Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Cruelty Squad starkly critiques capitalism

Andy Kilbride

Contributing Writer

 

The creation and dissemination of video games under capitalism makes it nearly impossible for indie projects to find success by word of mouth alone, regardless of how good they are. Yet somehow, Cruelty Squad, developed by Finnish artist Ville Kallio under the moniker Consumer Softproducts, has accomplished precisely this over the last three months. While still in the early release phase, and thus constantly being updated by Kallio, Cruelty Squad feels so aesthetically and conceptually fleshed out that its praises, even in the game’s unfinished form, are absolutely deserved.

While most contemporary games prioritize realistic and pristine graphics, Kallio makes the

valiant choice to design his world and its characters as jarringly as possible with horrifically bright colors and distorted pixelations that downright hurt to look at sometimes. Perhaps the easiest way to describe its aesthetic is the video game equivalent to the artwork for a vaporwave album, but even this is an overgeneralization. It simply needs to be seen to be believed. The game seems to break every single rule of graphic design on purpose in its attempt to create a surreal nightmare world.

Then, of course, there’s the story and setting. The game’s unnamed protagonist works for an

Uber or Doordash-esque gig-economy corporation called the Cruelty Squad, who hire hitmen to assassinate various figures that threaten the financial interests of the company itself or

capitalism in general. Each level is conceptually simple — you kill the required targets and find an exit, much like the early Hitman series games — but there’s so much room for exploration and experimentation that Kallio encourages and rewards replaying levels. One of the reasons for this is that the missions are littered with level-specific, non-player characters who offer surreal and unique insights into the game’s capitalist hell-world, including a character you meet at a rave who has an “artistic take on finance” and a “black suppositories and debased” internet user. Moments like these, along with the level briefings, reinforce how great and uniquely hilarious Kallio is.

 

Another reason for revisiting missions is the unlockable weapons and purchasable

augmentations which add new ways to explore levels and reach targets. This

makes speedruns incredibly fun and viable for those willing to practice using unlockable items. It should be noted, in typical Cruelty Squad fashion, that these aren’t the sleek body modifications of Cyberpunk. For instance, the fittingly named “Grappendix” allows you to use your intestines as a grappling hook, while the “Gunkboots” allow you to eject disgusting waste from your feet in order to get an extra jump. Appropriately, getting better at killing increasingly makes the protagonist less human as they mutilate their body more and more in the effort to please their capitalist overlords. While their boss, a red gelatinous blob in a trucker’s hat who looks like Jabba the Hut, describes the Cruelty Squad HQ as “an oasis of love and friendship,” your character is always at the mercy of the status quo which they consistently preserve through bloodshed.

Wooster-born Rat Queen scores recording

Chloe Burdette

Editor in Chief 

 

Through Springfest, Covers and other on-campus opportunities, The College of Wooster is no stranger to popular student-formed bands that are loved for years after they graduate. One of these beloved bands is Rat Queen — including alumni Eleanor Linafelt ’20, Robyn Newcomb ’20 and Kate Bertrand ’20. Although most bands disintegrate after they leave campus, Rat Queen worked hard to keep blessing the ears of their fans for as long as they could.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced 2020 graduates to head home prematurely, the bandmates moved away from each other, crushing any hope for them to create more music together. Rat Queen’s dreams almost felt out of reach until a surprising stroke of luck hit the band’s email inbox. “[Newcomb] accidentally checked our Rat Queen email, which we had stopped checking since we thought we were over, to find an email from an engineer/producer Jackie Milestone, who works at Headroom Studios,” Linafelt explained. “They had seen my name pop up on Instagram, listened to our EP and were interested in recording music with us if we had anything in the works. They had no idea that I was about to move to Philly (and literally a block away from them) or that we had just started talking about wanting to record an album together.”

The band didn’t want to record with just any studio, but with people they appreciated and were comfortable around. “If we were to record professionally, I would want to find a producer who wasn’t a cis man, which is extremely hard to find,” Linafelt added. “I knew from working with men in music situations in the past that working with a producer who wasn’t a cis man would likely make us feel more comfortable, understood and able to ask questions and share ideas.”

