Listening/reading log #17 (February 2021)

Sorry for being late this month, work and all that. I’ve been doing these posts long enough now that I had to look up which number this one was — either that or I’m starting to lose my mind if I haven’t lost it already.

So there’s no point thinking about it. Let’s just talk about music and great writing from around the communities as usual. Today I’m going way back into the past for still two more old prog albums (i.e. I didn’t listen to enough new stuff this month I really loved enough to write about here, so I’m being lazy yet again — but I was going to write about these albums at some point, so why not now.) One of these is very well-known and the other isn’t quite as much for reasons I can understand, but I like both of them a lot. Let’s get started:

In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson, 1969)

Highlights: 21st Century Schizoid Man, Epitaph, The Court of the Crimson King

Nice cover, right? As great and iconic as it is, I still find it kind of unsettling, which I guess is the point.

In the Court of the Crimson King was the debut of English prog group King Crimson, who I’ve written about a lot in these posts mainly because they’re one of my favorite bands (which I probably didn’t even need to mention at this point.) If you’ve only listened to their other albums I wrote about here, though, going back to their debut might feel weird, because it doesn’t sound much like Larks’ Tongues in Aspic or Red from only a few years later, being more of a mix of heavy rock and older classical and almost operatic sounds.

In the Court gets a lot of credit for being the first progressive rock album. Maybe that’s debatable, but it did absolutely have a massive impact on rock music as a whole, and it’s pretty easy to tell why when you hear it. The opener “21st Century Schizoid Man” is a crushing, massively heavy song with a great memorable riff and vocals, and the following “Epitaph” is also excellent, with a kind of epic feel to it and great vocals from Greg Lake. I also love the ending title track, even if its verses go on forever, because it’s just that good — it feels like this one song did a lot to establish that “classical” prog style that later bands would adapt for themselves, with its weird lyrics about the black queen and fire witches over a lot of organ and flutes and other fancy orchestration.

So maybe this is a bit pompous, but it’s the kind of music that totally earns that right because of how good it is. Out of all the songs, the only one I’m not a big fan of is “Moonchild”, which also goes on forever but apparently without much of a reason; the rest is amazing. Unfortunately, the version of the band that made this album fell apart pretty quickly, leaving guitarist Robert Fripp to keep things going all the way to the present day. Though it did mean that Lake got to go off and form Emerson Lake & Palmer with Emerson and Palmer, so maybe it wasn’t all bad. Now if they’d just shortened “Moonchild”, taken Cat Food off of the followup album In the Wake of Poseidon, and put it on here, it would have been perfect. As it is, though, it’s still an excellent album and probably one of the best debut albums ever made.

World Record (Van der Graaf Generator, 1976)

Highlights: When She Comes, A Place to Survive, Meurglys III (The Songwriter’s Guild)

Another returning band that I wrote about way back in post #3. Van der Graaf Generator is another old English prog band, and while I don’t like everything I’ve heard by them (like their 1977 album that directly follows this one, which is a near-total mess in my opinion aside from a few interesting songs) I do like this one. Partly because World Record is a weird album. It feels like a mix of older prog styles like those found on their 1970 release H to He, as well as on Crimson King that probably influenced it a lot, together with newer styles that were rejecting all the artsy, proggy, and glammy stuff like punk. Makes sense — despite that clash, frontman and band leader Peter Hammill did put out an album the year before (Nadir’s Big Chance, which is great in its own right) that got praise from Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, so maybe it’s not actually that weird.

A lot of the music on World Record is pretty harsh, and some of it sounds intentionally ugly in parts like “A Place to Survive”, a driving song with rough vocals from Hammill that can work as a nice motivator if you’re feeling discouraged but have to get up the nerve to study for a test or something. My favorite is the opener “When She Comes” though. It’s really hard for me to even describe this song, except that it’s just weird and catchy and I like it. And finally, there’s the sidelong track “Meurglys III” at 20 minutes, the piece that feels most like the typical self-indulgent prog thing on here. But hey that’s my thing after all, as long as it’s done well, and this one is. I really connect to those opening lines too.

So I’d say give World Record a chance if you want to hear something a bit bizarre but good. The feeling of it is pretty dark and I have to be in a weird mood to listen to it, but when I’m there it’s perfect.

