Live review – Depeche Mode @ London O2, 29/05/13

This was my 3rd time seeing Depeche, and this time at one of the biggest venues they could play.

While reviews for Delta Machine appear mixed – I actually really like it – a Mode show should always be good fun for the devotional because the band deliver all the hits, although this time it was fairly welcome that their historical run-through included highlights from their last 15 post-Wilder years.

Gahan does move like Jagger, Fletch could be the third MiB, and Gore is one of the few fiftysomethings who can pull off make-up without looking creepy.
The visual backdrops are a bit austere compared to from previous tours, but the triangle theme from the band’s current logo is employed well over the usual arty Anton Corbijn videos.

On the previous night I read that they played a few Black Celebration numbers which were absent here, unfortunately for me, but hearing rarities like Barrel of a Gun gave me something unique, and the new material pulled off good as well.

In some ways it’s DM by numbers, but when they do what they do well there’s no need to muck about with it. The Delta Machine needs no oiling.

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Woolwich attack

Apologies first if the formatting of this post looks odd. I’m using the email-to-blog feature for the first time as my home internet and landline are down for a little while, and I’m being conservative with mobile data.

What can I say about the Woolwich terror attack (a fancy alternative for the word murder) that others aren’t saying? Nothing really. I may not be religious, but just like you can’t blame all Christians for paedophile priests, it’s irrational to think any Muslim neighbour of yours spends his time salivating over machetes.

I’m not a supporter of UK/US foreign policy because I detest killing for no justified motive, which is precisely why I don’t have a molecule of sympathy for the attackers of Lee Rigby either.
But foreign policy and a magnetisation to radical Islam I think are background rather than foreground elements to this story. We’ve heard that these attackers had a tendency towards aggression before embracing a strand of Islam and were hoping to find some enlightenment in a popular curio from the East, but what appealed to their heart overcame their intellect, and goons like Anjem Chowdry and Omar Bakri Mohammed got to feed the fuel which the far-right relishes.

In other words, we had a couple of crazy people who found a crazy narrative for their mindlessness. This might be more common under the Muslim umbrella these days, under the media eye, but it doesn’t only come from there and it’s perverse to extrapolate the actions of some as being representative of all.
These guys are an embarrassment, not just to Muslims, but humanity. Something failed them, which failed us.

The roots go deeper. And I just hope the majority don’t forget that the EDL and Islam4UK etc. precisely crave division. Better to not satisfy either of those lunatics.

Redefending Windows 8: Don’t come back Start button!

I’ve actually written about this before and I’m likely to just be repeating myself, but I feel like repeating myself, and you could skip this. I’m motivated to write about this again because it seems that Microsoft are caving in to the Start button resurrection campaign.

I’ve heard that the Windows 8.1 update later this year will, amongst other things, allow you to boot directly to the classic desktop – bypassing the Start screen – and allow you to resurrect that nearly 20yr-old Start button; though that Start button may actually just invoke the Start screen; just like the bottom-left corner hotspot already does, in the same way a hidden Start button would bring up the old Start menu…

I feel Microsoft have been set up by journalists and a vocal minority of users in an Apple-domineering world, because right now all it takes is one click from the Start screen to access the desktop (anybody so lazy to require a direct boot into it is odd) and the Start screen is merely analogous to a ready-opened Start button crossed with an auto-population of desktop shortcuts; allowing you to less clutter the classic desktop with shortcuts.

Some people complain that the modern UI is best adapted for touch and shouldn’t be on traditional computers. Ridiculous. The iOS interface looks more apt for traditional computers yet still works fine on the iPad; the only discernible difference with Windows 8 (whether on PC or touch gadgets) is that instead of icons there are tiles, and these tiles are often informative to not require you to open them unless needed, based on the information in the tile. Windows 8 is as easy to use on a tablet (I say this as a Windows Phone 7.8 owner) as with a mouse and keyboard, because touch screen is simply an alternative to mouse input; it’s nothing very radical really.