Headroom Studios was perfect for Rat Queen’s recording, as some of their favorite albums had been recorded there. “The way the universe lined up for us, it really seemed like fate,” Newcomb said.

To pay for recording costs, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign selling limited-edition merchandise. Kickstarter also allowed the band to accept donations. Over a few weeks, many Wooster students found the Kickstarter link, and with the help of friends, family and hardcore Rat Queen fans, the band raised over $4000 for a five-day recording session at Headroom Studios. “We were shocked by how quickly we raised the money. We feel so lucky to have such supportive communities from Wooster to our hometowns, families and friends,” said Linafelt. “We just hope everyone will be happy with the final product!”

The band recorded nine songs for their official debut album, and the release date is unknown. Linafelt said, “We are planning to send the album around to labels to see if anyone would be interested in putting it out. If we can’t find a good match, we will probably self-release it.”

Rat Queen knows nothing would be possible without their college roots in small-town Wooster, Ohio. “In my opinion, no band or artist is truly self-made — every artist is shaped by, and owes something to, the community that supported them from the start,” Newcomb said. “We owe so much to everyone who’s supported us even way further back: everyone who came to our Common Grounds performances when we first learned our instruments and sounded terrible, every program house whose basement we practiced in, every older musician who told us good job after our songs at Covers, every D.J. who played us on their radio shows, every band who let us open for them; it really did take all of that, too, to bring us to Headroom in April.”

Though Rat Queen is unsure of their band’s future, they are excited for the road ahead. “Man, this album is just so much stronger than our EP — I can see so clearly how much we’ve progressed, and I want to see that trajectory continue,” said Newcomb. “After we were able to pull off this album against what felt like impossible odds, it feels like we can do anything.”

You can listen to Rat Queen on Bandcamp at rat-queen.bandcamp.com, and their music is currently available on Spotify and Apple Music.

100 gecs leaves 100 questions about hyperpop

Geoffrey Allen

Contributing Writer

 

Has the music medium truly progressed over the years in terms of quality? With the accessibility of production equipment, the convenience of sharing tracks online and the ability to create new voices, new music is popping up just about every second. One genre that stands as a testament to this is the alternate electronic sound of ‘hyperpop.’ Popularized by artists like the Charli XCX and the late Sophie, as well as social media exposure on platforms like TikTok, hyperpop has gradually taken the world by storm. It’s hardly a surprise that this experimental sound has made its way to The College of Wooster, despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s limitations. However, the way this unique artform was introduced to the student body through this year’s digital Springfest was far from conventional, nor was it the most accommodating.

Enter one of hyperpop’s greatest champions: 100 gecs. The dynamic duo, Laura Les and Dylan Brady, uses preexisting music remixed with extreme pitching and vocals and vibrating basses to create something familiar and alien at the same time. Yet their style wasn’t the most surprising element of the show last Saturday.

Unlike more professional performances, like the over-the-top spectacle of Super Bowl halftime shows, we were simply greeted on camera by the two artists, who spent most of their time playing altered and distorted music from what appeared to be a room in an apartment. Most of the tracks, songs like Utada Hikaru’s “Simple And Clean” and Playboi Carti’s “Love Hurts,” were not even in their own discography. A few of their own songs made an appearance, like “stupid horse,” in which Dylan Brady sang some of the lyrics. The audio, perhaps the part of musical performance that stood out the most, was of poor quality because it was not played from the computer itself. With masks and black sunglasses, the artists appeared elusive, as if they were some doppelgangers who shared the same hair and physique as the real Les and Brady. “Are we in a remote class?” I thought to myself. My roommate and I originally thought the performance was a gag on the style of meetings through platforms, but it lasted the whole hour. It subverted expectations, for sure, which may have caught many viewers off guard, but I can’t help but feel disappointed.

