TrevorPresiloski
Looking For Group: Another Horrible Webcomic
June 11th, 2009

So what do you get when you mash a World of Warcraft fanfic together with elements of 8 Bit Theatre, Drizzt D’Urden and a writer of an established Mary Sue webcomic? Why, you get Looking For Group, yet another gaming webcomic that is inexplicably popular despite the fact that it is a rather bad strip.

LFG is the brainchild of the two guys who also write/draw Least I Could Do, another terrible webcomic that has been savaged by others for being a horrible, unfunny, Gary Sue, misogynistic turd. Amazingly, their biggest claim to fame in webcomic sins aren’t of their own creation, rather, it’s being behind Blind Ferret Entertainment, the, and I use this term about as loosely as possible, ‘animation’ studio that brought us this (click for the full effect):

Yup. If you were wondering who were the idiots that unleashed the most poorly animated piece of crap this side of the CD-i, look no further. Blind Ferret apparently came to light as a result of Sohmer’s burning desire to see his other masterpiece animated. And really, given the exceedingly high quality that this company is known for and the artists/writers Blind Ferret has worked with in the past, surely LFG is one of the gems in the Internet’s set of Crown Jewels…right?

Well, while LFG isn’t as bad with the blatant wish-fulfilment and unfunny jokes about sex that LICD is notorious for, that’s like saying you don’t beat your girlfriend, rather, you simply get angry while playing video games and accidentally lash out at the closest human being who isn’t entirely sick and tired of your bullshit. Who happens to be your girlfriend. Okay, I’ve run that one into the ground. While you might be lucky enough to come across a baby alligator or something equally cool amongst all the waste that is the free flowing deluge of sewage that is the Internet’s webcomic community, you are far more likely to come up with something that looks like a baby’s leg, but smells a whole hell of a lot worse. And is made out of shit. Which brings us to LFG.

I’ve never really bothered with being a regular LFG reader. Unlike my other webcomic review with GU Comics, my experience with LFG has consisted of reading the first few comic strips going ‘this is fucking stupid’ and then accidentally lashing out at the person who recommended I check out the site. Total time wasted? About 5 minutes. So, in the interest of fairness and in order to delay getting around to doing any actual work at my job and thus actually justifying the paycheck that is given to me in these tough economic times where other people are not so lucky, I sat down and tore through the first 200 strips of LFG’s roughly 250 comic strips. I figure that would let me see if the strip truly is as bad as I initially made it out to be, or whether I was being unfair in my 5 minutes of looking at the damn thing. I mean, the least I could do (GET IT? HA HA HA) is actually examine the damn thing before I dismiss it ocmpletely.

Sadly, LFG is just not that good. The comic originally started off as a ‘comedic’ strip before it got ‘serious,’ which is sort of like being a staff writer who gets tasked to work on a ‘very special’ episode of Blossom: it doesn’t work very well. I’ll say that it’s been handled better than Tim Buckley’s abortive attempt at veering into Seriousville, but then again, you could say the same thing about Michael J. Fox performing neurosurgery. I didn’t really notice any sort of dramatic shift in tone whilst reading through,  although the strip started moving away from being completely nonsensical to only slightly nonsensical, so there’s that. Anyway, I said at the top that LFG reads as a WoW fanfic and, after going through the first 200 or so pages of this webcomic, I stand by that assertion. Having dabbled in World of Warcraft and now guaranteeing the fact that I have just doomed myself to never having a girlfriend again, I’m familiar with the universe and have paid attention to the lore because I’m an idiot that way. While I haven’t read any of the books (and I seriously doubt that will change anytime soon) I am familiar with the basic plotline of the War of the Ancients trilogy. You know, the one that had a bunch of time travelling and characters going back in time and, okay, your eyes are glazing over so I’ll shut up.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: generic group of fantasy characters go back in time to a mighty elvish empire right before ‘the fall.’ Said empire seems to be carved entirely out of white marble. Said characters go back in time to stop some poorly defined tragedy from befalling the world, interact with mysterious draconic characters and then are flung back into the future having made things better.

