Unpleasant Twisted Cynic's-ville

Switchin’ it up with da mixed media; Cowboys n’ Zombies

This one’s a little different, I rarely venture into the realms of “mixed media” but what the heck.
An obvious wink and nod (is that possible, an “obvious wink and nod”) to the infallible as well as impeccable Garry Larson format, here I leave you with “Every Sherif Gets Eated(sic) by a Hungry Zombie.”
A colleague of mine asked why I forgot to give the Zombie a shadow; well, I didn’t forget, it was very much intentional. Why? You ask. Seeing as how the Zombie looks somewhat vampire-esque, I’d say this is probably the re-animated carcass of some kind of vampire, hence the absence of a shadow. But what’s a vampire/zombie doing out in the old west? Well, maybe you should ask yourself why you’re trying so hard to find sense in an illustration of a Cowboy that is about to meet his maker through the aid of Zombie brain munching.

"Not as quick as you'd like..."

Remember folks: If you are interested in using any of the illustrations that appear on this blog, and/or have any questions regarding John Frochaux’s (me) work and services please contact me at frojax@frojax.com.

All content and images displayed on this blog are the sole property of John Frochaux. Unauthorized use may result in legal action against the respective parties. All rights reserved 2009. So be kind, rewind.

The Arcade Re-animation Festival and myself

The last couple of months, I’ve been browsing around the net looking for information about the history of video games, which now I’ve found out that according to some dates back to the 1880’s. Over the last months I’ve run into my share of interesting articles as well as manga-enthusiast (read: nerd) ridden message boards. But then again, who’s the one researching video games, I guess that alone would completely take away my right to finger-pointing and name-calling.
I wouldn’t catalogue myself as an avid gamer or a video game enthusiast, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve learned that I still have a soft spot for some of the games I played as a kid. Back then, a trip to the arcade was an incredible experience, as well as something that could only be done on weekends because an entire day had to be dedicated to said excursion. No weekend mall visit would be complete without a gingerly stroll around the arcade. It was always an adventure; everything from avoiding the “drug dealers” your parents warned you about, to checking out the newer games and getting in line to play two rounds of Street Fighter with the spectacled kid with the lightning fast hands that would beat everyone all the time. Even when you blew all your money it was still fun to walk around an otherwise seedy place just to watch others play. It was noisy, the carpet smelled, sometimes you’d get into minor scuffles with other kids, but it was always fun and always the best place blow your allowance at.
I still remember the first time I saw a NEO GEO cabinet with Samurai Showdown; I was mesmerized by the graphics, the colors, the gigantic (at the time) characters, and most importantly the violence. I recall how awe struck I was by the zoom-in zoom-out feature that had been incorporated to the game, something that was considered groundbreaking at the time. From the late 80’s to the early to mid-90’s, there was an explosion of pretty cool coin-op machines in every mall. Back then arcade games didn’t translate very well to home consoles because of their technical specs, so the only way to get truly impressive graphics and velocity was through a stand up coin-op cabinet. As a child I constantly fantasized about having one of these machines at home. Just a couple of days ago an opportunity to make my dream a reality presented itself.
During one of my recent strolls through Nerd-Ville, 14 years after the release of Samurai Showdown, I learned about this thing called M.A.M.E. (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) at first glance this seemed like some jack-assed japanese animation geek fest. You can’t blame me for using harsh language, based on recent personal experience, 90% of the time I would come across any kind of interesting information in regards to old video games it was always hosted on a web page or forum that contained some of the pettiest, most hair brained discussions I’ve read in years. Well, back to M.A.M.E. (pronounced maim). In a nutshell, M.A.M.E. is an arcade emulator that runs rom images of arcade games on a computer; with a decent PC you can play old arcade games at home, that simple. Some folks have taken this a step further by building arcades from the ground up, adding special customized features to cabinets in order to show them off via internet to their fellow nerds at a later date. Some folks buy used cabinets from arcades and just stick a PC in them after slightly revamping the outer shell, other burlier and craftier folks build cabinets from scratch and wire them in the same manner. There’s an entire community of people all over the world that have embraced M.A.M.E., hell I think you may just call it a movement of sorts.
After really looking into M.A.M.E., I asked myself why I hadn’t found out about this and why hadn’t I gotten into it? After reading up on the materials that I needed and just how difficult it would be to carry out this project, I decided that I had to get into it. I did. I’ve decided that I’m going to build an arcade for me and my friends; I’m pretty sure I can pull this off. Remember me blogging about giving myself little tasks an entry ago? Well, this is the new task, “John Takes On Building An Arcade From The Ground Up”. As of today I’ve already purchased the arcade parts I’ll be needing (push buttons, joysticks, wiring, cables, etc.) from the fine folks at groovygamegear.com, a sound card; I spoke to a friend that sells computers and he’s going to help me put a good clone together for me to run M.A.M.E. on, a Happs (expensive arcade supply store) brand coin-door from ebay, and several other components to make my monster come to life before the end of January. This weekend I’ll be buying the MDF for the cabinet, hopefully I can get it cut and drilled before Sunday, we’ll see.
I will be doing everything myself and it will be documented right here on the blog. I’m sure this’ll be a real cool time, time to bring out the power tools… well, I’m sure someone’ll lend me some.

