Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I Am America (And So Can You!)

If you've seen much of Colbert's nightly program, you might know what to expect from his book. He spends half an hour channeling Bill O'Reilly and other television blowhards as he educates his audience better than they do, giving his spin on what's happening while always finding clever ways to poke fun at their rhetoric. I Am America is pretty much the show in book form, except instead of talking about the day's topics he covers general talking points across a broad spectrum of American life. I thought the "And so can you!" part of title might mean there would be sections on how to be more like Stephen, but all that really is is several references to the fact that this book is entirely his opinion and you should believe every word of it. It got a little repetitive as it came to its close.

Part of the Colbert persona is his rampant narcissism, like when he walks across the stage over to the night's guest accompanied by cheers from his audience, instead of having them enter and get the fanfare. But on the show, even while he's making fun of the guest, he still gives them the opportunity to make their point and pitch whatever book they're selling, while this book is 100% Stephen. It's still funny, but would probably be served better by reading snippets here and there instead of straight through. In addition to the humorous main text, there's a lot of little extras, like stickers to use to voice your approval of other American books and diagrams showing how to properly "retire" your copy for the evening. It's enjoyable light reading for anyone who gets a kick out of his show.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Marine

Starring a professional wrestler and the T-1000, The Marine is a terrible movie. But it's one of those terrible movies that transcends its terribleness to become amazing in its own way. It's hard to tell how much of the movie is supposed to be serious and how much is supposed to be silly, because there's a lot of attempted humorous dialogue between the T-1000 and his villainous henchmen, especially Dozer from The Matrix, who has to turn everything into a race issue. He's really an idiotic, psychotic character, who causes 90% of the trouble for the T-1000 in this movie. If he wasn't such a retard, they wouldn't have had to capture John Cena's wife, who I recognize most from an internet picture of her sitting on a bathtub wearing only panties (She's the only witness in the entire film that they don't murder, because she could be useful as a hostage of course); the cops wouldn't be after them; and they wouldn't all end up killed in the end by a former marine.

Yeah, former marine, because after a stellar opening rescue sequence in Iraq full of yelling, bullets, and burning 2x4's, Cena is discharged for disobeying orders. My friend didn't understand why it was called The Marine, since his former career is irrelevant to most of the movie's plot (the word "plot" is used very generously here), but it ended up useful in justifying why he could make such graceful dives into swamp water while buildings he was just in explode for no reason. Seriously, I've never seen so many ridiculous, sometimes inexplicable explosions in one movie before, and most happen right next to characters who always emerge completely unscathed. After a hilarious opening half-hour and before a pretty good third act, they spend too much time wandering around in the wild of South Carolina, trying to be funny while nothing's really happening. Sure, Cena gets jumped by some giant hillbillies, but he kicks their asses in an impromptu wrestling match in short order. As humorous as the movie is, it isn't when it tries to be, and a sigh of relief was to be had when they finally got back to the fighting. Despite killing off the craziest character too soon and having too many stupid jokes, the film does act some smart questions. Since Cena can't take a guy out quickly and quietly for some reason despite being a trained marine, why don't henchman call for help during their bouts with him that always involve lots of splintering wood and loud punches? How many flimsily-constructed buildings can a man holding the side of an 18-wheeler cab be plowed through before he loses his grip? And how many explosive barrels can you really fit inside one shack? If you like movies that are terrible in a hilarious way, you should definitely check out The Marine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Salmon of Doubt

I was surprised to realize I haven't talked about this book yet, having read it during the summer. Douglas Adams, sci-fi humorist extraordinaire, was writing a third Dirk Gently novel when he passed much too young of a heart attack. It wasn't working quite right, and he was thinking that the ideas would work better in the context of a sixth Hitchhiker's Guide book instead. He never got to finish the story, and we'll never know quite what was going on then. The Salmon of Doubt was the working title of the incomplete work, and it was used to name this, a collection of various writings of his, including the best possible version of the new story edited together using the various parts they found. There's a couple other short stories as well as essays he did for magazines or just letters he wrote of interest.