Oh, but apparently I’m mistaken. According to the comic’s official Wikipedia page, the very existence of which makes me contemplate suicide: “outside of artistic similarities, the strip’s plot bears no resemblance to the Warcraft setting and Sohmer has stated that it is set in an independent universe.” As if we needed further proof that Wikipedia is full of shit. Despite being completely different from WoW, there’s constant parody going on with the fantasy genre and “pop culture references in medieval guise abound.” Gee, you’re right. World of Warcraft never references anything pop cultural or parodies the genre itself at all, boy oh boy. How silly of detractors to think as much.

At least I think that there’s parody and pop culture references ‘abounding’ in LFG, as nothing is ever really all that clear, which brings me to my biggest complaint with this webcomic: it is written fucking horribly and trying to figure out the ‘plot’ of this story is annoying for someone who isn’t a devoted fanboy who will gobble up anything that is thrown up without question. Look, I know that fantasy writing has a reputation for being shit, despite there being a ton of talented and smart authors out there, but there’s also a large portion of fantasy out there that is complete and utter crap. Sohmer happens to fall into the latter category, being guilty of coming up with nonsensical dialogue, plots that don’t make a ton of sense, relying FAR too much on having crap happen ‘off screen’ and basically using every single goddamned fantasy cliche in the book and running it into the ground.

Evil empire looking to conquer the world? Check.

Honorable (but fucking retarded) ignoble savages? Check.

Dwarves that speak in Scottish accents? Check.

Gnomes that love to tinker? Check.

Ancient prophecies up the fucking wazoo? Check.

Ancient prophecy that revolves around a MacGuffin? Check.

And on and on and on. I imagine if you were to open up TV Tropes and randomly select a page and then randomly select a LFG comic you’d, more likely than not, get a match. And before anyone tries to tell me that that’s the point of the comic, I’d like to thank you for pointing out the obvious, but LFG is apparently a ‘serious’ webcomic now, so you can only play the parody card so much before your ‘serious’ story becomes a joke.

But Jesus Christ, the writing is the major reason why this webcomic is terrible. From the very early stages of the comic, we have a bar fight that magically shifts to the characters being in the middle of the woods, with zero explanation as to how they got there. Sohmer has absolutely zero sense of pacing, tension, drama, whatever you want to throw out, he’s not catching it. You build up this confrontation, set things up for a fight and then…PHEW, glad we lost them! That just reeks of shitastic writing. Think that’s an isolated incident? Here’s another example. Here, we have the Bad Guys, with the utterly creative name of Legion, are in pursuit of our heroes. For some reason. We’re not sure how they know where they are, but who cares, dammit, this is about ACTION. So, the captain of the ship gets her crew ready for battle…and then goes on to brag about how her ship is so fast, they needn’t worry about battle in the next strip. Again, shitty writing that breaks up the story and makes it look like 9 year olds doing a reenactment of the old He-Man cartoons. Here’s yet another one. Up to this point, readers have been given the impression that this person is ALSO wanted by the Legion, but, hey, that annoying thing called a plot is getting in the way, so let’s just handwave our way through it to make way for the author’s insipid storytelling, because, really, details are Fucking Stupid. Here’s yet another great example There’s some sort of epic fight going on between two groups and the main characters are down in some CATACOMBS. We see them descend underground and yet here we see the roof caving in and griffons and soldiers who were previously fighting a massive army are now suddenly duking it out with these guys and oh god my brain. To quote the great philosopher Stefani: this shit is fucking bananas.

Another great example of this is when Richard (and, believe me, more on HIM in a moment) is banished to the ‘Plane of Suck’ (LOL!) and is robbed of his magical powers…only not, because…well, it’s never really explained. NOTHING is explained at all, which makes reading this thing a fucking chore because you have to simply accept shit happening. Deus ex machina is Sohmer’s favorite tool as a writer  and to hell with  constructing a narrative that makes any sort of goddamned sense. There’s also a point at the very start of this strip where Benny is expected to pony up some gold to the Bad Guy…which then magically turns into something called the Sword of Truth somewhere along the way. That last bit can be a bit of a nitpick, as this once again goes back to the argument that this was originally a ‘silly’ webcomic that turned into a ‘serious’ one and hey, maybe things weren’t planned out. Regardless, this serves as evidence that Sohmer doesn’t plan things out at all and is flying by the seat of his pants. Awesome!

