This week, we thought we’d do something a little bit different for the UDS blog. The idea started with a random year chosen by our own Neale, and as you’ve probably guessed from the title, the year chosen was 2004. We then each chose 2 albums from the year 2004 that we think people should go and check out again. The albums we’ve selected are a reasonably eclectic bunch, ranging from Metal to Glam-Pop to Japanese Alternative Rock and all sorts in between. So, without further ado, here are 6 albums from 2004 that we think you should go and listen to again!Read More
Lady Gaga’s ‘Joanne’ is an album I often revisit, and was one of my favourite albums of 2016. Yet, in 2019, I feel like it’s an album that really doesn’t seem to get the love I think it deserves. Why is that?Read More
This past Tuesday (29th Jan), I attended Monster Magnet’s lone UK date of their ‘Mindf****r’ tour at London’s Electric Brixton, a gig that in many ways was 12 years in the making. Their 2007 album ‘4-Way Diablo’ was one of the first albums I ever owned myself, rather than stealing from my dad’s CD collection or a compilation of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 soundtrack. Now, you’d be forgiven in thinking the 13 tracks that comprise ‘4-Way Diablo’, and indeed the wider Monster Magnet discography, are nothing more than self indulgent, over the top and derivative; but it was (and still is) for these reasons that I fell completely in love with the band. Yes, their leather-clad, rockstar schtick might be passé, but it’s entirely self aware and serves as a love letter to a bygone era of the genre. I’d never consider myself a stick in the mud, and I genuinely believe we live in one of the most exciting periods for alternative music in a good long while, but at a time where there’s a few too many ‘Oli Sykes’ types dominating headlines, it can’t hurt to have a few Dave Wyndorfs.Read More
The curious case of an unexpected album release I see! Not only that, it is a cover album I hear! I hope they have covered songs that I know! Oh well might as well just put it on without seeing the tracklist and hope I can sing along. In all seriousness though, despite all my mixed feelings (spoiler) on the album, I would recommend putting this on and being surprised by what they play. Read on to find out more thoughts and feeling on Weezer’s ‘The Teal Album’Read More
My aim today is to share some of the songs that Chris Cornell has had a hand in creating that I think more people should listen to, and hopefully open people’s eyes to an artist they may never have given a second thought about. This is neither a beginner’s guide nor a deep cuts collection. These are songs that maybe didn’t get as much radio airplay, album tracks that I think could have been put forward for the masses, and a couple of singles that are often overlooked. So, if you’ve ever found yourself grooving along to ‘Spoonman’ or headbanging to the outrageous noise of ‘Cochise’ but have never thought to go beyond the songs fed to you on a platter, this might just be the list for you.Read More
Nineteen years. Nineteen years! Six thousand, six hundred and thirty two days ago since Unbreakable was released in the USA. The “Eastrail 177 Trilogy” as it has come to be known is such an anomaly in the film world right now. We have had so many studios chasing Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) trying to release multiple movies in a singular year. Whether it is the mishandled DC Extended Universe, the ill-fated “Dark Universe” Cinematic Universe that got off to a non-start with Mr. Cruise’s The Mummy or even Fox’s “sometimes a hit, sometimes a miss” X-Men Universe which seems to be slowly (and sadly) getting shut down with the Disney merger.
I’m a big fan of comic books and the movies that are made around them. So to have something that is so different from the MCU I believe should be applauded. It takes restraint to create three movies over NINETEEN YEARS when in perspective that is Marvel’s output for a single year. It’s obvious that there is money to be made in superheroes and after all these years it could be argued that the universe being created here was not for the sake of making money but was actually a carefully thought out trilogy by M. Night Shyamalan. With all that time to refine does that make it a good movie however?Read More
Did you know we’re living in the future? The future is NOW! Whatever you’re up to today, it’s almost certainly very cool and futuristic.
Ok, so 2019 might not be the future everyone was expecting, but that doesn’t mean bleak visions of the future have gone away. People have been dreaming of dreary cities full of film noir charm for the last few decades, so at least we’ve still got that to tide us over until the machine uprising grants us the true future we’re all desperate to die in poverty from.