Everything in the book is an interesting read. Some of it is enlightening self-deprecation, some is humorous stories on stuff he doesn't usually discuss, and all of it is well-written. He's not an overly verbose man, but his descriptions are always perfect and it moves right along. Some highlights are a story based off a sketch he wrote with Graham Chapman about the odd private life of Genghis Kahn and the Salmon of Doubt itself. There was definitely something there, although there was obvious work to be done. All in all, it's a nice read punctuated by the bittersweet knowledge that this is the work of someone who wasn't even close to running out of ideas, but did make an impact while he was here.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Slaughterhouse-Five is another great book by Kurt Vonnegut. It's very much in his style of dark humor, science-fiction trappings, and self-referentiality. The book is relatively serious for him, while still being generally strange, the narrative is built around his real experience during the bombing of Dresden near the end of the second World War. As far as war novels go, Slaughterhouse really isn't one. It doesn't describe any battles in great deal, as the protagonist is never really in one. It doesn't have page after page of depressing text describing how horrible everything was. Vonnegut is very simple in his writing style, getting to the point early and letting the story move along. This is part of what makes reading his work so addicting, you never get bogged down in overbearing paragraphs. He manages to convey how terrible war can be without getting too preachy about it, which made it an easy book to stomach.

He begins and ends the story talking about his own experience getting around to writing it and how a lot of the things he talks about actually happened. Most of it is made up, although he makes a cameo or two in the story himself. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, has come unstuck in time, traveling willy-nilly to different points in his life. This gives him a unique perspective on life, and an odd tone to the book as he lives through his experience captured behind enemy lines. There are appearances by classic Vonnegut characters Eliot Rosewater and Kilgore Trout, although thanks to the strange order I've been reading his books I'm not sure when they first appeared. Slaughterhouse, like his other work, is very funny, even if you're not supposed to laugh at a war novel. The time-travel gimmick makes for a good story told in an interesting way, and it's a very quick read. It might be his best work, certainly his most famous. It would be a good book whether you're interested in humanism or just some escapism.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heroes - Season 1

It's really nice to see a comic book-style science-fiction show have some success on a major network. Heroes isn't perfect, but it's a very entertaining serial show that manages to build up storylines over time and still deliver closure once in a while. One of the main criticisms of Lost is that they present a lot of questions and don't give a lot of answers. I don't really mind, since it's always interesting despite this, although I may have been aided by watching the first three seasons over a couple months instead of an episode a week for three years. Heroes has a similar style, with a large, diverse, and interesting cast, extraordinary things that are supposed to be explainable scientifically (although I really don't buy the genetic justification for a lot of these powers), and lots of mysteries. There is a definite, discernable story arc though, and while it remains to be seen if all that they seemed to wrap up actually was, they do provide a bit more satisfaction in that regard. They're also not afraid to kill off minor characters, although there hasn't been that much death in the main cast. I understand the difference between film and television, where you need some consistency week to week, but it gets a little fishy when only guest stars seem to get bumped off.

The story, while intriguing, does have a few little problems with it. Whenever you introduce time travel to a story, you add a lot of potential for cool scenarios, but you also invite trouble. Heroes is always pretty vague about how changing destinies really affects the timeline, and some bits just don't match up. "Save the cheerleader, save the world" is a recurring idea, but when it's all resolved, it's hard to discern exactly why. They also introduce some causality loops just for fun, although some people wouldn't think about that as much. In the end, I wasn't fully happy with the way things resolved, but it's still pretty good, and better thanks to the cast. Everyone is right for their part, and mostly do their job well. There are occasional awkward line deliveries, but the work is pretty solid in general. The characters themselves are all developed well over the course of the show, and they go out of their way to add a human element to all the super powered craziness. It's always fun when a new power is introduced, and after that initial revelation, they usually do a good job of making that person more than a plot device, although a couple tend to stray into that territory. It's still early in the show, and there's plenty of time to mess things up, but right now they have a good thing going.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


As a pure first-person shooter, Bioshock isn't that great. The variety of weapons isn't bad, and the plasmid and tonic super-powers that give you an edge are fun to play with. There's a lot of enjoyment to be had from sending swarms of bees after your enemies or launching them into the air with a small whirlwind. But the shooting controls are a little off compared to more dedicated games, and it can get tiring fighting the same stupid enemies over and over again. Even Big Daddies, one of the most interesting foes to be introduced to games in a long time, lose their edge after you've spent enough time around them. But while other shooters are good because of the gunplay, Bioshock is good because of everything else.

