Pokémon and Dire Straits: A Brilliant Combination

22 10 2014

Pokemon

For nearly two years now I have been playing Pokémon on Thursday nights at Juicafe in Lancaster. I used to collect and play Pokémon when it first came out in the UK in about 2000, but without much of somewhere to actually play it; I ended up just playing it mostly with family and some friends. Eventually, while I still wanted to continue it, my interest waned. Then in 2013, Juicafe started a Pokémon Trading Card Game League and so at long last I was able to play again, and this time with other enthusiasts.

Juicafe

Playing Pokémon again was brilliant, and I enjoy it so much more than when I first started and is a definite improvement and better option to playing Magic: The Gathering competitively, for which I have now retired from. In the past year though, I began to notice people naming their decks, something I didn’t quite understand. From what I was able to gather, It was more for the experimentation of deck building to see how a certain deck works out. Being somewhat of a standard player, I did not consider naming my decks at all (I still prefer to play the cards with no sleeves as it feels more authentic despite the card scuffing, as well as the fact that I do actually have sleeves for them).

Pangoro Boxes

Well eventually I did decide to name my deck, but me being me, I decided to name my deck which was made up of Grass and Psychic Pokémon as Strong Arm Of The Law. I chose that name for one very good reason, it’s a song by British Heavy Metal Legends; SAXON. Strong Arm Of The Law is a very good song with a cool intro and riff, and a pretty good chorus section that is also kind of catchy. So pretty much there and then I decided to name my decks after Saxon songs. I planned to call a possible Fairy/Steel deck Princess Of The Night, while if I was to make a mainly Grass deck, that would be called And The Bands Played On. A Flying deck would receive the name 747 (Strangers in the Night) and a Fire deck (with possibly some Grass) would be Unleash The Beast. So I had it all planned out really.

That was until very recently. I decided that come the new season in September/October time I would start the construction of a new deck. I had been using Strong Arm Of The Law since about March/April 2013 and so in order for me to try something new plus some possible variety, I decided it would be best to get a new deck going. Strong Arm Of The Law was originally built by a friend at Pokémon by combining two Intro/Theme Decks, so I bought two decks at a brilliant Board Game shop in Horsham (BattleQuest Games). While I did do my research into Intro Decks and there were some with more powerful Pokémon, I went for a Dark and Fighting intro pack with a Panda like Pokémon on the front card called Pangoro. While I still need to build the deck, (I have yet to open the boxes) I have already chosen a name for my new Deck, and being a fan of Saxon, and deciding to name my future decks after Saxon Songs, my new deck’s name is,The Sultans of Swing, which many people know is the name of a song by Dire Straits.

Mark Knopfler

So why did I choose that? Well, during the summer, mostly thanks to listening to Money for Nothing about this time of year last year, as well as constant exposure to Romeo and Juliet on my Writing Adaptations module at University, I became a fan of Dire Straits. So pretty much the only music I have really listened to for the last 2/3 months is music by Dire Straits. One song in particular; The Sultans of Swing, I have listened to more than others. When I first heard it I wasn’t too impressed, I thought the song was a bit plain, but then when you listen to a live recording version and give it some time, it becomes one of their best songs. The lyrics the tune, everything. I once listened to it about 20 times in one week, I like it that much. So why did I decide to choose Sultans of Swing as the name of my new deck? Well, because:

  • A) I think it works, and…..
  • B) because I couldn’t think of anything else.

But the name does work, because in essence, I am calling the Pokémon in the deck, The Sultans of Swing. It is more of a personal name for them and gives the Pokémon cards both Character and Personality, and on top of that it brings two awesome things together into one brilliant combination; an Awesome Card Game and an Awesome Rock Band. Pokémon and Dire Straits is quite literally a Brilliant Combination (unless the deck turns out to be rubbish, in which case it may be the last time I use a Dire Straits song as the name for a Pokémon deck).

GENEPOOL (I could call a future deck Telegraph Road, but the deck would need to be so evenly mixed enough for the full 14 minutes of the song to take effect).





