The Rakes Keep It Real

Just picked up a cool new album from The Rakes, an underrated rock band from London.  It’s hard to believe this band isn’t more well known in the states. I’ve thought of a few ways to describe their sound:  Blur if they did punk exclusively, Bloc Party if they were smarmier, The Strokes if they hailed from London. But really I detest those descriptions, as they make The Rakes sound unoriginal.

On the contrary, this band sounds quite fresh on most of their tracks. For example, they do great social commentary, specializing in the topics “regrettable things that happened after several pints” and — somewhat surprisingly — fear of terrorism. Somehow, this all comes across as upbeat britpop.

But enough of my bubbling enthusiasm. Check out this video for their single “1989,” from the new album Klang.  I think it’s import only at this point, but I found a great deal on cdwow.us. The album is less than 30 minutes, but it’s great fun. I also recommend their debut album, Capture/Release.

Bloc Party Burns Down 9:30 Club

Bloc Party at the 9:30 Club
Singer Kele Okereke tells crowd to "Get involved!"

Bloc Party played to a sold-out show last Sunday at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. The show was ace, as they say in England.

For those who don’t know, Bloc Party is a really innovative British band that mixes punk with some crazy dance beats. When they’re good, they’re good, and they played nearly all of my favorite songs at the show (including several I didn’t think they’d play, like Flux, Ares and Tulips). The band was also quite charismatic, cracking wry jokes the whole way through.

Bloc Party’s first album, Silent Alarm, won almost universal acclaim from critics, but their two followups (A Weekend in the City, Intimacy) have received more mixed reviews. The main issue with the band, in my opinion, is they write three kinds of songs: 1) Super Awesome  2) Pretty Good and 3) Boring.

Silent Alarm has more Super Awesome songs than the other two albums, however it also has its fair share of Boring songs. A Weekend in the City has only a couple Super Awesome songs, a handful of Pretty Good songs, and a lot of Boring songs. I like the new album, Intimacy, a lot better. It’s got a few Super Awesome, a lot of Pretty Good, and only one or two Boring tunes. I guess what I’m saying is that the best songs are on Silent Alarm, but Intimacy is the most solid album all the way through.

Also, Silent Alarm and Intimacy have way more loud/fast songs than Weekend. Believe me — loud/fast is where this band excels. That’s the kind of song they’ve been playing live lately, so go see them now! Before they go soft!

Time Flies

Whoa, is it March already? That happened fast!

Reporting on telecom has kept me moderately busy lately. I’m getting more involved now in the broadband aspects of the economic stimulus, aka the American Recovery Act. In case you didn’t know, the U.S. government dedicated $7.2 billion to spur broadband deployment across the country. The U.S. is a pretty wired country in urban areas, but we’ve got a ways to go in the rural areas, where there’s less population and trickier geography. It will be interesting to see how successful this new grants and loans program will be.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making some solid progress on my latest creative endeavor. Yes, it’s a novel. If you liked We, The Watched,  or at least liked the story concept, you’ll probably dig this. Not even a quarter way through writing, but I’m already proud of it. More details to come.

By the way, if you’re looking for some new music, check out Glasvegas. They’re from Scotland, and put out a fantastic debut CD earlier this year. I’d describe their sound as somewhere in between The Raveonettes and U2 (“Sunday Bloody Sunday” era). I’m planning to see them live in DC at the Black Cat later this month.

Inauguration in Washington

My view of the inauguration.
My view of the inauguration.

I made it to the inauguration of President Barack Obama earlier this week.  I’m a Washington, DC resident, so this wasn’t an expensive decision on my part, though I ended up doing a fair amount of walking.

I think "throngs" would be the right word.
I think "throngs" would be the right word.

My girlfriend and I got silver-section tickets, but that didn’t mean it was easy getting into the mall. We walked miles to find the silver line, and then another mile or two to find the end of that line.  The queue, as they call it in England, stretched and snaked around block after block, eventually looping back to a spot quite close to the entrance of the silver section.  But then — in an inauguration miracle — an official told us a new gate had been opened, and we entered a mob near the entrance.  To make a long story short, we made it, and though we couldn’t see Obama per se, we had a nice view of the Capitol.

George W. Bush leaves the capital
George W. Bush leaves the capital.

Leaving turned out to be nearly as difficult a proposition as getting in. No one bothered to take down any barricades after the event was over, so things ended up looking a lot like an ant farm. Throngs of people pushed their way into dead ends, climbed over fences where possible, and cried out to soldiers for freedom. Good thing we all had hope. Yes we can!

Fish & Video Games

Hey, it’s 2009. That’s pretty cool.

I vacationed to St. Michael’s, MD last week and ate fish. I also took a bunch of photos. You can see parts of these pics displayed prominently at the top of every page of this website. Oh, and yes, I did some writing on what hopefully will turn out to be my next novel. Made a lot of good progress; it’s all really starting to come together.

I picked up a couple new video games: Fallout 3 for Xbox 360 and Boom Blox for the Wii. I was intrigued by Fallout 3 because you get to explore a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC. Also, there were ads for the game were plastered all over  Metro Center station here in the capital. After a few hours of play, I found the game itself to be just as cool as the premise, though I admit I was a trifle overwhelmed initially. Fallout presents the player with an astonishing amount of choice.  And I’m not talking about choosing to beat up a bad guy rather than sneaking around him.  I mean, like, choosing to help, rob blind and/or blow up an entire settlement. Usually when I play an adventure game like this, I like to try and do as much as possible — do all the optional side-quests, read all the dialog, etc. But I think I’ve come to terms that there’s no way in hell I can  do that in this game.

Boom Blox isn’t nearly as open-ended an experience, as it’s a puzzle game. But its use of the Wii’s motion controls makes it a blast, no pun intended. The game — which was developed by Steven Spielberg — is kind of like a virtual Jenga, except the goal is generally to knock the blocks down, and you can do more than pull blocks (baseball, anyone?).  And there’s like 300 challenges, too.

So yeah, if you’re of the gaming set, check them out. If not, well, I’ll try to write about something else next time.