Enamored by the Olympics

The past week and a bit have seen me pretty much tune the world out so I can watch the Olympics. This is a very regular thing for me, going back as far as Atlanta ’96, when I spent a considerable amount of time watching it while on vacation in Washington D.C. (I managed to get a lot of sightseeing in, as well, which impresses me to this day.) For the summer games since then, I loved watching Sydney ’00 and was quite interested in most of Athens ’04, but I do believe that Beijing is going to top them all.

(I like the winter games, too, but not quite as much. Diving and gymnastics top figure skating and curling.)

Because of this, I haven’t gotten around to doing my movie preview for September, which I should get around to, now that we’re really heading into the dog days of the box office summer. However, I don’t want to leave the blog alone for too long, so it’s time for another comment post. Apparently my dislike of Coheed & Cambria makes me popular. Or something.

I’ll thank ‘Lou’ ahead of time for not descending into profanity.

I’m not gonna’ sit here and attack you for your “attack” on Coheed.

Thank you.

No point in that.

Rarely have truer words been spoken.

However, in almost all forms of creative expression, there is some self-injection.

Okay, what is it about C&C fans that make them think that ‘self-injection’ is an appropriate term for anything? It just SOUNDS WRONG. What’s really, really sad is that in the post, I explained what self-insertion is, and used the term multiple times. If you’re going to comment on something, at least do the courtesy of self-editing so that you don’t self-idiot.

Whether you’re aware of it or not is different.

It’s different? Yes, actually it is. My possible awareness is different from my possible non-awareness. Thank you for providing a tautology.

I honestly have no idea what point you’re trying to make with this sentence. It doesn’t have any contextual connection to the previous.

But people write from what they grew up with, what they experienced.

You start a sentence with ‘But’ as if you’re trying to make a counter-point. But there is no counterpoint. Observe, with paraphrasing:

1. Creativity involves investing something personal in the created product.

2. You may or may not be aware of this, which is different.

3. But creators invest their experiences.

The last sentence is merely a rework of the first phrased as a counter-argument to the second, which has no meaning in and of itself. This is not an argument. If you want to phrase an argument in this fashion, you would need 1. Statement of fact or opinion. 2. Posit about the opponent’s stance. 3. Counterpoint to opponent’s stance with proof that undermines it. You’ve failed in points two and three, because you first haven’t given any stance to argue against AND you haven’t even given yourself a counterpoint.

What bothered them, what pleasured them.

Going on with the above, if this is proof, it’s really flimsy. More specific about the experience point, yes, but not really additional evidence.

This is just a fact of creative life.

You are failing to convince me. This is really, really sad because I already agree with you. I know that writers write from experience and invest themselves in their creations. Write what you know is an age-old adage to apply to writing, and it is often painfully apparent when someone is bullshitting on the fly.

There’s a line (and not an especially fine one) between writing what you know (or at least understand) and writing a self-insert. The first is what makes stories interesting, because you can impart the knowledge of the experiences you have upon the reader. The latter is what makes stories unbearable, because if the separation between author and character is muddled enough to be essentially academic, it’s really difficult to get the reader to invest in the character. This is true for a multitude of reasons, one being that it is almost painfully obvious that the self-insert, Mary Sue character is unlikely to have any real trauma.

That being said,

Usually when I see ‘That being said’ I expect something to follow that provides a bit of balance in a viewpoint. See also ‘on the other hand’.

it’s probably not cool to bash something you’ve only heard a few minutes of.

I fully expected this and it’s still a non-sequiter. Bravo.

Claudio’s got a surprising range, it’s just odd that the songs like “Welcome Home” and “A Favor House Atlantic”, which happened to be two popular singles off of “Good Apollo” and “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”, respectively, happen to have abnormally high vocal parts.

I don’t disagree that he’s got ‘a surprising range’. It’s surprisingly bad, surprisingly grating, and surprisingly consistent with my desire to turn the music off, thank-you-very-much. The fact that it is abnormally high in two of his (apparently more popular songs) does not disagree with that. In fact, I’d go so far to say as it’s not odd at all.