As well, it seems that the only way that Sohmer knows how to advance his plot, if he’s not using offscreen methods or simply ignoring what he’s already written in favor of whatever current direction he wants to go in, is through battle or wholesale slaughter and again, I can appreciate that in a fantasy comic strip, where you expect to see a lot of fighting going on, but this again goes back to pacing problems. If you keep building up epic battle after epic battle with NOTHING else going on in between you’re going to have your audience get burnt out and disinterested because, well, if you’re having sex with two Swedish supermodels every night, how long does it take until it becomes routine and boring? So then you go out and try and spice things up. Maybe some handcuffs. Next thing you know, you’ve got a Doberman tearing off your private bits and your entire family has stopped speaking to you. Same principle here. You don’t want to be having these huge armies fighting each other all.the.goddamned.time because it winds up giving you the exact opposite result you were hoping for. Yeah, great, hack and slash is awesome, but mix it the fuck up for once and try to resolve your plotlines in ways other than HURR DURR STABBITY STAB STAB, which, if you think about it, is also how the majority of the plots are resolved in LICD, so really, he’s experienced zero growth as a writer. Hurrah!

Then there’s story details which are just completely illogical. Take the situation where some village is besieged by elementals. Somehow, the fact that some of these elementals are made out of fucking fire is irrelevant, because, hey, what the fuck good is fire when you’re laying siege to a settlement?

To be fair, these problems with the plot could be explained away if we were provided with interesting, dynamic and compelling characters. Unfortunately, this is yet another area where LFG falls far short. Let’s start with arguably the most recognizable character of the bunch, who has taken on a sort of cult following amongst fans: Richard. Fucking Richard. I can see the appeal with someone like Richard: evil sociopath who thrives off being a complete bastard. Why, it worked so well, it’s actually been done before. You see, Richard is nothing more than a thinly disguised ripoff of Black Mage from 8 Bit Theatre, essentially being the same damn character used for the exact same purpose. But see? He does a hadoken AND a shoryuken, so he’s like, totally different from Black Mage, so it’s cool.

Then there’s Cale’Anon, an elf who dual wields swords and has a pet panther. Oh, and he’s also the only non-evil member of his particular group of elves. At least, that’s what we’re told, as we’re never really SHOWN exactly how evil these elves are, outside of laying siege to this one castle. But yeah, that TOTALLY doesn’t sound familiar. At all. Because that’s what Sohmer would lead you to believe: that Drizzt was very clearly NOT an inspiration for Cale’Anon. Despite this strip initially starting off as a parody of fantasy and fantasy gaming. Despite having AD&D having a clear influence with the strip. But yeah, Cale’Anon is totally not a Drizzt clone. And Richard is totally not a rip off of Black Mage!

What else is there? Well, there’s the fact that the dialogue can be laughably bad. Here’s some examples:

His hair, like a helmet. Pubes? Like a wheat field.

Unfortunately, the script was lost on its way overseas to the Korean animation studio!

“We shall do well with bauble, eh!”

As for the so-called humour of the strip? Well, there’s Rickroll jokes roughly 2-3 weeks after that particular fad had officially jumped the shark? Or a 300 joke? Or ripping off 8 Bit Theatre’s whole burning down orphanages joke and running it into the ground? If you’re going to have a running gag, at least make it your fucking own and not one blatantly stolen from someone else. Yeah, there’s not a lot of humour to be had. Oh, there’s the utterly fucking hilarious attempts at geek humour, such as implying that elves might be, LOL, EFFEMINATE. Or there’s such a horrible, hamfisted attempt at shoehorning in a joke that it comes out as being absolutely retarded. The worse thing about all these attempts at humour? More often than not, you see the characters being drawn laughing at the jokes. Now, I might be out to lunch here, but I view that sort of thing as being something you just don’t do. Drawing your fucking characters cracking up at your jokes shows either how much of a big fucking ego you have or how much of an insecure dipshit you are.

With Sohmer, though, you have to assume that he’s completely and utterly full of himself. Nevermind the ridiculous wish fulfilment that goes on in LICD, we have a guy who thinks that he’s King Mother Fucking Shit because he happens to update his webcomic and posts garbage like this:

On the frontpage of LFG’s site. For those curious as to what the link is, here you go. What kind of arrogant shitheel does this guy think he is? Sign a petition because, damn it, I should be writing a comic book put out by a professional company that has standards. Also, how’s that for fucking irony? He’s bitching about people’s sense of entitlement in the post immediately preceding it. Wow.

