Some people get excited about the weirdest things. Like Ed Harcourt. a man so drab he could wear a squid suit in a Midlands shopping centre and people would still think he blended in really well with the crowds. 'All of your Days
will be Blessed' (Heavenly 00 ) isn't unpleasant as such, but you’ll have forgotten how it goes before you've even finished listening to it. Nice one, Ed. It's not as doleful, though, as Matchbox Twenty who claim that ‘Disease' (Warner O ) is ‘probably the most rock track we‘ve ever done’. ‘Disease' has been co-written by Mick Jagger. who should really open an antique shop and stop wearing dodgy trousers, and fills a niche on the rock-o-meter somewhere between A1 and those nasty sugary sticks they sell at museums that gunk up your teeth and make you feel carsick.
But no matter how rancid the cesspit. the good stuff still rises to the top. ‘Harmonic Generator' (V2 0000 ) is blaringly unsubtle. highly derivative and teethbaringly joyful garage metal from the Datsuns who. alongside the D4. are doing their best to prove that the current wave of antipodean rock owes a fair bit to New Zealand. New York quartet Longwave owe their record deal to a support tour with the Strokes. but while 2001 's trendsters dress their traditionalism up with new wave stylings. this lot are more obviously a meat and two veg outfit. albeit a pretty good one. and “Everywhere You Turn' (eastwest 0000 ) is lamb chops with salty tatties and bright, shiny broccoli. Mmm.
Talking of condiments. Mint Royale's return can only be a good thing. although they do sound a bit like Moby on ‘Blue Song' (Faith&Hope. 0000 ). a veritable bouncy castle of electronic Americana. Old men Underworld, meanwhile. have gone a bit too Oakenfold with ‘Dinosaur Adventure 3D' (JBO COO ). a pumping techno groove with garbled lyrics that's too fast to dance to.
Edinburgh-based rap collective Yard Emcees do a better job of finding their voice on the humourless but hugely groovy ‘Serious' (Scotland Yard COO. ).
There can only be one Single of the Fortnight however and it comes from esQuire. who claims to be a boy from Detroit who ‘invented rap’ but sounds more like a boy from Camden who's discovered some nice samples in his parents’ record collection. No matter. ‘Brandy and Xanax' (Rex COO. ) will be the best record in the world for a month. at which point it will start to irritate the fuck out of everyone. This is pop. (James Smart)
FOLK “ r m-- THE TMOUNTAIN
102 THE LIST 3C) Jan—13 Feb ZOCS
Tallahassee (AAD) 00
Fierce titles like 'The House that Dripped Blood' and “International Small Arms Traffic Blues' provide no indication of the Mountain Goats musical leanings which. Judged purely on songwriter John Darnielle's plaintive vocal and stripped. acoustic arrangements. appear to have been formed during an early 70s traipse doan a country road. Indeed the energetically strummed intro to ‘Southwood Plantation Road' has been lifted straight from the paved paradise of Joni Mitchell's ‘Big Yellow Taxi.‘
Listen closely to Darnielle's lyrics. however. and discover the blackly comic. episodic tale of the 'Alpha Couple' and their twisted. drink- sozzled love. Pity that. save the angry throb of ‘See America Right“. the music's so soporific. (Allan Radcliffe)
SKATE PUNK GOOD CHARLOTTE The Young and the Hopeless
For the minute and 49 seconds that The YOung and the Hope/ess' opening track. 'A New Beginning. lasts. it's almost feasible to believe you've stumbled across that rarest of things — a skate punk act with more than just a hanoful of ideas. Once this churning. exasperated thrash lullaby is done. thOugh. it's back to the well-wom draWing board. By the time track two — the cringingly formulaic “The Anthem' — hits. you know this album can be summed up in a depressmgly familiar sentence: “We are America's disaffected youth and we can't get a bird — but hey. at least we're not like Our foiks!‘ Young . . . yes. Hopeless . . . just about. Stick in at school for now. lads. (David Pollocki
GAMEBOY ADVANCE MET
FUSION (Nintendo £34.99) 00.00
The name Metroid may mean nothing to most gamers. but for a select few it means everything. The Japanese series. featuring the adventures of female bOunty hunter Samus Aran. is a cult classic and any new title is greeted with tears of joy. Play Metroid Fusion and y0u'll discover why.
In its simplest form this is a sideways scrolling combat platform adventure. But the depth of involvement. the shoot-em-up sensibilities. the Surprisingly expansive storyline and the sheer style of the title elevates it to greatness. Graphically it is colourful and clear while the extravagant s0und is best enjoyed through headphones.
But it is the gameplay that really excites: killing. evolving. meeting the big bad boss. getting that little bit further — it is like dipping your fingers in honey. Hey. it is so playable that for minutes at a time y0u forget how annOying that GBA screen can be. Play on the train. Play on the loo. Play while getting your weekly pedicure. Metro/d Fu3ion will come to mean everything.
DEAD TO RIGHTS
(Electronic Arts €39.99) 0..
Yawn. framed cop. snore. prove his innocence.bonng.bnng the bad guys to justice. The story of Dead to Rights is cliche-tastic. riddled With the same— old-same-old and does nothing to keep y0u playing. Luckily. there is enough gameplay ingenuity masking the plot to drive yOLi onward.
the enemies beggars belief. but the promise of a gaming novelty around the corner keeps the whole thing on the rails.
It looks great. particularly on the XBox. and the UK version has many improvements over its US c0unterpart. It is not quite Splinter Ce/l. Max Payne or MGS — games it shares a common heritage with — but Dead to Rights is certainly worth a little shelf space of its own. if only until you exchange it for the next big thing. (lain Davidson)
ever onward. providing at least some value for your 40 notes.
Max Payne bullet-time has its place here. enjoyably vicious special moves allow neck breaking and human shielding. and set pieces involving rhythmic button pushing make a pleasant break from the third person adventuring. As always. there are problems with a wandering camera. and the intelligence of
PC SIMCITY 4 (Electronic Arts £29.99) 0000.
OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, you can port your Sims characters across to SimCity 4, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of your city planning skills. And though this little feature added to the SimCity saga will help sell a few more copies, it is largely disappointing. No, you can’t wander about your urban creation, the Sims merely act as advisors, giving you a personal opinion on how your city is doing. It is fun for five minutes and points the way for future SimCity titles, but the meat of the game remains building and management. And what meat it is.
SimCity 4 is a beautiful addition to the series. The now familiar municipal structuring has been refined to perfection, with placement of city zones simpler to do yet harder to do successfully. Because your income is intrinsically linked with tax revenue, the class of citizen you attract is as important as the sheer number. Yet appealing to the middle and upper classes is expensive, creating a financial balance even more maddening and addictive than before. Starting small is the only way to go and growing a thriving metropolis will take a long, long time. Luckily there is much to keep you busy while you wait.
Graphically the game is excellent, though demands a very good PC to run on. The landscapes and structures are fantastically detailed, the environmental effects look spectacular and your citizens act in a surprisingly believable fashion, even down to obeying traffic lights. Add this to the fact that the game obliges you to build more than one area at a time and you have the most involved, elaborate and time-consuming title of all time. And we haven’t even mentioned the land manipulating God mode.
SimCity 4 just has so much to offer. Book a holiday, buy this game and spend a week enjoying the sights and sounds of a new city. Your city. (lain Davidson)