I don’t get it either.

You don’t get why C&C is popular? Join the club! I’m absolutely mystified by this. I am completely flabbergasted that Harmonix decided that not only should they include a C&C song in Rock Band, but they should also cover another song AND use the first C&C song to advertise the Wii release of the game. (Unless the last was a clever, clever ploy to get Wii owners to not buy RB upon release, because they knew that the vastly superior Rock Band 2 would be coming out by the end of the year… even on the Wii.)

But then again, I do like Rush and Our Lady Peace, so who knows.

Hardly a secret, but I love Rush. They’re easily one of my favorite bands. I believe you’re under a mistaken impression. I do not dislike Claudio Sanchez’ vocals because they are HIGH. I dislike them because they are ATROCIOUS. There is a very, very big difference between these two points. The man cannot sing well. Geddy Lee can.

Rush also has a number of other advantages, namely their lyrics aren’t misogynistic crap, their songs are well constructed, and they’re three of the best at their respective instruments on the entire planet. Comparing C&C to them is an absolute travesty, considering the talent that the Canadian trio have.

Maybe I’m biased.

I don’t think that you need to preface that with ‘Maybe’.

Give “In Keeping Secrets” a good listen-through, I think it’s a severely solid album that covers a wide range of creative area.

No, no, no, no, no! God, why would you ask me to do that? I do not like their music. The lead singer makes me want to puncture out my ear drums and the way they put songs together makes my head hurt. I could get the same experience by playing classical, techno, polka, and a samisen all at the same time while Wing belts out AC/DC and it would probably be considerably more enjoyable.

At least taste the food before you say it’s horrible, just don’t smell it.

Seriously, where the hell does this viewpoint come from? When presented with an opinion that is disagreeable, people constantly say “Oh, you haven’t experienced enough of [x] to truly appreciate it.” and then try to force the product upon the disagreer. If the person relents, invariably they’re left still hating the thing, same as before, and they’re pissed off at the lost time.

I’ve got a roommate who doesn’t like cheese very much. She’ll go for milder sorts of mozerella, but anything sharp really sets wrong with her. I happen to love cheese, especially the sharp kinds. But I’m not a complete moron, so I’m not going to say to her “Oh, cheese is wonderful, you just haven’t experienced it the right way” and then shove some really ripe parmasan into her mouth. I know how this is going to end: she’ll likely vomit and then be rightfully pissed off at me. I don’t like mushrooms but said roommate does. She hasn’t said to me “Shiitakes are the best thing EVAR” and tried to force me to eat them, though.

She understands that I don’t care for them and will prefer not to eat them in most situations and I won’t do the same with cheese. We have our acknowledged tastes in foods and that’s perfectly fine.

Usually people will understand this. Food preferences are easy to understand. So why isn’t it the case with music? Seriously, why do people get uppity if someone says something negative about their favorite band?

The fact that I find C&C to be terrible has no effect upon my opinion of any people who like them. Whether or not you like them or any other band does not reflect upon my opinion of you. I might question your taste, and point out that the band promotes a sexist and misogynist message that personally bothers me, but I’m not going to criticize too much.

Hell, it’s even okay to like C&C in a completely ironic way because they’re so bad. I happen to love a bunch of bad bands, and find particular delight in disposable teen-pop. If you find happiness in that, so much the better.

But don’t ask someone to waste their time or money to experience more of something they’re predisposed to disliking. It doesn’t make sense. In the case of C&C, I think I’ve spent more than enough time experiencing their music, and considerably more looking into the band so that I had a strong enough understanding to write the initial post. The stories that Sanchez writes are bad enough I have no desire to experience it any further.

The Beauty of Comments

I don’t get many comments here on goddOS.net. That makes sense, since this blog is new, not very active, and probably only read by close friends and such. Still, a few people seem to have come across various posts for whatever reason.

