considered comedy to mislead the public with varios inane antics, it is nice to see a show which offers the basic art of humour within the context of great writing and superb comedic performance. If you find yourself enjoying comedies such as Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Eastbound & Down then you should give this superb creation your full attention.


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction - Limited Edition (PC)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction - Limited Edition (PC)
Price: £7.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yet Another Victim To The DRM Generation, 11 Jun. 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is one of the finest action games of this or any generation. It's production values are through the roof with superb voice acting & a wonderfully inter-woven storyline being of special note. The graphics are top-notch, the sound is always beautiful, the controls don't ever feel clumsy (whether using a mouse & keyboard or gamepad), the pacing is well judged and it even features a gun-fight being played out with DJ Shadow providing the pulse setting music. All this and more add up to one of the best gaming experiences I've felt this side of Half Life 2. But all this hard work has been undone with the inclusion of Ubisoft's dreaded Uplay system. Bah!!!!.

Being a (fairly) newcomer to the Splinter Cell series of games (I played the first, dabbled with Chaos Theory and did'nt go near Double Agent) I'm not the best person to explain the ins-and-outs of the story thread leading up to this release, but I found it very easy to pick up (it features the usual 24/Bourne style spy gibberish speach to explain a frankly ludicroux plot) and within no time I was being swept along with Sam Fisher's quest for revenge and national security. The plot involves the supposed death/kidnap of his daughter and a terrorist attempt to dethrone the current president. But plot is not the only reason we're here. No we're here to play out all our spy fantasies in the guise of Sam Fisher. Ah, Sam Fisher the protaganist of the peice. For the uninitiated he's your typical gravel-voiced Jack Bauer/Jason Bourne/James Bond/James Pond(!) clone who will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. And when I say nothing, I really mean NOTHING. This man will beat anyone within an inch of their lives in order to get the answers he requires. He'll smash politicions through television screens, terror suspects over balconies and even punch a woman in the face, all this played out in interactive cut scenes (press 'C' to smash the lady's face to peices!!). The sense of general violence is at times shocking and you have to wonder quite how it slipped under The Daily Mail/Fox News public interst radar. But for all that I still found myself whooping evrey time I got to interrogate anyone, what that says about me I'm not sure. Just know, going into this game you are about to enter a very brutal rollercoaster ride which will have you wincing just as much as cheering. But by the end you will have reached a very satisfactory end and will want through it all again.

Graphically the game is great without ever being superb. It uses the tried-and-trusted Unreal Engine to create deft shadows and deep lighting effects. The use of the enviroments, however, is of very special note, with your current mission being blazed across the side of buildings in huge letters. It is a wonderful inclusion which gives a real sense of tension and purpose. Video diaries are also played out against the backdrop of the enviroment, giving some depth and meaning to the story. Ubisoft Montreal can be extremely proud of this design technique and it is one that I hope/expect to see more of. Sound is another important aspect which although never particulary bad, it is also never inspired. The guards use the same dialouge throughout and the characters never alter their conversation tree when having to replay a section (see GTA IV: Episodes From Liberty City for an example of this being implemented). But overall you can see every dollar & cent that has obviously been spent in order to give his game the movie-like production it enjoys.

The control scheme is quite well implented with the right mouse button being used in conjuction with the space key for cover (its a lot easier than that sounds). Much like the recent Assassin's Creed 2, the whole thing can feel a little fiddly and the forced toggle-mode for running/walking (basically you have to press the Shift key in order to change between a running or walking stance, why you can't just depress the key to walk I don't know) at times becomes infuriating during a major battle. I've used both a mouse/keyboard and gamepad and I personally found that the mouse/keyboard combo only just had the edge, but it is mostly fine either way you decide to play. Oh I nearly forgot to mention Sam's 'mark & execute' ability. This basically works so that when you perform a melee takedown you are given a pre-determined amount of mark points, with which you can then mark that same amount of enemies and perform a quick and easy execution. It is a superb device to make you go about your killing in a varied & inventive way.

So, overall a very fine game which sadly joins Assassin's Creed 2 in the deadly Uplay DRM system. Ubisoft have implemented this feature to help prevent piracy (basically you have to have a solid & reliable internet connection at all time throughout the game). This is surely the most miss judged decision that a major games company has ever made. In their desperate desire to see the death of the games pirate (a pipe dream anyway) they've decided to alienate their core legitimate buying fanbase. Whilst people like you and me are constantly fighting against forced returns to the desktop and long periods of non-use becasuse the Ubisoft servers are not responding, people who've illegally gained a copy of the game are enjoying an uninterupted experience. Ubisoft's stance is that they are attempting to reduce piracy levels (which I fully understand & appreciate) but I think all they've acheived is a reduction to their user base and sales.

