Wednesday 4 May 2011

A new blog, a new beginning

I don't know if The Imaginary Review is still listed in anyone's RSS feed/Google Reader/whatever. Heck, maybe there's a group of die-hard fans somewhere who check back every day, hoping, begging, praying for some more hilarious made-up nonsense from the mind of the Imaginary Reviewer.

Well, if they are, I have good and bad news for them.

First, the bad news: It's been over a year now since I posted my last Imaginary Review. I've thought about restarting the blog and I've tried coming up with new ideas, but to no avail. What started out as a labour of love became a chore and with other commitments it just fizzled out. I think it's time I stopped procrastinating and formally ended it; that's what I'm doing here.

But now, the good news: I have a new blog. It's so similar to the Imaginary Review that it's practically plagiarism. Hell, in some cases I have plagiarised the IR. It's called Fake Obituaries, and it lives here: As you may have guessed from the title, I write obituaries for people who never existed. I'm trying to update every day, and right now there's 40-odd entries. So if there's anyone out there in the great wide world who misses the Imaginary Review, you could do a lot worse than check it out. And if you're already a member of Tumblr, follow me.

Finally, I want to say thanks to everyone for the support, the laughs and the friendship I received over the course of writing The Imaginary Review. It was a good time, and I met some really great people, and found some really excellent writing. So thanks to you all, and good luck!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Music Review Co-Blog with Beckeye

Hullo chaps. This review is a co-blogging effort with the very very lovely Beckeye, who you may know from such websites as ThePopEye and StarPulse. Beckeye approached me a while ago with some ideas for a review. She had made a load of albums via the Random Album Meme that was going around a while back, and asked if I wanted to review them. She named the bands and records, designed album art, came up with song titles and named the bandmembers all using random methods involving Flickr, Wikipedia and other websites. Heck, the only thing she didn't invent were the release dates and barcode numbers. With such a wealth of information, how could I refuse? Here are the results of our collaboration. Please enjoy.

New Album Round-up

The urge to creativity is a strong one, and the wave of musical inspiration that flowed through Mozart, Lennon, Peter Cetera and the Vengaboys continues to bash against the rocks of artistic endeavour. New music is being released every day, like kidnapped bank tellers from a building besieged by snipers after a failed robbery attempt. This week I was sent some brand new music to listen to and appraise with all the flair and wit for which I am famous.

First up is veteran prog-punk dance-rock quintet Magnatune, with their umpteenth album Faith in the Future. Opening track ‘Symplectization’ is eighteen minutes of heavy-assed flute/glockenspiel cockrock shebangabanging, with brassic beats and bleary-eyed bassline thumpery added to the mix for extra mmmnice. It’s a great track, but sadly almost identical to the opening songs in their last four albums. In fact, all of the music seems to have been wholly taken from previous releases, including stand-out track ‘Health Insurance’, which is just ‘Cesar Catli’ from their debut record played backwards by an angry trumpet.

Verdict: Nice songs, but about as original as supermarket own-brand cornflakes

The term ‘Gutblasting Teutonic Chickrock’ is thrown around so much these days, but it has never been more warranted than in the case of Z√ľndels Abgang, the latest German Grrrrlcore fembunch. Their debut album, Saying what we Know, is more rocky than Rocky Balboa eating Rocky Road ice cream while sitting in a quarry. From opening track ‘Dosinia Maoriana’ to closer ‘Flying Guillotine’, this album grabbed me by the balls and wouldn’t let them go until I’d given it all my sweets. The only down-note was ‘Languages of Australia’, a song that the band’s drummer, Carissa Cantu, wrote while under general anaesthetic.

Verdict: I like it, now can I have my bike back please?

Ask the average person on the street what they understand by the term ‘math-rock’ and they’ll probably run away because I forgot to put pants on. American Front’s new album, Hindsight is Always Twenty-Twenty should be their answer, though, because it’s the most clever, dorky and embarrassing album ever released, and as a result epitomises math-rock in a way no words ever could. When listening to songs like ‘Bachelor of Business Administration’, ‘Aradle Mental Hospital’ and ‘Swimming at the 1996 Summer Olympics – Women’s 200 Metre Butterfly’, I feel like I’m being pounded on the head by a musical calculator. It’s a disconcerting experience, because I feel like if anyone sees me listening to it they’ll wedgie me out of spite.

