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Month: December 2008

Five Re-Recorded Songs

It is always interesting when a band re-records a song. Whether it is for some type of anniversary release, stepping up to a major record label, or some other situation where it is necessary or warranted, fans of the original recording will inevitably have some type of feeling about the new version of the song.

Prompted by discussions I have had with friends over Anberlin‘s new version of “The Feel Good Drag“, I decided to take a look at it and four other notable re-recordings from my library. What made the original version good or bad? How about the new one? Was it worth re-recording in the first place?

I do not really have much of an idea what imeem is, but it appears that there are just a whole bunch of songs up for free streaming, and they tend to have links to purchase the song if you are interested. I guess you have to sign-up/login if you want to listen more than once…? Whatever. With that in mind, I suppose I will just link over to there (where available) so you all can listen along with the music (rather than me putting up ten MP3s in a single blog post).

For the purposes of this list and discussion, I will not be including demo versions of songs as the “original” version. If I were going to do that, I would have at least five versions of Saosin‘s “I Wanna Hear Another Fast Song” / “Sleepers” that I would have to compare…! Also, versions from an EP that appeared right on the next full length essentially as-is from version to version (such as The Get Up Kids’Red Letter Day” and Finch‘s “Letters To Youi”) also will not count for this list and discussion.

(1) Anberlin – “The Feel Good Drag
Original Version: Never Take Friendship Personal (2005)
New Version: New Surrender (2008)

This was absolutely one of the best songs off of Never Take Friendship Personal, which itself was a near-perfect album beginning to end. Anberlin has stated that they wanted to bring this song back because it never got the “chance” it deserved previously (and ended up making it their first single and music video off of New Surrender). I personally believe it was already a wonderfully-produced song, and had a pretty sick amount of emotion coming from Christian’s vocals. So what happened in the new version? It is far too “safe”. The screaming is removed from the breakdown (which itself was so far-removed from anything else Anberlin had done), and the production is far too overdone. In general, it just feels like the soul of the song was missing. It was still the same song, but that piece that made it special was no longer there. Unfortunately, that is how I feel about the album New Surrender in general; it is defintiely Anberlin, and there are definitely some good songs, but there is no spark.

(2) New Found Glory – “Hit or Miss
Original Version: Nothing Gold Can Stay (1999)
New Version: New Found Glory (2000)

As the song that put New Found Glory on the pop-punk map, “Hit or Miss” was a pretty huge deal. The original version of the song off of Nothing Gold Can Stay was already a “single” in that a music video was already made (starring Corey Feldman, no less). The acoustic guitar opening really defined it, and while the production is not up to the level that their later material would be, it is still very clear sounding and well done. I was very apprehensive when I heard they were going to be re-recording the song for their “major label” debut (as well as their single and a re-done music video), and I remember not liking it all that much upon first hearing it. As time went on, it became apparent that the new version was indeed a solid improvement on the original, and quite possibly what they originally wanted it to sound like (and was indeed what it sounded like during live performances). Jordan’s vocals were much cleaner and at appropriate levels when compared to the music. The “I’ve had so many chances…” dual-vocals near the end are finally audible. All in all, it is a solid re-recording of the original version, and is typically my go-to version for playing (despite my love for Nothing Gold Can Stay).

(3) Reel Big Fish – “Beer
Original Version: Everything Sucks (1995) / Turn The Radio Off (1996)
New Version: We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy (2005)

I will consider the version off of Turn The Radio Off the “original” version, considering that most of the songs off of Everything Sucks ended up being re-recorded for more “proper” album releases later on down the road. With that in mind, it was a total shock to see a ten-year-anniversary version of “Beer” re-recorded as a b-side for We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy. What was the real purpose of this, though? It sounds much more “full” and is performed slightly slower, but other than that, it does not contribute a whole lot. I simply do not have a whole lot to say comparing these two versions. The new version is just a b-side, so it is not like it was re-done as a “new single” for the band presenting them to a new audience. It is… well, it is just there for the sake of being there, almost.