PC gaming is unfortunatly going through a steep decline at the present moment and these heavy handed measures are not going to help. I look at the buisness model of Stardock, who released the fabulous 'Sins Of A Solar Empire' completely free of DRM but gave insentives to their customers through add-ons and downloadable content direct from their servers. This idea worked well with the game selling in excess of 500,000 copies. Unless more companies take a similar stance then PC gaming as we know it will cease to excist which would be a catastophic event for all concerned.


Before Today
Before Today
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.16

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Colour Me Pink, 2010 Has A New Hero, 11 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Before Today (Audio CD)
Ariel Pink (real name: Ariel Marcus Rosenberg) has always been a bit of an outsider. Since the mid-90's he's recorded over 500 songs using only a primitive 8-track, a guitar, casio keyboards, bass and his strangled voice. Three albums worth of this material has been previously released through The Animal Collective's Paw Tracks record label, but here he is with his first 'proper' release (with his own band in tow, no less) 'Before Today'.

Opener 'Hot Body Rub' really sets the tone. It is pure white funk of the Frank Zappa variety. The use of a saxaphone is prominant and Pink's minimal lyrics speak of his great hot tub ('Hot tub, get into my hot tub') before deflaming the mood somewhat ('Hot tub got a disease, Uh spread it in grease'). This pretty much sums the entire album up. On the one hand it sounds like a lost relic from the 80's mainstream (think Hall & Oats on acid) which would have been comfortable on daytime radio and yet a feeling of deprevity surrounds the whole thing, with Pink flippantly talking of drugs, incest and castration. But don't let that put you off for this is a record full to the brim with potential hits. 'Fright Night' with it's 'konck, knock on the door three times/and you knock knock on the door!!!' refrain is pure adrenilin-fuelled lunacy delivered completely irony-free, lead-off single 'Round And Round' with it's 70's languid jazz leanings and grandose vocal arrangements, the 80's hair metal romp that is 'Butthouse Blondies' and the quite frankly show stopping (future hit?) 'Can't Hear My Eyes'.

'Can't Hear My Eyes' is possible the greatest love song that this young century has yet thrown up. Pink delivers some beautiful lines:

'I gotta get a blindfold and close my eyes,
Before I'll get one look at you,
Because I'll see love in a special way,
And I'll see you'

meanwhile the band play the type of smooth-jazz style that surely The Fast Show could have easily mocked. It is one of the finest tracks of the year and in another age it would have been a massive hit.

Overall this is a mighty fine album and if all my talk of 80's jazz is putting you off, please don't let it. This is a record which is firmly sat in the 21st century, it just invokes memories of an age when music was a much more relaxed market place. Right up there with Beach House, Joanna Newsom, Flying Lotus and LCD Soundsytem in the albums-of-the-year-so-far-lists.

Smooth.


No Title Available

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yet Another Victim To The DRM Generation, 9 Jun. 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction is one of the finest action games of this or any generation. It's production values are through the roof with superb voice acting & a wonderfully inter-woven storyline being of special note. The graphics are top-notch, the sound is always beautiful, the controls don't ever feel clumsy (whether using a mouse & keyboard or gamepad), the pacing is well judged and it even features a gun-fight being played out with DJ Shadow providing the pulse setting music. All this and more add up to one of the best gaming experiences I've felt this side of Half Life 2. But all this hard work has been undone with the inclusion of Ubisoft's dreaded Uplay system. Bah!!!!.

Being a (fairly) newcomer to the Splinter Cell series of games (I played the first, dabbled with Chaos Theory and did'nt go near Double Agent) I'm not the best person to explain the ins-and-outs of the story thread leading up to this release, but I found it very easy to pick up (it features the usual 24/Bourne style spy gibberish speach to explain a frankly ludicroux plot) and within no time I was being swept along with Sam Fisher's quest for revenge and national security. The plot involves the supposed death/kidnap of his daughter and a terrorist attempt to dethrone the current president. But plot is not the only reason we're here. No we're here to play out all our spy fantasies in the guise of Sam Fisher. Ah, Sam Fisher the protaganist of the peice. For the uninitiated he's your typical gravel-voiced Jack Bauer/Jason Bourne/James Bond/James Pond(!) clone who will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. And when I say nothing, I really mean NOTHING. This man will beat anyone within an inch of their lives in order to get the answers he requires. He'll smash politicions through television screens, terror suspects over balconies and even punch a woman in the face, all this played out in interactive cut scenes (press 'C' to smash the lady's face to peices!!). The sense of general violence is at times shocking and you have to wonder quite how it slipped under The Daily Mail/Fox News public interst radar. But for all that I still found myself whooping evrey time I got to interrogate anyone, what that says about me I'm not sure. Just know, going into this game you are about to enter a very brutal rollercoaster ride which will have you wincing just as much as cheering. But by the end you will have reached a very satisfactory end and will want through it all again.