Hey let’s look at some cool cyberpunk anime.Read More
Doctor Who is my favourite TV show, through and through. So why is it that Series 11 has left me feeling so conflicted about my love for the show? Am I having some form of crisis? Is the show all of a sudden really bad? Have I grown up? I don’t think it’s any of these things. Join me, as I take a look at some of the things I liked and disliked in Series 11 of Doctor Who in an effort to find some clarity.Read More
Hello everyone, you join us here for another year in the bag. 2018 somehow went by in a flash and also seemed to take forever to get to the stunning conclusion of the Brexit saga (we definitely aren’t going to hear anything about Brexit in 2019 right?). Whilst the news of the year has been mostly grim as the world’s leaders still deny climate change and it seems we are on the brink of our own extinction, the entertainment industry has had a truly fabulous year to help us forget our somewhat saddening existence.
So join me for my personal “favourite things” of the year (I will spell favourite the way we do in England, sorry Americans). Then join us from Wednesday 26th December for the beginning of the “UDS Sharkies 2018”. What a year it has been.Read More
It’s that time of year again - the Christmas tree is up, the tinsel is strung around the house, and the television is flooded with a load of rubbish films. That’s alright though, who’s actually paying attention? On Christmas day the TV is merely a vessel for background noise, something to neglect while everyone’s opening their presents, or vegging out after a particularly heavy turkey dinner.
But what if you don’t fancy slumming it with the latest drama in EastEnders or Coronation Street this year? We’ve compiled a list of a few films you might want to check out, and we’ve even gone to the trouble of coming up with some excuses for you to use in case someone says “that’s not Christmassy enough”.
It’s a big week for Marvel and its cinematic universe. A second ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer has been released to much hype, with the first trailer for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ and the much sought after Avengers 4 trailer (and potential title reveal) finally being unveiled in the coming days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe where we stand in 2018 is an entertainment juggernaut, with millions of people embracing and holding close the characters and storylines involved. As one such person who loves this franchise, upon seeing the immersive experience ‘Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N’ was opening its doors at London’s ExCel centre, I jumped at the chance to book tickets, and went along with a quiet excitement at what might be contained within. But is this something worth attending, or just something made to capitalise on fandom? I went along to find out…Read More
Hi readers, my name is Neale and I’m new to the Upside Down Shark team. I studied film at university, with Craig, focusing heavily on animation and animation production, so I thought for my first little article I’d write about a movie that had a big impact on me years ago when I first saw it, and how it changed the landscape for animated movies and science fiction.Read More
In part 1 of my introductory pair of articles, I covered my 5 favourite albums and TV shows. Here in part 2, I’m going to be covering some of my favourite video games and movies, but this time it’ll be a little bit different. Instead of writing up my ‘Top 5s’ as it were, I’ll instead be focusing on 5 video games and movies that have had the most impact on me. Sure, you’ll still be getting to know my favourites from both categories, but this time ranking isn’t going to factor in, because honestly my feelings are a lot less definitive in these areas. With that out of the way, we’ll begin with 5 of my favourite video games.Read More
Hi there. My name is Matt. Most people call me Dobbie. Either is fine, combine them both and you have my name anyway. Welcome, dear reader, to my first article for Upside Down Shark. I thought I’d take this opportunity to give everyone an idea of who I am and the sorts of things I’ll be writing about for UDS in the weeks, months and potential years ahead. Seeing as Pop Culture is the name of the game here, I feel the best way to show who I am is to give you a collection of my favourite albums, video games, TV shows and movies. I won’t go into too much detail here as we’ve got years ahead for proper dissection. In Part 1, we’ll cover my favourite albums and my favourite TV shows. So, let’s just jump into it, shall we?Read More
Pixar films are like children to me. It’s always hard for me to pick my favourite one (except for the Cars trilogy). Wall-E, Up, Ratatouille and Toy Story 3 are high up there but being somewhat of a superhero nerd I always find myself being drawn to The Incredibles. I have always found it to be the perfect Fantastic Four that was never made. Fourteen years (and another truly awful Fantastic Four film) since it was released we find ourselves with another Pixar made superhero film and I couldn’t be any happy.
The film takes place exactly where the first one finished. The Incredible family are outside a sports stadium watching the rise of the Underminer, then without missing a beat spring into action. The opening scene reminds you that the family are a well oiled machine when working together and whilst they may not have the outcome you expect from the first encounter it is very well done to set up the rest of the film.
Supers and their place in world has not changed since the first film, Supers are still outlawed but now the government has shut down the relocation programme as well, which find our heroes staying in a motel, eating takeout and wondering what to do next. Mr. Incredible & Elastigirl are offered the chance to change the perceptions of Supers and hopefully change the law so it is no longer illegal for them to be out in public.
