Fire to the Sea (A Promenade Companion / Compagnon de Promenade)

compagnon de promenadeThe album Promenade stands alone, a complete and self-contained work. That said, also it has a couple of satellites in its orbit: two EPs whose names mark them as supplemental, a pair of records slaved to the album and implicitly elaborating on its meaning. One of these is called A Promenade Companion. The other is called Compagnon de Promenade. This will get complicated.
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Buzz’s Dungeon and the Cosmology of Spyro

buzz 01The Spyro series takes place in a universe which, at least structurally speaking, is genuinely unlike any other I’ve encountered in fiction. As you might expect from a mascot platformer, a typical Spyro game features a handful of free-roaming hub “homeworlds”, each of which in turn contains a selection of thematically-linked levels. We’ll concern ourselves primarily with the original trilogy developed by Insomniac Games, which constitutes a kind of canonical corpus (the series, much like Crash Bandicoot, famously nosediving when handed off to other studios). The first game takes place largely in a medieval fantasy world, differentiating itself from the genre’s more muted entries (eg, Dungeons & Dragons) by consciously drawing inspiration from fairy tales and – a little less intuitively – the 1967 Richard Harris film Camelot, elevating its light, saturated Arthuriana into full-blown cartoon. Though retaining this idea as a key component of its identity, the series rapidly diversifies its environments as it goes, adding everything from tomb-raiding to psychedelic surrealism, Wild West shoot-outs to Eastern temples.
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Bridge Transports Are Hard to Come By (The Martians Land at the Thames)

lv2-01Every video-game level, to some degree or other, is a response to the one that precedes it. Where the first level of The War of the Worlds began peacefully, the second begins with fire: our introductory fly-by is interrupted by the arrival of a Martian Cylinder, scorching the trees as it comes in to land. This is the second Cylinder we’ll encounter in-game, and also the last – as in the novel and album, the craft lose their significance quite early on, with the focus shifting to their passengers. Still, the vast number of enemy Martian units suggests there must be a hell of a lot of these Cylinders dotted around the country – certainly more than the total of ten specified in the novel. In additional second-level inversions, we begin trapped in a stationary Machine-Gun Turret rather than a mobile Armoured Lorry, and instead of having to potter around with target practice, we’re thrown into immediate combat.
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Hello, I’m Professor Ted Crilly (The Sketches and Advertisements)

professor ted crillyYou’ve seen the twenty-five episodes, of course. A series of six, another of ten, a Christmas special, and the final batch of eight. Perhaps you’ve even watched the Comic Relief sketch, with its precious twelve minutes of additional Father Ted. What you might not know is that there’s a little bit more. The years since the show’s conclusion have seen many attempts, both mooted and realised, to keep the flame of its glory burning in some way: prose fiction, vaunted remakes, and fan productions – some more interesting than others, and some even involving members of the original cast reprising their roles. Before we examine these, though, I’d like to take a look at the show’s official, contemporary live-action satellites. These are the very last dregs of the original Father Ted and its production: a smattering of brief advertisements, sketches, and (if we’re being generous) mini-episodes that were filmed to promote or capitalise on the show… and some of them are actually pretty fascinating.
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All Hail the Dark Lord of the Twin Moons (The Sampsans Epasode Numbar 164,775.7)

s22Even the heat death of the universe cannot prevent Fox from renewing The Simpsons. The show staggers on, a grim spectre of its majestic former self, but it’s no secret that the opening sequences handled by guest animators are the only part still worth watching. For the definitive proof, look no further than 2014’s “Clown in the Dumps”, a thoroughly unremarkable episode you may dimly recall hearing about because the producers hyped it as killing off a major character. As the title’s rubbish pun suggests, this was actually the very minor figure of Rabbi Krustofsky, father of Krusty the Klown. It was a milky bait-and-switch, the kind of feeble grasping for relevance tinged with nerveless fear of creativity that characterises the show’s long winter years. No, the only thing that matters about this episode is the opening sequence animated by Don Hertzfeldt, which may well be the single greatest moment in Simpsons history.
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Asleep Behind the Wheel (Promenade)

promenade 1If Liberation was Neil Hannon’s artistic breakthrough, it’s 1994’s Promenade that showed he knew it – and that, having scrambled and experimented until arriving at what was basically going to be his signature sound, it was time to dig in and explore this new territory. The resulting album essentially refines Liberation, keeping its tone while amplifying its orchestral elements and bringing a tighter conceptual and thematic focus to the lyrics. If there’s one point on which music critics and the Divine Comedy faithful can generally agree, it’s that this is Hannon’s greatest work, and the benchmark against which all subsequent albums must be measured. So, what’s the consensus masterpiece really all about?
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A Strange God in My Head (Indulgence No. 1)

indulgence a-sideHere’s an odd one. In October 1993, two months after the release of the Liberation album, Setanta quietly put out another Divine Comedy record. Intriguingly titled Indulgence No. 1, it has three tracks, no front cover, and no lyrics written by Neil Hannon. What even is this thing?
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