Windows 8 is being compared to the New Coke taste change of 1985 – which I was too young to remember, if it emerged in the UK, but I would say Windows 8 is more like a redesigned can; maybe like when the non-pull-off ring-pull was introduced. It still tastes the same but works a bit different. There is a slight learning curve, but wasn’t there one when people moved from DOS-based systems to the first GUI Mac or Windows? In that age, though, there wasn’t the internet to amplify ‘bitching’. Even Windows 95’s first Start button appearance was virtually pre-internet (commercially) and some seemed to cling to Program Manager.

I can see why Microsoft might want to seem to appease the rowdy crowd as Windows is its flagship product. They mightn’t be leaders in tablets and phones, but Windows on laptops and desktops is still king and they don’t want to erode that base; particularly as Canonical’s Ubuntu seems a more probable alternative to pricey Macs for customers to defect to.
But here’s the thing, people that don’t like the modern UI probably won’t like Ubuntu’s Unity interface that much either. Though it’s not tile-based, some concepts are the same, such as invoking hidden things. Personally I commend Canonical and Microsoft for making Apple look like play-safe dinosaurs on this matter.

The failure of sales regarding Windows 8, and probably PCs in general, is because tablets and phones have been the hot product category for a good number of years now, and PCs from even a decade ago (my recently retired Dell is still around with a new role) are still workable. In fact their power can be superfluous as we’re not seeing software and hardware demand such radical power as was the case during much of the 90s. Windows Vista didn’t fare well so the next logical leap for an XP user was 7. But a 7 user doesn’t need to go to 8, in my opinion, not unless they like modern UI apps, which I will admit require a bit more functionality; Microsoft needs apps that are simple enough for tablets but powerful for computers, though some simple tablet-style apps are absolutely fine because, like the eBay app, for example, you don’t need much there.

I respect that Apple are a cooler brand these days (I love my iPod Classic and would replace it in an instant if I died), but Microsoft gets more stick than necessary because of an outdated corporate-monster image. They’re actually making some great products and my only real criticism of them is that they haven’t got the marketing slickness of Apple or the outsider respect of Linux. I’ll be clear, Microsoft adverts are often rubbish.

I’m not going to read over this piece before I post it, so I apologise if this has typos and seems to ramble in places. I just think, what I’m trying to say is, I wish a lot of people would just get over the Start screen. It’s NO big deal, and I hope that Microsoft largely stick to their guns. Windows is their art, and no one should tell them how to evolve it; and I happen to think their changes benefit the consumer rather than hinder it – in time. Windows 8 is not only fast in pure speed, I also find working within it much more faster than with any previous version of Windows.

RIP Jeff Hanneman

Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman died yesterday, aged 49. I’m quite a big fan of that thrash metal band so his passing is quite a loss, particularly as he contributed to a lot of their classic songs.

I first heard Slayer in ’94 from a lent cassette, a couple of years after I had gotten into the genre from more mainstream albums. I actually didn’t like Divine Intervention that much as it was a bit too crazy for me then, and that album wasn’t particularly well-produced despite some good songs. But I remember enjoying reading about them in Kerrang! magazine (I often just used to read my favourite articles in the newsagent and not buy it!) so they stayed on my radar.

I bypassed the rest of their 90s albums and got really into them since God Hates Us All in 2001, and as I had ‘got them’ at this point, I followed them on to this today and collected their back catalogue. I wish someone introduced me to Reign In Blood earlier as I would’ve been a fan quicker. I only got to see them live once on the Christ Illusion tour.

Slayer isn’t for everyone. You really have to like thrash metal to enjoy most of their stuff, whereas Metallica, and even a sizeable amount of Megadeth is agreeable to even casual listeners. The thing about Slayer is breakneck speed, really macabre lyrics, and some really classic riffs. If you ever hear the main riff of Raining Blood you can’t disrespect that; it’s almost the protégé of In The Hall Of The Mountain King.

Of course, Hanneman’s death probably isn’t the death of Slayer (though with the at-least-temporary booting of drummer Dave Lombardo I’m not sure my interest could be sustained), but his passing is a great loss to the whole genre of heavy metal.
If it wasn’t for him and Kerry King we wouldn’t get to hear music that is the equivalent of going on a rollercoaster through hell. That’s an attraction I never grew out of. There are more extreme bands but Slayer take it to the limit while remaining listenable.