Review Summary: Has a special place in history
To think a genre as self-defeating and sardonic as vaporwave would have an album that has me questioning my life makes we want to believe I'm way overthinking it. Then again I probably am, but I think a lot of people share a similar view on this.
If you were born in the 1990's and if your (future) children were to ask you one day what piece of music represented the 90's most, your immediate first choice should be this album. This whole idea that consumer culture and corporatism were put in the most positive light possible. It was something that hadn't really been emulated properly before until this album came about.
To get some gratuitous nostalgia out of the way real quick: the feeling you get when you received a Disney or Arthur PC game in a box of Honey Nut Cheerios or turning on a Windows 95 or 98 computer and browsing the different built in games like Minesweeper because you didn't know how or why you would need to use the internet, is incomparable to any other generation. I remember going into my dad's office at a young age and being astounded that this was where my dad went everyday, without too much knowledge of why he was there in the first place, but just being excited that I was in a high floor of a large building. These are the kinds of childlike wonders that I still remember fondly and this album is an instant trip to those periods in time. As soon as I heard this, all these memories had come rushing back to me which caused immediate recollection.
Far Side Virtual isn't so much of an album as it is a reminder that as we get older and wiser, the cheerful, optimistic and friendly environment of corporate consumer culture and everyday life is not without its superficial, vain and considerably destructive counterpart. I can't describe any one track on this because each of them give off this very bizarre, kitschy, and warped atmosphere akin to the kind of thing you'd hear in the background of some corporate montage or a Ronald McDonald commercial. To be honest, the album itself doesn't have that much to offer. It's very cheap-sounding, disposable, MIDI-ridden muzak galore but when you get down to it, that's the point. If this album was made any other way, I don't think it would have nearly as much of an impact. It's really something you have to experience and absorb as a whole to understand.
Although a lot of these songs have this cheery and happy vibe, there's that other feeling that it's really fake and disturbing. Songs like 'Condo Pets' and 'Dream On' are almost too uncanny valley, creepy and warped to be depressing, and 'Dubai Dream Tone' and 'Google Poeises' are almost too bright and joyful to be happy. It's an album that feels way too uncomfortable to be real, and it's aware that it's a tasteless and souless commodity. The only real thing that this album displays is that IT IS soulless. It's the capitalist's wet dream. The ability to advertise and sell products they probably don't even care about or wouldn't ever think of using themselves.
Songs like 'Sim', 'Fro Yo Cellular Bits', and 'Tomorrow's Baby Of The Year' would be perfect muzak for video games or home shopping advertisements and some others more for music in the background of an old Windows computer game. And to an extent, that's what reality was like in the 1990's and early 2000's. Microsoft was introduced to the Western households and all our problems were destined to disappear; we could buy anything online, we could see pictures of faraway places within the click of a button, we could communicate with people we haven't talked to in years! What a development! Huzzah! The future is bright.
The album takes these elements as a satirical view of the level of optimism that came with these new advances and it's not hard to see why considering the 2011 release date a few years after being relevant. Computers haven't made our lives easier, we've just created new ones in the process like we always do with every generation. And being the children of yuppie parents and/or just being exposed to these things in our everyday lives, we've learned to accept this lifestyle as normal.
It's one of those albums where the music itself is nothing too special and if the majority of us hadn't of grown up in this kind of life it would probably be discarded as trite garbage. In fact, many will and already have considered this as boring tasteless elevator music, but because this kind of environment is so ingrained in our lives and is so nostalgic and deceivingly hopeful, it will probably hold a special place in our hearts. Especially for anyone who was young enough to appreciate the aesthetic and culture that had been created for us. Far Side Virtual is an album that is held together by subtext and the accentuation of the shallow aspects of our society masks the cynical and utterly clueless results of our now technologically dominated lives. I don't think I'll ever forget this. It's not really a classic musically, but in a certain sense it is to a certain demographic. James Ferraro even said it about the album's title: "people kind of live in it already".