Now for the featured articles:

Anime Recommendations: 5 Reasons to Watch Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits- (BiblioNyan) — I’m always up for new anime recommendations, and Kakuriyo sounds like an interesting one, a comfortable series featuring a lot of demons, spirits, and good food. I might check it out!

Pix’s Anime Jukebox! (Shoot the Rookie) — Combining two things I like, good anime and good music, here’s a look at five great tracks from anime series. I should finish Mr. Tonegawa sometime, really.

Super Mario 3D World: The Most Fun Ever (now with extra cats) (Professional Moron) — From Mr. Wapojif, a very positive review of the new Super Mario 3D World and a critical analysis of its new cat suit feature and the benefits it brings to the game. Reminding me I still have to get a Switch.

Book Review: The Prince (Let Me Tell You the Story of…) — Outside the scope of what I usually take on here, but writer H.R.R. Gorman has an excellent blog on novels and books of all kinds. This review of Machiavelli’s classic The Prince is well worth checking out, especially if you haven’t already been forced to read it in a political philosophy class.

Is the 90s Up to Par as Others Say? (Lita Kino Anime Corner) — A perspective on the upsides of 90s anime that I mostly don’t have myself, even though I started watching anime at just that time. Lita brings up some interesting points about how 90s anime was different from 00s and 10s series along with a few examples of great series from that decade.

A Huge Step Forward in Robotics for the Earth Federation of Yokohama: The RX-78F00 (Resurface to Reality) — Any modern wonder of the world list isn’t complete without this life-sized Gundam that actually moves around now on display in Yokohama. It’s not just anime anymore.

One of the Best Isekai Protagonist (or Antagonist) | Youjo Senki (Tanya The Evil) Season 1 Thoughts (SAE with a K) — I really liked The Saga of Tanya the Evil a lot, though I thought the isekai aspect wasn’t that necessary — but Dez Polycarpe brings up some great points about Tanya, the protagonist of the anime, and her growth as a character that may connect back to her past life.

Am I Going to Buy the Mass Effect Remaster (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — An interesting look at the upcoming Mass Effect remaster announced by EA and Bioware. Remasters can be controversial; they can feel like ripoffs depending on the features offered and the improvements made (or not made) and can be a real dice roll for fans, even when the original games are beloved.

Volatile Voyages: Sea of Thieves Review (The Below Average Blog) — From Amanda Hurych, a review of the pirate-themed XBox Game Pass title Sea of Thieves. I still like pirate stories even to this day; it’s not something you ever outgrow (that concept is a stupid one anyway, isn’t it?) Unfortunately, the game sounds a bit disappointing, but Amanda also brings up some positives in it, so be sure to check her review out if you have an interest.

Fighting Games and Approachable Design (Frostilyte Writes) — I’m complete garbage at fighting games, which is probably partly why I never write about them here. But MrMKL knows quite a bit more about them and has some great points to make about approachability in the genre, using a few specific games to illustrate those points. Be sure to check out his guest post on Frostilyte’s site.

My Ideal 3D Sonic the Hedgehog Game (Nepiki Gaming) — Nep here sets out what he’d like to see in future 3D Sonic games, and I happen to agree with a lot of his ideas, especially in the sense that the 3D games shouldn’t just try to mimic the 2D ones but rather do their own thing (given of course that that thing is good.) And yes: bring back the Hyper forms and Super Tails. Come on, Sega. I know you’ve said the Super Emeralds from Sonic 3 & Knuckles weren’t canon, but you can always take that back. Do something right for a change.

Who’s There? Haato or Haachama? (The Unlit Cigarette) — If you think the VTuber scene is all cutesy stuff, you’re not totally right — see the popular streaming personality Akai Haato. Or Haachama. It’s hard to tell which is which sometimes. Despite being part of the massive agency Hololive, Haato/chama is known for doing her own thing (her horrific cooking series and reviews of her own lewd fanart are both well-known for good reason) and lately, she’s been weaving a strange horror story through her streams. If you’re not in the VTuber hole already you might not have any interest (and don’t jump in, it’s not worth it) but if you’re already in here, it’s pretty fascinating stuff especially if you’re into weird psychological/body horror.

