Things of 2009

Well, that’s that, then. 2009 is officially behind us, and, like the (fairly pointless, in retrospect) Arts degree I completed this summer, I’m not sorry to see the end of it. That said, like the Arts degree, 2009 threw some memorable moments my way, and I shall document them: here. Well, down there.



2009 started with me jumping on board the good ship ZME Music, and proceeding to steer the vessel straight into the wonderful tidal wave we call “controversy”, by being deliberately obnxious, and also by being indisputably right about things. It didn’t hurt that the year threw some genuinely awful music my way, which I promptly shot down with some deathly accurate broadsides (taking the form of a few terrible jokes). Observe.

THE WORST OF 2009

This is actually a strongly contested tie. First, and most memorable for the sheer enormity of badness on display, was Chris Cornell’s bafflingly ill-considered foray into “the hip hop”: Scream. Some called it a massive, steaming heap of wrongheaded rubbish; others called it “less entertaining than a decomposing cabbage”; others still called it a masterpiece, but these people were deluded and wrong, and we shunned and mocked them. Wonderfully, the Timbaland-produced monstrosity tanked in almost every possible way, proving that sometimes justice does prevail.

Second, and more fresh in my still-scarred mind and eardrums: the Funeral Suits’ support set at Ham Sandwich’s glorious gig back in November. How can I describe the experience? Listening to the Suits was kind of like the aural equivalent of being punched weakly in the throat by a really feeble, jaundiced old lady, who smells strongly of lavender and death, and you almost think you can see her skull-bumps through her eerily-stretched forehead skin, and she only has three teeth, all of which look like badly carved, miniature, rotting oak walking sticks, and jut out of her browning gums at odd angles. And then she kisses you in the mouth, which of course leads to a rigorous three-week ordeal of self-induced vomiting and psychosomatic episodes. But still a little bit worse than that. I wasn’t very kind to them in my review.

But wait! What was that controversy I spoke of in paragraphs past? Well, both of these reviews led to the artists in question being… less than happy… with me. Chris Cornell – strutting, macho rock icon that he is – sicced his Street Team on me in an attempt to discredit me (their worst barbs were that I was in college, and had broken up with my girlfriend, so my journalistic integrity remains intact, or at least, as intact as it ever was), and also, he blocked me on Twitter. Then, mysteriously, unblocked me. Who knows why. (His 2010 seems to looking more promising, what with Soundgarden coming back together or something.)

The Funeral Suits just challenged me to a fight via electronic mail, claiming I wasn’t very nice. Which was actually fair enough, come to think of it.

THE BEST OF 2009

My favourite album of 2009 probably isn’t the best album of the year, but it’s definitely not Scream, so it’s got that much going in its favour. Though, like that over-polished, undernourished turd, it is the product of lingering veterans of the 1990s’ grunge scene. So it was with a hearty, but wary and hesitant, handshake that I welcomed Alice in Chains back, and what a return it was. Okay, Black Gives Way To Blue wasn’t exactly breaking down musical barriers (despite annoying a lot of idiot metal-heads by enlisting Elton John to play piano on the Staley-dedicated title track) but it managed to be excellent in basically every other way. It was exactly what you wanted from an AiC record: heavy (brilliantly so on “Acid Bubble”), melodic, and at times utterly superb, namely on “Private Hell”, which is also probably my favourite song of 2009.

The fact that Pearl Jam’s Backspacer was so thoroughly generic didn’t hurt AiC’s case, natch, although Mark Lanegan’s second album with the Soulsavers made a convincing case for 2009 being a good year for grunge nostalgics. (Of course, there was also Nirvana’s Live At Reading album, which I never bothered listening to, because I prefer Kurt Cobain when he’s singing Bon Jovi songs. Arf.)



To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to say about the games I played in 2009, and I’m far too ill and lazy and tired to think too hard about it. So, while I collect my thoughts and have some sleep, here are some links to things I’ve already written.

Why I Sorta Like, But Also Don’t Like The New Prince of Persia

Why The Watchmen Games Are Rubbish

Why The Graveyard Was Worth a Few Euro

Why Zeno Clash Was Funnee

Why Modern Warfare Failed

Why I Like Dreamfall But Not Dead Space

Why Tomb Raider Underworld Charms and Irritates Me

Why Uncharted Isn’t As Good As It Wants To Be

Which is all well and good. But the reality is that the game I spent more time playing in 2009 than any other is a poxy mobile phone version of Worms: A Space Oddity. Worms.

Worms.

And I love it.

It’s definitely not the best game I played this year – I’d be far more happy to hand that title over to The Longest Journey or Shadow of the Colossus or even Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. But like – say – FIFA 10, or Spelunky! (which I really must get around to playing), Worms is the very image of emergent gameplay, albeit on a smaller scale, and in very manageable chunks: the longest a game takes to play is five minutes, and that’s probably an overestimation. But like the Halo manifesto of ten minutes of fun that happen over and over, or listening to “The Safety Dance”, it’s a glorious few minutes no matter how often they’re repeated.

Except, it’s not actually like that at all, because every single game is different. Granted, it’s usually minute, inconsequential differences: I killed that worm with a grenade rather than with an exploding mechanical sheep, or such like. But sometimes, it’s a huge difference, and that makes all the difference. Like, the time I was down to the last of my four worms (ah, how often I’ve used that sentence), left to take on three of the opposing team’s worms, across a fractured, exploded landscape. Suddenly, it wasn’t a game of aiming a bazooka in the air and hoping it does some damage on its way down and hey, listen to those funny high-pitched voices. Now, it was a bloody Rambo film.

I found myself jumping across the screen, in a way more suited to a Prince of Persia game than Worms (especially out of place in this particular game, given the galling lack of Ninja Rope, the best Worms weapon ever), methodically making my way to one of the enemy invertebrates. Planting some TNT beside them, and quickly scurrying into a position of cover to wait out the retaliatory attack (because, y’know: turn based combat). I eventually ended up burrowing down through some landscape, climbing back up, and rolling a cluster bomb down the makeshift passage to take out the last worm. By this point, my little guy wasn’t just ten pixels that vaguely resembled a distended worm (shut up, you sick people): he was a master of stealth, a trained killer, a tenacious survivor. Splinter Cell: Worms, starring Sam Fishing-Bait.

And moments like that are why I spent more time playing Worms: A Space Oddity than any other game this year.

Well, that, and because it was easy to play during the boring college lectures.

Which was all of them.

Frankly, I’m amazed I passed.

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