Disparate Thoughts: Borders, Painters, Demons, & Highlands

No1 thoughts on recent occurrences too thin in substance to stand on their own

The sublime end credits theme from The Bridge

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I’ve been enjoying Season of 2 of FX’s The Bridge quite a lot. Most shows don’t give a huge amount of attention to their setting beyond basic window-dressing and this is where I think The Bridge fundamentally differentiates itself from many of its police drama colleagues. It treats the border towns between the US and Mexico with such an excellent sense of character and purpose. Obviously these locales it depicts are first and foremost vehicles for drama to occur within but while they may be just environments they still feel remarkable alive, rich with vibrancy in spite of their often decaying cores. In combination with Shawn Pierce and Adam Lastiwka’s moody, synthy score (used a little too sparsely for my liking) the show invoke an atmosphere that’s extremely wrap yourself in. Outside of these elements, Demián Bichir and Diane Kruger’s lead performances remain highly captivating and several guest stars and new additions to the cast (most notably Franka Potente as Eleanor Nacht) have helped expand the show’s scope nicely.

Still, it’s always a show that’s consistently good but rarely amazing, which is a little bit of an unreasonable complaint to make since exceptional quality isn’t easy to come by. I feel like it could reach another level but I honestly don’t know how it might go about doing so since I rarely have any specific complaints to make on an episode by episode basis; perhaps it needs more compelling longer term arcs to elevate itself. Regardless, I sincerely hope FX see sense and renew it even in spite of its waning viewership. FX need quality on their network right now after two dramatic misfires this year. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Tyrant but few have spoken in its favour. The Strain, on the hand, was one of the worst pilots I’ve watched in a long time. I was hoping TV might finally have a legitimately great piece of horror work but both FX and Del Tero disappointed.

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So there’s a new Interpol album due out next week. Like most album launches these days, it’s already been streamed in its entirety so it’s out there now if you feel so inclined to acquire it. I don’t really understand the point of these, I mean obviously it’s a method of hype generation but if you’re essentially handing the Internet a pretty good quality rip of your new release, then why not just put it out officially at the same time? Or just not stream it until the proper release date? I’m not really complaining, from the perspective of a listener it’s great but I can’t quite grasp the business reasons for this approach. Anyway, Interpol have been on downward spiral since Antics, with two hugely mediocre albums since and now this, the third attempt to recapture a lost glory. I don’t quite think they’ve succeeded but El Pintor is absolutely worthy of a listen and has several genuinely good tracks, something I can’t say for either Interpol or Our Love to Admire.

I’ve seen some people complaining about the production on the album and is it very dense although not in a layered, bottomless depth kind of way but rather, it’s very tightly packed. The individual instrumentation could have each done with a bit more breathing room but it’s a minor quibble and easily ignored after a while. My personal highlight, ‘Tidal Wave’, stands out as the most un-Interpol track on the album, in the best possible way; it’s got a kind of desperate urgency in the place of the normal sorrowful lurching that’s ends up being quite refreshing. El Pintor is definitely better than I was expecting and it’s making me a little regretful for not picking up a ticket to see the band when they’re in Dublin next year.

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Diablo III is finally out on current generation consoles. I had been looking forward to this a lot but when I realised that its release is a mere two weeks ahead of Destiny’s, I thought that paying full price only to inevitably have to sweep it aside so quickly would be foolish. It probably is but I ended buying the game anyway and I’m enjoying it even more than when I first played it a few years ago during the PC launch. Blizzard have clearly been hard at work since then, tweaking the game in both minor and significant ways in order to get the most out of it. I was able to look past many of its initial flaws but with pretty much all of these no longer existing, it’s an even better experience.

The combat remains insanely satisfying, Adventure Mode is a perfect endgame loop,  and there are even more instant rewards for destructive actions. You always feel like you’re progressing in some way or another. Most surprising to me is how it’s now so difficult to imagine playing Diablo without a controller as the game feels like it was designed for this from the get go. The menu system is a tad cluttered compared to its PC counterpart but overall the UI has made the leap almost without error; it’s quick and easy to process. The addition of a roll mechanic is something I didn’t realise was so needed but it lends a much welcome extra bit of agility, something playing with a mouse can’t quite facilitate in this particular genre. It’s polished to an absolute shine and I can definitely envision myself returning at some point in the post-Destiny future to bring a couple more characters up  to the level cap.

Outlander

Caitriona Balfe

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I thought Outlander looked utterly dreadful in the pre-season material Starz released, seemingly an awful set of period romance clichés. Then it premiered and by and large, most critics spoke in praise of it. Having spent a couple of hours with it, I can see why. It’s actually quite good and very easy to get swept into, with high production values and a solid cast. Caitriona Balfe excels in the lead role, with material that is occasionally overbearing but mostly works well. I’m not sure how long it’ll hold my attention, as it needs to be more than just a fish out of water tale to be engaging in the long term, but for now I’m on board.

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