St. Pius V Corner: Kissing KissAnime Goodbye (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Traditional Catholic Weeb analyzes the much-lamented death of the popular anime streaming/piracy site KissAnime, asking whether it’s ever justified to pirate anime and taking into account some of the weird problems western fans of anime have faced over the decades in trying to watch it. I’d try to approach this problem from the legal perspective, but it’s honestly too straightforward to bother writing about from that angle — the moral angle is more complex, though, and this is an analysis well worth checking out.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light (Extra Life) — And finally, Red Metal brings us a comprehensive review of the first Fire Emblem game. Like a lot of beginnings to classic series, this game seems to be a mixed bag, though maybe I’m just spoiled having only played Path of Radiance and Awakening.

And that’s another month. It never fucking ends, does it? Well, it does eventually, but sometimes it really doesn’t feel that way, and this was one of those months for me. I shouldn’t complain about my workload, though — more work and more responsibility means more opportunity for advancement this time around, so what can I really complain about? I haven’t gotten much time to play games, but I’d at least like to try to get the next part of my deep reads series on Megami Tensei out this month. I also have a few more anime series I plan to write about, and they’re different enough in tone and scope that hopefully everyone will be able to find something they like. Until next time!

24 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #17 (February 2021)

  1. Hey Ak, another great review on some fantastic music. I’m going to go check these out. These days I rarely hear about Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Brings back memories.

    Thanks for the mention, but I think Haato/Haachama took down the horror story and made all the lore private. I should probably go edit that blog.

    • Thanks! I hope you like the music.

      Hell, I didn’t even know she took all that down. I wonder what that’s about. Maybe we’ll find out soon. I guess I should edit my description here later on as well. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. If you’re ever going to feature any progressive rock album, that’s the one to go with. In the Court of the Crimson King was, as you say, pretty much ground zero for progressive rock. I can see why some may not be receptive to the album seeing as how “Moonchild” goes on and on with no real purpose (though I think it could’ve been perfectly acceptable had they cut it off after the five-minute mark or so), but the rest of the album is superb.

    And thanks for the shout! Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light was a trailblazing game, but it’s difficult to make a case for it these days given that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the weakest game in the series (to the point where I would actually argue that Fire Emblem Gaiden, which was considered a black sheep for the longest time, has held up better). It’s actually a lot like Metal Gear that way where it ended up being a long-running series, yet started off with what would become its weakest installment. That’s actually a fairly rare occurrence, though it seems to happen more often with older series because if they were innovative for their time, they don’t have the same quality-of-life improvements of later installments. Even then, you’d be surprised how rare it is; like how it would’ve been true of Metroid had Metroid: Other M not existed or Mario had New Super Mario Bros. 2 or Super Mario Land not existed (not that NSMB2 or SML are bad, mind you, but they’re still weaker than the original Super Mario Bros., I find).

    • Yeah, that first few minutes of “Moonchild” is perfectly nice. A bit like “I Talk to the Wind”, which I like as well even though I didn’t bring it up.

      And definitely! Those quality of life improvements are hard to do without these days. I do remember going back and playing the original Metal Gear as a kid out of curiosity and not being too impressed with it.

      I haven’t played Other M, but I’ve heard a lot about how badly it handled Samus as a character. That’s one of those games that I feel pretty safe thinking must be poor, since so many people whose judgments I trust have said so, even if I can’t definitely say that for myself. (The only guy I’ve heard express a positive opinion about it is Bob Chipman, which I guess just proves that point.)

      • Playing through the original Metal Gear was interesting, but it fell into that same weird trap a lot of contemporary adventure games fall into where it leaves you high and dry as to what to do next. Metal Gear 2 managed to be a major improvement over it to the point where I actually found it to be slightly better than Metal Gear Solid 1 (even if Metal Gear 2 also has its share of weird puzzles).

        Metroid: Other M has frequently been called sexist, but the cases made against it in that regard are highly defensible.
        And yeah, Bob Chipman praised the game. At first, it seems out-of-character for him to defend something so blatantly sexist, but then you look at the timestamp of his defense video and realize he made it in 2011. Bob Chipman is one of those people who talks a big game when it comes to being progressive, but he’s kind of like Neil Druckmann in that, in a vacuum, he comes across as someone to whom progressivism doesn’t come naturally. I don’t think he’d be a Fox News-watching, gun-toting, conspiracy theorist if left to his own devices, but I do think that, if he were more honest with himself, he would feel more at home among firm conservatives. It’s the only explanation I can think of as to how he can claim to be an enemy to misogyny in the gaming sphere only to, without any irony, try to own a hater with a misogynistic “yo mama” joke (among other bouts of doublethink). Apparently, it’s not sexist when *he* does it.