Rapture, the underwater capitalistic utopia that has fallen into chaos, is one of the best realized and most intriguing game settings I've ever seen. Because of something about the design, the game can be a bit mentally taxing to play, but I kept coming back partly because the world is so interesting. It's a hip 1950's society gone wrong, and just surveying all the horrible things that have happened is quite an experience. Scattered everywhere are audio diaries that fill in the ample backstory, while at the same time revealing gameplay hints. A lot of them are cryptic, but if you pay attention you get plenty of information to make the experience more fulfilling. Part of me wishes it was a bit more like Half-Life, introducing you to the world in a normal, peaceful state, and then having it all hit the fan in front of you. But they chose to go a different way and it works well enough. There's a sort of horror vibe with the game, although not much of it is legitimately frightening. It's not like there are failed attempts at scares though, it's just a slightly different tone, being pervasively creepy without going for visceral shocks. There are a few gameplay climaxes with larger scale combat, but in general the pace is a bit stately, with a constant state of semi-tension instead of a repeated rise and fall. This is also reflected in general design, with lots of exploration and encouraged scouring of the environment, with some added RPG elements such as a commerce system and the ability to construct your own supplies. You can also hack the various security systems and supply machines using a minigame that isn't that interesting and doesn't make much sense, but it can provide some fun if you liked Pipe Dream.

You can't really talk about Bioshock without talking about the actual story that takes place while you're playing. There's a bit of mystery about who you really are and who's on whose side. There are some stunning twists and revelations that take a while to come about, but add a great deal of satisfaction to the experience. It's very rare for me to really be genuinely surprised by a game story, but they pulled it off. There's one line that will be forever engraved in my memory. The ending depends on a choice you make near the beginning of the game, and the two options are perhaps a bit too simply cut-and-dry for the otherwise very intelligent tale. Still, the plot, both in the content and presentation, is pretty terrific, and a huge reason why Bioshock is one of the best games of the year.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Coheed and Cambria - No World for Tomorrow

Or if you prefer, Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow. Barring a possible prequel bearing the number one, Coheed and Cambria's fourth album wraps up the story they've been creating since the The Second Stage Turbine Blade, although it's not really clear to most people what that story is. Instead of saying anything understandable, the lyrics tend to just string together thoughts and oddly structured sentences in a way that hints at meaning but is generally pretty inscrutable. But we listen to music to enjoy the songs, not analyze the message, and No World for Tomorrow is still pretty good in that regard. Coheed's another one of those bands that just never quite reach what you think they might be capable of. There's a lot of nice touches and interesting musical moments, but a lot of the music is repetitive, not especially catchy pop punk. The better songs are all departures from that radio friendly style, with more of a progressive/operatic tone. The band is still full of great musicians, and there's some nice instrumentation here. They don't bring back the lullaby from the first three albums, but they still recall a few different themes and lines, adding a sense of coming full circle with the story and wrapping it up nicely.

"The Reaping" is an atmospheric, acoustic song that leads into the title track, a good song with a variety of catchy sections. "The Running Free" is the current single, and starts off very strong. It's a bit less entertaining after the vocals start, but it's decent. "Mother Superior" is a softer ballad in line with something like "The Light & the Glass", another standout among the more generic stuff around it. The End Complete is the coalition of the last five tracks much like The Willing Well from the last album, and is fairly epic in scope, representing the climax of the tale. "The Fall of House Atlantic" is an instrumental, and a fairly enjoyable one at that, in a slightly cheesy way. "Radio Bye Bye" is a conventional pop punk song that snuck in there somehow, and pretty forgettable. "The End Complete" is nearly eight minutes of pomp, with some good music and dramatic flair. "The Road and the Damned" is fairly solid, and transitions into the falling action of "On the Brink", which is also largely instrumental after a few minutes, with a clash of different styles ending in a slightly altered reprise of the solo from "The Final Cut", the last track of Volume One. It's not as grand as it could have been, but No World for Tomorrow is still a pretty decent album.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command

Relationship of Command was the last album by At the Drive-In before they split up, the singer and a guitarist leaving to form The Mars Volta, the bassist, drummer, and other guitarist creating Sparta. You can definitely see elements of both bands in Drive-In, although they're closer to Sparta in general sound. Drive-In is like a combination of both bands that has the best parts of neither. They don't have the more accessible catchiness of Sparta or eccentric creativity of Volta. It doesn't mean they're worse than either though, just different. They have a similar punk rock vibe, with more chaos and creativity in place of choruses and standard progression. The singer is definitely better than Sparta's, although he's more prone to just shouting. They're a loud, aggressive band, with a penchant for lyrics that don't make a lot of sense. It can sound a little too much like the average modern punk band, but they have enough flourishes and good ideas to elevate them.