He’s also made comments where he thinks he should get into the video game business because LFG has been so successful. Yeah, I’m right there with you, if only a) your previous attempts at branching out into other forms of media weren’t affronts to God and b) your source material wasn’t so pisspoor.

As for the artwork? Lar DeSouza is pretty good and is great at mixing things up, although there’s the odd misstep here or there. Nothing really to get bent out of shape over, though, and completely understandable when you’re working on 2 different comics at a time. The cartoony look isn’t really my cup of tea, but I’m not going to hold it against him. He’s a good artist and is capable of cranking out some solid stuff. Hopefully he’ll keep up the good work with someone who can actually write. Honestly, the art is not the major problem with this comic. The biggest problem is the proliferation of B^U syndrome that’s going on, with character faces, but given that he’s capable of drawing in multiple perspectives, can draw things like feet (something which King B^U is incapable of doing)  it’s a minor quibble and can be chalked up to a stylistic choice. Is it a good one? No clue, but the art is something that just doesn’t appeal to me all that much.

And honestly? LFG could be a much better comic if there were an editor kicking around or if Sohmer actually exercised some planning and self-editing himself. It’s a problem that plagues a LOT of online material, be it webcomics, writing in general or other mediums. There’s no real quality control process for people. Whereas an actual comic book will have a ton of people looking at a single work, there’s a lot of crap that proliferates online because there’s no attempt at revision or editing. A lot of the problems that I found cropping up here would have easily been picked up if there was someone else going over things behind the scenes looking at things with a critical eye. Given that Sohmer gives the impression that he’s incredibly full of himself, though, I highly doubt that will happen anytime soon. Hence, shitty webcomic.

Are we talking ‘used’ as in secondhand, or…
June 8th, 2009

Craigslist never fails to bring the funny. A short, concise ad, but one that is completely baffling.

Must be experienced with horoscopes and sex toys?

Three years experience? What, is that to prevent the horoscope writers fresh out of school from annoying you?

No post?
June 6th, 2009

Sorry folks. I’m in the process of moving and getting set up at a new base of operations. Additionally, wireless internet is spotty at the moment so getting Part 3 of my HQ LP up is a pain in the arse. Apologies! I know, I’m a baaaaaad blogger.

David Eddings: RIP
June 4th, 2009

I was a little surprised to hear that David Eddings had passed away. I never really read a whole lot of David Eddings stuff, to be honest, but one of his books, The Ruby Knight, was one of the first fantasy novels I had ever read (with The Hobbit and LOTR being the two that preceded it.)

What was more sobering for me, though, was doing some reading up on other authors out there and realizing that we’re going to be closing the book on a great deal of speculative fiction authors. While it’s exciting to think that there’s going to be new writers establishing themselves and doing new things within the genre, it’s quite saddening to think that a lot of recognizable names are getting up there in age.

Piers Anthony is 74.

Terry Pratchett is 61, but was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s 2 years ago.

Ursula Le Guin is 79.

Jack Vance is 92.

Michael Moorcock is 69.

Robert Jordan passed away 2 years ago.

This post is probably more than a little morbid, but it was the result of stumbling around and checking out some other authors which I am familiar with.

RIP David Eddings.

Nerd Raaaaage
June 3rd, 2009

One of the Internet whipping boys as of late, particularly if you’re of the geeky bent, has been author George R.R. Martin, he of the ongoing Song of Ice and Fire series. I’d recommend the books to pick up and read, but, well, I’d probably have to go and recommend you take up black tar heroin or start reading Robert Jordan, another fantasy author who passed away not too long ago before completely finishing his epic fantasy series, leaving his story unfinished and in the hands of another author. You might see where I’m going with this.

See, the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons has been stalled. Roughly five years, as a matter of fact, although technically, the ‘drama’ with Martin has only been going on for the past 2 years or so. The fourth book in the series, A Feast For Crows, was half of what he intended the fourth book to be and A Dance With Dragons was going to be tossed out really quickly, lickety split, because, hey, if he had written only half a book, figuring out the rest shouldn’t be too hard, right? Unfortunately, the release of ADWD hasn’t happened and fans, being the annoying pests that they are, soon became disgruntled. It doesn’t help that Martin keeps a blog where he updates readers on his current doings, such as works that he is editing, other projects, such as the HBOization of ASoIaF, hocking merchandise or, and this is important here, providing updates on ADWD. This criticism reached critical mass not too long ago when Martin himself lashed out at angry fans on his blog, upset that they dare to pester him about updates regarding the book.