Graphically the game is great without ever being superb. It uses the tried-and-trusted Unreal Engine to create deft shadows and deep lighting effects. The use of the enviroments, however, is of very special note, with your current mission being blazed across the side of buildings in huge letters. It is a wonderful inclusion which gives a real sense of tension and purpose. Video diaries are also played out against the backdrop of the enviroment, giving some depth and meaning to the story. Ubisoft Montreal can be extremely proud of this design technique and it is one that I hope/expect to see more of. Sound is another important aspect which although never particulary bad, it is also never inspired. The guards use the same dialouge throughout and the characters never alter their conversation tree when having to replay a section (see GTA IV: Episodes From Liberty City for an example of this being implemented). But overall you can see every dollar & cent that has obviously been spent in order to give his game the movie-like production it enjoys.

The control scheme is quite well implented with the right mouse button being used in conjuction with the space key for cover (its a lot easier than that sounds). Much like the recent Assassin's Creed 2, the whole thing can feel a little fiddly and the forced toggle-mode for running/walking (basically you have to press the Shift key in order to change between a running or walking stance, why you can't just depress the key to walk I don't know) at times becomes infuriating during a major battle. I've used both a mouse/keyboard and gamepad and I personally found that the mouse/keyboard combo only just had the edge, but it is mostly fine either way you decide to play. Oh I nearly forgot to mention Sam's 'mark & execute' ability. This basically works so that when you perform a melee takedown you are given a pre-determined amount of mark points, with which you can then mark that same amount of enemies and perform a quick and easy execution. It is a superb device to make you go about your killing in a varied & inventive way.

So, overall a very fine game which sadly joins Assassin's Creed 2 in the deadly Uplay DRM system. Ubisoft have implemented this feature to help prevent piracy (basically you have to have a solid & reliable internet connection at all time throughout the game). This is surely the most miss judged decision that a major games company has ever made. In their desperate desire to see the death of the games pirate (a pipe dream anyway) they've decided to alienate their core legitimate buying fanbase. Whilst people like you and me are constantly fighting against forced returns to the desktop and long periods of non-use becasuse the Ubisoft servers are not responding, people who've illegally gained a copy of the game are enjoying an uninterupted experience. Ubisoft's stance is that they are attempting to reduce piracy levels (which I fully understand & appreciate) but I think all they've acheived is a reduction to their user base and sales.

PC gaming is unfortunatly going through a steep decline at the present moment and these heavy handed measures are not going to help. I look at the buisness model of Stardock, who released the fabulous 'Sins Of A Solar Empire' completely free of DRM but gave insentives to their customers through add-ons and downloadable content direct from their servers. This idea worked well with the game selling in excess of 500,000 copies. Unless more companies take a similar stance then PC gaming as we know it will cease to excist which would be a catastophic event for all concerned.


Clinging To A Scheme
Clinging To A Scheme
Price: £9.74

4.0 out of 5 stars TWEE POP!, SHOEGAZE!, SWEDEN!, GOOD!!!!!!!!!!, 6 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Clinging To A Scheme (Audio CD)
Lund is a city situated in southern Sweden (so southern, that in fact you can see Copenhagen, the capital of neighbours Denmark from the city's highest points). It was founded in 990AD and it is known for it's beautiful cathedral, it's well respected university and for being the birthplace of Swenden's finest musical export, The Radio Dept.

These Swede's (Johan Duncanson, Martin Larsson & Daniel Tjäder) first came to my attention with 2004's 'Lesser Matters'. It was a harsh listen which clearly held a debt to many shoegazing greats such as My Bloody Valentine or Ride. The album was a revelation which inspired a wide range of feelings (indeed, I remember one occassion where I picked my mother up from a doctor's appointment, to which I had 'Lesser Matters' blasting from the car's stereo system. Her response was one of shock & distress as she beleived my car radio was about to detonate from the layers of feedback being forced through it's tiny speakers). To me however, the album was a beautiful masterpeice that rewarded repeated listens and gave me a sonic window in which to gaze longingly at my teenage years all over again.

