Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mixtape: The Best of Guitar Hero

On Monday and Tuesday this week I posted you The Rise and Fall of Guitar Hero, paying homage to the greatness and the unfortunate demise to one of my favourite video game series of all time. I posted the first half on Monday, which you can find here, and the second half yesterday, which you can find here.

But this post is about my favourite songs to play. Now, these songs aren't my favourite songs in the entire series, but a list of songs, proportioned across the six major titles, that are all fun to play if you have the knack for playing the game well. Now, my experience with Guitar Hero is that I'm a decent player, I can play all songs on "Hard" mode (bar two, which is "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and "Through the Fire and Flames", both on Guitar Hero III), and a decent selection of songs on "Expert" mode. I have actually completed the first Guitar Hero game on "Expert", but no other. So, I can play a decent bit. So naturally, some of these songs are usually the harder tracks to play, but some are not, some songs, like "Love Me Two Times" by The Doors, aren't too hard, but are just so much fun to play.

But before I show you the list, let me explain what my Mixtapes are about.
A Mixtape is a playlist of a certain genre, band or era. The list is generally 80 minutes long, the same length of a blank CD, with further recommendations if some of the songs aren't to your taste. Remember kids, downloading is wrong!

I do Mixtapes quite often on this site, so if you scroll down to the bottom of the page and use the tab "Mixtape" you can see other playlists I've created. But without further delay, here are my favourite songs to play in the Guitar Hero series!
  1. Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes (Warriors of Rock)
  2. Assassin - Muse (World Tour)
  3. Spanish Castle Magic - Jimi Hendrix (I)
  4. 21st Century Schizoid Man - King Crimson (5)
  5. Misirlou - Dick Dale (II)
  6. Love Me Two Times - The Doors (World Tour)
  7. War Pigs - Black Sabbath (II)
  8. Cult of Personality - Living Colour (III: Legends of Rock)
  9. Who Was in My Room Last Night? - Butthole Surfers (II)
  10. Sweating Bullets - Megadeth (5)
  11. Bark at the Moon - Ozzy Osbourne (I)
  12. Bodies - Drowning Pool (Warriors of Rock)
  13. One - Metallica (III: Legends of Rock)
  14. Du Hast - Rammstein (5)
  15. Psychosocial - Slipknot (Warriors of Rock)
  16. Cowboys From Hell - Pantera (I)
  17. Devil Went Down to Georgia - Steve Ouimette (III: Legends of Rock)
Don't like these songs? Here's five alternatives:
  1. Killer Queen - Queen (I)
  2. Institutionalized - Suicidal Tendencies (II)
  3. Black Sunshine - White Zombie (III: Legends of Rock)
  4. Overkill - Motorhead (World Tour)
  5. Brianstorm - Arctic Monkeys (5)
And that's my Mixtape! I hope you've enjoyed all three parts of my Guitar Hero homage over the past three days. That's it from me for now, have a good night!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Mercy Side: The Rise and Fall of Guitar Hero (Part 2)

If you missed the first half of the article, click here to read it!

Hello and welcome to the second part of my three part homage to Guitar Hero. Yesterday I gave you The Rise of Guitar Hero, which you can view here. Today, I’m going to talk about The Fall of Guitar Hero. Enjoy.

While things were going quite well for Activision and Neversoft, Harmonix and MTV Games were looking into making a new series of music games. This would also feature a guitar controller like Guitar Hero, but the guitar would have ten frets rather than five; the first five being in exactly the same place as the Guitar Hero controller but the other five would be on the base end of the neck of the guitar. They also developed drum kits, complete with a bass pedal and four symbols. Finally, they added a microphone for singing, similar to the SingStar series. All of these combined created a four player game, where someone could play guitar, another bass, someone on the drums, and someone singing, all at the same time. Harmonix called this game Rock Band, and it was officially a direct rival to the Guitar Hero series. This game series was more emphatic on online play, and more importantly, downloadable content, something the Guitar Hero struggled to do successfully at the present time.

Neversoft and Activision responded by initially going in a different direction, to creating another spinoff title. This title was Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, paying homage to one of the most famous rock bands of all time. There were many of Aerosmith’s most famous tracks on the game, as well as songs that inspired the band to create music in the first place, and also tracks that were inspired by Aerosmith. It was a wild project, but one that was ultimately successful with Aerosmith fans.

However with Rock Band on the rise and getting rave reviews, and with the game being very successful with all the available songs for download, Guitar Hero inevitably conceded they had to expand to compete. They too, starting using a drum kit set and a microphone to the game, also creating a good multiplayer experience. They released “Guitar Hero World Tour”, the fourth title in the main series, and had a then record 86 tracks in the game, and for the first time, all the songs were master recordings.
The complete World Tour package. Naturally a second guitar is needed for four player fun.
One of the criticisms that was given for Activision’s “Guitar Hero III” was that very little had changed to the gameplay since “Guitar Hero II”. Their response with “World Tour” was to have many new features. First was to have the four player experience as mentioned before, as well as change how the Career mode is played. The player can choose to play guitar, bass, vocals or drums, and multiple players can join in to create a full band. The player(s) choose their instruments; they choose an avatar and a band name. They then have a choice of ‘gigs’ to choose from, rather than the linear list of songs in the previous three games. Each gig has a different set list, and the idea is to complete the ‘gig’ and unlock the “Encore” song. After completing the “Encore” songs more gigs open up. This new method of choice made the choices a bit more personal rather than the previous games tell you what songs to play in what order. In the “Quickplay” mode, you can create your own gig playlist, rather than play songs individually. Choosing up to six songs in succession was definitely an improvement time wise to get the most out of the game. One of the main criticisms of “Guitar Hero III” as stated earlier was that the game was too difficult, the response was to add a new difficulty mode called “Beginner”, which featured the use of only one fret and this made the game simpler yet. There were more musicians added to this game than in “Guitar Hero III”, with Jimi Hendrix, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Ozzy Osbourne, Sting and a few more. There were also real venues added rather than the fictional ones of previous games, most notably the Ozzfest that was set in Germany.

The biggest additions to the were the “Create a Rocker” system, which allowed you to customise your own player. Another addition was the mode which allowed you to customise your guitar, which allowed you to change the colour and design of the skin and neck of the guitar; these additions further added to the individuality of the game. Another big addition was the ability to create your own songs note-for-note, on any of the instruments, and you can then put them online for other people to hear. The idea was for you to create your song, and it would be the “Expert” difficulty setting, and the game itself would create the simpler versions of the song.

Guitar Hero World Tour was released in October 28th 2008 on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PS2, and was met with positive reviews, although it still didn’t reach the heights of the first two games in praise.  There was a big feeling overall that Rock Band pretty much did everything better than Guitar Hero in nearly every aspect. My main criticism of the game lies in the list of songs; it’s just a weak playlist. Considering there was a record amount of songs available, most of the songs just weren’t any where near as fun to play, and there are questions to why certain songs are on the game again, especially the foreign tracks. With all due respect to Los Lobos and Spain, but not everyone can sing “La Bamba”, despite it being a very simple Spanish language track. My favourite track to play from World Tour was “Love Me Two Times” by The Doors, as it felt reminiscent to playing some of the great songs on the original game, the beat and riffs are just fun to play and it really brought me back to a few years ago when the songs were chosen for their enjoyment rather than the name on the game. I’d give the game **** stars.
Screenshot from Guitar Hero World Tour, emphasising the four players playing together.
As the Guitar Hero games had now officially hit the seventh generation consoles, it was only a matter of time before they tried to do games for the DS, and they released not one, but two games on the DS in 2008. Calling this spinoff series the “On Tour” series, the idea was for a grip to be attached to the back of the DS, which overlapped the handheld and the main compartment would plug into the GameBoy Advance Slot of the DS. Out of the GBA slot was the compartment, which had four frets, and you had a guitar pick that was used to strum on the screen of the DS. I’m not going to do into too much detail on the On Tour series but it was met with a decent reception, and the Guitar Grip was praised for its innovative design. The song lists however were quite small and that was were the main criticisms were.

