punk reviews

Against Me! – Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy

Against Me! has been a leading force in the punk rock scene since the early 2000’s, breaking out with their debut record Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose. The group is fronted by Laura Jane Grace, who was formally known as Tom Gabel before coming out as transgender back in 2012. Their second album Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy was released back in 2003 and remains a staple of the early 2000’s punk scene incorporating a blend of the country, punk, and rock genres. It’s a record that’s served up hot and ready in under thirty minutes, and as Grace said it’s a concept album “that explores love and war”. The albums title reference is a nod towards “someone forever wandering, lost and alone”, which is reflected in various tracks as Grace contemplates relationships and political ideology.

“Cliché Guevara” covers Grace’s ideas on the purpose of forming Against Me! in the first place: finding the urge to speak up against the injustices of the world.  It’s laced with politically charged mentions that culminate on the following, blatant anti-war, track “Mutiny on the Electronic Bay” summed up in the final line “when invasion can bring a country its freedom then unconsciousness is true happiness”. Shifting the subject matter to a more personal note, the song “Sink, Florida, Sink” is Grace looking back on trying to keep a failing relationship afloat.

“Slurring the Rhythm” finds Grace again discussing the purpose of the band, but it concerns herself with the doubts of leaving her life behind to pursue something she’s destined to accomplish. Continuing on that topic “Rice and Bread” is a passionate letter stating the all or nothing attitude of pursing your dreams.  “You Look Like I Need a Drink” takes the country influences of Grace and turns them into a gruff, fast paced shout. Grace discusses the creeping guilt of past actions made apparent in the line “the results of decisions and choices in your life/ can you hear it all coming back after you”.

The tracks “Unsubstantiated Rumors Are Good Enough for Me (To Base My Life Upon)” and “Cavalier Eternal” are acoustic solos performed by Grace that tributes back to the beginning of the band when Grace would play around Florida for anyone to listen. The tracks are personal accounts of failed relationships that evoke the idea of a cowboy. Lost and alone, pushed to wander the unknown to find answers for themselves. “Caviler Eternal” is the best example of this featuring Grace speaking to a former love over the jaunty sounds of an acoustic guitar. Grace is called out into the world to pursue her purpose and remarks that “even if I stayed it just wouldn’t be the same”.

Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy is a culmination of various genres, but still expounds upon the traits that made Against Me! succeed. The honest lyrical content sung with Grace’s raspy vocals and the energetic instrumentation that fuels their records. As the Eternal Cowboy is a driven powerhouse, that despite a slicker appeal, still holds up.

Album Review: Dune Rats - The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit

Artist: Dune Rats

Album: The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit

Released: February 3rd, 2017


         Brisbane, Australia natives Dune Rats are currently lighting up Australia with their album The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit released via Ratbags Records.They are currently sitting at the Number One spot on the Album charts and also just sold out their Australia tour. I can see why this band is gaining attention pretty quickly. Their upbeat, late 70′s,80′s punk rock tone makes you want to get up and groove. Mix of early Weezer vibes with a carefree attitude of Beastie boys “Fight For Your Right.” These guys definitely deserved their right to party. With songs like “6 Pack”, “Scott Green”,and “Never gonna get high”, they are basically the epitome of the youth of this generation.

           The album opens up with “Don’t Talk” setting up that carefree attitude by stating, “we all are gonna die anyways,” Creating the perfect leading into “6 Pack.” A song that’s a reflection on growing up and having your brother or sister buy you beer or bringing you smokes before you were old enough. It brings back memories of a more carefree time and when you just wanted to escape. “Demolition Derby” and “Braindead” talk about society ignoring you and how you can easily disappear. Two of the darker songs on the album but they still have an upbeat theme to them. “Scott Green” and “Never Gonna Get High” are two songs polar opposite of each other but completely fit together. The first song is about wanting to get high any way you can but never gonna get high is about the social aspect of not wanting to but you need to cause everyone is doing it. Leading into “Like before” which is a song that talks about what happen to your old group of friends after you all grew up. “Counting Sheep” is the song that perfectly describes whats going on in your head when you can’t sleep. “Buzz-kill” is filled with angsty teen hate towards that person that always kills your high. Whether it’s your parents or that one kid you hate, in the end you cave in to make them happy, this song is about how you really feel. The Album ends on a high note of their single “Bullshit.” The song is just their way of saying who cares what society feels, they like it, they want to do it and you can’t tell them how to live their life. A perfect way to end a great album.