The Radio Dept. then proceded to fall away from my radar and subsequent releases such as 2006's 'Pet Greif' passed me by. But throughout, 'Lesser Matters' continued to garner space upon my musical pallette and it was with great excitement that I discovered the glowing reviews that this years 'Clinging To A Scheme' was gathering and decided to dip my toe back into the dark Swedish waters.

Upon first listen I must admit to a mild feeling of dissapointment. Each song seemed to pass me by with little or no effect and I even contemplated stopping the album and writing it off as a loss. But then I hit track 7 'Memory Loss' with it's swirling synths and beautifully understated bass. The song transported me back to 2004 and I was smitten once again. These feelings were still fresh when 'David' quickly followed (complete with thumping drum machines and twinkling keys) and I was convinced that I was much to haste to write this release off. Subsequent listens have gone on to reveal many delights with opener 'Domestic Scene', 'Never Follow Suit', 'The Video Dept' and instrumental 'Four Months In The Shade' being of particular note.

This is a fantastic release which deserves to be given much more airtime by the so-called 'alternative' music stations (I'm looking your way MTV2) and should feature in many 'Best Of 2010' lists. Sweden is currently enjoying a warm-spell on the musical climate (also check out The Tallest Man On Earth, The Knife and Karin Dreijer Andersson's side project Fever Ray) and The Radio Dept are seated right at the summit.

A Beautiful Recommendation.


High Violet
High Violet
Price: £9.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Have The National Sold Out?, Not On Y'r Nelly., 14 May 2010
This review is from: High Violet (Audio CD)
'I don't feel like an entertainer, I'm socially awkward. I'm not comfortable in crowds, so being on stage is not a comfortable place to be. I would'nt call it stagefright, but I don't think any of us like to have the lights on us.' Matt Berninger, lead vocalist of The National.

Well, Matt Berninger, if this fifth release is anything to go by, then you may well have to learn to love those lights.

The National are clearly a band currently stuck at a crossroads. Four albums into their career, they find themselves sharing the Radio 1 playlist with acts such as Titcy Stryder & Ellie Goulding, selling out at The Royal Albert Hall within 5 minutes of tickets going on sell and increasingly becoming the musical darlings of bloggers & reviewers the world over. This is an incredible acheivement by any standards, but to do it within the current climate of general dissillusion and disinterest that the music world is currently experiencing is truly monumental. Also taking into account the subject matters that generally permatate their material (namely, social discomfort and adult worries) and you can obviously see that something weird is happening in the waters that surround castle National.

'High Violet' is a very dark affair. Previous albums such as 'Alligator' or 'The Boxer' punctured the dark, impeading air with sharp blasts of adrenilen-fuelled-taste-the-blood-in-the-mouth moments of release (Mr November, Able, Mistaken For Strangers), that seemed to offer the band therapy away from the meticulously planned songs that sometimes seem to cocoon them. The five Ohians-via-Brooklyn members of the group (Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Matt Berninger, Bryan Devendorf and Scott Devendorf) always give the impression that they suffer from colective perfectionism, every second of every song feels like its been rehearsed ad nausium in which to reach its full potential and no moment is ever left to chance. This style, of course, has it's own down-sides with the band sometimes coming unstuck when their songs can come across as muscially restricted and devoid of emotion, but when the songs are so well written (see 'Sorrow', 'Afraid Of Everyone' or 'England') any such problems are quickly disspelled and the emotion in Berninger's vocals & lyrics are able to rise to the top. But only lead-off single 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' offers any glimpse of light amongst the dark shadows that take residence throughout the rest of the record.

As a collective, the group are really on top of their game with this release. Copius amount of piano, cello, violin, harp, percussion and (thanks to Sufjan Stevens) Harmonium dominate the sound and the various use of backing vocals & harmonies (The Beach Boys would be proud of the finale to 'Conversation 16') give the album a beautifully varied and solid foundation to which Berninger can add his barotoned vocals. And what about that voice?, there is no doubt in my mind that Berninger currently owns one of America's greatest vocal ranges. He seems to mumble his way through most songs, almost forcing the listener to strain in order to hear what he's actually singing about, and then he releases a thunderous racket just moments later (see the refrain at the climax to 'Afraid Of Everyone').

