I’ve been slacking around an awful lot lately. Rather than take care of that small backlog of subjects I’ve wanted to post about here, I’ve instead spent all my time with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker related things. It’s an addicting game that, assuming you own a Sony PlayStation Portable, you owe it to yourself to check out. No really, I’ve heard that the game has sold less than 100,000 copies- are you fucking kidding me!?
Anyways. Enough about that. The reason for this post is to bring your attention to a band that, like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, you ought to check out. Or at least give a cursory listen to.
Starship Amazing are Calvin Hansen and Derek Alexander, a two-piece Chiptune act from Anchorage, Alaska. After all the references to video games I’ve made on this site (including one in the opening of this very article), you would think that I would be a huge fan and follower of the Chiptune scene. And you would be incredibly wrong. There are, at best, a handful of Chiptune artists whose work I can stand for more than a minute. It is kind of a puzzling enigma, although I imagine it has much to do with my introduction to the scene. You see, at one point in time, I was one of those obnoxious “Games As Art” douchebags that, in their attempt at making video games a valid form of expression in the public consciousness, have instead set back that movement to the intellectual level of Pong being a cute novelty in the seventies. As such, I followed certain blogs and message boards that discussed this subject, which usually amounted to childish, “LALALALALA I’M NOT HEARING YOU LALALALALALA LEGITIMATE ARTFORM LALALALA” or Honest-To-God referring to Roger Ebert as a, “public menace.” This crowd ranted and raved about one thing that wasn’t about how misunderstood they were: Chiptunes. A genre of music that used customized synthesizers to recreate sounds from old Nintendo games. They would also go on about this was a clear sign of the maturation of video games, and not, say, a run-off of things that Yellow Magic Orchestra had been doing since the late seventies. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to get into this genre of music appreciated by assholes and apparently nobody else.
Now, there were some exceptions to this rule; the Japanese group YMCK had a home somewhere on both my iPod and my PC music player of choice: foobar2000. In fact, in the Playstation 3 game, 3D Dot Game Heroes, I used the in-game character creator to design Midori, the group’s lead singer (and is also about all the fun I managed to squeeze out of that disappointing game). I also had a thing for acts like she and virt. Despite that, though, it was still hard for me to get into a new act without any kind of negative attitude attached.
Starship Amazing are quite different. I’d would actually hesitate to refer to them as Chiptune, if only due to the negative connotations in my own mind. They’re not just two dudes who take a Gameboy and/or Nintendo Entertainment System and make it bleep and bloop in various ways. Rather, I would probably liken them more to The Depreciation Guild in the way that they use those bleeps and bloops as more of a compliment to their sound, instead of the whole. The sound itself is very dark and violent, something that isn’t normally seen in the genre. Their latest album (in fact, it came out on Tuesday (November 16)) is called “Broken Robots” and is really no different than my previous description. It’s the kind of music you play if you want your parents to think that they’ve raised a future serial killer. Music developed in a reality where video games really are murder simulators and will make you an ultra-violent, gun-toting sociopath with a foot-long hitlist. Where Killswitch is real and Secret of Evermore really was a disturbing, depraved adventure hastily converted into a silly kids game. It’s the underside of video games come to life, and it is brilliant.
I should point out one thing: I didn’t exactly stumble across these guys one day. No, I discovered this band due to a character Derek Alexander portrays on the internet: The Happy Video Game Nerd. Quite a departure from his sound, for sure.