“What do you think?.. Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

I’ve concluded that lieu of maintaining somewhat of an active blog, I need to provide myself with some sort of daily incentive to keep me a-writin’ (*a-bloggin’.) I wouldn’t say that my life isn’t exciting enough, I’d say it is; subject matter and desire to write are at all time high in John’s-ville, but what good is desire without decision. Problem is that the proverbial topic compass is at such an obtuse angle, that I constantly send ideas off on tangents that usually lead to nowhere (Man, I’m dense!)
With that said, I’ve chosen to give myself little tasks in order to vamp up the atmosphere here at “the-ville.” Who knows? Maybe once I work a couple of holy blog nights into my week, I may just be able to turn myself into somewhat of an avid blogger. So, with keyboard beneath my palms, smugly I venture further into the world of learning to write under various degrees of public scrutiny.

Task #1: Revisiting Records

“Life is musical”, “music is my life”, “I need music to stay alive”, these are all things I’m sick of hearing. Sure, we love our music, but just how discriminating are we when it comes to drawing the line between great records and pure crap. I imagine that by now the “who is this guy…?” lights just went off in you little head: So, who am I to get on a soapbox about music? Well I’ll tell you. I’m one extremely discerning and very boisterous young man when it comes to music. Also, in case you’ve forgotten this IS my blog; my blog my rules, and if this doesn’t sit too well with you, you should follow this link.

With Revisiting Records, I’ll finally have a forum in which I can willfully praise and slam records old or new, and best of all, without any real repercussions. I recently ended a short relationship with a local rag that was interested in my opinion with regards to music. When at first approached with the proposal, I jumped at the opportunity to write for an actual print on paper publication; after a brief stint as columnist for said publication, I took a walk. After my 5th or 6th column I began to witness, mainly through e-mails, the backlash of my invariant attacks on music in general. At the completion of my 7th column, to much relief, I abandoned my position as a wage-free columnist, along with a small group of livid readers. In the end knickers were knotted, and folks got offended.

Revisiting Records will base itself on a simple rating system based on ten categories. The system will play out as follows:

Songs: The most important part of a record, song writing (Poor, Average, Good, Outstanding.)

Sequence: The way a record flows is almost as important as its musical content.

Top Tracks: My picks on the record.

Production: Some records are hindered by their overzealous production, just like other records truly shine thanks to dingy “low-budgetry” during production time. I’ll even go as far as listening to the records through my NS-10’s in order to really nit pick the audio. I can already smell the burning torches.

Lyrical Content: Are the lyrics well written, are they good, or do they read like those you’d find the liner of a Bush record?

Record Title: Some are great, some are funny, and some are absolutely stupid.