Mr. Incredible is at home taking care of the kids whilst Elastigirl is out fighting crime. It is here where there is an entertaining balance of the film takes place, every time the main plot thickens with Elastigirl we go back to Mr. Incredible hilariously fumbling his way through parenthood mostly with Jack Jack.
In terms of new characters the Supers are hit and miss. Voyd is someone who can create portals to teleport any sort of matter through and is a strong stand out, whilst Brick is a strongman and Krushhauer can erm crush? The “weaker” Supers appear to be incredibly (no pun intended) B tier and are treated with as much screen time as necessarily to further the story but I doubt we will see the a spin-off movie starring Reflux anytime soon. Do not fear Edna and Frozone make strong appearances in the film too.
The overarching villain Screenslaver seems a bit predictable at first and may even seem a bit easy to write “Hey, we all look at screens too much” but looking deeper it also a commentary on the state of superhero films and how we are all looking for people to sweep in and save the day in reality that we comfort in films perhaps a bit too much. Whilst some of this may go over some people heads, it is important to remember that this is a superhero hero film and a kids film so try not to be too surprised when there is a happy ending.
The Incredibles 2 does more of what you love with The Incredibles and does it really well. Whilst some sequels seem half baked or a quick cash grab, time has helped the thoughts of the original Incredibles set and help mature the creation of this film that other superheroes will probably never get.
This was one of the best gigs I have been to in a long while. I would recommend anyone reading this should listen to Cryptodira, Palm Reader and Rolo Tomassi.
The sold out Garage venue in Highbury London felt like electricity was flowing through it from the moments the door opened. I had never heard of the support acts to the nights show, but boy was I impressed by both performances before Rolo Tomassi finished off the nights showing.
Cryptodira took to the stage first a four piece all the way from Long Island, New York. They were different sort of “Metal” band then what I am usually accustomed too. At certain points it sounded like the most soothing elevator music you’ve ever heard, not in a bad way, if you closed your eyes you could be mistaken in believing you have received some sort of euphoric epiphany. The euphory ended and then the metal kicked in, sometimes the metal was a bit short when compared to the calming build up, but when it was in full force it was something to behold. Cryptodira is one of New York’s best metal exports and if you want something different from your metal bands, definitely give them a listen.
Palm Reader were second and upped the loudness factor. Their mission statement is “We play loud. We play heavy. We play hard. We play fast.” and that they did. Raw and brutal in its most basic form, they went from 0 to 10 in such a short time and had no let up throughout the whole performance. Playing songs off of their recently released album “Braille” but also diving head first into their back catalog Palm Reader showed on this that they were built for the stage just based upon the strength of the songs that they created. Simply put if Cryptodira was a band that had a calm before the storm, Palm Reader were all storm with the loudest thunder with no calm at any point.
Cryptodira, Palm Reader & Rolo Tomassi (Source: Palm Reader Instagram https://goo.gl/j7hNYL)
Rolo Tomassi was the headline act of the evening and were on top form. Opening up with “Towards Dawn” going into arguably their friendliest song (and my personal favourite) “Aftermath”, from then on the set contained songs primarily from the most recent album “Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It” with the occasional barn burner like “Ex Luna Scientia” thrown in for good measure.
I may be biased as Rolo Tomassi are one of my favourite bands but this was truly a definitive performance by them. Everyone in the sold out venue were feeding off of the bands energy and vice versa. The ebbs and flows of this Rolo Tomassi performance is like the perfect dinner, expertly crafted and each course perfectly complimenting the last. You’re not just gonna run off after eating, you’re gonna leave a big tip and be excited to come back again next time. Well perhaps my eating analogy isn’t the greatest but one thing is for sure, next time Rolo Tomassi are playing, go see them for something completely unique and treat yourself to a good meal afterwards too.
I had seen Mega Ran two years ago at the same venue. At the time I had just been introduced to his music and whilst I knew people used “video game tunes” in their music I must admit I thought it was a fad, like pogs or fidget cubes. That’s not a diss because I enjoyed pogs (at the time they were big) and video game soundtracks make up a good pile of my MP3 collection.
I can safely say Mega Ran however is not a fad. Over the last few years, Mega Ran has shown that hard work and passion can shine through in any profession if you have enough determination. How else would a man that once worked at Toys R Us, now be able to join The WWE Tag Team The New Day in the middle of a wrestling ring?