More recently, authors such as Neil Gaiman have come out to voice their support for Martin, telling fans that Martin ‘is not your bitch.’ I can see the point that Gaiman is making: just because you buy the published work of an author, doesn’t mean he is under any sort of obligation to provide more entertainment for you. I agree with it, too. Unfortunately, when you’re someone like George RR Martin, constantly posting updates regarding your work and making and breaking promises to your fanbase about said work, you’re providing them with an expectation, intentional or not. Martin is under no obligation to post said updates, but when he does that begins  a dialogue with his audience and expectations change.

I think the big misconception that a lot of people are under is that fans aren’t mad because Martin is doing other things, they are getting mad because he has teased fans with the hope that the book is going to be done soon. This has been an ongoing problem for about 2 years, if you refer back to the last link that was made. This becomes further complicated when Martin refuses to give any sort of insight as to what is going on with ‘the’ work, other than vague promises of ‘soon, soon’ and then goes on to talk about every other writing project he is involved in, projects which have all seen completion or progress of some kind. Further, it becomes frustrating when rumours abound that Martin forbids any sort of mentioning of the book when he makes appearances at conventions and quells any attempt at discussion on his blog. This would be understandable if his blog hadn’t already been setup as a place to go for information regarding ‘The Book’, but, again, since Martin uses the blog as a way of updating people on his work, fans have an expectation that he would be giving updates on all of his work, as has been the case. To chastise fans for expecting something is silly, given that he uses his blog as a way of advertising every other piece of writing and merchandise of his. To make one exception:  to refuse to discuss a book that has been promised to be released ‘soon’ for the past 2 years while getting angry when fans sour against you for what they view as dragging your heels is asinine, especially when you leave all of them in the dark, after providing them with information and updates prior to this.

That’s the issue and why so many fans are upset and feeling frustrated: they feel as though they are being lied to and that Martin is being evasive about things. It is not because they lack sympathy towards George because writing can be frustratingly hard at times. It is not because fans expect a new book: that expectation was placed there by Martin with his constant promises of ‘soon.’ The book isn’t something he has stated he has put on the backburner, it is something he is actively working on and, if you believe him, close to completion.

If Martin were to come out and say ‘Look, the pressure regarding this book is huge and I’m having some incredible difficulties with it. I can’t give you a timeline because I need to reconnect with the project and get the writing juices flowing.’ Fans would be a hell of a lot more understanding than with the current runaround that they are currently on the receiving end of. To bring up one of my favorite authors, China Mieville has said that he wants to write more books in the Bas-Lag universe, a world that I abso-fucking-lutely adore, but that he’s taking a break from it and he wants to write some other stuff. I’m not getting pissed at him. Why? One, because he has arms that could probably crush me into a fine powder and two, because he hasn’t gone onto his LiveJournal and written posts where he says ‘Oh sup mates, I’m working on a new Bas-Lag novel. It should be finished in June’ and then when June rolls around, posts something like this. Then repeats the process for the next 2 years.

Although I’m not as hung up as some other, more rabid, fans can be, it is frustrating watching this play out. If I ever, ever get a publishing contract, please, for the love of God, use this post as a reminder of what not to do as an author.

Chrono Trigger ROM Hack Leak: Or Why You Can Thank Dragonball Z For Ruining Final Fantasy
June 2nd, 2009

Moving away from hockey, I found some interesting news regarding a Chrono Trigger ROM hack that was providing a ‘sequel’ of sorts to the classic SNES game. Predictably, Square-Enix issued forth a cease and desist on this group. The real kick in the nuts, though, comes from the fact that this group had about 98% completed this ROM hack before SE decided to descend upon them and give them hell.