If you didn’t count, that was four Guitar Hero games that were released in the year 2008. There was “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith”, “Guitar Hero On Tour”, then “Guitar Hero World Tour” and finally “Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades”. Neversoft and Activision went a bit mad, releasing game after game after game, and the series wasn’t selling as well as it used to.

They didn’t stop however. If you thought four games was bad, they went on to release SEVEN in 2009. You could argue that it was a knee jerk move, as the game series wasn’t selling as well as before. After paying homage to Aerosmith, they then followed that up with a great homage to Metallica. This was a great game, no doubt, and was very well received, but the continuing onslaught of Guitar Hero games means the charm of the game was pretty much non-existent. I have this game and if you like Metallica, get it, it’s a pretty damn good homage to arguably the most iconic metal band in the history of music.
The Guitar Hero games timeline, look at 2009, where SEVEN games we released.
The onslaught continued with the third and final On Tour game for the DS, with “On Tour: Modern Hits”, which, like the title suggests, is a game with many modern songs on it. The third game of 2009 was “Guitar Hero Smash Hits” which combined all the ‘best’ songs from the first three games for one game. There was a point to this exercise; the first Guitar Hero game was only released on the PS2, which was pretty much dead by this point, and the second one was only released on the Xbox 360. It gave fans access to the great tracks from the original games, however, at this point most of these songs were available as downloadable content for both the Xbox 360 and PS3, so the accusation of Neversoft and Activision ‘milking’ the product was inevitable.

The fifth and penultimate main title in the series was the fourth of seven games released in 2009. Simply titled “Guitar Hero 5”, it was a solid entry into the series, and had 85 songs, one down from “World Tour”, in the game. There wasn’t really any change in the game play from “World Tour”, but little nifty features were added, such as “Party Play”, which was used for ‘on the spot’ rocking. Anyone up to four players can start playing when they want, and exit when they want. The songs are played at random and it’s just song after song. If you want to just play right NOW, this was a good mode to use. The other mode that was added was the RockFest mode, which had 30 second bite size sections of songs. You can play up to four players offline or eight online, and everyone competes against each other in that 30 second time frame. There are different options to make the RockFest more competitive and interesting, you could do a mode called “Do or Die”, which refused to let you play that section of the song if you failed three notes in the song, or another option was “Streakers” which increased your points tally the longer your note streak was. This mode was a decent addition to the game, although an argument can be made to say that it’s not as competitive and fun as just playing against someone on a specific song.

A new feature was added to Career mode, which was called challenges, which asked you to do a specific task for a specific song, for instance with the microphone, one of the challenges was to perfectly hit the change of tone at the end of David Bowie’s “Fame”, when he says the word many times (at the ‘is there any wonder?’ section of the song). There were more musicians added to the game too, with Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Johnny Cash and Shirley Manson of Garbage and Matt Bellamy of Muse being available.
Matt Bellamy, one of my favourite guitarists, was featured in "Guitar Hero 5".
The game was released on September 11th, 2009 in the UK and was met with a great response. It’s considered the best post Harmonix Guitar Hero game, an opinion I definitely share. “Guitar Hero 5” had a great selection of songs when compared to “World Tour”, although it’s still weaker than the first and third games I feel. But there were some great tracks on the game, even from a fun playing experience, like “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth and the incredibly odd “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson. The songs were definitely better in terms of a band experience rather than a guitar experience, which really in the end doesn’t make sense due to the game being called “Guitar Hero”. But that’s the evolution of the series and the name “Guitar Hero” sells more than any other music rhythm game. I’d give the game ****1/4 stars as it’s a solid effort, but it still lacked a lot of the charm that the original had, and the track listing is not quite as good as the third in the series.

Going back to these spinoff titles, Neversoft and Activision continued the rampant “Guitar Hero” titles by moving onto DJ sets, with “DJ Hero”. Whilst you can argue that this isn’t a “Guitar Hero” title, let’s be honest, there would be no “DJ Hero” without “Guitar Hero”. “DJ Hero” has a turntable controller instead of a guitar controller which had three “stream” buttons on it, and it had a crossfader, an effects dial and a Euphoria button. I’m not going to get into much detail on this once again but it was praised by critics for its diverse track listing which did more than just do rap music, and for its change in approach to the “Guitar Hero” series.

The sixth game in 2009 was “Band Hero”, which played pretty much identically to “Guitar Hero 5”, but with a different set list. These songs were aimed at an audience who liked softer music, pop rock if you will. Artists such as The Jackson 5, No Doubt, Taylor Swift and N.E.R.D. were featured. The game was met with a mixed reception due to the fact that it was pretty much “Guitar Hero 5 Lite”, and only had 65 tracks in comparison to the 85 tracks in the earlier game. Last but not least “Guitar Hero: Van Halen” was released, and was similar to the Aerosmith and Metallica homage’s.
Gwen Stefani of No Doubt in Band Hero.
At this point everyone had had enough of Guitar Hero. The sales waned, there were far too many games and the critics slated the makers for milking the product far too much. What needs to be remembered in all of this is the expense of the games as a fan and customer. The guitar and game bundles here in the UK are usually £50, or the band packs were usually around £150. So, if I were to get the band pack for £150, then each game would cost £30. So for just the main series, I could have easily have spent £400 in Guitar Hero games to get everything, if not more. It’s just stupid money for the average customer, and you need to remember, it was only four years ago at this point when the game series was created. Also, this was around the time where the credit crunch happened, which squeezed the pockets not just of the people of the UK, but the States as well. The critics were very harsh on the creators of Guitar Hero, making jokes and ripping them for asking too much from the fans, making too many games in succession. To be fair, they responded with announcing that they would reduce the number of games to be made in 2010.

And that they did, in 2010, the last year of the life of Guitar Hero, they only released two games. They released the final game in the main series, which was called “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” and then “DJ Hero 2”. I want to briefly talk about DJ Hero 2, and say that once again, the game was well received. The main positive to take from the game was the even more diverse track listing on display, using artists such as Metallica, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, artists not associated directly with rap and dance music.

