Review Summary: Anamanaguchi cooks up digital nostalgia with a heart.
When I was a kid back in the 90s, I wasn't allowed to own a video game console. For some reason, computer games were okay, but no Nintendo or Sega for me. Due to the long-lingering scars of my childhood gaming deprivation, I've come to hold classic games of the SNES era to an almost-hallowed level of respect despite the fact that I didn't get to play many of them. So in part, at least, Anamanaguchi appeals to me because they make music that corresponds with my rosy and probably overly-idealistic vision of what 90s gaming looks like.
Weirdly enough, I've never actually played the Scott Pilgrim video game, but the soundtrack quickly found constant rotation in my music library. I don't remember how I first came across the music of Anamanaguchi, but whether one likes so-called chiptune music or not, it certainly leaves an impression. The band's style is built around the 8-bit squawking of an original 1980s NES sound chip, and while there are other artists that make retro gaming-inspired music the same way, having a full rock band setup behind their electronic elements makes Anamanaguchi sound much more three-dimensional.
Maybe the best thing about this soundtrack is the terrific sense of melody found throughout. This is immediately apparent on the opening track, “Scott Pilgrim Anthem,” which strikes a nice balance between epic and nostalgic feelings. The next song, “Another Winter,” is one of the standout tracks on the album and is worth giving a listen even if one is skeptical about the whole Nintendo-rock thing. The next few tracks are a bit less memorable battle tunes, but “Suburban Tram” is another good song. Music made with an old game system seems like it could easily be cold and lifeless, but Anamanaguchi inject most of their songs with a very real sense of warmth. “Cheap Shop” is a bit of a stylistic diversion, incorporating a bossa nova-influenced sound and some nice acoustic guitar.
“Rock Club” is probably the album's most aggressive track and certainly one of its best. It's fast and exciting, and packed with great melodies you'll probably want to hear over and over. “Bollywood” has some good Eastern flavor to it, while both “Gideon Wrath” tracks push the frenetic energy of preceding battle-tunes even higher. The next few songs - “Giant Contraband Robot,” “The Dark One,” and “Leave The Past Behind” - slow things down a little and take on a darker and somewhat more desperate tone, but fit it nicely. After these strong tracks, the album winds down a bit with somewhat more generic-sounding game music, but “Just Like In The Movies” and “This Is The End” wrap things up with a strong finish.
The “Scott Pilgrim” soundtrack may not be Anamanaguchi's best release overall, but it certainly does contain some of their best songs. While some of the tracks are filler – understandable given that most are a minute and a half long, and there are twenty-four songs total – the best ones are absolute keepers that easily make this album worth the price of admission. Even if you don't care for any sort of electronic music, Anamanaguchi's blend of awesome melodies with a fast and energetic pace shames many straight-up rock bands, and makes one wonder if more rock artists might benefit from composing their music on an old gaming system. The idea that the past is the key to the present certainly isn't a strange one in rock music – given how influential musicians of the sixties and earlier remain. But since the guitars, amps, and other technology rock musicians often use is a lot older than the NES, Anamanaguchi's seemingly retro facade might really be forward-looking after all.