Many people have been comparing The National to 'Automatic For The People'-era R.E.M. I feel this comparison is justified, as much like Michael Stripe & co, The National have steadily built up a dedicated following and have now reached a point where they can legitimatly take a shot at the big time. But any thoughts that the band have sold out in their goal are unfounded. This is still The National of old and any fans of their earlier work will find plenty to enjoy with this record.


This Is Happening [Digipak]
This Is Happening [Digipak]
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £25.46

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James Murphy Mines For Silver, But Yet Again Strikes Gold., 18 April 2010
2010 has already been awash with many great releases (I'm looking your way Joanna Newsom, Beach House, Charlotte Gainsbourg & Titus Andronicus) but has New York's finest gone and just upped the stakes?.

With it's 9 songs streching over 65 minutes 'This Is Happening' is as sprawling and inventive an album that you'll likely to ever hear. With only one song clocking in at under the 5 minute mark (first single 'Drunk Girls') it certainly can't be criticised on an artistic level or labelled as a commercial cop-out, this is clearly a labour of love for Mr Murphy and that love comes across through every synth-laden minute.

The record opens with the slow burning 'Dance Yrself Clean' which begins as a slow jam with Murphy seemingly muttering under his breath, until about 3 minutes in when the songs main bouncing riff literally bursts out the stereo and takes all-comers with it. The song builds and retreats for 8 & a half minutes and by the end one is left breathless and in need of sustinance & rest. Murphy however does'nt supply any such rest as the opener is sharply followed by the Duran Duran bothering 'Drunk Girls' in which he seems to embody a Jarvis Cocker-esque role as a leering outsider looking in on the debauchary acts of a group of young rebels, throughout the song Murphy never lets on towards his intentions or desires, does he envy these youngsters or does he pity them?. This is clearly not the same man who felt the need to proclaim to the world that 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' in 2005. He is now older (40!!) & wiser and with this has come some retrospection & knowledge.

I've heard many people compare this release to the 'Berlin Trilogy' era David Bowie ('Low', 'Heroes' and 'Lodger' for the un-initiated) and the middle section of the album (track 3 through to track 6) goes some way to justifying this claim. 'One Touch' starts with a stabbing synth & percussion combination which holds a similarity to 'Sound Of Silver's classic opener 'Get Innocuous!', the track sounds like a lost relic from the 70's New York club scene but once again Murphy layers the song with lyrics of public discomfort & teary-eyed retrospection ('One touch is never enough/ People who need people are just people who need people'). Track 4 'All I Want' is maybe the moment which holds the most in debt towards David Bowie, with a knowing wink-and-a-nod towards the Thin White Duke's classic 'Heroes' (lets face it, he basically steals the sliding guitar refrain) but in no way does this detract from this wonderous song, with Murphy yet again offering up lyrics of dis-satisfaction and self loathing ('All I want is your pity/ All I want are your bitter tears') all the while the spacey synths reach a level not seen since New Order were banging out the hits in the mid-eighties.

After the self depracation of 'All I Want', track 5 'I Can Change' can only be seen as some sort of self-clensing in which Murphy pleads for help and love. Once again huge synths and massive percussion dominate the song and by this point on the record (about 30 minutes give-or-take) you really get the feeling that the band as a whole are really in the groove and even offer the chance for some much needed humour amonst the stories of self loathing (Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry).

The 9 minute epic 'You Wanted A Hit' is anything but. The keyboard-led riff reminds me a little of the Tarantino film 'Jackie Brown' (can't quite put my finger on why, but there you go) but slowly over the first 3 minutes the song builds towards a crescendo of guitars/synths/percussion and handclaps. This song is classic LCD Soundsytem and is partly reminiscent of early classic 'Losing My Edge'. It is probably the highlight of the entire release and fully deserves it central billing. Another late highlight is 'Pow Pow' which (for obvious reason) reminds this elderly listener of The Birthday Party's masterpeice 'Hamlet(Pow Pow Pow)'.

To summarise the entire record, I would say that although the band have'nt expanded their sound by any great margin & it does generally sound exactly as any veteran LCD Soundsytem fan would come to expect, it is a tremendous acheivement.

This is LCD Soundsystem 3rd great release in a row and James Murpy and the entire DFA team are arguably the most relevent act in the world right now (along with the equally marvellous Animal Collective). Comparisons to Talking Heads, Brian Eno & David Bowie are certainly valid but are conversly becoming ever-more redundant with each album and I'm already anticipating which direction this wonderous group will decide to take next.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2010 9:21 PM BST


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