But the main final act for Guitar Hero was “Warriors of Rock”, which is also the most diverse of all the games. They wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from Rock Band whilst using the same peripherals, and changed the style of gameplay dramatically to achieve that goal.
Warriors of Rock features a lot of influence from Rush's 2112 album and song.
They did many changes, from things as subtle as adding yet another difficulty level in “Expert+”, although this was only used for the drums, where they introduced a double bass pedal.  Keeping with the theme of “Warriors of Rock” they redesigned all the characters in the game, giving them ‘warrior-esque’ looks and abilities. The career mode is replaced with “Quest” mode, where it is made possible to get much more than five stars for your song rating. In fact, it’s possible to get up to forty stars for each song. This is done by the ‘warrior’ star power abilities, which can do things like give you a six time multiplier for your star power rather than the original two, or by hitting a succession of note for an instant star gain. “Quest” mode puts you through all the songs, similar to the “Career” mode of old, but with added layers of story in a way never seen in the series so far. The story is narrated by Gene Simmons of KISS, where the player must save ‘the demi-god of Rock’ from a creature called “The Beast”, and the player must recruit eight more players to take on this creature. The players are basically the other characters from the game, who all have their signature styles and abilities. When recruited, these characters then turn into their ‘warrior’ guise, and are ready to take on The Beast. Without going into much more detail on the game, a lot of the latter parts revolve around the band Rush, and the ‘2112’ song, the logo and the ‘starman’ icon associated with it.

This new approach to the series was met with praise by critics, yet it did raise the concern that people who aren’t fans of Rush might not like the game much. It may have been a better idea to make this game “Guitar Hero: Rush”, although to concede, there are many other songs and artists featured in the game. Rush’s role in this game is purely for “Quest” mode, and there area total of 93 songs by 85 artists in the game otherwise, which more than makes up for anyone not interested in Rush.

Unfortunately for Neversoft and Activision, the game didn’t sell too well and it ended up being the final nail in the coffin of Guitar Hero. Activision in February 2011 announced that the series is on hiatus due to poor sales, although the way it was worded, it feels like it is indeed the end of Guitar Hero as we speak.
The many different Guitar Hero controllers through the years.
Guitar Hero barely if ever, produced a bad game. The series was consistently fun and that’s down to the great work done on the guitar controllers, and the decent selections of songs that were usually available. It wasn’t in the quality of gaming where Guitar Hero failed. The game series failed in the end because of greed. There was so much potential in the game series, but they wanted success, they wanted money, now. They wanted too much too soon, and it put off players and critics. The rise of Rock Band while not as successful financially as the Guitar Hero series, has still made over $1 billion in revenue, and a lot of these people who bought into that probably didn’t buy the Guitar Hero series afterwards, possibly because they couldn’t afford to or possibly because Rock Band maintained their reputation as a series who cares about fans. Keep in mind Activision released FIFTEEN titles in four years, where as Rock Band only released seven (the three main Rock Band titles with many downloadable tracks, a Lego game, and a homage to The Beatles, Green Day and Unplugged for the PSP). It was the pure greed and milking of the product that failed Guitar Hero, they never gave their fans enough time to take a breather from the series and maybe spend their money elsewhere. The decline in the music gaming marked at the turn of the decade approached, along with the credit crunch didn’t help, but Activision made their own grave unfortunately.

Maybe it’s not the end of the game series; hopefully they take a few years out and bring out a new title then. Let’s just hope there are enough people who are willing to buy either a new bundle or keep their old ones to show the interest. I know I will. I love and loved the Guitar Hero games. Like many people, I played it obsessively four or five years ago. But like many people, I grew out of it. I love video games in general and will play a variety of games. I have a wife and kid, and don’t earn a great deal of money, I can’t afford to buy every appliance Guitar Hero make, AND other games. But I have a lot of the games now, and I have two guitars. I’m going to upgrade to the Xbox 360 versions this Christmas, as I still have the PS2 originals. But I’m not going to play all the time, if not too often ever. Because I want to enjoy these games when I play them.

Guitar Hero has a place in my heart and it will never leave. Let’s give the series the round of applause it truly deserves, and remember the many, many good points the series gave us. If it’s truly gone forever, it will go down as one of the best video game series of all time, but it’s a story that I hope many other video game companies take heed of when thinking about their product, the audience, and the cost of video games.

I’ll be back tomorrow for the final part, the Mixtape, where I list my favourite songs to play in the game series. But for now that’s all from me, thanks for your time.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mercy Side: The Rise and Fall of Guitar Hero (Part 1)

Hey there, welcome to a three part homage to what I call The Rise and Fall of Guitar Hero. Today I’ll talk about The Rise of Guitar Hero, going through the first part of its history. I’ll talk about the series, the games, and my feelings on them as we go along. Tomorrow, part 2, is going to about The Fall of Guitar Hero, where I talk of its decline, as well as the games and my feelings that contributed to its demise. Part 3 will be put up on Wednesday, where I’ll be posting a Mixtape of songs that are my favourites to play from each game in the series.

The Guitar Hero series was one of my favourite game series of all time and in its peak, was extremely popular and has revived interest in many rock bands of the past. Activision claimed the third game in the series was the first title in the history of video gaming to hit $1 billion in sales, which shows you the power the game had at one time.

Guitar Hero first started off as a vision from a company called RedOctane, who saw potential in an earlier game series called GuitarFreaks, which had relative success in Japan. Seeing potential in the series, they decided to create their own game with their own format, hoping for success in the States. They asked Harmonix, a game development company who have created other music games such as Amplitude and Frequency, to moderate success. An agreement was made between the two to produce this game series.

The idea was to have a guitar controller to replace the control pad. This guitar controller would, naturally, be in the shape of a guitar. Where the frets of a genuine guitar would be, were five large plastic buttons. These ‘frets’ were colour coded; green, red, yellow, blue, and orange. On the base of the guitar was a strum bar that could be lifted up and down, and a whammy bar. The concept of the gameplay was for the respective colours of the frets would represent different notes in the sound of a guitar, and on the television screen, when you would see your respective coloured fret, you would hold down the colour of the fret, and strum in motion with the timing. Getting the timing with ten notes in succession would then double all your points. Getting twenty notes in succession tripled your points, and thirty notes quadrupled your points. That is the basic concept of Guitar Hero, arguably much easier than playing a guitar itself, which gave it access to many people of varying skill levels.
The original Guitar Hero controller.
There are other gameplay elements as well. If you had a long note in a song (like, in the beginning of “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath), you would simply hold down the respective coloured fret while the note is being played. You could play chords, simply by holding two fret buttons at the same time. Hammer ons and pull-offs were possible by pressing a series of frets in quick succession to a certain section of a song. At particular segments in a song, certain notes would have a white silhouette around them, and playing these notes in succession gave you an ability called “star power”. Gathering large amounts star power was fundamental in getting a high score in the game. To use star power, you have to store enough of it first, and then, then you lift the actual guitar controller ninety degrees upwards (or pressing the ‘select’ button on the controller itself), and all the notes would turn a glowing blue colour. When star power is activated, all notes count for twice the score as before. So if you hit over thirty notes in succession, you would have a quadrupled points multiplier; but with star power, those points would be doubled to eight times the original points. The whammy bar had its use too; if you were in a series of notes contending for star power, if any of those notes were long, you could use your whammy bar to start developing star power on the cuff.

Naturally with star power and a points multiplier, this game was very good at making it competitive to get the highest score. High scores in video games took a turn by the mid-nineties, not many games used high score boards, or used point systems. It wasn’t really until the mid naught, when leaderboards on Xbox Live and the PS3 were developed to compare your score to other people around the world when the point system gained a second wind. While Guitar Hero was released just before the seventh generation consoles became official, this really game did make it competitive again to compare your scores with other friends. Another addition is the rating of songs out of five stars, where successfully playing a song got you three stars, but hitting more notes and getting multipliers gave you a better chance of a four or five star rating.