Verdict: 2 + 2 = Poor

Individual Computers Catweasel are a Brooklyn duo made famous by the fact that their song ‘Pando’ was featured in a commercial for Gap Jeans. Their new album On You Like Wolves is highly anticipated, and music lovers will not be disappointed. Timothy Dwain Huff and Ian Hughes have worked hard to ensure that every single song on this album will be suitable for car, computer and clothing commercials, from the gentle, swaying ‘Pacific Coast Railway’ (just right for a Toyota Yaris ad) to the rocking ‘List of Career Achievements by Tiger Woods’ (soon to heard when Apple try to sell you an iPod). The television commercial usefulness of this album would make Moby blush, so you might as well not bother buying the album, because you’ll be sick of the songs by April.

Verdict: Just Do It.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

The Imaginary Review’s Top Ten Films of the Last Decade

Drop everything. Put down that piece of pie and read this. For I have spent the last four months doing nothing but watch every single film from the last ten years, whittling the whole lot down into one easily digested list and it would be imbecilic not to enjoy the fruits of my hard work and labours.

After 119 days in a darkened room with nothing but a television and DVD player for company, I give you: The Essential Films of the Noughties.

10: James Bond and the Chocolate Factory (2009)

Daniel Craig’s third outing as the eponymous secret agent saw him infiltrate the secret lair of a shady businessman (Johnny Depp) who was producing addictive confectionary. This film had even more midgets than its predecessors, and plenty of daft weaponry to keep the hardest Bond-nuts happy. Who could forget the chocolate-riverboat chase scene? I can’t wait for the sequel, James Bond and the Great Glass Elevator.

9: Disney’s The Little Racist (2001)

Both thought-provoking and fun, this story of a bigoted earthworm in a world full of biodiversity was a surprise hit for the up and coming animation studio.

8: Meet the Pschitt-Fockers (2005)

While some critics moaned that the franchise was losing its way, this sequel to the popular comedies Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers saw the cast visiting the extended family in Europe. Ben Stiller and Bob De Niro reprise their old roles, with new appearances from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Handfulla Pschitt-Focker and Amy Poehler as Pschittypschittyarsecrapboobstwatpissypissyswearwordsarefunny Pschitt-Focker.

7: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Doing Lots of Things that You Wouldn’t Expect Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to do (2008)

Ho ho ho! This family film was lots of fun, as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) did lots of things you wouldn’t expect him to do, like walk on a tightrope while carrying a baby, dress up as a girl with full make-up and hang-glide off a mountain while singing Mmmbop by Hanson.

6: Utility Knife (2007)

When Blake Twitshelf (David Chunderbung) wakes up chained to a rock in a strange room with nothing but a utility knife and a CD player blaring Billy Joel, he realises that he has become the unwitting participant in a twisted game. Does he have what it takes to cut his own ears off before he goes insane? Grisly but gripping.

5: Whatever Happened to Three Men and a Baby Jane? (2002)

This psychological thriller sees Tom Selleck, Sam from Cheers and Cory Haim (replacing sadly deceased original cast member Steve Guttenberg) confined to a house after a car accident. They depend on their sister, played by the shambling corpse of Bette Davis, who is abusive towards them and makes them eat rats. I liked this film because it’s always nice to see Tom Selleck in extreme discomfort.

4: Gaping Muff-Chutes 4 (2007)

Say what you like about this film, but I really liked it.

3: Twenty-Seven People Whose Lives are Quite Independent but who are Brought Together by a Random Event that Prompts them to See the Similarities Between Themselves (2004)

For much of this film I was quite confused as to why I was being made to watch these people with their independent lives going about their aforementioned independent lives in totally independent ways. But then when the random event occurs, I could see that they were all fated to meet and holy shit that totally blew my mind, bro. Starring a veritable Benetton commercial of B-list actors.