    Dune Rats made an album that is relatable no matter how old you are. You can be in high school, or a young adult or even in your 80′s, this album will bring you good times. It makes you want to go party and have fun and not care what people say. If you are older it brings back tons of memories that are nothing but good. It is a must to check it out and kick back or get a group of friends and have a party with this album on repeat. There’s no question why this album is Number One in Australia, upbeat, good times, it has everything you want and didn’t know you wanted in an album. You can pick the album up on Apple music.

Frank Turner- “The Sand in the Gears”

Of all the music to come out post-U.S. election Frank Tuner’s new single “The Sand in the Gears” is one that tells listeners what they should be doing if they’re angry with certain resurgences in society. The first half of the song sullenly shows what many may want to do (“spend the next four years at a punk show”) but that’s not how revolutions are started nor won. In true folk-punk angst, “The Sand in the Gears” ends with a more uplifting rallying cry to take to the barricades and “get outraged.” So let’s all toast that shot of anger with our beers to this release.

THINGS I LIKE #2

THE MENZINGERS - AFTER THE PARTY (2017)

On The Impossible Past holds a very special place in my heart, and it always will. The 2012 album showcased a bit of a change in sound for the Menzingers and was really about maturing within the punk scene. It has one of my favorite songs of all time in “Casey” and it was the first Menzingers album that I ever listened to. It was released right about at the point when my music tastes were taking shape. I was an 18 year old freshman in college, on my own for the first time. I had just discovered The Wonder Years and Four Year Strong and Marlboro Reds. On The Impossible Past sounds like Cleveland. It’s grey, it’s angsty, but at the same time hopeful. It will always be in my Top 10 all time punk albums.

That long winded introduction was an elaborate set up so that I can say The Menzingers’ 2017 release After The Party is a better album.

After how great OTIP was, the Scranton, PA based quartets last release, Rented World was an ENORMOUS let down for me, save for the two lead singles. With that in mind, and loving all of the singles released leading up to the album, I was still skeptical. This album blew all my expectations out of the water. On this album, The Menzingers manage to do something that many bands in the scene fail to do: age gracefully.

The album opens extremely strong on “Tellin’ Lies,” a ridiculously catchy chorus and the bounciest song on the entire album. As in many great albums, the opener presents the thesis to the entire album. The set up: “taken hostage by a guilty conscience/when are we gonna quit this nonsense/ everyone’s asking me over and over/but I don’t mind telling lies” from the chorus. And the definitive answer: “We’re all the same/nothing’s gonna change us” from the final refrain.

The lead single “Lookers” is remarkable. Somehow nostalgic and anticipatory at the same time, the chorus is one of the most fun I’ve heard in a long time. The verse lyrics hit even my cold, sheltered, 23 year old punk heart in just the right way, I felt connected to the narrative. They played it live on their 2016 summer tour with Bayside, and it was even more fun in concert. “Lookers” was maybe my favorite song of 2016, but it may not be my favorite song on this album.

That distinction might go to the following track, “Midwestern States”. An harrowing tale of the narrator and his girlfriend moving cross country to Los Angeles and telling the story to his friend who is putting them up for the night in Chicago. Another ridiculously catchy hook. You can’t help but want to sing it even if it’s not playing.

If After The Party is going to be in AOTY considerations, “Your Wild Years” has to be in the Song Of The Year discussions. Everything in this song works perfectly, seamlessly together. The story of visiting the narrator’s girlfriend’s family in Boston, WANTING to put up with the in-laws, looking through the relics of her old bedroom, discovering where she’s from and how she became what she is, the desperation in lead singer Greg Barnett’s voice in the third verse. Everyone I’ve talked to about the album says this is their favorite track.