(4) Saosin – “Bury Your Head
Original Version: Saosin EP (2005)
New Version: Saosin full-length (2006)

The original version of “Bury Your Head” was presented as the first highly-public debut of replacement vocalist Cove Reber (though he had done a couple recordings prior to this, including the studio version of “I Can Tell There Was An Accident Here Earlier“). This version of “Bury Your Head” received an actual music video, done in the style of a live performance. The new version seemed like a forced-inclusion by Capitol for the band’s full-length (and while I do not have a source to quote, I believe that is the actual truth; the band did not want to re-record and include it, while the label highly suggested they do such). The new version features more drum-fills, though they do not necessarily feel like they belong here as much as they do on other new song arrangements on the album. Reber’s dual-vocals in places feel like they are there just to add to the breadth of sounds in the song, rather than enhancing what is already there in his performance. Maybe it is because the song’s inclusion was forced, but there is a distinct lack of emotion in the performance of this song compared to the rest of the album.

(5) The Starting Line – “Leaving
Original Version: The Starting Line (2001) / With Hopes of Starting Over EP (2002)
New Version: Say It Like You Mean It (2002)

While The Starting Line technically first recorded the song during their We The People recording sessions, the entire album was more or less scrapped when Drive-Thru came along. It was then re-recorded nearly identically for their Drive-Thru debut EP, With Hopes of Starting Over. It was then recorded for a third time for their proper first full-length, Say It Like You Mean It, where it was used as their second single and music video (after “The Best Of Me“). The original version of the song has a rough feel to it, but is incredibly genuine. Kenny’s voice is still young and squeaky in the past, which would start to change for the full-length, and continue onward through all of their subsequent releases. The radio-muffled extra “Without saying goodbye…” would evolve over the versions of the song, which is probably for the better. The original version uses these cheap production tricks to try to put some extra “oomphf” in there, but I personally believe that it hurts the otherwise genuine qualities of the recording. The new version of the song does more than just change the production values, and actually changes a bit of lyrics, shortening the “As weekdays and weekdays unwind / I’ll be found staring back in time” to simply “Let’s travel back in time!” The new version also opens more akin to the band’s live performances of the song, with Kenny singing the beginning of the song’s chorus before the full band breaks in. While it could be argued that Mark Trombino over-produced Say It Like You Mean It, I feel that this song, at least, particularly benefitted from this outside viewpoint (I also agree with Howard Benson’s production of “The World” off of Based On A True Story, rather than the band’s preference of the Tim O’Heir version). The removal of the “cheap” effects really helps the song, and everything is brought into balance with each other. The new version also ramps up the chorus speed to a more noticeable level. Like New Found Glory’s re-recorded version of “Hit or Miss“, I find myself revisiting the re-recorded version of “Leaving” more than the original(s), though also like the New Found Glory song, I have a huge place in my heart for the original(s) that I do occasionally revisit.

iPhone Hilarity

Here’s an IM session I was having with Julian a couple weeks ago on my iPhone. It was so hilarious, I had to take a snap-shot of it. Wonder how that happened…?

What Do You Want To Hear About?

I realize I have not posted anything up here in a while (though I did recently make a post over on vgconvos). I suppose it could just be the time of year (we are all so busy!), or perhaps the sinus infection and meds that give me loopy, incoherent thoughts that do not translate well to a blog post.

Regardless…

Is there anything in particular you readers would like to hear some thoughts on? I will still try to post amusing pictures and such taken in the wild, but I also want to be able to type up some premeditated garbage every so often, too. If you are following this blog, you are either genuinely interested in things I may have to say, or are one of those creepy people that hates me yet follows me around the intertubes reading everything I write hoping to one day pin me on something ever-so-minute when I run for President of the World and destroy all of my plans.

Things I use? Things I do? Places I have been? Specific-fandom stories? I’m full of it! In lots of ways!