Yesterday one gentleman found my review of Rock Band in which I take a very unfavorable eye towards Coheed & Cambria. Initially, I wasn’t going to release them, but upon consideration I should. I should also respond to them. So, he’s going to get the FJM treatment.

Ok… so, what I just read… was that a review?

Yes. Yes, it was.

It seemed more like an attack.

Admittedly, it’s a biased review. It’s an emotional review. It’s a review from my perspective and response to the music. It’s a personal opinion. But it’s not an attack. It is not an attempt to damage the members of Coheed and Cambria, at least no more than any other critical review. If I wanted to attack them I’d use, I dunno, a laser sword or something.

It also seems to me that you must spend a little too much time sitting at your computer or playing that beloved RB (it is awesome, I’ll admit it).

You forgot that I’m in my mom’s basement.

Coheed and Cambria are a hugely succesfull band, not just in album sales (over 1.5 million stateside alone)

He’s correct in this. They had an album go gold, and then the first Good Apollo album went platinum. That does mean that they’ve sold at least 1.5 million copies. HOWEVER it’s worth noting that the second Good Apollo album, even after over six months in release, has just managed about 150,000 sales, a significant step down from the previous album. Worldwide it’s sitting a bit over 300k. These are fine numbers, and indicative of success, but let’s be clear, it’s not setting the world on fire.

but as a live act as well, selling out venues of sizes ranging from mid-size clubs to arenas and amphitheaters.

I can’t confirm or deny this. It’s probably true. Is it a valid point, though? I don’t think so, but more on that below.

While I’m not the biggest fan of the band (I enjoy the music and story, even Claudio’s vocals… just not a big punk/metal guy) I have to give credit and respect where it’s due.

Fine credit where it’s due: Coheed & Cambria are able to sell music.

Guess what. N’Sync could sell music. No Strings Attached sold over a million copies in a DAY and over two in a week. It sold over 15 million copies total world-wide. As a band, they’ve sold 56 million albums worldwide since 1995 (accepting that they haven’t been together for about half that time.)

And they aren’t even the biggest act in their genre. The Backstreet Boys sold 37 million albums in the US and over 100 million worldwide.

Or from the standpoint of concerts, Coheed & Cambria don’t hold a candle to Miley Cyrus, who’s sold out every show in huge stadiums to the point that she’s increased a recent tour from 55 to 69 dates AND they made a movie out of it just to try and meet demand. That movie, BTW, garnered $31 million in three days, the biggest opening for a film under 1000 theaters. She’s also sold 8 million albums worldwide, and 3 million in the US.

If we’re looking just at the business side of things, Claudio Kilgannon is absolute shit compared to Hannah Montana.

Now my question to you is exactly where the fuck do you get off bashing a band you’ve never listened to outside of one song on a video game and their comics, which you’ve never read.

My criticism of C&C was largely centered on the fact that Welcome Home is an atrocious song. Everything else is extrapolated from that. In order to understand the depth of how bad it was, I needed to research a bit. While that research didn’t extend to finding and buying the comics, online material seems to be fairly comprehensive in establishing that The Amory Wars is a fairly tepid science fiction entry that isn’t establishing anything new.

I can find bad sci-fi very easily, and I don’t need to pay for it.

I imagine you to be a fat, slobby, loser of a guy.

IN MY MOM’S BASEMENT!

I would have been put off by reading this sort of review of anything.

Put off what? Put off giving C&C any money to peddle their at-best-mediocre wares? Then my work here is done.

To keep it short, shut your fucking mouth if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Y’know, I think I’m going to keep talking. How about I go off half-cocked on a rant without taking full consideration for both my own opinion but also the status of that which I am criticizing.

Oh, wait.

Or just shut your fucking mouth… you’ll catch flies.

True story: I once spent a good portion of a family reunion catching flies with my bare hands. Then I taught some younger distant cousins to do the same.

I did wash my hands afterwards.

Arrogant piece of shit.

I have many vices. Arrogance isn’t generally one of them. In fact, I probably have a nearly crippling lack of self-confidence.

Amusingly enough, Mr. Brent C. came back nine minutes later and added more:

Oh and p.s….