Hyperpop is still an alien form of music to many, especially on a first listen. While I have been exposed to other hyperpop music, many students experienced it for the first time last weekend, and I don’t think many could say it was great. Perhaps the performers were unprepared for a live performance, or maybe they hoped  to comment on the lack of authenticity in traditional musical performances. Regardless, I’d argue that the performance failed to make a meaningful impression on behalf of a new sound in today’s young music culture. Even if 100 gecs didn’t give any laughs or excitement after the Springfest performance, their music, amongst that of other similar artists, should. It’s always worth giving new music a try.

Five books for you to read this summer

Lillian Beach

Staff Writer

 

“Fahrenheit 451”: My absolute favorite book is “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. I always come back to this book when I need something to read, and every time, I seem to discover something new when reading it. The story follows Guy Montag, a firefighter living in the future whose job is not to put out fires, but to start them. He burns books, as they are obsolete and are considered dangerous. Montag struggles between his role as a firefighter and his curiosity towards books. Life moves too fast in the future, and Montag wants to slow it down.

“The Stand”: Ironically, I started reading this book right before the pandemic started. “The Stand” by Stephen King is about a viral outbreak that wipes out most of the population except for a few “chosen” people. The story follows survivors of the plague who are either “good” or “evil” and who must face each other at the end of the world. Even though this is a long read (over 1000 pages), I would highly recommend this book. The plot is captivating, and the black and white of good and evil is painted instead as shades of gray that make you question whether there is really such a clear distinction between the two. 

“The Secret History”: This book is beautifully written. “The Secret History” by Donna Tart follows students at a small liberal arts college who make up the classics department. The students are very close knit to an almost uncomfortable degree, and they become obsessed with the Greek language and culture that they are studying. The book is a reverse mystery, where you know what is going to happen but not how the events unfold. Each facet of this book is fantastic and got me interested in the classics. It’s one of those books that really draws you in.

“The Sound and the Fury”: My high school friends would definitely bash me for this being on the list, but I enjoyed reading this book. “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner is the story of a family and their downfall. Granted, this book makes for a confusing read. It is almost entirely written in a stream-of-consciousness flow, which made the story harder to follow, as the events are told out of chronological order. However, that is also what made this book so appealing to me. I found it entertaining to piece together the order of events, and behind it all is actually an interesting story. 

“Pet Sematary”: I had to put another Stephen King book on here. Admittedly, I could have put only Stephen King on this list, but hey, we need more variety. “Pet Sematary” is a creepy book about reanimating the dead. Our main character is a father who finds out that the pet cemetery behind his new house has the power to bring anything buried there back to life. This leads to a series of bad decisions. This book has really stuck with me since I read it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good creepy read and cats. 

Woo-Con returns after its 2020 cancellation

Holly Engel

A&E Editor

 

Woo-Con, a yearly event hosted by the College of Wooster Anime Club (COWA), connects anime, manga and pop culture enthusiasts through numerous vendors and a series of engaging panels. Most importantly, it allows people with common interests to get together and have some fun. “My favorite thing about [Woo-Con] is interacting with community members and people on campus,” said COWA Vice President Julia Ajello ’21. “It’s also fun to interact with … people that have a foot in the community and make art, and to talk to them about their art and their process.”  

Usually housed in the student center, this year’s Woo-Con on Saturday, April 17 switched to a virtual format to meet COVID-19 guidelines. The event included four panels over Microsoft Teams: a cosplay tips session, a panel on the history of Maid Cafés, several short plays inspired by Ky­­ōgen farces and a “Name That Anime Opening!” game. A Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament allowed video gamers to battle one another as part of the day’s events. Additionally, the con featured two vendors (known as the “Artist Alley”), Home Circle Media and MargoMundo, the latter of which is a local digital artist who provided a live demonstration.

The number of panels and vendors — as well as student and community members in attendance — dropped significantly this year due to the online format. “Attendance was down quite a bit,” Ajello said, “because usually, when we’re in Lowry, we have people who are just walking by … they can see everything set up and they want to come check it out, even if people are not necessarily involved in COWA.” Along with some difficulty advertising the event to the Wooster community, COWA was unable to email information to all Wooster students, making it more difficult for non-club members to participate.