As the original game didn’t have any licences to use master copies of any songs, they created cover versions for all the songs on the game. So with the guitar sorted, the gameplay elements created and the cover versions developed, everything was rocking to get the game released. All that was left really was to develop characters that the player could choose from. It was important that these characters were varied, and covered many genres of rock and metal, as there are so many subgenres of music that could be associated with the game. For instance, for ‘metalheads’, Axel Steel was created, a very large man with really big shoulders and long brown hair. In contrast, Johnny Napalm was designed with punks in mind; he was a tall and slim topless man with a Mohawk. One of the female characters was Pandora, a slim girl with dyed light blue hair and was appealing for people into the gothic fashion, and genres associated with that movement.
Johnny Napalm, the 'punk' character.
Everything was set! They released the game in the States on November 8th, 2005, and was met with huge critical acclaim. No one expected it to be the hit it was, with the soundtrack of cover versions praised and the guitar controller. The original Guitar Hero controller was modelled after the Gibson SG, a guitar used by Eric Clapton, The Edge, Dave Grohl, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, James Hetfield, Tony Iommi, Keith Richards amongst others. For me personally, the best thing about Guitar Hero was the fantastic effort put into the order of the songs. The idea was that you would have five tracks, and if you successfully play through them all, you’d unlock five more tracks. The songs got more and more difficult as the game went on. This is a formula used in most of the games, but no game has been more successful at making the learning curve arced to precision as the original game. Starting with “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and finishing with “Bark at the Moon”, the songs are for the most part simple yet great tracks that begin to take a difficult turn towards the middle, and at the end are songs with difficult riffs and guitar solos.

The game came out in the states in November ’05 and I caught wind of it around the turn of the year, when the game was starting to feature in many award listings. I completely forgot about it though as it wasn’t released in the UK yet. It wasn’t until around March time, when my local Game store had a playable demo. I gave “I Love Rock and Roll” a go and absolutely fell in love with the game. I HAD to have it. I found out when it was being released, which was April 7th 2006, and got a copy not long after then. I was hooked. It was one of the most amazing video game experiences I ever had. Playing these awesome songs, learning new ones, getting better at playing the game, it was ecstasy. I managed to beat it on Easy within days. “Easy” mode only allows you to use the first three of the five frets. I went onto “Medium”, which made you use four of the five. I remember going all the way with ease again, until I got to the penultimate track, which was “Cowboys From Hell” by Pantera, an excellent song, and found it too difficult. After a lot of practicing I finally beat it, and moved onto “Hard” mode, which was the first time all five frets were to be used. The rest is history now.

The original Guitar Hero had some excellent cover versions in the game, as there was no rights to any master copies, you have to give a lot of credit to the team who made these songs their own. Some of the songs are a bit off, like the person doing Lemmy in “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead, but some of them are pretty damn good. The original “Guitar Hero” will always have a place in my heart, the makers of the Guitar Hero series have improved certain elements of the gameplay as the series has gone on but the original has developed a certain charm to it, and it’s a game that I’ll always stick on once in a while. If I were to review the original Guitar Hero it would get ****1/2 stars from me, as there were things that could have been improved, and were. Let’s move on.
Guitar Hero I has a charm no other game in the series has.
After the success of Guitar Hero, it was inevitable a sequel was to be made. And the team were straight on it, with Guitar Hero II being produced and released here in the UK seven months after the first, on November 24th, 2006. I remember those months quite clearly. I remember being on MySpace on a Guitar Hero message board, and I, along with thousands of others, were excited to hear news on what songs were to be put on the sequel. We all made radical and personal suggestions in anticipation. Some songs were announced early, like “You Really Got Me” by Van Halen and “Freya” by The Sword. I remember “Misirlou” by Dick Dale being announced, and I marked out pretty bad. I’m not the biggest Dick Dale fan, or Pulp Fiction for that matter, but knowing such a complicated guitar track being put on the game was awesome. I remember not getting the game until probably Christmas, as I could afford it when it was released. In the month between then, I vividly remember going on YouTube to view how hard “Misirlou” was going to be and being in awe over how much strumming you would have to do on the harder difficulties. I also remember this time my local GameStation having the complete copy of Guitar Hero II on display for customers to try out, and actually unlocking a lot of the songs myself, just to play “Misirlou”. It was as difficult yet epic as I had imagined. Another highlight for me in the second entry in the series was one of the bonus tracks. I had never heard of Homestar Runner or Strong Bad, but playing “Trogdor” changed all that. I didn’t really understand why the song was funny or how I’d missed it, being someone that had been into this type of internet humour for some time, but doing some research on it not long after playing the song showed me the wonders of Strong Bad, and SBEmail. If you like internet humour then give SBEmail a go, Strong Bad is one of the funniest online villains of all time.

Anyway, Guitar Hero II picked up from what Guitar Hero started. In this game it was possible to play songs on bass guitar, and you could play co-op with a guitar and a bass player. One of the most important yet subtle changes to the game were the hammer ons and pull offs being much easier to do this time around. I’m not sure why it was difficult to do it in the original, but the change was thoroughly appreciated universally. Some new characters were added this time round, like Lars Umlaut, a Nordic death metal player, and Izzy Sparks, who represented the hair metal movement of the eighties. There were also three note chords, which were simply strummed by holding three of the five frets. Guitar Hero II’s soundtrack wasn’t as good as the original Guitar Hero’s, I mean there were some great additions like “Beast and the Harlot” by Avenged Sevenfold, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath but on the whole there were a lot of songs that just didn’t feel belong, or weren’t as fun to play as others. In the original game there were songs that I wasn’t too fussed about, but they were fun to play and you could understand their inclusion into the game. Guitar Hero II didn’t always have songs that felt that way. Still, it was a solid effort, one I rate at ****1/4 stars.

The seventh generation consoles were starting to become the main force around this point, and if Guitar Hero was to keep remaining relevant they had to move onto the new consoles. Their first venture was to move Guitar Hero II to the Xbox 360, and they did this in April 2007. The PS3 and Wii don’t have this title in their collection. To mark this occasion, the makers made a special guitar controller for the Xbox 360 version, which was shaped like the Gibson Explorer, which was used by the likes of Clapton again, The Edge again, Billy Gibbons and Paul Stanley. This controller however was criticised as the base model was smaller than that of the PS2 controller, and was harder to hold therefore.
The Guitar Hero II controller, modelled after the Gibson Explorer.
In July 2007, the final Guitar Hero by Harmonix was released. This spinoff title, “Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s”, paid homage to many artists associated with the eighties. It was met with mixed reviews due to the soundtrack not being as good as the previous games, and also because it had fewer songs, yet was the same price as the other titles. I bought this myself, but soon sold it when I completed it, as it just wasn’t a very good set of songs, even from the eighties.

Some time between the release of “Guitar Hero II” and “Rocks the 80s”, Activision gained acquisition of RedOctane, and MTV Games bought Harmonix. They decided to release another sequel, and sought out Neversoft to develop it. The Guitar Hero series was an incredible mainstream machine by this point, and was on a high never experienced before. With the muscle of MTV, they were able to finally start using master recordings when available. With Neversoft they had an experienced and valued developer, who had given the world the Tony Hawks series. They built “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” from scratch, with their own designs and ideas behind the game.