Eurovision Reaction 2014

12 05 2014

Conchita Wurst

Another year of Eurovision happened this past weekend, this time hosted in Copenhagen by last year’s winning country, Denmark. This year, they went against the norm by showing the previous year‘s winning song, not at the beginning, but halfway through, and that’s not all, they only really showed 30 seconds to a minute’s worth of what was both a catch and fabulous song and instead show a whole new song which apparently had everyone from the final singing to it. I didn’t see that bit though as I went to the toilet.

The presentation of last years winning song had also changed from a sort of cultural, possibly French army look, to something more tribal. While Ukraine did something similar in 2005 when they hosted it, at least the song was in the same style.

 

As for the contest as a whole, The presentation was a bit varied. It started off quite well, the built stage was amazingly done and the water around the stage was a nice feature too, the idea of putting the green room in the foreground was a nice touch which made the thing look like a Velodrome, and the little bits here and there such as the odd touch of comedy, particularly in the Eurovision Museum sketch which included a brief appearance from both Johnny Logan and Lordi. But as the event went on, it got a bit overdone with its selection of fun facts and how the presenters could hardly stay in one place throughout the show, and while they tried to lighten up the show by bringing in little gifts for the countries including the UK as well as a booth appearance for Graham Norton, the people involved seemed to be so confused, that they looked like they had absolutely no idea as to what was going on or what the presenters were talking about, and while they did try to come back with added fireworks, it was pretty much too late to save the presentation of the contest. Not even the song about the number 12 helped. All this from the only country to win the contest twice since 2000, which means they should know how to put on a show. At least we’ll have a reason to think twice before voting for Denmark in future contest for the near future. The flag postcard feature was quite nice though, they deserve credit for devising that.

As for the songs, it mostly a year for ballads, which was quite annoying for the most part as there was hardly any diversity at all. While countries like Finland, Ukraine, Iceland, SwitzerlandSpain and even the UK managed to do something different, there wasn’t much from the ballad department to look out for. Ok, Sweden‘s was well sung and I wouldn’t have minded if it had won it, but I didn’t vote for it, Slovenia‘s was also quite interesting. Iceland’s had a catchy theme, but the presentation was sort of annoying, the colours, the formal Teletubbies dress code and the singer who kept making me think of Kenneth Branagh, but given the ballad fest, I wouldn’t have minded so much if it had won, even though it’s sort of surprising that it wasn’t a hot country in the voting. It was nice to see San Marino in the final for the first time, even if the song was performed in front of a giant clam shell. For me though, there was only two choices for my vote, Spain’s which was quite well presented and catchy, and Ukraine’s Hamster Wheel Song. I voted for Ukraine, but it was close between those two as to which to choose.

The voting was a hot contest throughout with the fight for the top spot going on into the second half. even with about 10 countries left, it was still between 10 2 countries, Austria and Netherlands, with the Netherlands having one of their best years in the contest for a long time. But with about 3 countries left to go, Austria had already won it marking their second victory in the contest after close to 50 years since their last win. The UK did quite well reaching 17th place beating Azerbaijan who for the previous five years had always reached the top 5, this time coming in 22nd place. As for Ukraine and Spain, Ukraine came 6th, and Spain 10th, while Finland, a country with limited success since their debut, but not so much in recent years did quite well this year coming 11th overall. But it really was Austria’s year this time round with the song Rise Like A Phoenix sung by Drag Persona Conchita Wurst, which I thought wasn’t all that good as I thought it sounded a lot more like a Bond Theme with annotations from The World Is Not Enough, especially as moments in the song almost went into “The World Is Not Enough”. To be honest though, most of those points were probably awarded due to the presentation of the singer, much like Finland’s victory in 2006. Overall a sort of over average contest at best which was quite disappointing and was definitely not the best contest over the last 10 years, but did survive to some respect to remain enjoyable at best.

GENEPOOL





Top 10 Eurovision Song Contest Songs (Part 2)

9 05 2014

ESC Logo

For those of you who spotted my post on Wednesday, this week it is the Eurovision Song Contest and as I have been watching the contest for 10 years now, I am counting down my Top 10 Eurovision Songs from the last ten years. I have already said what my 10 through 6 songs (including a range of other songs of note mostly seeming to be from 2006) were, if you haven’t seen it yet, please check it out, but here and now are my Top 5 Favourite songs from the Eurovision Song Contest.

