Review Summary: Even if you have no intentions of ever picking this Dreamcast classic up, you would be doing yourself a favor if you gave the soundtrack a chance. With a few exceptions, the songs present can easily stand on their own, without the game.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
The story behind the Sega Dreamcast is a sad one. A story of the little engine that could, but didn't. After a mere year or so on the market, it inevitably tanked, and was left kneeling, and begging for mercy at the feet of the all mighty Playstation 2. While this would be easy to write off if the console was awful, it wasn't.In fact there were several amazing games, exclussive to the Dreamcast.
One such game, was Jet Grind Radio (or Jet Set Radio depending on region). This little known gem has become an easy cult classic in the years since it's release, and even to this day there's nothing quite like it (except for maybe the xbox sequel). Part of the reason JGR became such a standout, was it's undeniably odd and original mesh of rollerblading, and graffiti, all in one neat cel shaded package. The other part being it's amazing soundtrack.
The soundtrack to Jet Grind Radio, is like the game itself, very original, and so odd you know only our friends from the land of the rising sun could have produced it. The music featured in said sountrack contains a slew of various genres. Some of them very much oddball, and others more mainstream. The album can literally jump from j-pop, to acid punk, to laid back alt hip-hop, all seemlessly, mind you. For the most part Hideki Naganuma is to thank, but other artists such as Deavid Soul, and even Jurassic 5 play a roll.
The album starts off with "Funky Radio", essentially the theme of the game. The song itself is a gritty electronic/hip-hop song, that (like the rest of the album) is very fitting for the game. It's an excellent song to start the album off. You immediately get a feel for the album, and game. You grow so attatched by the time "Mischievous Boy" starts in, you don't even care you're listening to J-pop.
The Deavid Soul songs followed afterwards are all extremmly catchy electronic songs that are sure to make you spontaneously burst in dance. All of them ("Miller Ball Breakers", "On the Bowl (A.Fargus Remix)", "Up-Set Attack", and "Yappie Feet") contain various funk, and hip-hop elements making them standout over your typical elctronica track. F-Fields' "Yellow Bream" is also of a similar nature, still maintaining the same catchyness, and relevancy to the the game itself.
The two Guitar Vader songs ("Magical Girl", and "Super Brothers" respectivily) are straight up j-pop with added guitar sections that helps dilute their cheesiness.
The next large section is that of Hideki Naganuma, who does the bulk of the album, with a total of 8 songs featured. All of which are of the electronica flavor, with each song being their own entity, and easily distinguishable. One standout that instantly comes to mind, is "Grace and Glory" which starts off very ominous, and builds up. It just has that "boss battle" feel to it. The other tracks are more lighthearted. "Let Mom Sleep" is very upbeat, and catchy. "Humming the Bassline", and "That's Enough" have an almost acid jazz sound going for them, while "Moody's Shuffle" is a straight up hip-hop instrumental track, complete with scratching. "Sweet Soul Brother", and "Rock It On" also come to mind, which are, again, very lighthearted and upbeat combining electronic, j-pop, and funk elements perfectly together.
Idol Taxi's "OK House" is probably the most odd song the album. Odd pitch changing vocals over a quirky j-pop instrumental track, that still manages to make an enjoyable, and catchy track. Toronto's "Electric Tooth Brush" is straight up electronica, done well, very well in fact. Richard Jacques' "Everybody Jump Around" is another catchy instrumental track, this time of a more hip-hop flavor.
Reps' "Bout the City" is an odd fit, that doesn't fair well even in the game. It's not necessarily a bad song, and in fact for an alternative rock song it meshes as well as it possibly could, which is to say not that well. It's still fairly catchy, and forgiving, but I ultimately find myself skipping it. The same can be said for Rob Zombies "Dragula". While I do enjoy Rob Zombie, it just doesn't fit well with the game, or the rest of the songs present in the soundtrack. More so than the aforementioned Reps song. Also present in some versions of the game, was Professional Murder Music's "Slow", a nu-metal song, which for the same reasons as "Dragula" just didn't mesh well, and didn't sustain the atmosphere the rest of the soundtrack was going for.
Jurassic 5's "Improvise" is a clear standout. Jurassic 5 is one of my favorite hip-hop groups, and "Improvise" is one of their best singles, which fits surprisingly well within the game, and amongst the other tracks. Mixmaster Mike's "Patrol Knob" is a underground hip-hop instrumental track with excellent scratching.
Even if you have no intentions of ever picking this Dreamcast classic up, you would be doing yourself a favor if you gave the soundtrack a chance. With a few exceptions, the songs present can easily stand on their own, without the game.