Pedantically, it should probably just be P.S. and then “Oh, …”

Also, an ellipse only has three periods. I’m quite curious why both his posts started with a double-ellipse sentence. It’s like he’s gearing up to think about his point.

I just looked up the numbers…

Yay, numbers! I love numbers!

the first five issues of The Amory Wars (which I haven’t read either, I’ll be honest) have sold over 700,000 copies since their beginnings last year

Really? A five issue series moving 700k copies? SURELY I’d have heard about such a stellar-selling series somewhere in all of the comic news I come across. That’s an average of 140,000 copies an issue. Or roughly the same as what Final Crisis #1 sold.

Let me question. Are you seriously suggesting that an independent, non-superhero comic book tie-in to a musical act is selling on par with DC’s top-tier summer event series?

SERIOUSLY?

Well, okay, then.

and have been released as a trade paperback graphic novel.

Correct. I actually saw it in my local comic shop. I cringed.

The first issue of Volume II is due to come out this week

Fair enough. We’ve established that it’s either successful enough to warrant a second series OR that it’s a really big vanity project.

and Hot Topic (that shitty little store in everyone’s mall)

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Is Hot Topic a shitty store? Or is it successful because it’s everywhere?

has taken 138,000 pre-orders since June.

That’s a lot of pre-orders for a comic book. I’m really doubting them, as well. A search on Amory Wars sales numbers didn’t bring up anything to cooberate this information.

In fact, a check into ICV2’s sales charts for comics and graphic novels shows that in April, the TPB of Amory Wars volume 1 moved about 2500 copies. This is a perfectly respectable number, and shouldn’t be marked as bad. It’s also just for the direct market. Some titles sell considerably better outside comic book stores, but those are usually Naruto and such. Even if I grant that the sales are going to better in bookshops and Hot Topic, I’m not seeing them hit much more than three or four times what the DM moves.

As far as the comic, the fifth issue sold about 6000 copies in the DM in January. This is down from the 10,000 that #1 sold last June. In fact, except for issue 1, all the issues sold around 6k copies. A five issue title that moves 35,000 copies isn’t bad, and for an indie project it’s fine, but it’s not breaking out. Hell, DC Vertigo tends to cancel titles that move so little, because they can’t make their money back.

Again, even if we allow  2-3 times more than that outside the DM (and issues sell considerably worse than TPBs do, comparitively, outside of comic book stores), we’re still not getting into 700,000. We’re not even at 140,000. For the whole series.

For the mathematically deficient: 35,000/700,000 = 5%.

By the available information, we can confirm that The Amory Wars is at least 5% of Brent C.’s claimed success point.

My point is… these guys are highly successful and talented, obviously.

They are successful. I do not debate that. They are not as successful as a number of other musical talents or a number of other comic book talents. If we’re equating their success to an absolute value of their talent, they’re probably firmly middle of the road.

In comparison, Rob Liefeld is an astronomically more talented comic book writer, and N’Sync are significantly better musically.

Hey, it’s not my argument.

In my previous post, I even allowed that there is some musical skill to C&C. That skill doesn’t extend to lyrics or vocals. (And in the intervening time, I’ve come to realize that even as a musical construction, Welcome Home is absolute shit. However, the guys playing the instruments aren’t bad.)

You blog about comics and movies.

I do. And video games. From my mom’s basement.

You talk about the self-injection

Self-insertion. Self-injection sounds like something heroin junkies do.

story line or whatever you called it with such disdain as if you yourself were not suffering from some pretty serious delusions of grandure.

Grandeur. Which, no, I don’t have. Lovely logical fallacy, by the way.

Arrogant piece of shit.

Repetition for the win!

The Partial Vindication of Awards Ceremonies

By and large, awards ceremonies, and the awards given, are crap. Rare are the times when a ‘Best’ anything is truly the best in the given timeframe. Just look at the Oscars, which have been haphazardly picking films and actors clearly not the best in the previous year. The voting systems will invariably choose what is popular (and somewhat good) rather than what could objectively considered the best.