2: Wotcha Cockney Knees-Up on the Old Apples an’ Pears wiv the Old Joanna, Innit? (2002)

While some critics dismissed Guy Ritchie as a one-trick-pony, the director himself proved them wrong with an entertaining crime caper set in Lahndahn wiv real Lahndahners, innit. Sir Georgeington Douglas-Smeltsbridge starred as Bob “Shifty Bricks” Jones while Lord Asquith Givenchy-DeGoosehelmet co-starred as Ebenezer “The Geezer” Beezer. The dialogue was fresh as a butcher’s hat while the action scenes kicked more arse than a parrotful of donkeys.

1: Creationism: The Musical (2005)

No film typified the return of the musical genre than this, the inspirational tale of a group of people unfettered by logic, reasoning and good sense. While ostensibly a love story at heart, this film captures hatred in a way no other film ever has; hatred for gay people, for women, for poor people, for racial minorities, for people living in other countries, for anyone other than themselves and for themselves. And what musical numbers! Everyone was singing the wonderful songs such as I Can Shout Louder than You (So I Must Be Right), He May Be an Obese Drug Addict But I’ll Still Love Him in a Totally Non-Gay Way and Who Would Jesus Hate?

Wednesday 13 January 2010

The Best Albums of the Decade

So sure, by now you’ve read Pitchfork/Rolling Stone/Now Toronto/Good Housekeeping and their lists of the top albums of the last ten years. Well, as they say in Ghent, we’re saving the best for last. Since November I have sat in my apartment doing nothing but listening to every single album released in every single country since January 1, 2000. And my God, it was worth it. Here are my picks for album of the decade, by genre.

Rock: Fuzzchomp Soundgesture by Cataclysmic Bendystraw (2005, Enterprising Buffoon Records)

Nothing ever came close to CB’s debut from five years ago. The lyrics were so meaningful that all the words in the songs have been banned from use because they will never again have such depth of evocativeness. The guitar sounds were so angular that more than twenty people were cut by sharp noises while listening to the album on headphones. The drums were so rhythmic that some women’s biological cycles attuned to them. This was the sound of the now, the moment, the second, the instant, and Cataclysmic Bendystraw made it sound like it was the future. And it was, in a way.

Honourable mentions:
Gosh, New York is Rather Splendid by The New York Band from New York (2001, New York Records)
Dave Grohl Side Project by The Dave Grohl Side Project Band (2007, Flummoxed by All These Buttons Records)
Hey! Where’s Dave? by The Foo Fighters (minus Dave Grohl) (2007, Record Label Recordings)

Dance: Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Di-Rewind! by DJ Caddyshack Two and MC Finding Nemo (2003, Wickida Wickida Wack Records)

DJ Caddyshack Two and MC Finding Nemo really were the success story of the noughties. Their humble beginnings as palate cleansers in a New Jersey restaurant led to the biggest selling dance music record ever conceived, with more breaks, beats and funny whirring noises set to steady rhythms created using electronic music machines than any other album. My stand-out track is the one featuring a female vocalist repeating the same line about going out and partying throughout the song.

Honourable Mentions:

Is it Hot in Here or ARE WE DANCING OUR FACES OFF? by DJ Sarcastic and the Yeah Rights (2008, Milton Milton Recordings)
Embarrassing X-Ray by Microphone Insertion (2008, 2008 Records)
The Alex Mack Theme Tune Remix Album by Various Artists (2002, Nickelodeon Records)

Soul/R&B: Girl, I’m Going to Smother You in Lemonade Because the Fridge is Empty and I Forgot to Buy Sexy Smothering Foods by Bo D. Lee-Fluid (2008, Ouch! Records)

No album was sexier than this. Current estimates are that 45% of all children born since 2008 were conceived to this album; indeed, add animals to the equation and the number could be even higher. From ‘Second Wind’ to ‘Have some Kleenex’, all tracks are smooth, sensual and seductive, like that guy who took all my fine art. The only bad song on the album is the unfortunate ‘Girl, Why is there a Bulge in your Pants? (feat. Lady Gaga)’

Honourable Mentions:

None. They were all terrible.

Metal: Grrrthhhrrr NNnnnnggggnnnnrrrrthhhrrr by Ian Derwent and the Lazy Susan Trio (2009, Prawn Sandwich Recordings)

Many were surprised at the quality of this metal album, given that it was recorded by a 60-year-old crooner with three even older ladies backing him up on piano, glockenspiel and coronet. But it really was an excellent record, from the opening track ‘Pissing in the President’s Wound’ to album closer ‘Do you Mind Awfully if I Turn it Down?’ Metal will probably never be the same again, not that it ever was.