The game was released in October in the US, and on November 23rd, 2007 here in the UK. With a massive 73 playable tracks, it was a huge collection of songs. They had some great tracks on the set, and many of them were master recordings, like “One” by Metallica, “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden and “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones. The game was a huge project, much bigger than the other two games, and it had the feeling of a gaming giant about it. Playing “Guitar Hero III” and “Guitar Hero” were similar experiences, naturally, but there was a different feeling this time round. Playing “Guitar Hero” back was like going back to an old house you moved away from, which was smaller than your current house. “Guitar Hero III” had many pros and many cons. On the whole, I’d say this is probably my favourite title in the series, just because there are so many excellent songs on the track listing. At this point I was able to play many songs on “Expert” and the third in the series is most certainly the most difficult game. They really put all their efforts to testing the hardcore Guitar Hero gamers to the max, “One”, “Number of the Beast” were incredibly difficult songs to play. But it was one of the additional features that made the game so difficult.
Slash makes an appearance in the 3rd game, he also featured heavily in the games marketing and artwork
The main inclusion for “Guitar Hero III” was the new battle feature, which was available in two-player as well as in the main storyline. In this game, the idea is that star power is replaced by battle power ups, which are used to hinder your opponents ability to play the song successfully, like crank the difficulty, or make one of the frets disabled temporarily. This battle feature, as mentioned earlier, is used in the main storyline. In the main storyline there are two famous musicians, Slash and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. You must ‘battle’ them to progress. At the end of the game the final battle commences, against Lou the Devil. This battle is incredibly difficult. The song, a metal cover version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (an incredible cover version may I add) is played, and playing against the Devil is just ridiculously difficult. It’s so difficult that personally, I’ve never beaten him on “Hard” mode; it’s only one of two songs that I can’t beat on that difficulty in the entire series. The other song? Oh, that’s in this game too. When you beat the game, you unlock the hardest song in all of the Guitar Hero games, “Through the Fire and Flames” by DragonForce. The song, when done on Expert, has nearly 4000 notes in it, and is eight minutes long. Having scoured YouTube, it looks like the first evidence of someone actually completing the song with 100% of the notes is in this video below, which was put on YouTube on June 3rd, 2008, eight months after the game was released. The guy has a rival now, and the two have been trading records for the most points in the song. Me? As I said, I can’t even beat it on “Hard”!
So, one of the pros for the game is that it has a huge selection of great tracks. Another pro is that the design of the game and its characters was definitely an improvement. The cons? Well, I said there were many great tracks to play, but this title definitely has many duds as well. Because there are a total of 73 tracks, there are definitely songs on the game that haven’t really got much justice to be on there. None more so than “When You Were Young” by The Killers. I’m not saying it’s a bad song, but when this game is called “Guitar Hero”, and the entirety of the first verse has NO guitar in it at all, it shouldn’t be in this game. You’re just sitting (or standing there), for an entire verse, with no game play at all. It’s stupid. A similar experience also occurs in “Miss Murder” by AFI. These songs just shouldn’t be on this game. Another con was the difficulty of the game, as I said earlier, the game was definitely aimed at the more skilled Guitar Hero fans but they didn’t really make the game that accessible to new players. The beautiful learning curve of the original Guitar Hero was definitely gone by now. But the biggest con in this game is all the plugging and advertisement in the game. It takes about 90 seconds in the beginning of the game for all the companies, and there is a lot in the game too, none less than the stupid “bom chicka wow wow” girls. Nevertheless, this was a solid entry, and the pros definitely outweighed the cons, and I’d give the game ****1/2 stars again, as I said, I usually play this entry over any other.

I call this part The Rise of Guitar Hero. Tomorrow I’ll be back with The Fall of Guitar Hero. I hope you’ve enjoyed this half of the story and I hope you come back tomorrow with the second part. On Wednesday I’ll be putting up my favourite songs to play. I hope to see you back here tomorrow pronto! Have a good night.

Here's part two of "The Rise and Fall of Guitar Hero"!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Live Thoughts: Liverpool vs Wolves (Premier League)

I covered this match live. Here are my unedited thoughts as the match took place.

Hey there, here's another live thoughts section from me. After two away defeats, we struggled but successfully fought off a valiant Brighton in the Carling Cup. Let's hope that we can build on that win with our first home fixture in around a month, against Wolves. It was announced today that our next opponent in the Carling Cup is Stoke away, the same fixture we lost two weeks ago. Hopefully we can cover some ground and beat them at the Britannia next time. It's not an easy fixture though.

Enough about Stoke, here are the lineups for today:

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Carroll, Suarez. Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Coates, Kuyt, Spearing, Flanagan, Bellamy.

Gerrard still not fit enough to start, but I'm sure he's going to play some part today. I'm disappointed not to see Kuyt play from the beginning after his goal against Brighton, and possibly the same for Bellamy. But it's a decent lineup. Best thing about it? Martin Kelly is back. We've missed him a lot, and I'm starting to think he has a realistic chance of taking over Glen Johnson as our main right back. There's still room for improvement though. Definitely better than Skrtel there though!

Wolves: Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Henry, Hunt, Edwards, O'Hara, Jarvis, Doyle. Subs: De Vries, Elokobi, Fletcher, Hammill, Milijas, Guedioura, Doherty.

Wolves beat us here last season, and they have improved a bit since. That being said we also have improved a lot since that fixture, and anything other than three points today is simply a disappointment. Their danger lies in Hunt and O'Hara, who are very dangerous when on form. Kevin Doyle is also an underrated striker in the Premier League.

2' - Wolves have had the better of the play so far. Not the best start for us.

4' - We counter attack with Suarez and Carroll but it leads to nothing. It's frustratingly the furthest we have gotten so far.

7' - You wouldn't think we're the home side at the moment based on how much pressure Wolves are putting on us. They're not dominating, but we are second best at the moment.

8' - Finally a decent burst of pressure. Adam had a shot saved and it goes for a cortner. Nothing comes of it, but we manage to put their defence under that little bit of pressure as we pass around their box.

10' - More pressure; another corner. Wayne Hennessy punches the ball nicely out of the box. Good keeping.

10' - GOAL! Liverpool 1-0! Charlie Adam takes a pot shot from around 20 yards that looks like it took a deflection! There's a possibility that Wolves should have had a free kick before, as Carroll put some pressure on Roger Johnson earlier.

11' - It's been put down as an own goal by the way. We are lucky to be winning this match. Wolves have been the better side and there is an argument to be made that the goal shouldn't have counted. My take was actually yes, it should have been a free kick for Wolves. But as a biased Reds fan... yay! We're winning!

13' - Adam! Close. We're on top now. That bit of luck has put the confidence in the Reds.

16' - They just showed the Carroll replay. It was a foul. But these things happen. These decisions go for and against teams all the time.

19' - That was excellent from Suarez then. Pepe Reina kicks the ball probably 100 yards up fron to Suarez, who drags the ball to the right of the penalty area, before backheeling, taking his defender away and tries to pass the ball. Wolves clear but it was a piece of magic by Suarez then, and Reina, once again, proving why he's one of the best kickers of all the keepers in the world.

22' - Suarez! Another close effort! Carroll and Suarez combine nicely, with
Carroll passing from the left but it's just a bit too long.

25' - Carroll clears the ball in our own box this time as Matt Jarvis puts in a cross. He's been great so far today Carroll, a justified selection from Kenny Dalglish.

27' - Dangerous free kick territory for Wolves. Around 20 yards out, slightly to the left. It hits our wall and nothing comes of it.

30' - Downing has a nice run down the left wing and crosses it to Suarez who scuffs it wide. Shame.

