The Six Best Concerts In Video Games

Categories: Whatever

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Video-game music has come a very long way and is now regularly played across the world in professional symphonies. That's amazing of course, but you know what rarely gets any press? The fact that games now sometimes host entire spellbinding musical performances within them.

Today we're going to look at some of the absolute best.

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Doomsday Keeps Old-Fashioned Rasslin' Alive

Photos courtesy of Tex Lonestar/Doomsday Wrestling
Charlene Lonestar (left) delivers a "Houston Hammer" to her opponent, Animalia the Untamed, at Doomsday Wrestling's most recent card at Numbers last month.
Tex Lonestar is the Cal Worthington of Houston Wrestling. Standing tall in the middle of the tiny makeshift ring, donning a ten-gallon hat and vintage Western suit a la Nudie Cohn, he is tonight's ring announcer and hype man.

"Tonight, history will be made," he announces as the crowd goes wild. "A lot of history fans out there," he continues as the crowd laughs hysterically.

Long before Houston had fancy craft beers served on every block in town, we consumed a steady diet of Lone Star Beer and barbecue and were into sovereign-state things like watching the rustling of scrambled calves at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or going to the Sam Houston Coliseum to witness some good old-fashioned rasslin'.

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Is Kanye About to Drop His First Bomb?

Categories: Whatever

The purported cover of Kanye West's new record, So Help Me God.
So what's the deal with that new Kanye West album? It's supposedly titled So Help Me God, and we've already seen artwork for it. We've been told by Kanye himself that it will drop as a surprise release, because release dates are "played out."

We've also heard some music from it. While there is no confirmed tracklist, Kanye has steadily been releasing music the past few months that we can only assume are going to show up on So Help Me God. Unfortunately, the releases haven't been anything to get us very excited for the record, which leads me to suspect the rapper may be on the way to releasing his first weak record.

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The Sudden Resurrection of Teen Houston Punks Vast Majority

Categories: Rock, Whatever

Photos and artwork courtesy of Scott Telles
February has been a pretty damn good month for fans of classic Houston punk. A couple weeks back, Jello Biafra's legendary Alternative Tentacles label reissued practically every note ever recorded by H-Town punk pioneers Really Red, giving record collectors the chance to add stuff like the group's latter-day Rest in Pain LP to their vinyl collections for the very first time. Now, a boutique European label is digging even deeper to re-release music by another local group from the earliest days of the Texas punk scene.

More than three decades since teenage Houston rabble-rousers Vast Majority split up for good, front man Scott Telles has revived the band to celebrate the reissue of the bulk of their recorded material. For plenty of old-timers and vinyl nerds around town, that's terrific news.

For other, younger members of the liberty-spiked set, the reaction might be slightly closer to, "Who?"

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Local Judge Brings Veteran Punks to Play for the Pooches

Categories: Pop Life, Whatever

Photo by Victoria Renard
Texas cowpunk pioneers the HIckoids play one for the pooches at Rudyard's Friday night
It only takes a few minutes of phone time with Judge Michael Schneider of the 315th District Juvenile Court to get the feeling that here is a public official who is genuinely trying to make a difference. This Friday the judge plays host to a benefit for Friends of B.A.R.C. (Bureau of Animal Rescue and Control) at Rudyard's.

Assisting His Honor musically will be three bands, some dating back to Schneider's days as a mosh-pitting punk at joints like the Axiom: Dead Cowboys, We Are the Asteroid, and San Antonio cowpunks the Hickoids.

"I've been a fan of the Hickoids since I first saw them in 1988, at the Axiom, I believe," says Schneider. "As a judge, I'm bound by ethics that prevent me from raising money for charities, but I can put on a show and let others donate."

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In Compilation Nation: The Very Best of the Best-of Albums

Categories: Whatever

Photo by Jason Persse via Flickr
Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan in 2010
A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted a simple query: Tell me of some greatest-hits/singles comps that somehow became as (or more) essential as the artists' LPs. I chimed in, as did several dozen others. What resulted was a series of "why didn't I think of that?" moments, along with a handful of "how have I never heard of that?" shockers. It was an interesting exercise, and it got me feeling a bit self-reflexive about my own relationship with greatest hits albums.

For a long time I thought they were the lazy way out, even though I own a few. As I scrolled through the list that emerged on my friend's wall, offering my own examples as they popped into my head, I realized that I'd somehow formed an opinion that runs somewhat counter to my own habits.