The title track “After The Party” is the closest they get to their “old sound.” The lyrics cut deep, the sound isn’t too polished, the vocals are gruff. But there is a reason the album is named after it. It embodies the theme of the album, metaphorically growing out of their collective 20s where most punk attitudes live, and literally the aftermath of the party that exists in the narrative of the song. Waking up the morning after, just wanting to lay in bed, getting over second rate tattoos and jean jackets and obscure punk bands. Wanting to dance just for the sake of dancing, not caught up in the rat race that is the music scene anymore.

The Menzingers have really hit their songwriting stride here. This album boasts their catchiest hooks ever, and some of their most memorable melodies (e.g. “Thick As Thieves”, “Charlie’s Army”, “Boy Blue”, “House On Fire”). Co-lead singers/songwriters Greg Barnett and Tom May’s songs stand up equally strong with each other - which is something I personally felt was missing from the previous two albums. Something I do miss however is the dual lead vocals from An Abuse Of Information Technology and Chamberlain Waits

The one weak spot on the album is the final track “Livin’ Ain’t Easy.”Lyrically it summarizes the album decently enough, but it’s a bit of a bore, and it doesn’t gel with the tone of the rest of the album very much all. I’m not saying slow songs are bad, “Black Mass” is one of my favorite tracks on the whole album, I just wish they would close out the album with something a bit more engaging. If they had finished with “After The Party” it would have worked perfectly.

I’ve read reviews about how On The Impossible Past is an album about teenage punks maturing into their twenties. I’ve heard some say that Rented World is an album about people maturing a dealing with real world issues. And now, the initial reviews for After The Party say that its an album about what happens when punks age out. Maybe the Menzingers are a just band focused on maturing as people. This album presents that message and their current emotional state very nicely, cohesively and concisely.

Without question it’s their best album to date sonically speaking, the music all works together and with the lyrics, it’s catchy, it’s moody, it’s dark, and it’s fun. Deep down it’s still punk at its root, just like the “aging” band.

It’s only February, but in my mind, and I think in a lot of others in the genre, After The Party the front runner for album of the year. It’s going to take something really groundbreaking to knock it off the top of my list.


OVERALL: 8.5/10


This thing is really worth a listen if you’re at all acquainted with alternate music. 

MUSIC BITES - All Time Low // Dirty Laundry (2017)

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So All Time Low are back. But are they still the pop punk pioneers everyone loves and adores?

The band have been together for almost 15 years and consist of lead Alex Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson. The new song comes as the band’s first since they departed from Hopeless Records and joined Fuelled By Ramen; joining the roster of Panic! At The Disco and Twenty One Pilots.

“Dirty Laundry” is a mid-tempo moody song which builds up by the bridge with Jack’s guitar solo. The band are stepping out their comfort zone using synths and more of a pop sound. But is it a bad song?

Meh. That’s all I can really say about this song. To me, it’s a very boring song. Besides the last minute, it’s a very bland song. The instrumentals are kind of a hit and miss but the lyrics are decent if not, a little bit cliche and cheesy. From the outside, it seems like another cute motivation song but it’s far from that.

I sent the song to my friend @spank-iero who analysed the music video and I agree with every point.

The video and the song shows that the band are maturing and are no long the immature pop-punk band singing about beer. The video shows that Alex went from nothing to marrying his high school girlfriend. It also shows how the band have helped and shaped him into the man he is today post the death of his brother. Everyone has their secrets and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just “dirty laundry” and can always be cleaned up.

The song is different and it is a grower. If you compared it to Jasey Rae, you’d think it’s a different band all together. Then again, not everyone is going to be happy with change in general; people will love the song or hate it.

RATING : 2/5

LISTEN TO THE SONG HERE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTwmxiLSD0w

Daft Punk – Discovery

Daft Punk, in some ways are one of the most influential musical groups in recent memory, leading the French house movement of the late 90’s. The group consists of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter who frequently appear in robot masks meant to hide their appearance and personify their alter-egos. Discovery is their highly successful follow-up to their debut album, Homework, released in 2001. The album featured a departure from the traditional house sounds, present on their debut, to incorporate elements of disco, synth-pop, and R&B. The record even spawned an animated film about a musical group of extraterrestrials that are kidnapped by an evil record executive bent on universal domination.

