Review Summary: Pop punk, but digital.
Pop punk and chiptunes have not been strangers to each other in the past; Anamanaguchi pioneered a mixture of the two back in 2006 and the combination has been growing in popularity ever since. Both of the genres lend themselves to upbeat, catchy music that doesn’t easily work its way out of your head, so it’s not a surprise at all that they work well together. But it’s not often that we get a combination as pure as the one found on Victory Road’s self-titled EP: a full-on pop punk release crafted entirely using Game Boys in place of any actual instruments. This is the sort of idea that, depending on the execution, could end up either being incredibly unique and fun, or horrible and ear-grating. Thankfully, the programming skills of mastermind Rohan Parry lead to the former being true.
Take away the bleeps and bloops and replace them with distorted guitars and pounding drums, and the music on Victory Road would sound like any other pop punk album, complete with utterly generic lyrics about past loves and living life to the fullest. But that’s kind of the point – the music here has to contain the recognizable tropes of the genre, so it can be recognized when filtered through an 8-bit lens. Being distilled into a simpler chiptune form makes the songs even more infectious, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from smiling at how sugary and peppy everything is.
This idea would fall apart if the programming wasn't solid, but Parry crafts richly layered and detailed melodies, and resourcefully recreates punk elements such as tremolo picking and breakdowns while giving them their own pixelated personality. Particular mention has to go to the percussion, which is a far cry from generic beats: the snare roll in the first half of “Makes a Sudden Turn” is such a charming nod to its source material it makes you want to jump with glee. Parry also lends completely passable vocals to the mix, and while his vocal talents aren't going to astound anyone, he gets the melodies across well and fits the punk aesthetic perfectly.
Victory Road may be exhausting with all of its electronic squeals and thumping rhythms, and you might find it annoying if you don’t like cute kittens and eating excess amounts of candy. But if hearing the words “digital pop punk” triggers a primal urge deep within your psyche, then train up your starter and head for the Pokemon League, because you’ll definitely enjoy the journey.