Hanna Pakarinen

5. Finland 2007 – Hanna PakarinenLeave Me Alone: With Finland’s ground breaking, history recording as well as record-breaking victory the previous year, Finland’s presentation of the contest in 2007 was one of the best years yet, but that didn’t stop them from entering an absolute monster of a song. This song may not have won, but it was certainly the loudest song in 2007. Leave Me Alone is a song sung with passion. The lead singer is talking to someone, who she wants to leave her alone but as the song progresses, she gets a lot angrier, leading to what may be something bigger but what is actually sadder, as if she has had enough and has broken down but managed to keep it together. Such lyrics work in good tandem with the tune as that progresses in a similar fashion but gets heavier and louder. The gothic theme presented from Finland in 2006 continues into this song with a gothic fantasy design for the clothes, set and background images, but the tune itself is very dark and offers a gothic fantasy piece in parts, but altogether it is more of a rock-based tune than pop, but as shown the previous year, that works and works well, and with the inclusion of the passion that singer is producing, it is one song that anyone can join in, feel and enjoy. Hanna is an amazing singer and her style is very clearly represented, one of the best vocalists in the contests history (not to mention that once again, YouTube has a problem with the video being up here, so please click the below picture to watch the video, thank you).

Leave Me Alone Song, Please Click To Watch Video

Eric Saade

4. Sweden 2011 – Eric SaadePopular: It is a well known idea that Eurovision likes Pop Music as it is something that mostly everyone can join in. The most popular of songs as well as those who have won a lot are in form of usually upbeat light songs which the audience viewing the contest can join in with as well as everyone at home as it releases a form of energy inside everyone to join in with in some form. This is a good sign as to the success of bands like ABBA in the past. It is only really in more recent years that music in different forms and styles are stating to get a shot in. But Pop will always have a place, as shown with this song. I don’t like pop as much, but you can’t help but like this song, from the opening quick beat, to the dark style throughout in the low pitch moments to the more out loud chorus, to the great dancing that you want to join in with, the amazing vocals by everyone involved, the glass breaking near the end and not forgetting the great lyrics as is the song while not forgetting the amazingly lit stage and background imaging. And with saying all that I have pretty much summed up how good and what this song is, and while I could go on by talking how the song shows the optimism by those who want fame but the tune shows the dark side of fame, I don’t really need to do that all that much as the song really carries itself. I am not much a fan of pop in the contest as can be seen, but I really do approve of this song.

Vanilla Ninja

3. Switzerland 2005 – Vanilla NinjaCool Vibes: In 2005, Switzerland did something odd by asking a prominent girl band from Estonia to represent them in the contest. Now, while it does sound odd that a country asks a band from another country who did previously try to represent their own country a couple of years previously without much look and tried again for 2007 as well as the bands lead singer (Lenna Kuurmaa), as a solo artist trying three times to do the same thing, (in many respects it would be like France asking Motorhead to sing for them), I am glad that Switzerland decided to do so, as they are Awesome. Vanilla Ninja is a girl band from Estonia who have enjoyed widespread critical success in continental Europe whose style ranges from pop rock, to hard rock and gothic rock. The first time I heard of them was at the 2005 contest, and I am glad I did, as I am now a fan. They are an incredible band, and I don’t use the term lightly when I state that in my opinion that they are the Best Girl Band. Their song at the contest in 2005, starts off in a dark operatic piece for about a minute before the lead singer announces the beginning of the main bit. The song then keeps it’s dark gothic tone throughout with cooperation with the lyrics. the band is nicely presented with an absolutely fabulous choice of clothing, keeping a similar rock look but also wearing the same colour and playing it as well given the choice colour for their instruments. For the whole song also, your concentration on the groups members is on all of them not just one, which  think the choice of clothing helps too. It is really hard to say anything more about this song with out talking so much about how amazing the band are, so I’ll leave it there, but I will say that if you have not heard the song, do give it a go, it is sheer brilliance, and if you have not heard of Vanilla Ninja, do look them up, it is totally worth it.