The support act of this cold London night was SΔMMUS (Sammus in plain old English characters). An unassuming softly spoken woman took to the stage in this darkened basement venue, but soon as she got on the mic she let her songs do the talking for her. I cannot stress how impressive Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo (her birth name) was on the night, with a voice similar to that of Nicki Minaj but with subject matter that has a better appeal (think less songs about big booties/being with boys and more about lounging around the house playing video games). Her specialist subject was rhyming about Mario & Metroid but has a PhD to prove she really is as nerdy as her songs suggest if going around the stage with an arm cannon was not enough proof. Sammus was a spectacle and every song performed gave off a big presence on stage. Listen to her EP The Infusion about life or M’other Brain for a more game based musical adventure.
Sammus & Mega Ran
Mega Ran got onto the stage with Ric Flair’s music playing in the background with an almost deafening applause for such a tiny venue. Performing songs from a variety of places, whether his numerous solo albums or his seemingly 100+ collaborative projects he has created in the past. Of course being the professional and creative type he is, that was not enough. He did his patented audience freestyle in which he creates a completely new song based on items that the audience members give to him. Simply describing it is an injustice, when you are there experiencing the freestyle in person it is a pure delight to witness.
In my previous review for Mega Ran I stated “Never before have I been to a gig where the person on stage wants to share the spotlight with everyone”. Two years on this is still the case, bringing Sammus on stage to sing a song together and bringing the crowd on stage at the end to dance to Sugarhill Gang’s Apache, it truly is for his entertainment as much as it is the audiences. You can see that Mega Ran is a performer that loves audience interaction, he feeds off of the energy. The crazy you are the crazier his set will be.
Over the years his rapping style has gotten tighter, his routine is more polished but not a lot has changed at a Mega Ran performance, which is not a bad thing seeing as it was of such high calibre in the first place. If there is ever a festival or gig with Mega Ran on the bill do yourself a favour and go and see him, you will not regret it.
“Since Bruce Springsteen, Madonna. Way before Nirvana. There was U2 and Blondie”. Bowling For Soup of course ended with their biggest hit (a cover of SR-71) to a raucous crowd which were lapping up all the shenanigans which had happened before hand. What shenanigans you ask?
The evening started with Army of Freshman. I was not in attendance for them but from what I heard through muffled doors and walls they were definitely a rock band. The Aquabats! took to the stage after and what I can only describe as one of the most unique and confusing musical performances I have been too.
The Aquabats! had many key moments to their bizarreness, for instance the song “The Shark Fighter!” saw two people dressed as sharks take to the stage and run around whilst throwing inflatable sharks, the song “Pizza Day” saw inflatable pizza thrown into the crowd and then “Super Rad!” saw seemingly every inflatable object they could find and throw it into the crowd. At one point a slightly overweight super villain in a Freddie Mercury costume called “Breaddy Mercury” came onto the stage to throw bread into the crowd and try to injure the people who were “Gluten Intolerant”.
For a Ska band who have a kids television show I was not expecting a lot but The Aquabats! were able to put on a performance which was similar to that of a Pixar film, sure the target audience may be kids but it is of such high quality people of any age can enjoy it as long as you are up for having fun and not taking yourself seriously.
A somewhat blurry photo of Bowling for Soup & The Aquabats!
Bowling for Soup were last on the bill at Brixton and played the Drunk Enough to Dance album in full. Which ultimately meant you could learn all the songs to sing along too if you were so inclined. If you have ever been to a Bowling for Soup show you know the rundownof what is going to happen, mostly songs and jokes. The band have had years to hone their improv skills and it came through on that night, to the point they played three songs in a row without talking to the crowd and jokingly stated “we are now exhausted”. They played D.E.T.D in order from front to back so a song like “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” ended up being third in the setlist. After finishing the album play through they made sure to sprinkle a few other crowd favourites like “The Bitch Song” to make sure that people who were not the hardcore had things to keep them occupied.
The encore consisted of “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)” with Army of Freshman playing the third verse so BFS could see what it’s like to see a band play that song, “Star Song” and the previously mentioned “1985”. For the final song they brought on a Polish fan from the crowd to play guitar because he held up a sign saying he wanted to play the song. It was pretty mental. He did a good job keeping up with the rest of the band whilst Jaret was able to have a rare moment off guitar and peruse the stage.
Overall I would recommend The Aquabats! or Bowling For Soup as a go to gig for any fans of rock or anyone who would just like a good time. Sure it’s never going to be something like a Beethoven piece but it’s there for you to have a good time and party and that’s exactly what “The Get Happy Tour” set out to do.