        For that matter, I find his other opinions to be fairly worthless as well because he has a bad habit of engaging with his detractors so much and so passionately that it’s impossible to tell how much of his opinions actually are his. It wouldn’t be out-of-character for him to have praised The Rise of Skywalker not because of its (let’s face it, non-existent) merits, but because he wanted to deny the so-called Fandom Menace the satisfaction of validation. Admittedly, I can get behind that because the Fandom Menace are a really odious, creatively bankrupt bunch, but the result of all of these antics is that Bob Chipman really doesn’t have a voice he can call his own, and a critic with no voice is like a chef with no taste buds.

      • Yeah, I’ve gotten that hypocritical feel from Chipman. Whether that’s intentional or not, it’s definitely there. Either way, he certainly seems to feel very superior to everyone else considering some of the comments I’ve seen him make about other people and about humanity in general. Maybe misanthropic is the best way to put it.

        I don’t know too much about the whole Fandom Menace thing. I absolutely get being dissatisfied with the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but from the bits I’ve heard of them these guys take things way too far. Then again, yeah, reacting to someone else’s overreaction is just as bad as the overreaction itself. It sounds like an extreme kind of backlash vs. anti-backlash issue where neither side is making much sense.

      • I think that’s just it – Bob Chipman doesn’t really latch onto progressive causes because he wants to make the world a better place, it’s so he can wave his superiority complex in his enemies’ faces. I mean, we are talking about a guy who made a video called “Magneto Was Right” while heavily implying he would be on his side if he had mutant powers. That’s a disaster waiting to happen; it’s no wonder Lindsay Ellis called him a toxic person.

        The Fandom Menace are a really unhinged bunch who should be ignored. Admittedly, they had a few good points about why the Star Wars sequel trilogy is bad, but even then, you have to pick out the backwards-looking political rhetoric out of their screeds to see that, so as frustrating as it is that fans tend to gloss over these valid criticisms, considering the people making them, I can hardly blame the fans for doing so. That they continue to complain about the sequel trilogy is just plain sad by this point – it appears to be all they have in their lives.

      • That’s a good point. I get the idea that there are at least a few people in the progressive camp who are only there for that reason, since the way they act in general doesn’t really line up with their supposed values. I can totally see it in Chipman’s case as well.

        And of course politics is involved in the Star Wars fight, yeah. I know there was a lot of controversy over people disliking the films for bigoted/sexist reasons, and then defenders trying to paint all critics with that brush, the usual bullshit it sounds like. It seems like most fans just want to move on from the sequel trilogy at this point, so if these guys are still fixated on it, I’d also question what the hell else they have in their lives to think about.

  3. Thank you for the mention! And absolutely agreed, bring back the Super Emeralds already. Throw in the Ultra Forms from the comics as well while they’re at it. I probably didn’t emphasise it enough in my article, but I absolutely love the Archie Comics of Sonic and would love to see a game with that storyline. Unfortunately the original author, Ken Penders, is… kind of a massive b*tch, so I’m afraid that won’t happen.

    I also saw the article under mine about Haato, and I’ve been following the Akai Haachama arc pretty closely (especially because one of my best friends has been recommending her to me a lot). Definitely one of, if not the most creative Vtubers out there… but unfortunately YouTube (and probably Cover Corps themselves) doesn’t like that creativity given how all videos are privated now. I do understand the decision to a sense because they were pushing the borders very hard with topics like suicide, but it’s still a shame.

    • Certainly! And more from the comics would be interesting. I’ve barely read anything from the Archie stuff, but I know there are some different characters and storylines in that we never see in the games. I have also heard about the asshole antics of Ken Penders, his lawsuit against Archie (and Sega I think?) in which he took ownership of some original characters he claimed or something. If the court granted him that right, yeah, it would probably be a total mess for Sega to try putting anything he was involved in at Archie into their games. I’m surprised; I thought these big media companies usually wrote very tight contracts that prevented this sort of thing.

      I didn’t even think about that, but if it’s an issue with Cover being nervous about suicide implications in Haato’s story, I can understand why they’d want to lock it down even if I’m sure that’s not how she intended it. I’m guessing it was the hanging imagery that was too much for them. Well, at least those H-art streams are still up, so they’re still pretty lenient with her.