Ruslana

2. Ukraine 2004 – RuslanaWild Dances: It really was a hard choice for second place between this and the above song. While the song may look tribal and the dancers and singer look like a group of Savages, don’t knock it because it worked, and well, it won the contest in 2004 and due to its appealing tune as well as the brilliant singing and dancing, basically the whole thing, it got me interested in the contest and without it, I probably wouldn’t be watching it. To call it a song would not give it all much justice as it is more of a performance than a song. The song is sung with a lot of passion from Ruslana, and the song is not dark at all, it is very upbeat throughout and the dancing matches it too and the tune is very memorable and uses more traditional forms of music such as traditional horns and drums. The song’s presentation is also of note as the singer and dancers choice of clothing really helps to represent the song and what they are trying to perform, but the song itself has a strange aura about it that produces tingles down my spine and so the song serves everything to the viewer if it can do something as well as be something more than just a song.

Lordi

1. Finland 2006 – LordiHard Rock Hallelujah: First entering the contest back in 1961, Finland for years was almost nothing more than a massive joke in the contest, getting zero (Nul Points) points on three occasions and finishing last eight times, there was even a popular joke going round about them. Then in 2006, Finland had had enough and unleashed something radically different that was ground breaking, history making and record-breaking. While the popular format at Eurovision is in the form of pop music due to its accessibility, Finland entered something that was definitely, very different as well as over the top and whose presentation scared organisers into trying to pull it from the contest but also released a rabid like reaction from the audience, a sort of essence which had stayed dormant for so long, that it hasn’t really been suppressed since. They entered a Hard Rock band with a Hard Rock song and made history. The song is, Hard Rock Hallelujah performed by Finnish Rock Group Lordi, is obviously quite different to any Eurovision song in the past as Rock is hardly entered at all, but this level of rock which is knocking on the doors of both Gothic and Heavy Metal has its dark style, but it’s also upbeat enough for anyone to join in at all. The lyrics are quite easy to learn and is great to sing along too and while maybe not a dance song, there is something literally for everyone. But the real success in the song is not just in what style the song is or what the lyrics are, it is also in what the band is, as in what it looks like. Eurovision has always been a place for gimmicks and dressing up in unusual ways, but Finland’s Entry were not in the usual sense, but in nasty looking monsters that while looking horrific really appealed to everyone and made the entire entry stand out above the rest. I don’t think that the costumes would have worked if the song had been pleasant, it would have been ironic, but the song released the rock fans as it were that Europe has all over it and got them voting in the contest while other people were voting for the monsters to win it, everything about the performance was being voted for and lead to not only a first time win for Finland but also the achievement of having the highest score in the contest’s history at that time at 292 and stayed like that until Norway’s victory in 2009. Hard Rock Hallelujah ticks all the boxes as a great song at Eurovision and while it could be some time until a song comes along to be better than it, Lordi’s performance as a whole will remain a key favourite for everyone for years to come (So Britain, if we want to win, it may be an idea to see if Kiss is willing to do it, or beating that, Iron Maiden with an appearance from Eddie).

GENEPOOL (Does anyone else think that Vanilla Ninja’s lead singer looks a bit like Jennifer Lawrence?).





Top 10 Eurovision Song Contest Songs (Part 1)

7 05 2014

ESC Logo

I love the Eurovision Song Contest. Since I first took an interest in 2004, it has been one of the staple viewings for me personally of the year. From the moment that one is on, and a winner is crowned, I am already starting to get excited for the next contest the following year. It is an amazing spectacle to watch and I love the variety of not just the songs themselves, many bands and artists of which I have become a fan of since their appearance but also the show itself, and there have been many times when the music and the show have been on equal footing together, producing an amazing show (and with a minor thanks to me, three songs I have voted for went onto winning the year they entered). As 10 years have passed since I first started watching, as well as the next contest being this coming Saturday, I thought I would celebrate by choosing my top 10 favourite songs from the last 10 years of The Eurovision Song Contest.