The Old “Games Never Made Anyone Cry” Situation

We have all seen various blog posts and comments about this (usually tying in to uneducated nonsense spewed by the otherwise-well-educated Roger Ebert) whole dilemma: can video games make you cry?

Of course, the real question is do they need to make anyone cry? Would that be the gauge of cultural relevance and a move to “high art”? Is any of that even necessary?

I don’t actually want to answer any of those questions, because I find them silly. I did, however, find some incredibly thought-provoking points over in this article by Chris over on ihobo (as linked over on Kotaku).

I absolutely adore the idea/theory/proposition that there is nothing about it being a game that drives you to experiencing some type of emotion; it’s all about the narrative, itself. There is narrative in a movie, in a song, even in a painting. By taking the “cause” out of the game, you therefore actually place the game on the same level as everything else. I think that is a really important to step, and one that we will continue to make over time. I have heard the point made time and time again that the game industry is so young when compared to the other media industries that have moved us to tears with their products. It simply needs more time to continue evolving and for all the old people to die out who have no familiarity with the medium and various business models.

I do want to address one point in the article, and take slight exception to it. Here is the exact part:

So even though, for instance, many people report that they cried when they played Final Fantasy VII at the fateful scene (and indeed, several other cRPGs also show up in player studies as having provoked tears) the moment that actually brought the player to tears was a non-interactive cut scene. It wasn’t the game (in the systems view) that made them cry – it was the story – and there never was a question as to whether stories could make you cry.

Believe it or not, I am going to dispute this point with the same example! Well, somewhat. I am not talking about the original Final Fantasy VII, but actually Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

There are intense spoilers here (as if you didn’t know how it ended…), so if you have not played through to the very end of the game, keep in mind that I am going to describe not just what happens, but how it happens.

Yes, there was a bit of genuine gameplay during the ending of Crisis Core that made me cry. It was not a cut-scene; I was in full control of Zack during the point where I broke down. In between lots of events going on, and before the full-on CG ending sequence, Zack is being hunted down by the Shinra army. He has very little energy left in him, but he continues to fight back with everything he has (occasionally flashing back to memories from the course of the game along the way). There finally comes one last stand-off where Zack fights off against a (literally) endless stream of soldiers. No, really… it is infinite. You will die. You may be strong enough to hold them off for a pretty long time (especially if you have done some grinding in the side missions), but the point of the sequence is that Zack is shot down. You cannot avoid it. You progress the game by dying.

I am choking up as I write this, because this is the part that made me break down. I was in full control of Zack, but I had absolutely no control over the situation. I knew where it was heading. I knew I was going to die. There was nothing I could do about it. It was not fun. It was not enjoyable in any way. It hurt. It hurt a lot. The point where I had to take my fingers off of the buttons and let them kill me in a situation where I was otherwise in complete control was what did me in. I had to sit there and watch my character be gunned down.

And I cried.

Rock Band Drum Casualty

Technically it’s not my first Rock Band casualty, since the whammy-bar on my guitar is busted… but that’s not really essential for gameplay.

Last night I was playing some good ol’ Foo Fighters songs on drums, and it was going great. Switched over to play Fall Out Boy, and BOOM… suddenly failing where I otherwise should not be failing. Doing some quick testing on the resulting menu, I found that the blue pad was no longer working. Everything else was totally fine, but blue was dead.

I checked it out further this evening, and found the following:

Yep, that’s a wire split right at the base where it connects underneath. Dammit! Not sure what to do about this. It seems like it’s something I could fix, but I’m not entirely sure. Anyone have experience with this kind of stuff? The fact that it’s split right at the base is the killer, since I don’t see much to work with and splice back together.