Packaging/Artwork: When I was younger I bought Black Flag’s “Slip it in” just because of the Artwork. I’ve always felt that a record’s packaging/artwork should always be an extension of what’s inside the actual record. There are still some artists and labels that hold this part of the record making process to very high esteem, and I’m here to praise ‘em (and maybe even slam ‘em.)

LP vs. CD vs. DIGITAL: Would I buy the LP, CD, or stay Digital?

Personal Notes: Further self-absorbed banter about the record.

Overall Score: Self-explanatory; just a simple1 through 6 scale. 1 is un-listenable/Frisbee-able/burnable, 6 is masterful.

So now broad strokes out of the way, I leave you with my first visitation.

Face to Face
Artist: Face to Face
Album: “Don’t turn away”
Release Date/Label: 1993/Fat Wreck-Chords (originally released by Dr. Strange Records in 1992)

Songs: 78% of this record is brilliant; the other 22% is questionable. Great melodies and choruses can be heard throughout the record, even on the filler songs. For a band’s debut the songs on here sound amazingly well intentioned and very focused; the tracks that stand out are sharp, short, aggressive, and to the point.

Sequence: If I had to judge this record solely on its opening track, I probably would’ve thrown it in the trash right after the opening “1-2, 1-2-3-4” on “You’ve done nothing”, the record’s first song; a track that I can’t stand for numerous reason, one reason being that its cheesy sounding, another being that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record. I’ve yet to understand why it was such a staple throughout FTF’s career.
The rest of the record seems to file filler tracks between really great tracks; something that at times works, but not always. “Don’t turn away” becomes a little hard to take towards the end, where almost no good tracks buoy above the filler.
In conclusion, the record flows awkwardly, but it doesn’t find itself terminally affected by a sloppy song-sequencing job. You can chalk that up to the band’s ability to write good tunes.

Top Tracks: “I’m not afraid”, “I want”, “I’m trying”, “Do you care”, “No authority”, and of course “Disconnected.”

Production: “Don’t turn away” is a good example of a record that benefits from shoddy production. I couldn’t imagine these songs sounding any other way, I’m particularly fond of the way Trevor Keith’s vocals sound on this record (similar to “Big Choice”.) According to the band, T. Keith was sick during the tracking of the vocals on this record hence the gangly sound of his voice.
This record has very few overdubs; it was recorded live and apparently to no click.
If you listen closely to some tracks on this record you can actually hear the song start at a set tempo and finish a couple of BPMs over the original tempo.
In the end, many of the production errors on this record are what make it so special. The fact that DTW was done live and with little overdubbing really makes the record sound stripped down and authentic.

Lyrical: Very cut and dry, not much to talk about. The lyrics work very well in context with what’s going on musically. I’ve always felt that that’s one of Face to Face’s main traits.

Title: “Don’t turn away” is a fitting title for this record, it sums up the feel and the mood of the record pretty well. Ironically, the track “Don’t turn away” is not on this record. It was originally released by Face To Face a year before as a single called “No authority” (which included the songs “Don’t turn away”, “No Authority”, and a song called “One way or another”.) “Don’t turn away” is one of my favorite Face to Face songs, I feel it’s a shame that it was not included in the full-length.
Original pressings of the “No Authority” single (EP) are pretty hard to come by, although it is still available for digital download through various MP3 sites.
A live version of “Don’t turn away” also appears on Face to Face’s 1998 live record.

Packaging/Artwork: The artwork on the record is hardly out of this world; once again… the real gold is inside.
I’ve always found that when set in contrast with the title, the photograph of the guy backed into the corner with his head between his arms comes off as slightly melodramatic. Melodrama not withstanding, the artwork may not be great, but it doesn’t completely “strike out”.

CD vs. LP vs. DIGITAL: My record collection would feel little light without a copy of “Don’t turn away”. Verdict: CD and/or LP are a must.

Personal Notes: Good records never sound dated; 15 years after its release, “DTA” still sounds as fresh today as it did to a listener in 1992.

Overall Score: 3.5