The video game industry is no stranger to this, and when I was able to view the Game Developer’s Choice Awards in 2007, I witnessed first hand the failure of the voters, when they chose Gears of War as the Game of the Year. Not that Gears of War was a bad game, but it’s frightfully derivative in most cases, adding only a few new elements (and pretty scenery) to a very well-established genre.

Compare that to Wii Sports, which was incredibly innovative and well designed all around, plus the ushering title to all the grand promise that the Wii brings. (I admit a bit of the shine has come off the Wii in the past year, but it’s still full of exciting potential.)

In the year since those awards, I lost any hope that a truly good game would hit the spot. In that time, I’ve heard BioShock and Call of Duty IV, very well constructed games, considered frontrunners for the top prize. Rather than spend another disheartening evening watching the awards, I chose to do other things. Sure, there was a possibility that Rock Band would win something, because it is sheer awesome, but even I’d hesitate to say it’s worthy of the title ‘Best Game of the Year’. The equipment problems, lack of a few ideal gameplay elements, and some song choices leave it just short.

Imagine my surprise when I found out what had actually won the next day. Such was my disregard, that I’d not even taken the time to look at the nominees, so I was surprised that Portal even had a nomination, much less managed to take home the prize.

Granted, in my opinion, it’s not really a close contest. Portal is, to be blunt, one of the best games every designed. The other titles were the two aforementioned refined FPS games (BioShock and Call of Duty IV, neither of which really deserved to be there. BioShock was little more than System Shock II with an Art Deco look and some critique of Objectivism thrown in for flavor. And in very few cases would I grant a game with a roman numeral in the title enough creativity and innovation to deserve such a spot.

Rock Band is a spectacularly fun experience, but it’s not perfect. And Super Mario Galaxy is a very polished platformer that shows how they can be built for the Wii, but it’s not the best work of Miyamoto’s.

The surprise missing titles, for me, were Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed.

Portal still is a bit of a surprise. I’d have expected the entire Orange Box to get such a nomination, rather than the component parts, if only because it’s often pitched as this One With Everything product, of which Portal is just the extra fun element thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, it’s a wonderful choice. True, the format isn’t original, since the greated FPS ever devised (Goldeneye) was released over a decade ago, and since then it’s mostly been tweak and refinement to appeal to a narrower and narrower crowd of fans. But since there’s no shooting, few direct enemies, and a completely different style of play, I’m inclined to accept that the FPS elements are just the medium, not the message. Valve’s a company that only does FPS’s anyway, and they can be credited for doing some very interesting things with Team Fortress 2 to get rid of a lot of the excess of the genre besides.

So, innovative gameplay, easy accessibility, some excellent framing and design (the warning signs alone are worth the price of admission), the best song to ever come out of the video game industry (coming soon to a Rock Band game near you), and the best writing I’ve ever witnessed.

Yes, the best writing. And here’s the rant part of this rant.

You see, while Portal was considered the Best Game and the Most Innovative Game, it apparently wasn’t considered the Best Written game.  For some reason, that award went to BioShock.

I’m sorry, what? BioShock? Sure, it had some excellent dialogue, a few neat character arcs, and some clever commentary on 50s culture, but the ending was absolute shit. Plus, the one big choice the player has in the game is so clearly black and white that it’s amazing Peter Molyneux isn’t on the design team.

Portal, in comparison, is an exemplary piece of writing. The character arc of GLaDOS is spectacular, the dialogue is perfect, and the small elements they throw in (“The Cake is a Lie”) are awesome.

Seriously, I’d had part of the game spoiled completely for me before I played, and the first time I saw one of the secret rooms, chills went down my back. I spent a good part of the game alternating between hysterical laughter and a desperate desire not to crap my pants.

THAT, my friends is emotional reaction. And BioShock doesn’t have any of that. Hell, they had to use mood music to tell the player when things are supposed to be creepy.