"Arcarsenal" gets things going with a flurry of drums and diddling guitar that explode into the song proper. "Pattern Against User" is a solid rock song with a pleasant interlude stuffed in the middle. "One Armed Scissor" is probably the most radio-friendly long song the album, which could explain why it was on the radio. "Invalid Litter Dept." is the longest track, and is pretty good, with spoken verses over nice guitars and a catchy chorus. "Enfilade" starts with a creepy phone call and is one of the more out-there songs, with warbled vocals and a unique sounding refrain. "Quarantined" is another good track with a stately pace and many enjoyable elements. "Non-Zero Possibility" is the mellowest song and does some nice things, and is followed by two bonus tracks that keep bringing the off-kilter, loud sound they've been making the whole way through. I'm not as into this kind of thing as I used to be, but it's still a very enjoyable album thanks to its less common elements.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

The PS3 is in desperate need of good games, but help is coming, and has already arrived in the form of the next chapter in the Ratchet and Clank series. There have been two installments since 2004's Up Your Arsenal, but one focused on shooting and multiplayer and the other was on the PSP, so this feels like the first real game in a few years. I'd been looking forward to it, and while it doesn't really take the franchise to new and exciting places, it's still a very satisfying addition. Obviously, the change in system comes with a bump in graphics, and Tools of Destruction is one of the prettiest games there is. Not only is Insomniac incredibly technically efficient with making hardware do what they want, but the visual design is enjoyable and sucks you into the constantly-expanding universe. It can seem a bit too kid-friendly at times, but you can ignore that while you destroy aliens and robots with heavy explosives. There are a few more glitches than we're used to seeing in the series though, like Ratchet not properly staying on terrain that rises and falls, and controls locking up for a few seconds.

I was never a huge fan of the online play in the latter PS2 games, but the lack of it in Tools of Destruction could reduce the value if the single-player was too short. Luckily the length was pretty satisfying, as it extended a little past where I expected it to end, and in fact might have been stretching it a bit too much. Some have complained about the difficulty being too easy as well, although I didn't see much to that either. It wasn't frustrating, but it wasn't a cakewalk either, especially if you try to upgrade all the weapons instead of using the best ones over and over. The Ratchet gameplay isn't quite as magical as it used to be. It's still a ton of fun, but we've done this before, so it's really hard to say Tools is as outstanding as previous entries. And there's also the lame tilt controls that get shoe-horned into every PS3 game. You can turn them off, but it disables one of the better weapons against large groups. There's nothing terrible about the uses they've come up with, but they don't add anything to the experience besides occasional annoyance when the alignment messes up. Tools of Destruction has a few small problems that detract from the experience and it's not as original as it used to be, but it's still one of the most purely fun games of this generation.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - Season 1

A second season is apparently in production or will be in production soon, which is cool because this was another great little show. It mixes genres a lot, with some typical, although relatively funny, high school comedy stuff, as well as heavy action and science fiction elements, and even a bit of mystery. The show revolves around Haruhi, although it's told from the perspective of her friend Kyon. She's a unique girl who only wants to hang out with things like aliens and psychics, although she seems to like normal, milquetoast Kyon for some reason. They form a club, and all of the members are outlandish things like time travelers sent to observe Haruhi, although they only reveal this to Kyon. He takes it in stride pretty well, as he keeps her in check while crazy stuff happens around them.

The show was purposefully broadcast out of chronological order, which is the order I watched it in. It can be confusing, but if you pay attention, there are plenty of hints that let you know what takes place when. I think it's the best order to watch it in, because the story climax happens halfway through chronologically, but if you want to make it simpler there's nothing wrong with that. It's a really creative, entertaining show, that moves through a lot of styles. An entire episode is pretty much filler with a lot of static camera shots and periods of inactivity, but it was still enjoyable from a comedy perspective. The characters are all likable and fleshed out a bit, revealing a lot more about them than some much longer shows do. The animation is pretty incredible for a TV series. Not only are the more exciting scenes done very well with just the right amount of anime style without going over the top, but the attention to detail in subtler moments puts it in league with the best-looking shows ever. A simple shot of two hands rearranging to grasp each other tighter conveys more feeling than any lengthy monologue can. They never spend too much time with one kind of thing, so you can end up burning through it really quickly and wishing there was more, which thankfully, there will be eventually. My finger's not exactly on the pulse of the anime community, but I can tell Haruhi's pretty much a sensation in the industry, which can turn some people off of anything. It's definitely worth seeing nonetheless.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Death Note