The lyrical content of this album is nothing spectacular, with songs like “One More Time” simply repeating the phrase repeatedly throughout the track. There’s no grand insight or real wit to the lyrics, but the focus of the record isn’t on that. Rather it’s on the instrumentation and use of sampling meant to evoke an emotion in the listener. That doesn’t mean the vocals don’t add a meaning to the album, on the contrary. Most of the vocals, supplied by artists like Romanthony and Todd Edwards, are processed through auto-tune and vocoders to signify the robotic characterization of Daft Punk and the personas they present for this record.

Sampling is a significant portion of this album, but it’s not founded in sampling other artists. Instead both Guy and Thomas composed and performed instrumental parts to create their own samples, while complimenting those they borrowed. This brings a fresh breath of originality to the album that keeps it from becoming bogged down by the implementation of previous sounds. Portions of the record sound like samples from past disco or pop albums, but as Thomas puts it they are “fake samples” meant to mislead the listener. Most of the record, in fact, are unique samples the duo performed live and then mixed to create the sounds of Discovery. It speaks to the creativity of this group, and the incredibly catchy and groovable tracks of this album.

Discovery is a conceptual piece that incorporates both luscious visuals and a vast amount of musical influences to create a record all its own. Daft punk has seamlessly shown an evolution in sound that showcases their ability to take sounds of the past and forge a new path for them. Much like technology, a common theme in their music, they build upon the old to create an original work that has cemented them at the top of electronic music.

The Menzingers - After the Party - album review

by Natalie DaRe

Nostalgia sits at the heart of Pennsylvania punk-rockers The Menzingers’ fifth full-length release, After the Party. While pure punk-enthusiasts may be turned off by the more sentimental tone compared to the band’s previous releases, the rest of us will not. Those left unimpressed by the record may point to the album’s recurrent nostalgic theme and harmonies. Yet even when the harmonies get repetitive, After the Party oozes with an authenticity that will keep fans and unfamiliar listeners playing this record for years to come. The band’s knack for introspective songwriting paired with crunchy guitars produces a record that can make a well-exhausted theme—what band today hasn’t sung of nostalgia?—feel new and gut-wrenching in the most satisfying way.

The opening track “Tellin’ Lies” stays true to the band’s ska-punk roots while not deterring those who dislike the genre. Springsteen fans, meanwhile, will rejoice in the guitar-driven anthemic nature of songs like “Thick as Thieves”, which showcases the album’s talent for lyrics with lines like “I held up a liquor store demanding top shelf metaphors.” A song like “Lookers” could easily delve into the realm of self-pity, lamenting over a lost love and a ripped-away youth, yet remains fun, while “Charlie’s Army” and “Bad Catholics” bring the humor and complete the emotional spectrum by singing of the vengeful ex of a current girlfriend and reminiscing over ditching church before communion started. The album has the power to make you nostalgic for your twenties even if you (like me) have yet to leave them. Through the lows and highs of the record, the message of After the Party is clear: Getting older doesn’t have to mean growing up.

4.5/5

Recommended tracks:
“Lookers”
“Charlie’s Army”
“The Wild Years”

FFO:
Against Me!
Captain, We’re Sinking
The Gaslight Anthem

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Fake I.D. by Joyce Manor

“Fake I.D.” is the first single off punk band Joyce Manor’s album Cody. The track is a short pop punk song that features buzzing guitars, tumbling drums and solid vocals. It’s not an at all original sounding track but it is a nice mix of 90′s flavored punk edge with pop sensibilities.

“Fake I.D.” addresses that time period generally in your late teens when you may be tempted by peers who are maybe older (or just have better fake IDs) to try and get into 21 and over clubs and events. Sort of alluding to the idea that generally those places are often overrated and that you could have just as much fun at an all ages show, party, or event. The video itself finds a girl who gets kicked out of clubs because she can’t get in but gets sent an ID which she attempts to use to buy liquor with but instead is invited to an all ages party where Joyce Manor are performing. Good song, awesome music video.

As someone who’s been out with with friends(who fortunately are no longer friends) who couldn’t behave themselves when out and were unable to recognize when enough is enough in a variety of different instances, I can attest to the idea that not all adult settings are what they’re cracked up to be. Joyce Manor’s “Fake I.D.” speaks to that in a way that’s not direct enough to make the song a downer but alludes to it while still being fun and catchy.