A friend of mine brought up a point about this. He allowed that Portal is well written, but it’s only about two hours long (or 18 minutes on a speed run). BioShock is many hours long and it’s chock full of great character dialogue, so that has to count for something.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. Portal is a short story, true, and BioShock is a novel, but it’s still a novel with a crap ending. Portal is a story stripped down to just the necessary elements to get the point across. BioShock is an excess of cleverness to the point of bloat.

To paraphrase a number of writing teachers, it’s easy to write long, it’s hard to write well.  Portal isn’t long, but I’d argue that it’s harder to write a story that short that has all of that greatness into it. Any longer, and it’s likely that the story (and the game) would suffer because of it.

I can only assume that the votes for Portal got split with Half Life 2 Episode 2, leaving BioShock the undeserving winner.

Even so, the Game of the Year award is much deserved, and brings a bit of legitimacy back to awards ceremonies.

When Good Games Go Bad

This post is about Rock Band, which has eaten up a not inconsequential portion of my free time of late.  Despite the title of the post, I have few complaints about the game. It is not quite the best game ever made, but there is such a depth of play there and the promise of continuing DLC means it should remain as such for quite some time.

Review in brief: Bravo Harmonix!  There are few missteps here.

This post is also about comic books. And with that there are probably a few who will understand where I am going with this.

As  I said above, there are few missteps. Before I had the chance to play Rock Band, due to being geographically away from my venue of choice from its release until after the new year, I made do with Guitar Hero III, the slightly off-kilter third sibling of Rock Band’s predecessor franchise. While there are many problems with GHIII, there are two things it does very well. Those two things, I must say, find Rock Band lacking.

The first is the peripheral construction. While I have few things bad to say about the previous controllers, the GHIII Les Pauls are a thing of beauty. The action is smooth, the weight is good, and they are all around comfortable to play.  In comparison the Fender Stratocasters that come with RB are, to be polite, very cheap feeling. Beyond the well documented breakdowns and other troubles, the guitars do not have that sense of strength, beginning with the action on the frets and being most noticeable with the weak strum bar.

The second is the way hammer ons and pull offs were changed in GHIII. In the first Guitar Hero, I found them impossible. In the second, they were troublesome, but on occasion would work as expected. Neversoft decided to make them even more forgiving such that it feels rather fun to get them rather than a difficult gamey element. It is perhaps one area where choosing to go for a less realistic method of doing the music turned out for the better.

However, both these are beside the real point. In spite of these problems, Rock Band shines, even when it causes me problems. I tend to play bass, and while I’ve been playing above my head on some songs at Expert level, jamming with my friends is fun for a long time.

The song selection is very good. I could probably play Learn to Fly and Here it Goes Again many, many times without getting tired of them. I may slowly be growing to dislike Sabotage because of the difficulty and repetitiveness of the bassline, but it’s still a fun song to listen to. Run to the Hills and Green Grass on High Tides may both give me problems for a while, but it’s a nice challenge to try and beat them.

As with the Guitar Hero games, it’s nice to get the combination of songs I know and like to go with some I didn’t expect but find I also like.

But nothing’s perfect. Guitar Hero II brought me Psychobilly Freakout, which isn’t enjoyable to listen to and even less fun to play. Guitar Hero gave me No One Knows, which almost soured me on Queens of the Stone Age for life. In III I found Raining Blood, which combined all the worst elements of a repetitive punk song with the off-kilter timing of Institutionalized.

In each, I am brought to wonder why the designers felt the need to include this song in the game. With QotSA, I can at least say the song sounds nice (and in their favor, other songs are more enjoyable), and probably could feel the desire to keep chugging at it just because of that. What’s really bad is when there is a song that is no fun to play because I don’t want to listen to it.

While I was unable to play Rock Band due to my geographic non-proximity, my roommates did give me a bit of a running tally on how things went. The only mentioned one blight, one song that they would not, could not, play. A song so bad and annoying they’d skip it no matter what.

Curious, I checked the song out on Youtube. For the first thirty seconds, it doesn’t seem that bad. Some fairly neat instrumental introductions, hitting a nice hard rock groove. I could start to get along with that.

