Listening/reading log #15 (December 2020)

We’re at the end of the year, finally — now for 2021. Not that changing the year by one number makes that much of a difference in reality, since it’s just another bit of distance of the Earth revolving around the Sun, but maybe there’s a real psychological effect in changing years. We humans made up the calendar, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. So let’s hope for better things this year as we collectively give a middle finger to the last one.

And let’s also do the usual end-of-month thing: talk about some good music and good writing. This month, I’m returning to two bands that I’ve already covered twice before. But these are both really good albums, so it’s excusable I think. The holidays are all about being comfortable anyway, and I’m totally in my comfort zone today. On to the business:

Discipline (King Crimson, 1981)

Highlights: Discipline, Matte Kudasai, Thela Hun Ginjeet

When I wrote about King Crimson’s album Red a while back, I mentioned that the band broke up shortly after it was released and wouldn’t reform for seven years. Discipline is what they came back with, “they” being constant Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, returning jazz/prog drummer Bill Bruford, and two new guys in bassist Tony Levin and guitarist/singer Adrian Belew.

80s Crimson is completely different from 70s Crimson in sound. Instead of the heavy rock, Discipline and the following two studio albums are done in a New Wave style that gets compared to Talking Heads a lot but is more technical and weird in a different way. Adrian Belew is a bit of a neurotic goofball like David Byrne, but I like his brand of strangeness too, and he’s also an excellent guitarist with an interesting experimental edge just like Fripp. Discipline mixes things up with the fierce fast-paced “Thela Hun Ginjeet” and a nice love song in “Matte Kudasai” (aside from love songs never being much of a King Crimson thing in the 60s and 70s, check out the title — “please wait” in Japanese. Were these guys also weebs before it was cool?) “Discipline” is also an insanely precise instrumental that shows off all their talents, with Fripp and Belew’s guitars going off into different key signatures and meeting up again.

I still think Red is the best album Crimson put out, but I also like that the band has changed things up so much throughout their run (well, they’ve changed their lineup a lot too, aside from the mainstay Fripp) and the 80s version of the band made a lot of good music. I also recommend the excellent live album Absent Lovers, which includes some great songs from Discipline and the following albums Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair along with a few old 70s standards like “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part II” and “Red”.

Fragile (Yes, 1972)

Highlights: Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, Heart of the Sunrise

When I said I was in my comfort zone this post I wasn’t kidding. I’ve already written about The Yes Album immediately preceding this and Close to the Edge immediately following it, so I had to write about Fragile too; I couldn’t leave that gap in there. Also, like those albums and Discipline above, Fragile features Bill Bruford on drums, making this his sixth appearance in these short reviews up until now. He really is a great drummer, so he’s deserving of that great honor.

Fragile is also just a really entertaining album. Everyone reading this probably already knows the opener “Roundabout”, either because it’s an old rock radio standard in its shorter edited form or because it was the ending theme to the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and was featured in seventy million of those “to be continued” meme videos. But there are other great epic-length songs on Fragile, including the multi-part ultra-complicated super-proggy piece “Heart of the Sunrise” and my personal favorite “South Side of the Sky”, a driving heavy song about people desperately trying to cross a snowy mountain range with a really nice piano solo in the middle from Rick Wakeman. Unique among these albums, Fragile also features shorter solo-focused pieces for each band member to show off in, which are pretty fun as well.

I recommend Fragile highly together with The Yes Album and Close to the Edge, especially if you have any interest at all in that classic early 70s progressive rock period. Yes made a lot of other good music, especially in the 70s and on the 80s pop standard album 90125, but to me this run of albums contains their best work.

Now that I’m done with my fanboy nonsense, reviewing albums I’ve listened to since I was in high school like a lazy asshole instead of expanding my horizons, let’s move on to the featured articles from around WordPress:

In Memoriam: Adobe Flash (Nepiki Gaming) — Flash has been a big part of many of our lives, especially for anyone who grew up on the internet in the late 90s and through the 2000s and even the 2010s, which I have to imagine covers almost everyone reading this. Nepiki gives a eulogy for the now discontinued program.

The Romance of Space as an Ocean (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Scott examines how certain science fiction works treat space like a massive ocean and the romantic aspects of that theme. I love space operas as well (watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes, it’s great!) and I can relate to the feelings he expresses here.

Beginner’s guide to indie (2020): part one (Later Levels) — Kim at Later Levels has posted a series on indie games, which as you know I’m all about. There are some interesting-looking titles she brings up I haven’t played either. In the same vein, her review of the indie sort of-visual novel VA-11 Hall-A is worth reading. I loved that game. Still waiting for that “coming soon” semi-sequel though. Maybe we’ll get it this year.