An Irritated Rant About Belittling Comments in Alt/Rock/Punk Show Reviews (Taking Back Sunday and Frank Iero and The Patience)

After reading several reviews of the recent Taking Back Sunday shows across the UK, I’ve come to realise that many writers seem to think that going to see a full band full of guitars live is an old idea, and that therefore they can use old language with sexist undertones to describe those in attendance. This is mostly directed towards the crowd who have turned up early to see the support bands. Yes, for this tour there were quite a few people who came along to the shows to see Frank Iero and The Patience, however the majority of them also loved Taking Back Sunday, or remembered a couple of the emo classics and then left the shows with a new love for them.

A lot of reviews spoke about how during Frank Iero’s set the room was full of “mid-teens” who were “mostly female”. Personally, myself and the people around me were all about 20+, but even if we were 15 or 16, why should this change the fact that we are there to enjoy the music? There’s this silly stigma over being new to a band, and that you are not worth as much at the gig if you haven’t listened to them for at least 10 years. This is daft because I’m pretty sure anyone in a band would love people to listen no matter how old they are or for how long they’ve been appreciating them. Recently in an interview Frank Iero said how at these shows with Taking Back Sunday he’s seen some kids that are singing along to songs that are older than them, and that it was awesome. If it is someone’s first show or first year of going to gigs, then let’s make them feel safe and happy, not like they are not wanted there.

Gig culture and the idea of fangirls come hand in hand. Yes, there will always be at least one person who is screaming at a band member that they love them, in the same way that there will always be that one asshole who’s in the pit to purposefully hurt someone. However, some journalists don’t quite seem to grasp the idea that girls can go to gigs and be a fan of a band/musician, without needing to burst into hysterics when they walk on stage. We are there to see our favourite bands, and sing, dance and jump in that pit to them just as much as anyone else. So if a gig is full to the brim with girls in the crowd, this does not make it any less of a valid show.

Saying this, after going to two of the shows to see Taking Back Sunday and Frank Iero and The Patience, the crowds were a lot more diverse than they have been described in recent reviews. While we were in the queue for the show at The Forum in London, I went off to the pub to use the toilet, and when I came back my younger brother, who is transgender, was now sitting with three other trans/nonbinary people, who were all able to chat and rant about things that irritate them that they normally might not say to a cis person. I could see how cheerful and safe he felt in that moment, and if these shows have become a safe space for everyone, then where is the problem? At the show in Norwich, the venue had gender neutral toilets, and the amount of people who that made happy and feel loads more comfortable was amazing. I have a strong feeling that quite a few journalists didn’t even think about the idea that there might be trans/nonbinary people in the crowd, and that this was overlooked when trying to belittle the crowd for being mostly young females.

And to those that think having a pit full of girls is a bad thing, has obviously never been the only female in the middle of a crowd with people that are only there to be violent. When I turn around at a gig and see girls enjoying themselves in the pit, and guys not acting as if they’d break and that they don’t know what they are doing, it makes me feel safer. Because I know that if myself or anyone fell down, everyone in that space would make sure they get back up.

I cannot be the only one who when waiting for the next band to come on stage at a show, is watching the crew set up, and feels immensely happy when I see a female on that stage. The fact that it is so rare that I feel proud when they are up there is ridiculous. Things are getting better with time yes, but it still comes down to the same thing as the mosh pit problem, a lot of the men assume that because we are female, we are not strong enough to do this. This isn’t even just a male problem. We as people have been brought up thinking this, and so for a lot of the females it’s more of a matter of overcoming those thoughts of “will I get hurt?” or “will I embarrass myself?” to even get into the pit.

When in actual fact, these girls are not the ones that need protecting at shows. These girls do not need asking “have you stood at one of these gigs before?”. These girls do not need your “protection” for you to use as an excuse to grab them. Because these are the girls that look after their friends, the girls whose music taste isn’t limited by their age, the girls who wear doc martins not only for the aesthetic, but to step on anyone’s toes that think they know more about how they should be behaving at their favourite place in the world.

Gigs are for everyone, so stop shitting on people for enjoying them.