And then the vocals start. I swear I had to shut the window within seconds they were so bad. I honestly wondered what sort of people could choose to subject themselves to this regularly. It wasn’t just a weak singer, it was honestly a bad voice to use as a vocalist.

I wondered if it was just me (and my roommates) but after a bit of checking around with others, no, the song really is that bad and I wasn’t able to find anyone in my circle of friends who could stand to listen to the whole thing. I shrugged, chalked it up to a misstep in song choice, and forgot about it until I got home.

While playing through Rock Band, though, I began to get curious. It was certainly possible that we’d get the song on random, and it’d help  to have at least passing familiarity with it. So I started to look into this blighted song again.

I’m speaking about Coheed and Cambria’s Welcome Home. And in the interest of fairness, I will list its strengths. As a progressive/hard rock band, C&C has talent. They play well, have some good riffs and rhythms, and could probably be an enjoyable band.

On the other hand, the vocals are atrocious. Singer Cladio Sanchez has a high pitched voice, which isn’t a problem alone, but he’s also got a thin and weedy timbre. There’s very little depth. To make matters worse, his vocal range (judging from Welcome Home at least) is very narrow. So there’s a high-pitched screeching that extends through most of the song.

It kills just about any interest I have in listening.

Of course, the problems don’t end there. Welcome Home is from the album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. And no matter how many times I look at that, it does not make sense. The words look like English, but there is no meaning.

Apparently, this isn’t abnormal for C&C. Their subsequent album is called Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow. I’m really not sure what the title is supposed to imply, except to give off some vague sci-fi reference. This used to be common in music. David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars for instance. However there’s a big difference. The title of Bowie’s album makes sense. It is a cohesive title that doesn’t have a random string of works and numerals together.

In my searching, though, it seems that C&C is not inspired by sci-fi. Their albums are apparently directly tied into an ongoing science fiction epic being written by the aforementioned vocalist, Claudio Sanchez. I admit I haven’t read, nor do I have any desire to read, the works he’s put out, but I’ve tried to piece together the series.

Coheed and Cambria’s music ties into a series of comic books called The Amory Wars. The name of the band is taken from two characters in this series Coheed Kilgannon and Cambria Kilgannon. They have a son who seems to be a sort of messianic character who must accept his mantle and face off against the Big Bad to avenge Coheed and Cambria’s murders.

All right. That’s fairly uninspired for sci-fi, but given that C&C are (presumably) musicians first, it’s probably not too big of an issue. I could even ignore the original title for The Amory Wars: The Bag.On.Line Adventures. Please notice all the periods in place of spaces. I suppose it might be a reference to the same in a hypertext link, but really it just looks dumb. Even so, the title was changed to something a bit more run of the mill but that also makes considerable more sense.

So, we’ve got this hero character, Claudio Kilgannon,  who…

Wait, what? That name seems really familiar. Hero named Claudio written by singer/writer named… Claudio?

And here’s where the wheels start to come off. As best I can tell, The Amory Wars is a massive self-insert story. If it isn’t, I’d have assumed that Mr. Sanchez could have come up with a different name. Or, hell, just coming up with a different name would perhaps mask the fact that it’s a self-insert story.

There are two major problems with self-inserts. The first is one of balance. As anyone who’s read fanfiction for any length of time knows, by and large, self-insert characters are favored by the writer to such a degree that any other characters (usually those belonging in the original universe) tend to be overshadowed. Lots of power, luck, skill, charisma, what have you. These characters will display any number of these traits in such a degree that it stretches credibility.

The classic self-insert is the Mary Sue, which comes from Star Trek. It got the name because the editors of the novels could almost always disregard 90% of the manuscripts they received because they would invariably have a new, female character who graduated at or near the top of her class in Starfleet Academy, proved to be a popular addition to the Enterprise crew, would have a romantic liaison with the favored male character of the author’s choice, and would prove to be critical in solving the climax of the story.  These novels were almost always submitted by women. And while they may not have been atrociously bad, the fact that they resembled each-other to such a degree is staggering and leads one to disregard them as a whole. Thus, the Mary Sue character: the self-insert.

