Review Summary: A guilty pleasure, fit for the nerd in all of us.
Against my better judgment I checked out Monomate's debut, "Grand Battle." Against my better judgment, I proceeded to listen to said album. And yet again, against my better judgment, I completely indulged myself, more than once. You see, "Grand Battle" is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. A complete "nerdgasm", lacking any real substance, yet somehow being very alluring, and somewhat enjoyable. The cover in itself sent warning signs. A disgustingly colorful palate, accented by the horribly illustrated Nintendo/Sega icons from yesteryear, should have been enough to send me away. However, it did not.
And unfortunately, I'm happy it didn't.
Why? Why, does Monomate spur these conflicting feelings within me? Well it may have to do with, well, everything about his music. His music and his image, and well, everything else about him. Peter Bunker, better known as "Peet," is the sole man behind Monomate. Monomate is actually Peet's third musical persona, and it's nintendocore to the "nth" degree. He indulges heavily in 8-bit soundscapes, and even video game themed lyrics. He is rather young, and his youthful exhuberance shines through "Grand Battle" to a ridiculous degree. It's a high energy release, and it's very clear that Peet really enjoyed creating the album. And overall, "Grand Battle" is a hell of a lot of fun because of the clear excitement behind the music.
Everything about "Grand Battle" centers around video games. The music, the cover art, and especially the lyrics. I stated before that Peet really gets into the 8-bit aspects of video game music. Well, that's a bit of an understatement, as nearly every aspect of the music is drenched in 8-bit. It's an electronica album through and through. Literally, everything, even the drums, are digitized. And while at least one substantial, physical, instrument would have been appreciated, "Grand Battle" gets a lot of it's personality from the overall sound. It's wacky, quirky, and unbelievably ridiculous. He does more with what he has than one would think. Vocally, Peet is a mixed bag. He's either screaming or singing, and neither is particularly wonderful. He's adequate, that much is true, but he is fairly underwhelming when everything else around him is so preposterous. Screaming mixed with 8-bit may seem rather droll, but there's plenty of diversity, and things stay mostly interesting throughout because of it.
Lyrically, it's obvious Peet is a fan of video games, old school games to be more specific. Sonic, Link, Luigi, and more, are all represented here. To be honest, this is where Monomate becomes an even more polarizing force. Fans and gamers alike will get a kick out of the references, but those not in the know will be completely left out. Specifically, "Fail Hill Zone, Act I." The song is about how Sonic the Hedgehog was once a king of video games, an icon, but now is more or less a joke in the gaming community. Terrible games, starring Sonic, are being put out, year after year. Peet even goes as far to scream, "*** you, Sonicteam," as an allusion to the company's ruination of the once beloved character. "The Surfing Song?" Yeah, it's about the relationship between an old man and Lapras. Yes, Lapras the Pokemon. Rainbow Road, you know, that godawful, frustrating track from every Mario Kart game? Yeah that's here too. It's all so laughable, and completely ridiculous, but somehow it is all so undeniably fun.
"Grand Battle" is gimicky. Gimicky and indulgent. For fans of old school video games, Nintendo in particular, this album will be a load of fun. Yet the fun and games has it's price. "Grand Battle" is in no way to be taken seriously. It's an overly goofy album, and lacks any and all types of substance an album should have. Musically, this album is really devoid of any type of substance. But Peet, with his crazy lyrics, unending profanity, and 8-bit soundboard, has completely won me over. Maybe it's my inner nerd. Maybe it's all the wacky sounds messing with my head. Either way, "Grand Battle" is a hell of a good time. And while it may not have much staying power, it's been some of the most fun I've had all year.
--The Surfing Song
--Big Fish, Small Pond