Review: Hackers (movie)

Genre: sci-fi, cyberpunk

Year: 1995

Directed by: Iain Softley

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Lee Miller

Dade Murphy, known as Zero Cool, is a very young and very talented hacker. After having been arrested at 11 years old for having caused the crash of more than a thousand computer systems in one day, he is banned from using anything remotely similar from computers until he’s 18 years old. We skip to his 18 years old self, who has moved to New York with his mother and has just received a computer for his birthday. As he tries his hand at hacking, focusing on a TV station where he tries to change the programming, he is blocked by another hacker called Acid Burn. In his high school he gets pranked by Kate Libby (Acid Burn) and gets his revenge through another prank. He hacks into the school’s system and is seen by Ramon Sanchez, aka The Phantom Phreak, who befriends him and introduces him to his hacker friends. One of these friends, the novice Joey, manages to hack a supercomputer called the Gibson (yes, really) belonging to a mineral company. The file he’s trying to download as proof of his efforts is no mere garbage bin material, and here’s when problems start. The ex hacker Eugene Belford (aka The Plague) who now works at the mineral company had put that file in the system for a specific reason, and doesn’t appreciate Joey’s intrusion…

This movie looks absolutely cheesy seen today, and that’s part of the fun of it. It didn’t age really well, because a lot of elements make us grin and laugh. Cyberspace looks like something out of Neuromancer, as it is portrayed by cities and skylines made of neon lights.The characters are teenagers, so of course there is teenage romance involved, but it doesn’t take up much unnecessary space.

The ridiculous hacker handles (there’s even a Cereal Killer) and the social engineering parts seem silly, but they aren’t that far away from reality. Hacker have always had a thing for artistic names and social engineering, as you can read in Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown. A lot of the events of the movie are clearly reminiscent of the events told in the book: young, curious and bold hackers of all kinds who first and foremost aspire to prove that they can do it, that they’re better than whatever defenses are put up against them, that they can come and go whenever they please. Especially if the objects of their attacks are megacorporations and their systems. Even the Hacker Manifesto is quoted, and the themes of course are those of classical cyberpunk stories, with the traditional fight against corporations and the curiosity that comes with the hacking process. Oh, and the ridiculous fashion too. Angelina Jolie’s character wears killer outfits, and so does pretty much everyone. Everyone has these outfits that make them look straight out of a Cyberpunk 2020/Shadowrun handbook and it’s absolutely adorable. The movie is also filled with inside jokes and references to the cyberpunk culture. Which is why, as of today, it still maintains a cult status despite its low rating. Is it a masterpiece? Absolutely not. It probably falls within the “it’s so bad it’s almost good” cathegory.  But if you’re looking for some fun and lightweight adventure, by all means give it a watch. Worst of cases, you’d be having a laugh.

Vote 6.5

Artist: The Adicts
Album: Songs of Praise
Year: 1981
Label: Fallout
Length: 37:51
Location of Acquisition: N/A (gift)
Price: N/A
Format: CD

Formed in 1975, The Adicts are probably the longest-lasting punk band that still tours. This album is their classic (though frankly I haven’t heard any others. It might be a MDC thing where this is their only good one), and if you have heard an Adicts song its probably from this album. It’s a total front-to-back, almost disarmingly positive, and captures the best of that 70’s British sound. There’s not much to say that this album won’t say for itself. Posterity practically demands that you give it a listen.

Recommended tracks: 1,2,3,5,6,7,9,10,12,14,15,16

Review: Neuromancer (book)

Author: William Gibson

Genre: Sci-fi, cyberpunk

Year: 1984

Notes: First volume of the Sprawl Trilogy. if you intend to read it translated in your own language, be careful and select the best translation you can find, the language in this book can be tricky in the most challenging and amazing way.


The book follows the story of Case, a young console cowboy (hacker) living in Chiba City who cannot get a job because he stole from his former employer and was punished cruelly: due to a toxin his brain cannot access the matrix anymore, leaving him like a runner who has lost his legs. He lives a miserable life until, one day, he is contacted by a street samurai, a cyborg named Molly Millions (she appeared in the short story Johnny Mnemonic as well). She represents her employer, Armitage, who wants Case for a job. If he accepts the job he’ll get the toxins removed from his brain and will be able to work again… but there are a lot of things at stake.