By Tom Baker
So the dust has settled on another year of video games and the Games Awards has crowned The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as 2017’s game of the year. Now in this writer’s humble opinion, there could be no other winner; the sheer scale, variety and resplendent beauty of the game makes it one of the all time greats, and one that should be held in the same regard as Super Mario Bros., Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Sims as a game that redefined what the medium is capable of.
However, that isn’t to say Link and co. didn’t have some stiff competition; 2017 saw a stellar line up of video game releases to help us escape from our increasingly depressing journey to post-mortal oblivion. With that being said, here’s Upside Down Shark’s best video games of 2017.
One of the later launch titles for the Nintendo Switch, Mario Odyssey is a belter, I tell you what! Just like in the world of cinema, for far too long it felt like Nintendo and other major studios were rehashing their existing franchises in a lazy attempt to make a cash cow – Mario Odyssey bucks this trend and then some. Rather, it takes the mustachioed mascot and thrusts him in a fresh, original direction; new worlds, new mechanics and new challenges make playing it an absolute delight and a testament to Nintendo’s expertise in game design.
If you have a Switch, it’s an absolute must buy.
That’s an order.
Sonic the Hedgehog has been dragged through the mud for the better part of a decade, with titles ranging from mediocre to traumatically awful (we’re looking at you, Sonic Unleashed), so you’d be forgiven for acknowledging a new game featuring the titular blue Erinaceidae (look at us, using the big words) with little more than a tut and derisive shake of the head.
Sonic Mania proved us all wrong.
Designed by freelance SEGA superfan Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania is the quintessential labour of love. Repurposing the visual assets from the first generations of the series, it strips away the awful gimmicks to give us something that not only evokes the warmth of nostalgia, but does so with a polished, almost modern presentation. In an era where pop-culture seems to be obsessed with reliving the ‘good ol’ days’, it’s refreshing to see something that manages to balance celebrating the past while also looking to the future.
Playing while eating a chili dog isn’t mandatory but is strongly encouraged.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is good, m’kay.
The sequel to 2014’s The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole manages to capture the puerile, offensive yet oddly charming humour of the TV show and incorporate it into some pretty solid game mechanics. Classic turn-based RPG battles are tense and challenging, the character progression system is satisfying and just like its predecessor, the art direction makes it feel like you’re playing through a genuine episode of South Park.
I won’t spoil any of the gags or plot here but needless to say, if you’re a fan of the show and enjoy a healthy dose of cringe, The Fractured But Whole is definitely not to be missed.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Shifting swiftly from the groin-grabbingly funny to a harrowing portrayal of the future, next up on our list of the best games of 2017 we have Horizon Zero Dawn.
Set in a primitive post-apocalyptic society infested with deadly robots (most of which look like something that could be cooked up by Boston Dynamics), you play as Aloy, an outcast hunter gatherer on a quest to make sense of the world around her. And exploring this world is a rip-roaring good time; a combination of addictive RPG elements, a compelling story and a vibrant map make this a title that could easily become a multi-game franchise.
What’s more, the inclusion of a strong female protagonist should not go unnoticed nor uncelebrated. During a time in which the established (and quite frankly ridiculous) gender roles within society are being challenged more so than ever, it’s important for the next generation to have a variety of different role models to look up to, regardless of gender, orientation or race. If Horizon Zero Dawn helps to achieve this in some small way, then it must be considered an important piece of cultural art.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
It’s an amazing how much good a year off can do.
With several less than stellar titles being released in recent years (not to mention an even less than stellar film adaptation), it’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed was going through the doldrums. Skip forward to October 2017 and Assassin’s Creed Origins has flip reversed that trend in the best possible way.
As the name implies, the game is set during the beginnings of the centuries old conflict between the Assassins and what would become the Templar Order at the height of Ancient Egyptian culture. The idea of Origins being a new start isn’t limited to the narrative of the game, as the mechanics, graphics and gameplay all feel revitalised and fresh for the first time since Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.
A special mention must also be made about the nigh on ludicrous size of the game. When Upside Down Shark started playing, it took a solid 4-5 hours of wandering and general pottering about before we even got to the title screen – in that time you could complete The Order: 1886 four times and walk up the shop to trade it in! At the time of writing we still haven’t completed the game, so if you’re looking for maximum bang for your buck when considering your next gaming purchase, look no further.
And that’s a wrap on the best video games of 2017. Here’s hoping 2018 see’s even more excuses for me to shirk all real world responsibilities and run away to the realm of pixels and polygons.
What were your favourite games of the year?
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