      • Yep, it has been a mess ever since he left and one that is probably even ongoing to this date. I still see it pop up every now and then. It is an absolute shame because some of the characters he has written like pretty much the entire Echidna tribe, demigods and anti-Mobius (Scourge the Hedgehog, Fiona the Fox) will never ever see a return. Ken Penders in general is a very not-so-nice person, like how he proposed that it should be shown in the comics how his character would steal the virginity of Sonic’s girlfriend Sally right in front of him which fortunately never came to fruition. But putting that aside, I do genuinely miss all of these characters.

        It’s probably the hanging animations and the constant beheadings that led the higher-ups to this. A shame for sure, because now we won’t see the true end for quite a while and it probably will be not as horror-themed as the previous two ends.

      • What the fuck? I knew Penders was a bit weird, but I didn’t know he wanted to write an NTR plot into the comic, and with his own character doing the “stealing” no less. There are so many layers there that I don’t even feel right thinking about it. Thank God that never actually happened.

        Okay, now I can see it. I really liked the whole Haato’s head on Haachama’s body concept, but I guess we have to consider that there are kids watching or whatever (though there’s still the matter of the more or less 18+ streams, surprised she gets away with that too.) It is too bad, since she clearly likes doing this kind of horror.

  4. I will be going through the music in the morning (and will have a proper follow-up then), but I wanted to point out a tiny correction. The post you linked from my blog is actually a guest post written by my buddy MrMKL – I only edited it. Can’t really take credit for writing the article.

    Still though – thank you for the shout-out. 🙂

    I saw King Crimson on the docket for the music, so it looks like I’ll be starting off Monday right.

    • See, that’s what I get for my own lack of fact-checking. Thanks for the correction; I’ll edit that right now.

      Hope you like the music, and I look forward to your thoughts!

      • No worries. The by line on my site is so effin’ tiny that I was worried something like this might happen.

        I find it really entertaining that when I was listening to Steely Dan and Yes a few months ago that every single King Crimson song listed came up in the Youtube feed. Kinda goes back to something I said on stream while we were chatting one time: I know what music sounds like, but not what it’s called. Wasn’t until I was listening this morning that I realized, “Oh! I know this one”.

        Liked the first Van Der Graaf Generator song, but ho’ boy the others got a lot more difficult to listen to. You weren’t kidding when you said they have a big of a rough and ugly quality to them. There were parts I could appreciate, but others were a bit grating on the ears. Definitely seems like the kind of thing you have to be in the mood for instead of “casual Monday morning listening”, though I’ll listen to stuff like Black Hole Sun for that so…I probably don’t have a leg to stand on here haha.

        Thanks again for the shout-out. 🙂

      • Yeah, I remember us talking about that. I’m definitely obsessive about music, but when it comes to live-action films and even some aspects of games or anime like voice actors, I really don’t know too much, where others writing about that stuff are experts.

        Yeah, World Record isn’t exactly the easiest listen, even if I do really like it. But I also have to be in that weird mood for sure, otherwise it doesn’t work for me. I think that’s true of Van der Graaf in general, or at least for what I’ve heard of them.

        And of course! Looking forward to seeing what’s coming up next, as always.

  5. Work and responsibilities pushing your posts late, work and responsibilities keeping you from gaming all month… good luck with all that. Life gets tough to hold together sometimes, hope it gets you to where you need to be soon.

    • Thanks Aether. I think it’s just a busy wave for me right now. In any case it’s still one million times better than my old job where I was just plain killing myself, but I still hope I’ll get more time to myself soon.

  6. Thank you for the shout out 😀 and apologies for the lateness of this reply. Yes you should definitely finish Tonegawa!! I couldn’t stop watching it after the first few episodes, I think it may be the funniest anime I’ve ever seen.

    I’m not generally a prog fan but a couple of the tracks on that King Crimson album are astonishing! I particularly love In the Court of the Crimson King – it is just so epic!

    • It’s never too late! Thanks for reminding me of Tonegawa as well. I like its comedy angle, and it was interesting to see the inner workings of that massive evil corporation beyond the brief hints of them we see in Kaiji.

      Happy you liked the album! Yeah, that song is amazing. It almost sounds like it’s describing some city in a fantasy world. Maybe one of those old FF games.

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