The Traditional Catholic Weeb Speaks: Nichijou Revisited (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — A review of Nichijou, a weird comedy anime series that I vaguely remember from years ago. Traditional Catholic Weeb’s detailed and comprehensive post got me interested in it again, and I might finally get around to watching it now.

Lightning Warrior Raidy (PC/FMTowns/PC-98): A Surprisingly Solid Dungeon Crawler (Detailed Review) (NSFW) (Guardian Acorn) — Annie Gallagher takes on Lightning Warrior Raidy, an old and famous (or maybe infamous?) h-game. Not safe for work as the title suggests, but if you’re not at work and otherwise okay with it, I suggest checking this review out.

My 5 favourite games I watched other people play in 2020 (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — Ever since the invention of the Let’s Play way back in 2007 or around then, people have been watching other people play video games online. This might seem strange, but some games can be interesting to watch in the context of someone else’s playthrough if their commentary and personality add to the experience (and given how many VTuber game streams I’ve watched in parts lately I certainly can’t say otherwise without being a huge hypocrite.) Wooderon here addresses some of his favorite games to watch others play paired with a few particular streamers.

Looking Back: 2020 Post Mortem (Frostilyte Writes) — This was a shitass year all things considered. I don’t even really have to say that. But thankfully, some of us have been able to do something productive with the crap 2020 gave us. Frostilyte here looks back on his own year and what he got done blogging and gaming-wise. I should also thank him for being one of the people who finally convinced me to start on the Yakuza series, which I recently started at 0, so I’ll do that here. Thanks!

Early Impressions on Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Lost to the Aether) — Speaking of Yakuza, here are Aether’s first impressions of the recently released Yakuza: Like a Dragon, a game that takes the Yakuza setting and feel and combines it with a turn-based RPG mechanic. An interesting combination, but does it work? Aether takes that question on in the above-linked post.

Evangelion Sword Exhibition at Toei Kyoto Studio Park (Resurface to Reality) — I love the idea of an Evangelion-themed exhibit like the one described here at Toei Studio Park in Kyoto. As usual, I regret not being able to visit it myself, but reading about it is interesting.

Who I Want for Roommates or Neighbours in Quarantine (Anime Edition) (A Geeky Gal) — Meg at A Geeky Gal considers the following: which anime characters would you have as roommates during quarantine? A question to be carefully considered since you’ll have been stuck with them for nine months as of this writing.

December 2020 in Summary: Hindsight Is 2020 (Extra Life) — Red Metal’s overview of his last month of blogging. I don’t usually feature end-of-month recaps on other sites like the one I’m writing here right now because that feels a bit weird to me, featuring that kind of post in a similar one like this. But this one contains Red Metal’s takes on some excellent movies like Ben-Hur, The Twilight Samurai, All The President’s Men and others that should be read.

Some of my favourite openings! (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — And Yomu takes the time to write about some openings he likes. I’m a fan of #6 on the list myself.

And that’s it for the year. I’ll get more into my own plans for this year in an upcoming post, but the extra-short version is that I have a ton of games I’m either working through or have lined up in the backlog, so there should be no lack of game-related material in 2021. The same is true for anime, which I’ll keep writing about as well, along with music and the occasional pissed off set of complaints that you’ve come to expect from me. The same goes for my deep reads posts, though the latest one I’ve been working on has been giving me hell. I hope to have it out sometime this month, though.

Until next time, I wish you extreme prosperity, maximum happiness, and whatever else your heart desires this year.

16 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #15 (December 2020)

  1. Thanks for the shoutout to my post AK 😃 I’m glad you found it worth a read! My original review of the series was pretty weak IMO so I just felt I had to improve on it and add parts that were lacking in it. Good to hear you enjoyed those additions, and let me know what you think about Nichijou once you can get around to it! 👍

    • Absolutely! If/when I watch it, I might write something here about it too. It’s always been one of those series I was sort of aware I might like, but your post brought it to the forefront again.

  2. Hey, thanks for the mention! 2020 was a lousy year (it was a surprisingly good year for music, though), but it’s over, and hopefully 2021 will be an improvement.

    You certainly picked some great albums. Discipline isn’t the first album most people think of when talking about King Crimson, but it’s a classic in its own right. And, of course, Fragile is definitely one of Yes’s best albums, sporting the now-memetic “Roundabout” among other solid tracks. It’s pretty funny how, after decades of rock critics dunking on prog rock, that the genre would gain a new lease on life thanks to Jojo. And as you mentioned, The Yes Album and Close to the Edge are classics as well. Prog purists don’t think much of 90125, but it’s a perfectly good pop record.