Honourable Mentions:

The Bad Man Took My Pens by Feast of Carrion
Some Older Boys Said a Mean Thing by Blood Corpse Death Angel
I Hurt My Leg When I Fell Off the Trampoline by Anal Leakage

Thursday 7 January 2010

The Decade in (Imaginary) Review: Video Games

My God. It has been a busy, busy few weeks. Here’s the thing, chaps: I had been planning to write a post about my top ten video games of the last decade, but I didn’t comfortable doing so until I had played every single video game from that period. So for the last two months, I have sat down and played – to completion – every single PlayStation, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC, PSP, Wii, N64, GameCube and GBA game released since 2001. It was a massive task, but someone had to do it.

When you read the following, my ultimate top ten videogames of the last decade, I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the bedsores, lost family time and thirty pounds of gained weight. Here’s the list:

10: Parkour Sniper (PS2)

A surprise hit amongst older people and the French, Parkour Sniper was released in 2005. The game is viewed from a first person perspective, and your task is to take out the agile young people jumping around the city landscape using a special light gun. A lot of satisfaction can be derived from waiting until they have made their way to the top of a tall building and offing them, watching their lifeless body bounce off the railings and flagpoles below.

9: School Dance Revolution (Arcade, PS2)

The best of the dancing games came as a surprise to most. What nostalgic fun this was! As a (computer generated) inept DJ span terrible music, the aim of the game was to stand at the side of your room for as long as possible. Later levels included awkward shuffling, surreptitious alcohol smuggling and teacher avoidance. The two player game, in which you had to be rejected by the other gamer in as cringeworthy a fashion as possible, was an added bonus.

8: Grand Theft Auto: Headbutting Authority Figures (PS3, Xbox, PC)

Finally, a GTA worth playing! None of that rubbish carjacking or drug dealing, just finding authority figure after authority figure and giving them the old ‘Glasgow Kiss’. Fun for all the family!

7: Movie Tie-In: The Video Game (PS, PC, Atari Lynx)

This sprawling RPG saw you take control of a video game designer given the task of adapting a new movie for the console market. With different playable characters, an excellent fight system for beating up annoying middle management types and levels of difficulty depending on the film being adapted (from ‘action/adventure’ to ‘period drama’), this game stood out in a time when RPGs were shite.

6: Nomihodai no Umeboshi (PSP)

Available only in Japan, this tragically overlooked game makes the list to show how amazing and extensive my knowledge of video games is.

5: Cowbell Hero (PS2, Xbox)

Who needs guitars? Nobody, when you have cowbells! Altogether now, “We need an increase in cowbell! I have an illness and the only thing that can cure it is an increase in cowbell!”

4: Jetpony II: Stumplegs (Every muthafarkin’ system)

The sequel to the popular platform shooter begins when Jetpony wakes up after a night on the town to find that his legs have been removed. Luckily, he still has his jets, and everyone’s favourite Shetland Pony goes on a murderous rampage to try and find his missing limbs and the bastards who took them. Quite possibly the goriest game ever made, and all the better for it.

3: World of Carpark (PC)

In 2001, Lizard Games released Carpark, their first garage-based rpg. It was mildly popular. Then, in 2007, they released the follow-up, a massively multiplayer online car park simulator, and the world rejoiced. Who can forget the first time they chose their character and set foot in that fabled land of disabled spaces, angry attendants and harried mothers? Sure, it could be daunting for the newbie, having to deal with older players who had levelled up and can do a three-point-turn on a sixpence, but this was as rewarding as online gaming was ever likely to get.

2: Tiger Woods Pun Simulator (Xbox 360)

Sure, it’s a brand new game, but making ‘Wood’, ‘In the Rough’ and ‘Leg-over par’ references will never get old! This game will run and run and run!

1: Help! I’m Trapped in James Cameron’s Nose! (PS, PS2, PS3, PS4, Atari 2600)

The best game of the last ten years, bar none. What more can be said? There is more playability, replayability, satisfaction and depth of gameplay in this release than every other game made in the last century. Escaping from the famed director’s nose is challenging, yet the difficulty level and enjoyment means you’ll keep trying to find your way out of the conk. My God, I’m going to go back and start it again, I can’t get enough of this game.