32' - Carl Henry gets a yellow card. Martin Skrtel makes a run down the centre of the pitch and Henry tugs him down. It's not really worthy of a yellow but the protests didn't help.

33' - Lucas is now yellow carded. There's a flurry of cards now, the players are a little agitated. Lucas has done a few challenges today mind.

34' - A very dangerous free kick for Wolves. It was on the outside of the penalty area, on the right. It goes over the wall and Lucas blocks it. Wolves should have done better with that.

36' - The possession apparently is 67%/33% to Liverpool in these past five minutes. It doesn't feel as we were as dominant now as we were 15 minutes ago.

37' - GOAL! Luis Suarez finally gets his goal! He completely times his run to perfection, taking the ENTIRE Wolves defence out. Enrique was the passer. Suarez is 1 to 1 with the keeper he takes his time, one of the Wolves players get to him, he takes him on and slams it into the centre of the net, keeper no chance! What a player!

39' - Suarez is on fire at the moment, he takes on a few players and passes to Carroll, but the ball completely missed it. No one is on his level on the pitch at the moment, not even Carroll knows what he's about to do!

42' - Yellow card for Stephen Hunt, he takes out Charlie Adam really late. A justified decision from the referee.

45' - Two minutes of added time.

45' - SUAREZ! Great save by Hennessy. There was some good movement from Downing and he gets the ball to Suarez, who with little space around passes the ball round the keeper but with a desperate hand, Hennessy saves well.

45+1' - Andy Carroll takes a wild shot that goes no where as there were too many Wolves players around him. He's had a good half though, no critisicm from me.

45+2 - Half time.

My thoughts on the first half are that we are on top of this game now. It took the second goal really for that to become official. Our first 10 minutes were pretty dire. The first goal was lucky, Carroll got away with a foul on Johnson, and Adam's shot was deflected into the net by the same player. As the match got on we grew in confidence, and that in turn made Suarez more and more dangerous. His second goal was fantastic, his timing to avoid the offside flag was perfect. He's easily the best player on that pitch today. I hope this performance continues to excel in the second half.

45' - Changes at half time for Wolves: Matt Doherty and Steven Fletcher for Richard Stearman and David Edwards.

48' - GOAL! Steven Fletcher! That's what you call making an impact... a cross from the left, but Reina doesn't deal with it. Hunt lays it for Fletcher who slams it into the net. Wolves are back in this.

49' - SUAREZ! He should have a brace now! Good play from Carroll who puts Hennessy under pressure and the ball gets to Suarez who's shot is saved nicely by the keeper.

52' - CARROLL! Oh dear it hit the post! Unlucky!

54' - It's been a very exciting start to the second half from the unbiased audience, although we shouldn't have made the mistake to let Wolves back in this.

55' - Doyle! Reina collects the ball! Doyle has some space in the box and takes a shot that hits a Red, and Reina collects it.

56' - Carroll slides at a Wolves player rashly, and he's given a yellow card. Very rash.

57' - The ball drifts to the Liverpool defence on the left, and for some reason Reina's out towards the corner flag. Thankfully he clears it, a bit odd though.

61' - O'Hara takes his chance from distance and it floats over the goal.

64' - Jarvis wins a corner for Wolves. Kelly was dealing with him okay in the first half but tale is starting to change.

65' - Nothing comes of the corner. Wolves are playing much better now, they're the better team at this moment of time. It's probably time to start thinking of subs now I say. Gerrard could come on and try to steady ship.

66' - Kelly looks like he's getting a yellow card. He mistimes his tackle quite badly, although unintentionally. It's proof that Jarvis is winning the battle at the moment if Kelly feels to resort to do sliding tackles.

67' - O'Hara takes the free kick from near the left corner flag. He lifts the ball off the ground and kicking it right into the middle of the box. Absolute mayhem in the box, we didn't deal with it and it's a corner for Wolves.

68' - Nothing comes of it but they're still on top. A cross is in the box and Berra tustles with Reinafor it and Berra wins, but heads it wide.

69' - LUCAS! Just wide. Carroll sets Lucas up for a shot a good 20 yards out and he places the ball, just wide of the Wolves left goal post. Nice effort although I'm sure a blasted shot would have been more effective.

70' - Liverpool Sub: Dirk Kuyt comes on for Jordan Henderson. Good move I say, not to say Henderson has had a bad game, I just think Kuyt's presence is needed.

71' - Downing passes it to Suarez just outside the box and Suarez takes on his defender and beats him! He shoots wide though. Bad shot at the end unfortunately.

73' - We're making the game a bit more even now, a bit of a surge in the last three minutes is going our way.

75' - A lot of the ball is going to Downing who keeps trying to whip crosses from the left with mixed results. He has found Suarez a couple of times though.

78' - Gerrard is going to come on soon.

81' - Liverpool Sub: Gerrard comes on for Luis Suarez, two games in a row. Suarez was excellent in the second half.

82' - Wolves Sub: Adlene Guedioura replaces Stephen Hunt. That's all three Wolves subs used now.

83' - Replays of Suarez going off and he kicks a bottle in frustration. I love and hate his frustration. He needs to show respect to the other players in the team who are also wanting to play. But at least he cares, at least he's passionate. As I said I like and hate it.

86' - GERRARD! Just over. Vintage Gerrard gets the ball just outside the box, he heads it down and a sharp volley is just over the bar. I missed those shots! Welcome back Gerrard!

88' - Nice counter attacking football from Gerrard and Kuyt as they pass and switch places from the centre and left sides of the pitch. It ends with Gerrard on the left of the penalty box but the Wolves defender intercepts. It was nice movement from those two great Reds. Gerrard is looking lively today.

90' - Three minutes of added time.

90+3' - Carroll gets the ball in the box and dances around two defenders but just can't shoot, the defender takes the ball off him in the end and the whistle blows.

Full time analysis is that once again, we did enough. We were the better team after the first goal, until the first half finished. Luck was definitely on our side as we were quite bad for the first 10 minutes. A freak deflection got our game going, and going into half time 2-0 was enough for the win today. A great tactical decision from Mick McCarthy to go 4-4-2 (they started 4-5-1) and to put Fletcher on got them their goal. It also made them much more dangerous than in the first half. Gerrard's inclusion in the last 10 minutes made the game much easier to phase out, and we get 3 more points which brings us to 4th place, but with one game more played than those teams around us. Until next time, take care.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Music Album Review: Psycho Jukebox by Jon Fratelli

Has Jon Fratelli gone from Glasgow to Vegas? No; he’s moved across the street, but it doesn’t matter, it’s a damn good album.
Psycho Jukebox was released two months ago, and is Jon Fratelli’s debut album. This isn’t his first venture into music however, you may be more familiar with a band he fronted a few years, called The Fratellis. The band have been put on hiatus for a few years now, and since then Jon Fratelli formed a duo with a lady called Lou Hickey, and they called themselves the Codeine Velvet Club. After that, Jon Fratelli started to hint at a solo career, before going to Los Angeles to start working on a solo album. ”Psycho Jukebox” is the result of that project.

Starting with the extremely simple and catchy “Tell Me Honey”, Jon Fratelli’s debut work feels like familiar territory. The brit-pop/punk hybrid elements are there, and to put simply, if the song was stamped with “The Fratellis” rather than “Jon Fratelli” you wouldn’t have known any different. It’s a great track, one of the best on the album and is very typical of Jon’s previous work with his previous band.