Now choosing the top 10 was hard, I already knew the top 5, but the other 5 more so, and the thing is there have been many amazing songs over the last 10 years. So, just so that those songs may get a mention as well, here are the songs that didn’t get into my top 10, but deserve a mention as well (and click on the name to hear the song): Germany 2010, Denmark 2013, Norway 2013, Ukraine 2007, Belarus 2009, Moldova 2010, Netherlands 2006, Moldova 2007, Denmark 2010United Kingdom 2006 Iceland 2012, Lithuania 2006, Romania 2006, United Kingdom 2011, France 2010Malta 2006, Croatia 2006, Poland 2006, Spain 2007, (I know most of them are from 2006, but it was a pretty good year).

Loreen

10. Sweden 2012 – LoreenEuphoria: While I initially voted for Iceland, there was something great about this song. It was more than just singing, it was also dancing, two things that don’t really mix at Eurovision from what I have seen, in that they are rare together. The song had a mix of disco along with some more natural elements to it, particularly the way Loreen danced in her bare feet, meaning that she could perform in a more natural state to her, but also meant that it had a more natural world feel about it. The song itself had great moments in the chorus and was almost three songs in one, the verse, the chorus and the pause before the end. The dance works in co-operation with beat of the music and the lighting also as well as some of the end snow effects. It is hard to explain this song other than being mysterious, but also incredibly enjoyable. This was definitely something different to both the usual and anything else presented before. Maybe that’s the meaning of it, the song is meant to be mysterious? For what is a song contest, Euphoria is both a celebration of Dance as well as music, but also a celebration of what can be achieved when they are brought together.

Elena Paparizou

9. Greece 2005 – Elena PaparizouMy Number One: In all honesty I did not notice this song until 2006. I remember watching it win in 2005, but did not notice until 2006, and I liked it, a lot. The song has a very traditional sound about it, the instruments that make up the track sound authentic and traditional and even the dance has a traditional, perhaps country dancing look about it. But there is an aura with this song, the singing is well performed and easily understood. It is a love song at heart with the singer talking to someone, stating what they are to her, but it isn’t a slow song, it is really upbeat, and one that you almost want to join in, both the song and the dance and it is a song that once you have heard it a few times, you will struggle to not only forget, but to also to join in with it.

Elnur and Samir

8. Azerbaijan 2008 – Elnur and SamirDay After Day: 2008 saw the debut of a country that would shake up Eurovision every year after its arrival. Since 2009 Azerbaijan has always finished in the top 5, coming third in 2009, second in 2013 and winning in 2011. But it was in 2008, their first year, that they arrived, and produced a song that went to number 8, very easily. Day After Day is an unusual song where as it tells a story instead of being about something all the way through. It is a classic, setting with an almost Fairytale styled theme and setting over the long duel of the sides of Good and Evil. On the good side, the parts are sung almost operatic while still conventional pop, where as on the evil side, it is not so operatic, almost more normal, but the overall message that good will always win over evil is very much clear by the end. the song has a strong chorus which will is easy to join in, and will make you want to join in, and along with its well designed and strong presentation, Day After Day is one song that cannot be overlooked.

Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov

7. Bulgaria 2007 – Elitsa Todorova and Stoyan YankoulovWater: 2007 was a great year for the contest. Such a great amount of diversity from all who participated, and the arena was nicely designed and the overall show was brilliantly presented. One song stood out for me in particular, it had a mix of loudness, speed, slow at times, brilliant dancing and singing and a presentation that was unlike anything else that year. The song was more a piece of music than a song, like Euphoria is more like a piece of dancing instead of a song. The main form of instrument was the use of constant percussion which sounded very tribal in its essence and the vocals that there were used in tandem with it, worked as such. The talent that Stoyan and Todorova poses in both their chosen and instrument and vocals is quite clearly seen, and while they may not have won, their talent and piece was so obvious in it’s showing that it helped them get into the Top 5; Bulgaria’s best result to date. I look forward to the possibility of them entering again someday.