General Thoughts and Updates

So apparently the Master System version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is available on Virtual Console today.  As you may know, the Genesis/MegaDrive version is one of my favorite games of all time. If I understand correctly, the Master System “port” is a similar game, and has different level designs (but is still overall Sonic 2 just like its older cousin). Convince me on this. I purchased the Mega Drive version of the first Sonic game, and while it was interesting to check out (and a relative bargain at $5), it suffered from a lot of problems that make me not want to revisit it all that much. How about the Master System version of Sonic 2? If I get it, it probably won’t be until the new year (hoping I’ll get some point cards to spend!). I know some foreign folks out there have a very different perspective on the Master System, so I am curious as to what they have to say.

Also, we seem to have solidified our topic for episode six of the podcast. Actually, I’m not sure if Jeff has heard, but everyone else knows! Someone else (new to this show) will be joining us for this particular episode, though it should be a familiar voice for listeners following along from other shows. I am really looking forward to this one! Hopefully we can record it around two weeks from now and get it out by the end of the month.

Looks like I forgot to do a page for the Top 10 list from our last podcast episode (guest appearances). I will get right on that!

Check everyone later~

Problem Solved: Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar Not Showing

I guess I can start up a new category for the blog, now that I have two entries with similar subject matter. I had previously posted about a Photoshop crashing issue I was experiencing and how I corrected it. I figure other people will be having the same issues, and since I find the vast majority of “help” on the internet completely incomprehensible (keep reading), I may as well add to the noise with my own suggestions.

So today Firefox on my work laptop (3.0.4 running on Windows XP Pro SP2) let me know that two plugins/add-ons had updates. Sure, let’s do it! I let Adblock Plus update itself to 1.0, and DownloadHelper update itself to 3.5.1.

After doing so, my bookmarks toolbar suddenly had nothing in it.

I checked in the “Bookmarks” >> “Bookmarks Toolbar” menu option, and thankfully the four items I had set there were actually still there. They just weren’t showing up on the actual toolbar for me to click. Huh.

I did a little Googling to figure out what may have been the problem (assuming it was the add-ons updates), and came across this blog entry. Much to my dismay, it was completely incomprehensible. Sure, there were capital letters and punctuation, but the words didn’t actually make any sense. None of the comments were any more helpful, either. I tried to follow along with what they were saying, but there was a severe lack of context in every single comment.

Luckily, I happened to resize the Firefox window (I don’t know why), and found something interesting:

What on Earth are the bookmarks doing way the heck over there on the right…?! I tried a few things (like manually dragging the icons over to the left… not that it would do anything…), but I was not making any progress. They would stay on-screen now that I had changed the window size, but they stayed flush up against the right side. That doesn’t really help me much, since I have trained myself to head up to the left to click them.

I ended up right-clicking to customize the toolbar area, just to see what would happen:

Without even doing anything on the following screen, my bookmarks toolbar suddenly reverted itself back to normal:

Well, that was certainly interesting.

Grammatical Insanity

If there is anything that drives me nuts more than basic grammatical errors in so-called “professional” publications (whether they be “in real life” or online), I have not yet discovered what this additional insanity-maker could be.

A little part of me dies on the inside (in addition to the part that wants to get up and punch a brick wall) every time I see the wrong it’s/its and they’re/there/their. Just as horrific to me is when people add an apostrophe into a word when they are simply trying to make it plural.

You are not reading multiple book’s, you are reading multiple books. Nothing is belonging to the books. They belong to you.

Speaking of books, my buddy Andrew picked me up Eats, Shoots & Leaves a while back. I thoroughly enjoyed it, since I realized that I was not alone in the world with these feelings of rage (not that Andrew shares these feelings… his grammar ranges between wonderful and incomprehensible). The problem is that I simply do not know what to do with myself and this rage. It is impossible to change the world, and it is impossible for me to never encounter these errors that drive me to (non-literal; I’m just making a blog post) insanity.

I cannot even imagine what copy-editors and other similar professionals go through in their daily lives.

That’s a non-referral Amazon link up above, by the way. I do not want any money. I just want people to learn and share in my internet rage.

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