Death Note isn't quite as completely amazing as its hype might suggest, but it's still great. With so many shows being the same old romantic comedy or mindless action, it's awesome to see something that depends on being intelligent and thrives because of it. If you don't know, the idea is a guy named Light finds a notebook that allows him to kill people by writing their name in it. After he confirms that it works by testing it on a criminal, he goes on a quest to get rid of all the bad people in the world, and he gradually becomes more evil and insane as the show goes on. At first Light seems like a protagonist, but before long it's clear that he really isn't. L is a detective of equal wit who's trying to track him down, and a huge part of the show is the cat and mouse battle between them. There's a lot of genuinely good, smart interplay going on as they struggle to outsmart each other. I think a little too much is just posturing, but there's plenty of genius schemes to keep the viewer entertained.

There are other elements of the show that are less interesting, as the two characters interact with the rest of the world. Light has to protect his secret from his family and keep control over his overzealous girlfriend. As it goes on, the show does tend to lose some steam, as the games start failing to top the previous one and the same thing happens again. There's a twist that changes the whole complexion of the show, and it's really not the same afterward. There's still some interesting stuff, but the new elements just aren't as well developed. As the show ends, it becomes clear it was about time it did anyway. The conclusion is decent, but more satisfaction could have been had with some tweaking. It's still a good, sometimes funny show, and it features some of the most ridiculously dramatic animation for mundane tasks I've ever seen. You'd never think writing a name down or opening a bag of chips could be so exciting. Despite diminishing returns, Death Note has more great "Oh, snap!" moments than a lot of shows put together, and every anime fan should check it out.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

24 - Season 3

Jack Bauer's crazy life continues with yet another huge crisis in Los Angeles that will somehow be averted in exactly 24 hours. The stakes are higher than ever, as the entire country is in danger from a specially engineered virus that kills 90% of all exposed to it in less than a day. This season is a little trickier than the others, as all is not as it seems in the beginning, and it turns out the entire first half is a bit of a waste of time. There's a whole lot of trouble going on in Mexico, and some important stuff happens there, but the actual danger isn't coming from south of the border.

The third season is darker and more depressing than previous ones. Way more innocents meet an untimely end, and at times it can seem a bit cynical. They'll show images of people suffering, basically saying "Look at this, isn't this sad?" It does help raise the stakes though, as it has the best tension so far despite fewer shootouts in dark alleys. Near the end, a character gets captured and someone close to them is forced to act against their allies, and while that is playing out, I was on edge the entire time. Very few things have kept me worried for so long, so overall it was a very successful story despite continued permeation of people who just seem to ignore simple solutions to their problems.

Jack's having more problems, as he has to save America while dealing with heroin withdrawal after getting addicted to maintain his cover. He seems more human, while still being a very strong protagonist. Kim's back, but instead of being in peril the entire time, she's actually useful for helping the good eyes, and is only in peril a little while. The president we all know and love is having problems again, this time when he gets involved in a possible scandal that could cost him his reelection bid. I understand the desire to have more than one plot thread to keep it from getting too tedious, but it's honestly never as compelling as the simple counter-terrorism battle. Fortunately, it's satisfying in the end thanks to a character I'm pretty sick of finally getting what was coming. The fourth season is a bit of a reboot with a lot of different characters in the foreground, so the third was a nice wrap up of all the threads that were created over three years of good television.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rage Against the Machine - Renegades

So Rage Against the Machine was a pretty popular rap/rock group for most of the 90's with a strong political message, and then they broke up. The singer did his own thing while the rest of the band played with Chris Cornell as Audioslave, although recently that act broke up too, and now Rage is playing shows again and people wonder if they're going to do some recording. Renegades was their last studio album, but it wasn't a normal one, as it's a collection of covers. Some are song by contemporaries like Cypress Hill, others are of more classic bands. Some of them are interesting, although most just transform it into a typical Rage song. That's fine, as a normal Rage song can be pretty awesome. But too much of the same thing can get pretty tiresome, and since they didn't really write these songs, they don't get much credit for crunching, angry guitars and rapping lyrics someone else wrote.