We then continue on with “Daddy Won't Pay Your Bill", which starts to show a slightly different side to Jon’s repertoire. It’s a softer sound; there’s more of an indie sound in the music and there’s an added sincerity to the vocals he uses. Not to say there’s been no sincerity in his music before; there are certain tracks in his previous work that encompasses this trait, it’s just that he doesn’t often keep the upbeat tempo to his music whilst doing so, where as he does just that in this song. The track nicely combines a topic of a stern nature with a certain amount of affection. One thing I’ve always loved about Jon Fratelli is his fantastic raspy voice, and it’s definitely on show here.

Track three is the first single off the album, “Santo Domingo”, which was actually released earlier in the year in February. This is a track that could have easily fit into the nineties, with its Brit-Pop elements, something that I personally have associated with Jon’s previous band The Fratellis many times. Both The Fratellis, and in certain cases in this album, there is this odd feeling of familiarity with music fifteen years ago. That’s not a criticism, it’s an observation. “Santo Domingo” regardless is a great song, rightfully chosen as one of the singles for its cheeriness.

"Rhythm Doesn't Make You a Dancer", track four, is definitely an eclectic sound for Jon Fratelli. It’s a very bumpy track, yet it’s really cool as well. The chorus sounds great and there’s a decent guitar solo in there as well. One of my personal favourite tracks is “She’s My Shaker”, track seven, as it just sounds like a proper little indie anthem. There chorus is simple again. “And they went la la la la la, la la la-la la...”, yet it sounds fricking awesome. There’s nothing diverse really about the sound of the song, yet catchy songs like this just make me happy personally. One thing I will say about the track is that the lyrics are very reminiscent of the type of lyrics used probably in the sixties, mixing innuendo with happiness, to cover up the true meaning of the track. It’s a quality song.

The albums true moment of shine really is “Baby, We’re Refugees!”, track eight, which was the second single off the album. If “She’s My Shaker” was anthem-like, then this song is a true winner. It’s the shortest track on the album, as it has a verse, a bridge, another verse, a pre-chorus and then the chorus. The verses build the song up really nicely for the climatic chorus, which is a pure chant of “carry me home, carry me home, carry me…” It’s just a piece of excellence, simple excellence at that really shows how Jon Fratelli can create great music at times with considerable ease.

I read a few of the reviews for this album before showcasing my thoughts on it. I was quite surprised to see many critics showing mixed reviews for the material on show. The main criticism is that Jon Fratelli claims to have changed his sound; put more of his personal touch to the music, which many critics have disagreed with. On the whole, I agree, he hasn’t changed dramatically what was essentially The Fratellis. You could put a stamp on most of the tracks with the The Fratellis and no one would bat an eyelid. That isn’t a criticism for me in terms of the quality of the music however. The music on this album is great, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. But… has Jon Fratelli created a different sound? A sound he’s never been associated with before? On the whole, the answer is no. There is however, a very discrete touch to the music on offer that has an influence from other eras and genres. As I said “She’s My Shaker” lyrically, could have easily have been written a good fifty years ago. There are other examples too, track ten, “Oh Shangri La", definitely has a Vegas/Presley feel to it. It’s one of the more diverse tracks, with a lot of rock ‘n’ roll feeling in it, particularly from the early to mid seventies. You could make an argument that “Cavemen”, track eight, has a certain twinge of The Doors in there, lyrically and in certain phases musically, although for the most part it’s just a typical indie track. The final track off the album, "Sometimes You Just Can't Win", starts with a piano that is not too dissimilar to “Let it Be” by The Beatles, but then it just turns into a song that sounds exactly like the final track off “Here We Stand”, the second Fratellis album, which was called “Milk and Money”, apart from “Milk and Money” for me personally is a much better quality track and the song changes its tempo turns a bit buoyant for the finale.

All in all this is a great album. It’s actually for me, my summer album, I listened to it more than any other album over the past two months and I take pride in that. It’s fantastic. But the main problem here lies in the message that Jon Fratelli has conveyed. It’s not a different sound to The Fratellis. It’s an extension of that project. More proof is that he has since recruited Mince Fratelli, the drummer from the band. Also Tony Hoffer, the producer, worked on The Fratelli’s debut album. Only Barry Fratelli, on bass, is missing really. I don’t want this to be a criticism. The material on show here is of decent quality, on a personal level it’s only a notch down from The Fratellis as a band. I thoroughly enjoy this album and Jon Fratelli is a very talented man, it’s a credit to him in a certain way that he made an album without the help of his previous band mates (Mince didn’t work on the album, he’s there for touring) that is of such good class. But the message is incorrect, because on the whole, this isn’t a break in musical change; it’s an expansion from The Fratellis.

In theory what Jon Fratelli is saying is that he’s gone from Glasgow to Vegas, but in reality, he’s just moved house across the street. But don’t let that taint anything on show, because what is available is grand, and I thoroughly recommend you give it a try if you like The Fratellis.

Rating: ****1/4 stars
Stand out tracks: “Baby, We're Refugees!”, “She's My Shaker”, “Santo Domingo”

Here's the music video for "Baby, We're Refugees!":

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Live Thoughts: Brighton vs Liverpool (Carling Cup)

I covered this game live. Here are my unedited thoughts on the match. 

Hey there, welcome to another one of my live thoughts sections. This time I'm covering Brighton vs Liverpool, where I'm hoping the Reds can take one step further to winning a cup. More importantly, I'm hoping this match and performance can start another great run of form, following the horrendous result and display at Tottenham on Sunday.

Here are the teams: 

Brighton: Ankergen, Calderon, Greer, Cook, Vincelot, Buckley, Bridcutt, Navarro, Sparrow, Noone, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Brezovan, Rodriguez, Dunk, LuaLua, Barnes,Taricco, Kasim. 

The south coast team have just been promoted to the Championship after a fantastic display in League 1. Gus Poyet has made quite the impression as a new young manager. They have some decent options on the flanks, let's hope we can cope with that. 

Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Robinson, Carragher, Coates, Lucas, Spearing, Maxi, Kuyt, Bellamy, Suarez. Subs: Doni, Gerrard, Flanagan, Downing, Wilson, Shelvey, Carroll.

Quite a few changes, as expected. Interesting to have Coates make his first start for the club, but I'm sure he'll impress against a lower league side. Bellamy starting for the first time in his second stint at the club, let's hope he can score tonight. We have some big guns in there, Carra, Suarez, Reina and Lucas are all important first team players. We're going near to full throttle tonight with our selection and I'm happy about that.

2' - Very patient start from Liverpool. I'm sure we'll apply to some pressure soon.

5' - Corner to Liverpool. Bellamy and Suarez had a decent understanding for the moment. Let's hope it continues.

6' - GOAL! Craig Bellamy! Just simple really. Suarez gets the ball on the inside of the penalty box and spots Bellamy's run between two defenders and passes easily through them, and Bellamy slots it past the keeper to the bottom right corner!

9' - Another corner. We're not dominating as such, but we're threatening when we have the ball. 

11' - There seems to be a decent amount of understanding between Suarez, Kuyt and Bellamy. It seems exciting. 

14' - Suarez and Bellamy connect again, Suarez in the middle this time and Bellamy on the right. Bellamy tries to cut a square ball into the penalty area but there's too many Brighton defenders. 