Terasbetoni

6. Finland 2008 – TeräsbetoniMissä Miehet Ratsastaa: It is a common feature for songs at Eurovision to be sung in English, as it is the most spoken language in the world. But on an occasion you will get someone singing in a different language altogether, and not just bits here and there, but all the time. Now depending on your own language, these occasions can be hard to join in with, but it is possible. Also, Eurovision over the years has featured mostly Pop orientated pieces, not much Rock or Metal, but when a band does so, it can lead to some success in the contest. Now mixing both these points together is hard, but when the song is as catchy as this one, you will want to join in, in the language they are singing the song in. In 2006, one of the contests most unluckiest countries, Finland won for the first time, and with a record score using a song that was quite definitely Rock (and lead to me voting for them for four years in a row). in 2008, they decided to try and repeat this success with this. Missä Miehet Ratsastaa, translated to ‘Where The Men Ride’ is the song Finland used in 2008. A definite Rock, more like Metal song performed by native Power Metal Band Teräsbetoni whose look and lyrics are a lot like Manowar but whose sound is more like Faroese Folk Metal Band Týr. The song itself is actually very catchy and when the chorus comes in you will just want to sing it with them, in Finnish (Like I do, I pretty much know the entire song off by heart). As for its look and presentation, it’s something you are unlikely to forget anytime soon, but in now way is it off-putting and the design of the whole thing including the guitars themselves is beautifully done. The song is brilliantly played and orchestrated but with most of your attention turning to the both brilliant Vocalist and Bass player; Jarkko Ahola leading the song. For a contest that most of the time is filled with mostly Pop, it’s good to see something from the world of Rock and Metal, and when it is at a quality as good as this, it doesn’t disappoint (unlike YouTube who won’t let me put the video up on here, please click the below picture to hear the song).

Terasbetoni Video (Please Click To Watch Video)

GENEPOOL (That’s it for part 1, check back on Friday for the Top 5).





Because We Want To

26 03 2014

Billie Piper

One of those Nightmare songs of the 1990’s. While I am a massive fan of the 1990’s there are a few downsides, like songs that you don’t understand but stick in your head. In this case it is the Billie Piper song Because We Want To. Now if you say Billie Piper these days most people will instantly think either Doctor Who or Rose Tyler because she became very famous as a result. When I heard Billie Piper was going to be in Doctor Who I instantly remembered that song (which everybody else suddenly forgot about………?) because beforehand in 1998 she achieved a number 1 in the UK Charts, one that stayed in the charts for several weeks as well as appearing on several children’s TV shows, for weeks, on end, one after the other.

CBBC Logo

The video is a particular memory. It shows Piper dancing down a street with several other people (some in CGI) and all dancing the same way during the chorus, the spin is pretty good. The chorus itself has the part which stays in your head, the repeated “Because We Want To”. The CGI characters look a bit odd and you wonder why they even bothered. One of them looks like a monster that may appear in Doctor Who, there is also a Flying Saucer seen at the beginning of the video which Piper appears from (there is a subliminal message in there somewhere). However the background tune is actually quite Good which helps give the song credibility and the only reason it is a nightmare song is because the repeated “Because We Want To” sticks in your head and you don’t know why, it is a shame though that tune does not continue the full length of the song because during the verse parts it becomes a generic sound/tune.

Billie Piper as Rose Tyler

In a decade filled mostly filled with the Spice Girls and Steps it was nice to see/hear something different and actually quite good but gives out a chorus which just sticks in your head (particularly after 2005). OK, I do think it deserves more credit than people realise (and did launch the career of Billie Piper). Piper’s performance is perhaps one of her finest and at her best, when she is seemingly herself, like in her early Doctor Who days (the under-talked about but Great Christopher Eccleston period). Her choice of outfit is also more relaxed and appealing to the casual viewer, like we are actually seeing Billie as a person and not just another 90’s pop girl. The video and tune are actually quite nicely put together and really thought out . All together it is one of those pop songs from the 90’s that was actually good and worth remembering despite the fact you will, why? Because You Want To.

BWWT (Click to watch Video)

GENEPOOL








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