"Microphone Fiend" gets it started just the way you'd expect, a lot of attitude and a lot of bass. "Pistol Grip Pump" is one of the standouts. It's actually quite repetitive, but there's just something enticing about the riff and the beat. "Renegades of Funk" has a catchy sample and is a pretty good single. "Beautiful World" is about the only song on the album that doesn't sound like Rage Against the Machine, very mellow and respectful of the original version. "How I Could Just Kill a Man" is another enjoyable, hard rocking track. "Maggie's Farm" rounds out the album with a loud, angry, typical finish that you expect from a band that rages so much, especially against the machine. My copy is actually a special edition with two live bonus tracks, although neither is especially compelling and just stretch out the experience. They really just lessen the impact of ending on "Maggie's Farm" which was actually fairly good. It's a pretty decent album, although I think huge fans might have wanted a bigger last hurrah.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Radiohead - In Rainbows

Personally, I like having a physical copy of an album when I pay for it. It might just be a stupid collector thing, but I like having the case to put with my others and reading the jacket and tangible proof that I supported the artist. I think the way Radiohead is giving the finger to record labels and releasing this album on their own is cool, but I'd like to have a real disc that's cheaper than the super-duper $80 box on their website. Until that happens though, anyone can download the record for any price they choose, even free if they're cheap, so you should if only to see if you like it.

I'd like to have heard Hail to the Thief before this to have the full context of the style arc they've followed from The Bends to where they are now, but it's still nice to hear them sound more natural and rock-like than the still-good but less endearing electronic stuff they got into. In Rainbows is sort of a mix of the two styles. Ok Computer was already leaning in that direction, so In Rainbows is a sort of bridge that makes the whole band a bit more seamless in terms of style. "Creep" still sounds way different from "Pyramid Song", but you can see where they came from. In Rainbows can be characterized by a rise and fall of tension without too many complete releases happening. There are some moments, but most of the enjoyment comes from the routine building blocks of the songs, which are just stronger overall than most bands'. They still know how to write songs that are wholly unique while still being immensely enjoyable.

"15 Step" begins with manufactured drums and characteristic falsetto, mumbling vocals, and develops into a nice opening track. "Bodysnatchers" is very much a normal rock song, and is a bit surprising in that regard. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" has a good, simple guitar part that puts your mind at ease and lets the ambiance wash over you. "All I Need" might be my favorite song on the album, with a nice, mellow sound that builds into the biggest climax on the record, which can give you chills with headphones on. "House of Cards" is another more mainstream sounding song, although it doesn't skimp on haunting, distant vocals, and uses it's status as longest track on the album to explore the possible avenues. "Videotape" wraps things up with minimal piano and percussion, and leads you along without giving you too much. Despite the typical stranger elements, In Rainbows still sounds like a relatively happy album compared to Radiohead's other works, and that's part of the reason I liked it so much. I don't think I'll ever totally love them as much as other people do, but I still acknowledge their ability to make consistently good, unique music.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia

I only previously knew The Dandy Warhols through "Bohemian Like You", a fairly catchy single that got a lot of play in commercials. If the name isn't familiar to you, then if you watched a fair amount of TV a few years ago then a snippet of the song probably would be. I wasn't sure what to expect, but Thirteen Tales is a surprisingly good rock album. They like to create interesting melodies or just sounds and let them ride out for a while, making the thing nearly an hour in length without too many songs or really being too complex in their structures. There are plenty of average length songs, but several are over five minutes and are generally my favorites, with some really enjoyable textures and mellow vocals. The singer's voice isn't very distinctive but uses it to his advantage, as it would be hard for anyone to find it annoying, unlike many vocalists. There are different instruments and styles sprinkled in here and there, not much of it really transcends but it's all a really solidly put-together set of songs.

"Godless" begins with the feedback from a guitar that builds into a continuous note leading to acoustic strumming and then drums and some nice horns. It segues into "Mohammed", which is more foreign musically, with a wailing guitar and minimal vocals. "Nietzche" is one of the most serenely enjoyable songs I've heard, with pleasant singing and a main hard guitar part I could listen to for much longer than the 5:40 runtime. "Country Leaver" shows some diversity, as the singer takes on a southern twang along with the whole feel of the song. "Get Off" is a more upbeat sounding song, one of many with uniquely infectious vocals. "Cool Scene" has a nice groove, and goes right into the aforementioned "Bohemian Like You", which is fine, and does stick out a bit as far as general appeal, but it's not one of the better songs on the album. There are a couple more nice songs before "The Gospel" wraps things up in the traditional, softer way. There's a whole lot to like about this band, even if they'll never be as widely known as a clip from one of their songs.