So there you have it. The best games of the noughties. But what do I think will be big news in the 2010s? Here are my tips:

Mummies: Zombies and vampires are old news. Egyptian undead sarcophagi-dwellers are going to be huge in the coming years.
Baccarat: Televised baccarat is gaining popularity, so expect to see lots of tie-in games.
Robots made of meat: I don’t know why, but this is my dark horse.
Benjamin Netanyahu: I’ll be honest, I’m out of ideas.

Monday 7 December 2009

The Last Few Weeks in Review

I’m sure you’ll all agree that the period of time including the month of November and the beginning of December 2009 has been one of the most creative, side-splitting and intellectually verdant of the Imaginary Review’s history. Indeed, not since this blog began, more than two years ago, has there been a period containing as many well-written and interesting reviews of the calibre of those of the last few weeks.

For that reason, then, I think you’ll forgive me for indulging myself in a bout of recent nostalgia and self appreciation.

At the beginning of November I reviewed a batch of music merchandise that I had been sent in the past. Readers will recall my excellent analysis of the Rhianna-branded umbrella, which was “quite nice to look at, but quite useless for its intended purpose of rain-hindrance, given that it is made of fishnet stockings.” I was more complimentary towards the Jonas Brothers Acne Cream which, when applied to the face and neck, gave me a “tingly feeling not unlike that of realising one is reaching the apex of puberty.” My favourite comment on this post was by new reader Andrew, who said “I don’t get it, is this real, lol”.

An analysis of the latest reality TV shows came next, and I looked at programmes like Neck Swap, Pimp my Kidney and America’s Next Top Public Defecator. My favourite was What? You Think You Can Dance? Yeah Right. Prove It. No, Go On. Prove It. Dance For Me. Dance For Me. No, Dance For Me. See, You Won’t, Because You Can’t Dance, You Liar. In the review I said that “the ultra-aggressive attitude of the judges is refreshing to see, and many a hopeful contestant has been reduced to tears before even reaching the stage. The fact that many of the people trying out are as young as eight only adds to the pleasure.”

In that post, I didn’t reply to all of the comments I received, so I will attempt to fix that here, with some personal replies.
Mr London Street: You can, but you have to remove the false moustache first, otherwise they may take a swipe at your face.
Katrocket: I agree with you in principle, but I think the probability of seven people all falling into the trap at once is a little unlikely.
Beckeye: You’re wrong; I’ve never been to Norway.

My next review, of the new Cirque Du Soleil show Guttenberg (which chronicles the life of the popular actor from his appearance in the Police Academy films to his tragic death while filming 3 Men and a Baby Whale) contained one of the finest sentences ever written in the English language: “If I ever see another stilt-walking clown attempt to do handstands on a high wire again, I’ll saw all his limbs off.” I have been contacted by the Oxford English Dictionary people, who want to put it in the new edition as a definition of “Brilliance”.

Last week I reviewed the new romantic comedies for the holiday season, such as Colin Firth’s The Awkwardly Uptight Englishman Who Falls For a Fast-Talking American Girl and Has to Meet her Family at Christmas with Hilarious Results. My favourite part of this movie was when Firth stutters a lot and looks awkward while his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) shows new facets to her personality when in her home setting. Also recommended in this post was the new Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew Broderick film, The Man Who Married a Horse.

Finally, to respond to some personal emails I received regarding these posts, I would like to say the following:

Yes, I’d love to mention Tungsten Steel Wedding Bands in my blog, because they’re both stylish and durable.
I keep telling you: I’m married, and so are you.
You know the one! Of course you do! It’s the one that goes “Na na na na naaaar…na na na na nuuuuuur!” Don’t tell me you don’t recognise that!

Coming soon I shall be counting down some of my highlights of the last decade, as is customary towards the end of years that end with a '9'.

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s not too late to vote for me as Blogger of the Year in the Annual Drysdale Awards. If you haven’t already done so, I’d be very happy if you’d show your support, even if other people have been cheating.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

I'm not dead