In and of themselves, self-inserts are power fantasies and not problematic. However, they are almost invariably stories written for the author, not for the audience. I’ve heard that in BDSM culture, there’s a saying of Your Kink is not My Kink. Here it’s that Your Power Fantasy is not My Power Fantasy.

By and large, I am not going to be interested in a story about some messianic character based on you. There are a few people in the world about whom I would find such a story interesting, and many of my friends are not those people. The further you get away from me, and the more it becomes a “You had to be there” situation. Do I understand this power fantasy? No, I don’t get why you should be cast as a world savior.

And thus, The Amory Wars have already lost me. They may be a fine piece of juvenile science fiction that Claudio Sanchez has written for himself. His friends may dig that he’s such a creative machine, but I don’t get why his stories are in my video games, ruining my ears.

It seems that the only published parts of the story are a bit of chapters two and four (of five). The music may add a bit more completeness, but on the whole it seems that there’s just a bunch of inspiration around a plot that isn’t quite enough to carry the story from Sanchez’ mind to the theoretical public. Telling a story out of chronology should be a technique to use, not come about by happenstance.

Not that that would be entirely bad, I’m none too sure that his grasp of language is any better than his grasp of storytelling technique. Just the title of the album is enough to cause concern. I’m not really sure if it’ll ever be completed, but given that Sanchez has had to self-publish so far, I doubt it’s going to set the world on fire if it ever does.

Now, I did say this was about Rock Band, so I’ll turn to the specific song that’s caused me no end of pain.

Welcome Home is one of the first few tracks off the album where, if I’m  reading this correctly, the story takes a step outside of the strict narrative and is instead narrated by The Writer in the first person. Since Sanchez is the writer, I can only assume he’s talking about himself, in some fashion.

So now we’ve got him singing, and writing, about himself as the writer of a story which is about a messianic version of himself.

Whoa, meta. This could almost be good.

Let’s see what the writer, I mean The Writer has to say:

You could have been all I wanted
But you weren’t honest
Now get in the ground
You choked off the short list of favors
But if you really loved me
You would have endured my will

Wow. That seems kinda dark and bleak.  Continuing on:

Well if you’re just as I presumed
A whore in sheep’s clothing
Fucking up all I do
And if it’s here we stop
Then never again
Will you see this in your life?

So, there’s some anger here. It seems he’s gotten burned romantically and is holding a bit of a grudge. I can understand being a bit bummed from a letdown, but let’s look at the language here.

There’s a lot of dominance and command in the voice. Talk of enduring his will, ordering to get into the ground. He’s also placing the unnamed woman as the downside of the virgin/whore dichotomy. She wasn’t honest, therefore she must be a whore! She’s fucking up everything for him.

It’s all her fault!

This really bugs me. Ignoring how confused I am how this fits into the whole sci-fi story above, this is hugely misogynistic. It doesn’t get any better as the song continues, with more threats of violence and painting the still unnamed female as a traitor to him.

I’ll grant that there may be some separation between Sanchez, The Writer, and Claudio Kilgannon, but the first person narrative here and general negativity towards women just sicken me. Even if his voice wasn’t so bad, the message is so squicky that I really don’t want to know more.

What’s funny is that this song alone answers the question about whether C&C are a prog metal band or an emo band. The sexism, lamenting about romance, and general whinyness plant it firmly in the camp of Emo. It’s not good emo, either.

And that’s really a shame, because, as I noted above, C&C do seem to have some musical talent. I think that, in a different setting, with a different front-man, the people involved could be rather enjoyable. They could go and pull an Audioslave. That’s what made RATM palatable to me.

Rock Band will survive. I think I’ll play the song the bare minimum and hope it doesn’t inflict itself upon me while I’m playing.

Shame, though. It’s a strike against Harmonix. Upon reflection, it bugs me a lot more than the shoddy guitar quality.