A lot of folks are pissed off at SE for doing this, claiming it was a scummy move and so on and so forth. Well, yes, it is a bit of a scummy move, but it’s one of those things that needs to be done if Square wants to protect their intellectual property. Some people might scoff and go ‘Well, it’s just a fan made game, nobody’s getting hurt over it and blahblahblah.’ While that’s probably true, it does set an ugly precedent and it would make it harder if someone else came along and decided that there was profit to be made in meticulously remade fanfiction using existing ROM files. The whole 98% thing, to me, is getting thrown around way too much, as well, as it seems to be nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence than anything else.

Here are some unfortunate truths for people out there who are wanting to get their hate on for SE:

1, They have had a history of stopping fan projects before. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is the aborted 3D remake of Chrono Trigger. Square jumped all over that quickly and nipped it in the bud. For the people who have been a part of the Crimson Echo project to openly advertise and promote their project before it was done, knowing that SE has stopped fan projects in the past is either naive or ignorant.

2, A sequel to Chrono Trigger hasn’t been made because the original creators aren’t all involved. Despite everyone screaming bloody murder at SE and going ‘OMG WHY WON’T U MAEK GAEM’ as a justification for a lack of a sequel, SE is instead showing consideration for their fans by NOT making a sequel to the game that doesn’t involve people who were originally affiliated with it. This is part of the reason why I find this whole thing to be hilarious: rabid fanboys think they know more/better than the original developers/designers of the games and are arrogant enough to go where the Big Bad Evil Company are loathe to. Yet people are angry at SE for being ‘money grubbing bastards.’ Oookay.

3, The ‘shittiness’ of current SE games is YOUR fault. Yes, YOU. Okay, maybe not you specifically, but you catch my drift, yes? While there are tons of people out there who either love or hate Final Fantasy 7 and the subsequent trends that they created in JRPGs, often pointing to this guy:

As the source of Final Fantasy’s ills. For many fans, Sephiroth represented a lot of what went ‘wrong’ with the Final Fantasy series: vaguely effeminate, ‘badass’ character  with an absolutely mindboggling past that led to a plot that didn’t make a lot of sense. The black trenchcoat and katana also led to a more ‘contemporary’ look in character design and, blah, blah, blah. I’m not repeating anything that hasn’t been said before. While that’s all fine and good and nerds will either rage or love Sephiroth in entirely inappropriate and disturbing ways, I’d argue that Sephiroth wasn’t the root cause of all the bullshit that clogged up the pipes of the Final Fantasy series (and even I would argue that ‘blaming’ anyone or anything as a specific cause would be reaching…why I am writing this, then, I have no fucking clue.) No, the blame should land at the feet of THIS guy:

Big weapon, silly hair and the same sort of nonsensical backstory that you got with Sephiroth and whom also has a ridiculously huge cult following, just like Sephiroth. While there have been no cults forming in honor of Magus, there were a group of people who devoted five years of their life in making a game in which Magus plays a central part, if what I’ve viewed from the 15 or so videos already up on YouTube are anything to go by.

And this is what I find the most insane of all of this: you have a group of people who have an obvious passion for something and, more importantly, the ability and desire to create something. Why didn’t they make their own game instead of penning what basically equates to a bunch of electronic fanfiction? And why did it have to be a game where the company in question has a known history for striking down such work?

I have little sympathy for these guys, as they were obviously begging for SE to come and take them down a notch or two.

Yams.
May 30th, 2009

Are fucking metal.

21st Century Breakdown
May 26th, 2009

So, you could say that I’m a bit of a Green Day fan. Back in the 90s, I was pretty much obsessed with them, back when I was in my ‘punk’ phase (quotation marks cannot be emphasized enough here.) I think it started from a concert that was taped during the Dookie years, Green Day Live In Chicago. The live version of ‘Going to Pasalacqua’ just blew my mind and made me a fan. Dookie itself had a perfect storm of juvenile humour, rage, angst and fun that fit my adolescent self like a glove, while their followup, Insomniac was awesome. So awesome, that Insomniac is probably somewhere in my personal canon of Fucking Great Albums and I’ll probably do a longer post on that album at another time. The album channeled a lot of the frustrations and experiences they found post-Dookie: accusations of selling out, learning how to deal with live as a newlywed or as a father. Anyway, that was followed up with Nimrod, an album which was equal parts silly and dark. It also included another live show that was performed in an alleyway for a Toronto-area HMV for Muchmusic. During this whole period, I practically worshipped Green Day and they could do no wrong.