15' - There's some decent counter attacking at the moment from both sides. Both teams trying to make an impression here. 

16' - Maxi crosses the ball over all the Brighton defenders from the right and nearly gets to Kuyt but it's just too long.

17' - Kuyt! Was that over the line? Referee says no. Replays say no as well.

19' - Alan Navarro lashes out at Bellamy. It wasn't dirty, it was frustration. It's proof we're in control at the moment. 

21' - Mauricio Taricco, the assistant manager at Brighton, also plays once in
a while. He's 38 and hadn't played professionally for six years prior to his recent games for the club. He's a brave man.

23' - As the commentator has also said, we're just ripping them in midfield. There's so much space there at the moment it's just too easy. 

25' - We're in total control at the moment. Passing with ease in their half. 

25' - Suarez... that was close. Great movement from Kuyt to find Suarez who just shoots wide of the post.

28' - Coates concedes a corner sloppily. He should have done better. It comes to nothing thankfully.

31' - Free kick to Liverpool. Suarez hit the grass after the ball was played. It's around 25 yards out to the right. Bellamy takes it and Suarez heads the ball and it hits the right left post!

32' - Apparently this is only Reina's third Carling Cup match. I'm sure he played against Exeter so it shows how serious we're taking this competition when we're putting our #1 goalkeeper in this season. 

34' - Pictures of Gerrard warming up. He's getting an applause from both sets of fans. Great stuff. He has been missed, although I do wonder how much he has left long term in his locker. 

36' - Jack Robinson crunched into a 50/50 tackle in the middle of the pitch. Great to see that young kid getting a chance. I say young, he's not much older than me! 

37' - Matt Sparrow! Reina saves it with some ease. It doesn't matter, it's by far the closest they have come so far. 

39' - Tackle from behind on Bellamy by Steve Cook. It was a little reckless and the ref tells him to be careful.

40' - Bellamy! Off the bar! Beautiful attempt! He hits a rocket from the left of the outside of the penalty area and it's an arrow shot that hits the right side of the crossbar! And Matt Sparrow gets a yellow card. 

42' - Penalty claim from Brighton gets nowhere. Will Buckley fumbles to the ground against Martin Kelly and it was a soft fall really. It didn't look like a penalty.

42' - Brighton on the attack. Coates looks uncomfortable in the box again and Reina has to claim. It's not good again from the young Uruguayan.

43' - Spearing! Lovely save by Ankergren! A low drive from spearing to the bottom right corner is saved nicely by the Danish keeper.

44' - Brighton as we approach the end of the first half are starting to gain confidence. 

45' - Two minutes of added time. 

45+1' - Craig Noone! Saved by Reina! Another Brighton player tries for the rebound and Kelly smacks it for a corner. Exciting ending to the half for the wrong reasons this! 

45+1' - There's a free kick just outside our box for Brighton. This looks like the last move of the game and it's over the goal.

45+2' - Reina takes the goal kick and it's half time. Decent performance from Liverpool for 40 minutes. We dominated the game with crisp and precise passing. Their midfield was nothing. We cut through them with such ease. We had a few good chances that we should have taken. Bellamy has had a great game. At the end Brighton gained confidence and had a few decent chances to equalise. We did just enough. We have to score early in the second half I say or this game could turn difficult, with Brighton having a good spell late on.


48' - Noone! Off the bar! That was close and easily Brighton's best effort so far. Come on Liverpool, get back to the way you were playing earlier! 

50' - They just showed the replay of that belter from Noone. Reina was beaten. It was a top class strike that. 

51' - We're giving Brighton a lot more of the ball in this second half. Not to say they're on top of us, it's around the same at the moment. 

52' - Inigo Calderon works hard and gets into our box and hits a square ball past everyone. They're starting to look impressive now.

54' - Matt Sparrow! Reina saves to the ground. They're now on top of us, I'm sorry to report. Let's hope we can get control again soon. 

56' - Brighton corner. They've been dancing around our box for a good few minutes. It's looking dangerous. Their confidence is through the roof. Nothing comes of it and Reina collects. 

58' - Yellow card for Spearing for as he pulls back one of the players. Can't see who it was at the moment. 

60' - Brighton Sub: Will Buckley, who I believe was the player tugged by Spearing, is replaced by Vicente Rodriguez.

60' - If you didn't know, yes that is THE Vicente. He was a great player a good few years ago. Spanish international. I wonder how good he is now, he hasn't been a prominent player for a few years unfortunately.

62' - The stoppage time earlier seems to have calmed the atmosphere down, which hopefully will come in our favour. Calderon now needs a bit of treatment.

65' - Yeah the game is more even now. Let's hope we can start to take them on again.

66' - Yellow card for Romain Vincelot. 

67' - Vicente has his first proper effort as he dances through a few Liverpool players and dinks the ball just wide of Reina's post. 

70' - The crowd clap loudly as Noone earns a corner. He's been their best player so far. 

71' - The referee stops the play as a fan is on the pitch. 

72' - Steven Gerrard is getting ready to be brought on. Half a year he's been out of action for, too long.

73' - Free kick from around 30 yards out in a central position. Suarez takes it and it hits the Brighton wall and goes high for a corner. 

74' - Liverpool Sub: Steven Gerrard comes on, long overdue, for Luis Suarez. 

77' - Brighton Sub: Matt Sparrow goes off for Kazenga LuaLua, who is on loan from Newcastle United.

79' - Some pressure from Brighton then and we were slightly shaky in defence. We clear it.

80' - GOAL! Dirk Kuyt! First goal of the season for Kuyt, it started off as a Brighton corner and we somehow counter attack and Maxi storms forward and cuts the ball to Kuyt's path who squirms the ball to the leftof the keeper and it hits the right post and in. 2-0!

81' - That was a relief. Brighton were starting to look dangerous again. It should be okay now, unless we screw up.

82' - They announce the attendance and apparently it's Brighton's highest so far this season. Kudos to them, they've been great tonight the fans, and the club as well. It's a good club Brighton. 

84' - Flanagan is about to come on. Good ol' Flanno.

85' - Liverpool Sub: Flanno comes on for Martin Kelly, who has had a great game today, possibly the best player for us, as Bellamy has had a quiet second half all in all. 

87' - Craig Noone has been chosen as Brighton's man of the match. A completely justified choice, he has been a threat for good spells of the game and his belter against the bar was immense.

88' - PENALTY! Spearing was at fault there, a rare mistake. He tries to keep the ball from going for a corner. And Vicente takes the ball before Carra takes him down. Definite penalty.

89' - GOAL! 2-1. Ashley Barnes scores for Brighton. They are being quick to get the game going again, they want the game to go to extra time!

90' - Four minutes extra time announced. 

90' - Yellow card for Lucas, who knocks LuaLua over with some venom near the right corner. That was quite vicious and there's a claim he should be off the pitch. I think it was harsh but not worthy of a red. 

90+3' - Brighton for the most part are putting a lot of pressure on us but Bellamy earns us a free kick. He wines a bit though, which is a bit silly. 

90+4' - Full time.

It wasn't an amazing performance but it was enough. We played some very good stuff in the first half, as we approached half time and the start of the second half Brighton showed some good class and made it a match. As we approached full time we got a second goal, arguably against the run of play before we concede a penalty. All in all I think we were the better team, but were tested tonight. The main thing is we go through to the next stage, and who knows, with a bit of luck and class we can win this thing. Thanks for your time.