As I mentally checked boxes, forced to think about why I own the comps I own, I settled on a set of rules for deciding whether or not a comp album is a worthwhile buy. Based on that rubric, here are a few albums suitable for the casual listener and obsessive fans alike.

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Six New Creative Directions Most Fans Hated

Photo by Maria Casacalendra
Modern music has seen some extreme highs and lows over the years, but it's always weird when a band or solo artist suddenly throws their fans for a loop by abruptly changing their musical direction or image. Whether it's a clumsy attempt to stay relevant by tailoring their sound to exploit a new musical style that has become popular, or because a band senses that its usual schtick is growing stale, it's a risky proposition.

It has worked for bands such as Ministry, who went for a much harder industrial-rock edge when abandoning their synth-dance sound, but such a move can also alienate old fans. In the case of long-established and successful bands, such attempts often result in enough of a bad response that the group quickly abandons the experiment and gets back to doing what their fans wanted them to on the next album.

Here are some memorable examples:

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Is Aphex Twin Up to His Old Tricks Again?

The cover of Aphex Twin's Richard D. James album, released in 1996
When Richard D. James stated to a reporter that he possesses a vault of over 1,000 songs, fans never doubted his claim; they, however, wished for him to dump out the entire treasure trove of buried gems all at once.

Be careful what you wish for, especially from Mr. James himself.

One of music's sacred tricksters, James has pulled clever pranks on an industry which prides itself on profitable marketing templates used by artists ad nauseam. Large costumed bears resembling stuffed animals with Richard D. James' face once danced onstage while James lazily laid on the floor, comfortably resting on his elbow while manipulating sounds from his laptop, surrounded by well-sculpted female bodybuilders. Music-industry representatives watched on puzzled by Aphex Twin's performance, or lack thereof, wondering if he cared at all about his equally puzzled audience.

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Really Red Recalls the Early Days of Houston Punk

Photos courtesy of Bob Weber
L-R: Really Red's Bob Weber and Dallas Holmes, the artist who designed the party for last Friday's release party at Vinal Edge.
Thanks to Alternative Tentacles' new reissue of Really Red's entire discography on vinyl and CD, you can finally hear the local punk heroes' music blaring out of your handcrafted tube amp anytime you like, from the comfort of your own home. Or anywhere else, for that matter. In fact, the only place you still can't hear Really Red's collected works is onstage.

Yep, if you missed hearing the Texas Biscuit Bombs and Talk Sick Brats jam out some Really Red tunes at the release party on Friday at Vinal Edge, you're out of luck. Singer Ronnie "U-Ron" Bond, guitarist Kelly Younger, drummer Bob Weber and bassist John Paul Williams have no plans to reform, and they ain't likely to make any. They're not "on hiatus." They're scattered across three states, occupying themselves with things that very rarely require sleeping in vans.

"It almost seems like it was a past life," says Younger.

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Jello Biafra Thinks It's Time You Re-Examined Really Red

Photo by Ben DeSoto/Courtesy of Ronnie Bond
L-R: Ronnie "U-Ron Bondage" Bond and original Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Fluoride at Houston's The Island, c. early 1980s
Back in the early '80s, there was a kick-ass punk band in Houston called Really Red. In a lot of ways, they were no different than a hundred other groups exploring the potential of alternative rock back in the day. In their six years together, they wrote a bunch of politically charged songs, self-released a few records and toured around the country to anyplace that would have them. Then the band simply ceased to exist.

For 30 years, that was the story on Really Red, and not a terribly unique one, either. If you were around the fledgling Houston punk scene back then, chances are pretty decent that you remember Really Red. If you weren't around, then odds are good-to-great that you've never even heard their music. But you should. And now, a bonafide punk-rock legend has stepped up personally to make sure that you can.

Today, more than three decades after the band called it quits, ex-Dead Kennedys front man and beloved counterculture loudmouth Jello Biafra's storied Alternative Tentacles label is re-releasing pretty much everything Really Red ever recorded on CD and vinyl. The three-volume collection includes albums, B-sides, live cuts and unreleased rarities, most of which haven't seen the light of day since long before drummer Bob Weber, guitarist Kelly Younger, bassist John Paul Williams and singer Ronnie "U-Ron Bondage" Bond went their separate ways.

Why is AT re-releasing the catalogue of a long-gone band that so few outside Texas even remember? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Really Red were really, really good.

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