Then Warning came out, which wasn’t a bad record, as it had an interesting mix of stuff and wasn’t just them trying to recycle what worked before for them. You had juvenile rage with Dookie, a brooding ‘dark’ record with Insomniac and then a mixed, more mature bag with Nimrod. Warning, while not my favorite record of the bunch, continued to show a natural progression for the band: older, wiser, but still had that charm and energy that made you paid attention to them in the first place.

Following that came American Idiot, an album which was probably their biggest release in terms of significance, if not album sales. Along the lines of Insomniac and Nimrod, American Idiot seems to be a darker album, reacting to the current political and cultural climate in post-9/11 America. George W Bush had been elected, signalling a moment of triumph for the Religious Right of American politics, as Dubya was most assuredly ‘their man.’ Under his watch, we got to see the ‘War On Terror’ which heralded in the still-ongoing war in Iraq. We also got to see other Bush Initiatives come forth such as Patriot Act and administrative blunders such as what happened down in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. Opinions were polarized regarding the government, of which Bush was a part of, and folks in America (as well as a good deal of the Western world) were trying to come to grips with everything that had been going on.

While I’m not going to say that American Idiot was some profound, Chomsky-esque recording that helped shape the lives of a generation, what the album did do was tap into the feelings that a lot of people were experiencing and give them something that really resonated with them. It was affirming, if not revelatory, knowing that there were other people who felt the same way. The album didn’t just have the ‘fuck Bush, lawl’ sentiment that a lot of critics blasted it for: it also tapped into the feelings of the day-to-day life of people living in America. There’s a reason why there’s a song on the record called ‘Jesus of Suburbia’, in other words, rather than ‘GOP = Grumpy Old ‘Publicans’ or something equally insipid.

No surprise, then, that it became absolutely huge and put Green Day back on the map as one of ‘the’ bands out there in the music industry, a feat made all the more admirable as it happened in the post-Napster world.

Anyway, American Idiot landed the band another Grammy, a collaboration with U2 and gave Billie Joe the idea that covering John Lennon would be a good idea.

more…

You Need To Check This Out
May 24th, 2009

David Lynch, Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse teaming up to make a record with artists like Iggy Pop, the Flaming Lips and Frank Black?

Yes please.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104129585

Metallica is Gay!
May 21st, 2009

I had made mention in a couple of posts about a sort of history lesson post involving Metallica that I was going to write and I was half right. This post is going to be giving a bit of a history lesson regarding Metallica, but it is also going to be talking about how gay Metallica is. Or, rather, how Gay Metallica is. Yeah, that one’s going to be needing a bit of explanation. Hold on.

James Hetfield: flaming.

When people talk about satire, there’s really only one major name that crops up for most people: Jonathan Swift. Which is a bit of a shame, as Swift was part of a group of writers, known as the Scriblerians, which featured a number of notable writers, such as John Arbuthnot (who actually invented the character John Bull), Alexander Pope (one of England’s most celebrated poets), Thomas Parnell and John Gay. Yeah…I think you might be able to sense where this one is going.

Gay. John Gay.

Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera, a musical play with strong satirical elements that lampooned England’s upper class by contrasting them with the thieves and whores of the lower class. Gay drew upon contemporary music when writing his Opera, eventually coming up with 69 different pieces for the finished work. Wanting to make his work familiar and accessible, Gay used a wide range of tunes, ranging from fiddle tunes to more sophisticated arrangements. Now, what in the hell does any of this have to do with Metallica? Well, one of the songs in particular was the Irish folk song, “Whiskey in the Jar”, a song that has been covered by Thin Lizzy and was in turn covered by Metallica.

Eww! Lars’ tongue is touching Kirk’s tongue!

While I’m sure that a number of folks already knew that “Whiskey in the Jar” was an Irish folk song, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t that many who knew of the connection between a well known 18th century satirist, the song, which has been dated back to 1650, and Metallica.

What’s even more interesting, is the influence that The Beggar’s Opera has had on popular culture all the way up to the 20th century. The Beggar’s Opera was adapted by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, bringing us The Threepenny Opera, of which another popular tune, “Mack The Knife” has become a standard for many singers in the past century or so.

So yeah, nothing too mind blowing or earth-shattering with Metallica, but it was something I had always found interesting. The joys of being an Arts major! Har har har!

How creepy! And phallic!
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