This is the book that created and popularized cyberpunk, and many of its tropes. You have the street samurai, the hacker, the impossibly rich megacorporations (and the crazy families who run them), the artificial intelligences and so on. High tech low life at its finest, you have the little paradoxes of fine cyberware and misery, you have the cyber (the world inside the matrix, the omnipresence of technology) and the punk (drugs, poverty, the rejection of society). Everyone seems an antihero and the settings, from the streets of Chiba to the orbital holiday spot of Freeside, have become iconic. The book’s beginning, the famous “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel“ is to me one of the best ones in the history of literature. It sets the mood immediately as well.

Some of Gibson’s terms stayed (cyberspace), some didn’t (ICE), but he still shaped the way people talk about the internet to the point that some people theorize that the internet developed in the way that it’s familiar to us because of Neuromancer’s influence. His language is a wonderful challenge, because the book has clearly aged and the way we perceive the net has changed too. Neuromancer’s legacy is still huge today, we owe a lot to it, from other cult works (The Matrix) to the entire perception of what cyberpunk is.

Neuromancer is, in short, a classic. I know many people - including myself - when dealing with a certain genre’s classic works will wonder “is it really worth it? Is it as good as they say it is?”. Yes, it is. Neuromancer is really that good. No, it’s not a flawless book, the descriptions can be a bit weird to follow (some cyberspace events and the world of Freeside, especially), but it’s still totally worth a read. If you love cyberpunk, it’s almost a must, it will help you understand a lot of this genre, and it’s a good story - which is what matters more, in the end.

Vote: 9,5

Review: Nirvana (movie)

Genre: sci-fi, cyberpunk

Year: 1997

Directed by: Gabriele Salvatores

Cast: Cristopher Lambert, Diego Abatantuono, Stefania Rocca, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sergio Rubini, ecc.

In the futuristic Agglomerato Nord (”Northern Sprawl”) lives Jimi, successful videogame programmer employed by Okosama Starr. It’s almost Christmas, and soon his latest creation, Nirvana, will be released to the public. He only has a few days to finish the last details, but he can’t stop thinking about Lisa, his girlfriend, who left him about a year ago. And he has a bigger problem than that: due to a virus, the main character of Nirvana has suddenly become aware of being in a videogame. He remembers all his in-game deaths, and tries desperately to avoid new deaths and other problems, all while trying to convince npc Anna that their world isn’t real. Jimi will team with Joystick, an ex “angel” (hacker, decker, cyberspace cowboy, you know the drill) who sold his eyes to the black market and who knows everybody in the slums, and Naima, blue haired hacker and tech expert.

This is the kind of movie that makes the average italian sci-fi addict go “why and when did we stop making such movies?” Because while Nirvana isn’t perfect, it’s also very worth watching. It predates Matrix and other traditional cyberpunk big hits, and it deserves to be acknowledged, because the main themes are all there, and very well handled. What does it mean to be human and to have a free will, is our reality “real” or just a game? Influenced by the works of Philip Dick and WIlliam Gibson, it recreates atmospheres worthy of Neuromancer, shifting from megacorporations and neon-lit streets to the darkest and more dangerous zones. Drugs, organ hunters, weird mysticism à la Gibson, a world where spirituality and technology are immensely connected. All of these classic themes are seen from an italian eye: Joystick sometimes answers Jimi the way you’d expect an italian to do, and the presence of popular italian actors, most of which are associated to comical roles, creates a weird effect. In fact, Christopher Lambert looks a bit out of place in this universe, with his constantly perplexed face and not exactly great acting skills.

The way cyberspace is handled is not epic, but emotional. It may be due to a lack of funds, but it’s still believable in its mystery and illusions, and it includes a nice Neuromancer reference or two. After all, there’s the same ignorance (in a positive sense) and innocence that reminds us of Gibson’s ideas. What pulls the plot into action is a bit weak, unfortunately, and it could have been handled a bit better. It can be perceived as naive too, but in that wonderful sense of the term. A bit like Hackers, it creates an atmosphere you can’t stop loving. Naive, maybe, but who cares. It’s still a piece of cyberpunk cinema history, and definitely worth watching.

vote: 8