Review Summary: Magical. This is the sound of kittens taking over the world and shooting anyone who defies them.
There is no such thing as nintendocore, at least according to Matthew "m@ the c@" Morden, whose music so often gets pigeonholed into that scenester tag. He instead asks of you to call it "spazzpop" or "tweegrind". His musical project Bubblegum Octopus indeed contains blast beats and brutal growls, but listen to any track and you will find it is as far detached to the scene as 8-bit music can be.
The Album Formerly Known As "8-Legged Dance Moves"
is, first and foremost, not your average pop album. It is a pop album, but the day it can be played in any mainstream radio station will be the day kittens take over the world. This may actually be the day m@ so skillfully documents in the album. He may have gone into a time machine (or, dare I say it, a "Cat Machine!"), experienced that day, and then created an album devoted to it.
The screenplay to this album deals with subjects as diverse as broken relationships, misanthropy, parties, massacres, video games, mustaches, mermaids, and animals. m@ has a fascination with cats, as evidenced by the numerous tracks he devotes to the little creatures. But why, pray tell, do I hear words such as "die", "hell", and "evil" uttered in these same tracks?
Are the lyrics the only thing "different" about this album? The answer becomes clear in the first few seconds of the first track (or any track). Aside from the instrumentation, which sounds like black metal if it were to be played in 100% 8-bit, m@ wails his idiosyncratic lyrics in a twee falsetto and then demolishes the cuteness with death metal growls. The falsetto shall drive away the scenesters, and the growling shall drive away the little girls. And it is this vocal dichotomy that so uniquely drives the album and keeps listeners so fixatedly intrigued.
The entire album may seem like a joke at first. Judging by its preposterous vocals and subject matter, it may very well be one. The notes themselves, however, are not a joke. Bubblegum Octopus has the technical prowess metalcore fans drool on, and the grindcore tempo it is played in makes it even better. Nearly all of the songs clock in under two minutes each. But whereas grindcore plays its notes in noisy, indistinct, washed-out guitar, m@'s notes parade in crystal-clear electronic production. Hearing each note rocket away in this speed truly takes listeners into outer space (Lord knows which galaxy). "Falcon Breeze" may be the most dazzling example of this. And because catchy melodies cannot be repeated adequately in under two minutes, this only adds to the play count.
Despite its undeniably unique sound, the most compelling aspect of this album may be attempting to analyze the hazy, ambivalent message it sends. Instead of writing angry or depressing music, m@ takes his anger out by writing a silly song. In "Story of the 8-Bit Compy" he sings, "So here's my song for the CD; take it and listen all you damn well please. I hope it's worth all of my effort; it took me about an hour."
These cynical words are backed by a catchy, fast-paced techno beat. Although the music is idiosyncratic, humorous and utterly danceable, it does not evoke a mood of ecstasy or bliss the way a Dan Deacon song would. It brings happiness but in a darker, more nihilistic way.
. . . It's all very absurd. This album may be the single most accurate embodiment of postmodernism I have ever heard, more so than any grindcore album. As you folks may or may not know, postmodernism brought about trends such as cynicism (the rejection of beauty, spirituality and tradition) and the glorification of pop culture (removing the distinction between highbrow and lowbrow) into art. Every second of this album reeks of postmodern sweat: rebelling against and defying any sort of artistic merit, and then rejoicing in this absurdness. This is the soundtrack to a "life is meaningless; let's party" attitude. But unlike most party music, m@ does not sing about the beauty of life: like a comedian, he somehow finds ways to twist harsh realities of life into humor. He puts violent and cute things on the same pedestal. In some songs ("Life Story = Fire", "I'll Beat You Up") m@ will scream heartlessly of violent things against non-serious 8-bit dance backdrops. But m@ has feelings too: in other songs ("Eating the Not-So-Yummy Pie of Sadness", "Paper Punch Out Dreams") he sings of more serious topics against these non-serious backdrops. Other songs ("Spiders on my Toes", "Meredith's Village") merely rejoice in cuteness and quirkiness.
Delving more into this album, it seems m@ is trying to communicate something else beyond the absurdist gimmick. The more serious songs become less funny and more beautiful with repeated listens. The Album Formerly Known As "8-Legged Dance Moves"
is like a person: you can spend time with it, hang out, and have fun, but eventually you will dig deep enough to see the more serious aspects of its personality. Hidden between the spunky randomness of "Assplosions over Hyperdeath" and "Great Beard; Happy Mustache" are dark, distressing gems such as "God's Pink Laser", "Paper Punch Out Dreams" and "Neighbors Do Bad Things". On the latter song he dictates in spoken word: "Don't tell me you’d let the knife be the one to understand the struggle you endure. Don't become that human disaster. I don't want to see you like that: face down in dirt, mourning at the grave of your hopes and dreams . . . I let it all get the best of me and now I am weak, pathetic . . . nothing at all."
The Album Formerly Known As "8-Legged Dance Moves"
, like any 8-bit album, swims in video games. Pokemon, DDR, and Guilty Gear are namedropped; even more video games are vaguely alluded to. Yet unlike other bands tagged as "nintendocore", who are often fixated in recreating the nostalgia of old Nintendo games, m@ seems to create his own video game in The Album Formerly Known As "8-Legged Dance Moves"
: an 8-bit shooter whose characters are mermaids and octopi and kittens. And you bet it contains replay value. Most pop albums are content with playing tunes catchy enough to get in your head, make you replay them a couple times, and then forget about them. But The Album Formerly Known As "8-Legged Dance Moves"
does not tire. Despite its shallow pop structure, it demands you to become obsessed over it. It demands elaborate analysis and total loss of contact from reality. If you do decide to take this drug, you will find its energy and absurdness will still remain fresh fifty spins later.