    • No problem! 2020 certainly set a low bar to clear.

      Yeah, even though it’s still good, Discipline and the 80s style of King Crimson isn’t the most iconic one. Probably most people would think of In the Court of the Crimson King first. I’ll probably end up covering that one at some point too.

      It seems like hating prog for spoiling the purity of rock and all that is less of a thing now. At least I’ve heard a couple of popular critics online gush about Close to the Edge and similar stuff. Maybe there’s a generational difference there. The people involved with the Jojo anime definitely deserve credit for reviving Roundabout, though. It’s nice to think that at least a few people got into this kind of music because they used it.

      And yeah, it seems 90125 is a bit controversial among some fans. As much as I like prog in general, I’m certainly not a prog purist, since I like good pop just as much.

      • You’re right. I don’t really think prog hate is really a thing anymore. It might be among the old-school rock snobs, but considering that the artists themselves don’t really have a problem with prog (Johnny Rotten is a fan of both Magma and Van der Graaf Generator whereas Noel Gallagher is a fan of early Genesis albums just to name a few examples) and the genre really does have a lot of overlap with the kind of people who appreciate technical complexity (not unlike the kind one would find in a good video game), it’s actually not that surprising in hindsight it would eventually get a new lease on life.

        But I don’t care what the prog purists say; 90125 is a good album. I can agree it’s not as technically impressive as their early stuff, but a bad album? Not a chance.

  3. It’s kind of a shame that Fragile often gets considered the “Roundabout” album with how good other tracks like South Side of the Sky or Long Distance Runaround. It’s funny that when going back and discovering the older, prog-heavy Yes albums after knowing only Owner of a Lonely Heart, I remember saying “that was the same band?”

    I actually got to see Adrien Belew in concert about…nine years ago. He was opening for Dream Theater with his band Crimson Project doing some solo stuff along with King Crimson songs. I was aware of him/King Crimson more than I had listened to much of their albums, so I made it a point to track some albums down afterwards…

    • Yeah, as much as I like Roundabout, it shouldn’t overshadow the other songs on the album. Long Distance Runaround is great too, should have brought that up. That bass is amazing too.

      I went the other direction with Yes, finding 90125 later on — definitely took a bit of getting used to especially since 80s pop isn’t mainly my thing, but it is good stuff.

      Interesting! I got to see Crimson with Belew in the lineup back in the mid-2000s sometime. I knew he had some solo albums too, but didn’t know about Crimson Project. I do like his style from the bit of his solo work I’ve heard.

  4. Thank you for the shout-out! I truly wasn’t keeping up with the news as I learned about Flash shutting down literally a few days ago, but I just had to write something about it due to how much it was part of my younger gamer life. After thinking about it more, there certainly are a lot of games that I’ve missed in my coverage. I suddenly gained fond memories of this multiplayer tank game, though I could not find the name of that game unfortunately. Anyway, Happy New Year to you and I’m looking forward to your articles this year as well!

    • Certainly, and thanks for deciding to write about this. It’s an interesting subject, and it’s impressive just how much influence that one program has had on all of us.

      Happy new year to you as well, and same to you! I look forward to seeing what games you cover this year.

  5. When I saw the album art for Fragile I thought to myself, “here we go…it’s time for Roundabout”. You didn’t disappoint. XD

    Absolutely agree and echo the sentiment of listening to all of those Yes albums. The last time you featured Yes I ended up going down the rabbit hole on them, which is how I happened upon Roundabout among others. Yes is just really fucking good.

    The eponymous Discipline was my favourite of the three tracks listed for King Crimson. It has a really good flow and sense of rhythm to it.

    And thank you for the shout-out. It’s always appreciated. Here’s to 2021! 🙂

    • Yeah, Yes is absolutely great. I know the wacky lyrics and Jon Anderson’s unusual singing turn some people off, but I think they both fit perfectly with the band’s style.

      King Crimson is a bit different in that they never had one sort of core “classic” style like Yes, but I love a lot of their stuff too. There’s at least one more of their albums I’ll be putting up at some point.

      Definitely! As of this writing it’s already been fucking insanity, at least down here, but let’s hope for the best. A good 2021 to you.

  6. Yeeeeeeeesssssss. Get into Yakuza. Jooooooooiiiiiiiin usssssssssssss.

    Also, hey! It’s Roundabout! And by focusing on that, I think I’m frustrating every longsuffering Yes fan out there. Oh well.

    • I wish I had gotten in before. 0 is great so far.

      Ha, I think Yes fans are used to it. At least it isn’t people focusing on Owner of a Lonely Heart.

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