COWA President Erica Berent ’21 highlights that Woo-Con still provided a positive experience for those who did attend. “Margo [who did the art demonstration] and Bethany, who did the cosplay panel, were … super personable,” she comments. “I [also] love the Artist Alley. You get to talk to people that you wouldn’t normally talk to about things you’re interested in.”

This year’s Woo-Con may not be on par with its predecessors in terms of attendance, but both Berent and Ajello have hopes for next year’s con. “None of our new committee members have seen what Woo-Con is supposed to look like in-person,” Berent states, explaining that since last year’s con was cancelled, the new COWA executive board members only have virtual experience. “I’m going to try to write down as much as I can for them, but it’s ultimately going to be up to them how they want to do it next year.”

Berent does encourage anyone interested in COWA to check out the club next year — or even in the final days of this semester. “It’s all super chill. You can just come to what you like, and everyone’s really friendly,” she says. “It’s just a place you can go and talk about your hobbies and interests, even if it’s not necessarily anime.”

COWA meets virtually every Friday from 7-9 p.m. For information about Woo-Con or COWA, email EBerent21@wooster.edu or JAjello21@wooster.edu.

Bieber’s “Justice” guilty of performative activism

Chloe Burdette

Editor in Chief 

 

As someone who has been a “Belieber” for most of my young teen life, I can assure you that I was initially excited for Justin Bieber’s sixth studio album to pop onto my Spotify feed. As I scrolled through the songs, I was instantly able to recognize that most of the songs were about relationships, whether successful or unsuccessful — tracks such as “Loved by You,” “Deserve You” and “Ghost.” Yet, I was also instantly confused when I saw that an “MLK Interlude” was included as the seventh track. Now, I was going to write a review solely based on the songs that I think are written well, have an enjoyable beat and have a somewhat relatable message, but I feel it necessary to highlight the criticism and exploitation of using an “MLK Interlude” in Bieber’s tracklist. 

When I noticed a snippet of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches (specifically from one of his 1967 sermons), I was left dumbfounded at how it connected to any of the songs on the album. Bieber did in fact get permission from King’s daughter to use the sermon in his album, but that is par for the course for any artist who wants to either sample another artist’s beat or use any other artist’s content. Yes, the album is called “Justice,” but for what reason? With lyrics such as, “I don’t wanna be my past / Oh, when we kiss, I’m alive and I feel brand new,” how does that relate to social injustice or civil rights? In order to hear others’ opinions on the matter, I took the question to Instagram and garnered responses. “I was mad and confused when I found out the album was about his marriage,” stated Lesley Chinery ’21. Another comment from Amelia Kemp ’21 read, “In my opinion, he better be donating any profits from that to charities or mutual aid funds supporting Black folks like MLK would have wanted.” She added, “I don’t know why he would have included it for any reason outside of weird performance activism, which is what it feels like to me.” (After further research, it was concluded that Bieber has indeed donated some funds from the album to The King Center, but it is unclear how much from the album’s overall revenue was donated.) Alum Kacy Muthiora ’20 simply put, “I audibly laughed when I heard it.”

Based on the overall opinion I had heard from my followers, I think the inclusion of the “MLK Interlude” was — for a lack of better words — unjust. I also do not understand why his placement of the interlude was right before a track called “Die For You” — a song that states, “I would walk through burning fire / Even if your kiss could kill me / You know I would die for you.” I am not exactly sure how Bieber’s love for his wife equates to a sermon given by MLK about Black injustice, in which he states, “I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you, that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.” 

With respect to Bieber, he did collaborate with many incredible Black artists on his album — Burna Boy, Khalid, Chance the Rapper, Daniel Caesar, Giveon and Beam — but let’s be honest, these artists are already established enough in the industry that a track with Bieber would not increase their stardom. Yet most of their tracks are quite impressive and catchy — especially “Peaches,” a song by Bieber, Giveon and Daniel Caesar.

Overall, the album is singable. Most songs are fun to listen to and you will catch me humming along to them every once in a while. But I think the inclusion of the interlude is too glaring of a performative headache, and Bieber should be actively working to advocate for Black lives instead of just a quick, lazy addition of an MLK speech on an album. Am I still a Belieber? The results aren’t in just yet.