Sunday Morning Stuff 15/09

And so another week trots on by as the year disappears, and boy is it disappearing. Strictly is on the telly, the leaves are changing colour, and oh what’s that? You’re saying that the shops have got Christmas bits in already? Yes of course they have. OF COURSE THEY HAVE. Every year I try not to be a humbug, but I find it extremely difficult when the en masse selling of xmas cheer starts so woefully early.

Rather than linger on the reality of the next 3 months, let’s take a look at all the good stuff that I’ve been getting into this week, starting with what I have been…

Reading…

I’m having a little re-read of Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and although the book exists quite happily in a world separate from Blade Runner and doesn’t need to be constantly discussed in reference with the movie…I am going to discuss it in reference to the movie.

I had forgotten just how different the two properties are, and just how excellent they both are in different ways. The world of Androids… is far more psychedelic, far more freaky than the world of Blade Runner. For instance on the ruined Earth – in the novel – people can ‘dial’ into specific emotions, controlling their brain to make them more keen to go to work, have sex, or watch television. In general Dick is more willing to divulge the small details of the nature of the world that he has created within the pages of his novel than Scott and co are in their own smoky, neon-scape that they put to picture.

In both cases however, the dystopian futures which are presented don’t really seem so far away.

Playing…

Gears 5 is good. I can’t say that I’m surprised, I expect a certain quality when it comes to the franchise, but on this occasion it has gone just that bit further and I’m more invested in this iteration than any other since Gears of War 2. The campaign is open, but it isn’t open world. It allows for exploration, side-missions, and a neat and tidy upgrade system for Jack the robot (who is also playable in co-op). It is fun, but never overwhelming, which is exactly what I want from Gears.

The story is not the most compelling, but the characters are written well enough for me to happily accept any excuse put forward which results in me running and around and shooting big chunky monster boys.

The online is good too. Versus features an arcade mode where your loadout is defined by which character you pick, effectively turning your option into a hero pick, ala Overwatch. You’ve still got the classic mode if you prefer to fine tune your options, but I’m keen on the new mode. Horde mode works with a similar Hero system, with each character suited best to an individual play style. Marcus Fenix is a tank suited well to lone wolf situations, Kait Diaz is a scout who can nip in and out of combat with ease, and Del is the engineer laying down defences and sending out drones. It is stupidly good fun, but since you can customize your preferred character with skill cards there are dreaded microtransactions, but they don’t seem too egregious, so far.

I’m yet to try out the new escape mode because c’mon, there are only so many hours in the day.

Listening to…

I’m not really into this whole stanning lark but ever since I heard Forced Witness (thank you Needle Drop, bless you Mr Fantano) I’ve been very much into Alex Cameron.

Forced Witness saw Alex Cameron taking on toxic masculinity by embodying the personas which exuded it most forcefully, resulting in an arched comedy which brought disgust, laughter, and pity, all dressed in the fine and undeniable sonic charms of Springsteen, The Killers, and Scott Walker.  

The influences remain similar on Cameron’s latest, Miami Memory, but those depraved personas who sought companionship at the strip club, in chat rooms, and outside the nightclub are gone. Now we hear from Alex Cameron himself, and he goes hand in hand with Jemima Kirke – actress, director, and his wife.

I don’t think the production or instrumentation is quite as intoxicating as it was on Forced Witness, but the lyricism is better than ever. Cameron bares himself more nakedly than before, but the humour is far from dried out.

Few artists would have the balls to write, or the panache to pull off lines like ‘eating your ass like an oyster / the way you came like a tsunami’ but Cameron does it spectacularly on the title track.

An early favourite of mine is The End is Nigh. Here he sounds most familiar, most in tune with the sad and sozzled souls who populated Forced Witness and his first album, Jumping the Shark, but this time we’ve been disarmed. There’s no punch line to wait for. I think it is a discredit to both of his previous albums to pretend like it is all an act, neither album would be as good as it was if there wasn’t some truth hidden behind those winks and nudges that he delivers – and on The End is Nigh Cameron seems to acknowledge some of those similarities between those fictional figures and himself, all over a sweet, singable tune:

 ‘I started going along to the meetings / Tequila down to my core / But they remind me of my daddy with that bible shit / And drinking coffee makes me wanna die more’

I could go song by song, but I’m no music reviewer. Sunday Morning Stuff is about stuff, and this is the good stuff. This is the stuff I really, really like, and I really, really recommend you give it a go for yourself.

Before hearing the album I was a bit nervous. When I first heard Forced Witness I had no expectation that it would become one of my favourite albums, but now suddenly I’m not just listening to some album from any old singer/songwriter, I’m listening to the follow up to one of my favourite albums.

It’s a credit to Miami Memory that it doesn’t disappoint.

Watching…

Mindhunter is a well shot show. You could even say pretty. It’s also resolutely grim. Sure, it’s good, but after watching the first two episodes of S2 I’ve not returned. Why? I just don’t think I can handle the depths that it plunges into. I don’t think I have the stomach for the true crime mysteries and serial killer shockers which inspire the show. Eventually I will get through it, because it is fantastically shot, because the performances of the cast are so good, and because even when I’m not feeling the ultra-dark tone I can’t deny its worryingly seductive nature…there’s a reason true crime podcasts are so popular.  

And that’s it. That’s the stuff.

Don’t talk to me about Christmas, talk to me about Alex Cameron.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and sound off in the comments about the best stuff you’ve welcomed into your lives this week.

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