Year Old Girls
14 Year Old Girls are back with their latest album compiling all that is good in electronica and gaming. Strategy Guide carries with it a different sound than their previous release, Zombies In Robots Out, but still sticks to being electronically jazzed punk rock. 14 Year Old Girls continue to define the very thin line between normal punk and digitized video game music. Not to say that I don't like digitized music (we all loved 8 Bit Weapon at CGE years ago and the stuff 8BitPeoples comes out with is great) but that's really not what they're going for - like I said before, throw a couple NES games, the video game industry how most 20-somethings remember it, a few guitars, drums, and a keyboard into a dryer and then toss awesome vocals over the top and you'd have 14 Year Old Girls. (although I wouldn't recommend attempting such and ClassicPlastic.net will not be held responsible for any damages of property or person) Here's the track breakdown...
Stage 1: THUG
The first track is basically about the mass commercialism that has bled into extreme sports, especially skateboarding. Personally this is the biggest problem I had with Tony Hawk's Underground - it really just showcased what tools pro skaters have become. The song itself is standard punk fare but holds together very well, a nice introduction track for the album.
Stage 2: Wario Ware
If you've ever played Wario Ware then you'll instantly understand this song. It's a frantic fast paced (again, speed punk) song that perfectly mirrors the gameplay mechanic of Wario Ware, Inc. Some of the mini games are described in the lyrics, again showing how frantic the gameplay is. The differences in the tempo / tone of the song are dead on with how the game works - almost like you feel like you're playing the game when listening to the song.
Stage 3: Q-Tip Bliss
Just as with Renegade on their previous album, a song about Q*bert is long overdue and here it is. (at least that's what I got from it) There's a much heavier digitized music sound here, heavy on the keyboards with great vocals and a solid beat. It's almost like someone performing over original Apple // music, a sound unlike anything else.
Stage 4: Dynamite Car Plane
80's hair metal, at least the better part of it is what this song reminds me of. It's big guitar riffs, high pitched vocals and a rocking drum beat that yet again takes the sound of the previous album in a totally different direction - and as with everything else on the album, it works. If you're wondering what the video game connection is, it's an indie devver game.
Stage 5: Jet Set
A quick punk theme about the Jet Set Radio / Jet Grind Radio games. As with many other songs both here and on Zombies In Robots Out there is clever use of game terms such as certain playable characters and one of the rival skate gangs.
Stage 6: Release Date
Waiting for games sucks, especially when there's a unnecessarily long localization process. (ehem.. Lunar Silver Star Story Complete) Release Date is almost a punk love ballad sung to a game pending localized release. It's all touched on here - having to look at low resolution screen captures, hearing about the game being out overseas, and the excitement as the release gets closer. It's a little bubblegummy but it works fine here. ......now if Sega Classics Collection would actually have a nailed down release date...
Stage 7: Ballad Of Rockman
An overview of the Megaman / Rockman franchise - until Capcom went and screwed it up after Megaman 8. This song actually sounds like it was ripped out of the earlier Megaman games, kinda like Castlevania Punk from the previous album, which is always cool. But no mention of Protoman? What gives? Really though this is my favorite song on the CD.
Stage 8: Yoshi Egg Breakfast
Solid electronica, plain and simple. I swear, it's time for Classic Gaming Expo to extend an invitation to 14 Year Old Girls to perform live, especially considering how much larger the show became now that they moved it to Silicon Valley (where it belongs) last year.
Stage 9: Loading Time
Everyone has sung this song at one time or another, if they've realized it or not. A quick rundown of some of the worst load time offenders capped off at both ends with "why must you take so long to load." Yeah, Final Fantasy Anthology is one of the games mentioned - Final Fantasy Chronicles was craptastic in the loading department too, poor programming. There's no way menu loading in Chrono Trigger required the game to interrogate the disc for fifteen seconds. Back to the song, for some reason the rhythm reminds me of one of the small music clips from the NES Nightmare on Elm Street game, when you would collect a boombox to awaken from the nightmare.
Stage 10: Pacman's In Paris
The follow up to Pacman's In Egypt from Zombies In Robots Out, about Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man dating and getting married in Paris. (Speaking of Ms. Pac-Man, go read my review of the Tengen NES port in issue #9 of Retrogaming Times Monthly) I like this better than Pacman's In Egypt (although that was a good song as well) but that's just personal preference.
Stage 11: Sockful of Tokens
Ahh, memories of a culture I miss - the arcade culture. That's pretty much the song front to back, if you weren't around to experience arcades before their massive decline after the Street Fighter craze then you probably won't understand - mini revival in progress or not. So I propose the question, just how much have you spent in an arcade during one visit? Personally, $120 - during a locally sponsored Sega Arcade Generations competition a few years back, right around when Super GT / S.C.U.D. Race became really popular.
Stage 12: Lost In The Labyrinth
I have to think back many years before the time I had all the underworld levels of The Legend of Zelda memorized but back then this song would have fit perfectly. You know, like when you went to Level 5 for the first time and didn't know what the hell to do when you entered the first room that went dark. It could just be me but I hear a faintness of the beat from the underworld music being performed lightly in the background of this song. Anyway, the sense of not knowing what to do next when in the underworld stages is perfectly portrayed here.
Stage 13: Kage Not Cage
Legend of Kage was a semi-popular NES game during the early days of the platform but to this day it is still one of the most incorrectly pronounced titles of all time. That's what the song is about. I'll admit, the only pronunciation in gaming that makes me cringe is when people don't pronounce Ys right - especially when it comes from people that supposedly love the games in the Ys series. ...Ys VI is on the way for PS2 and PSP - practice and get it right this time. Gradius is that way too, although there are three pronunciations of that (GRADius, Graawdius, Grade-ius) - the first one is correct, although I most commonly use the second and most people seem to use the third.
Stage 14: Whoa Nintendo
Sad but true, Nintendo isn't what it once was. (Personally those glory days ended back in 1992) This is a rock anthem about the downfall of Nintendo, citing the abysmal Super Mario Sunshine as a prime example. That's right, it did suck. Why did it suck? That's simple, Super Mario Sunshine was nothing but a development release of the engine that would later run The Legend of Zelda The Windwaker. The buggy swing around at the worst possible moment camera in Sunshine? Notice such was fixed in Windwaker with more dynamic movement and it stayed put once adjusted. Contrary to what the rest of the industry may say, the Super Mario series is NOT Miyamoto's opus to the world of gaming - that'd be the Zelda series. Also the DS... come on, that's what everyone wants - miniaturization of five year old technology and ten year old games as release titles! It's called an analog thumbstick - adapt it! Even a hybrid stick like the NeoGeo Pocket Color! Gunpei Yokoi must be rolling in his grave. Although keep an eye on Nintendo over the next three years, things are going to change, for the better.
Stage 15: Ever Ever Lovequest
I hate MMORPGs - every time you play a MMORPG like Everquest you kill the arcade industry just a little more. No, I'm not bitter at them since my idea for a MMOS (you figure it out) was shot down. This is like a drifty rock song about Everquest, a game I hate, a song that's okay.
Stage 16: Swamp Zombies
This is a short eight second little riff, nothing more to say really. =]
Stage 17: Sail Out
A semi smear at The Legend of Zelda the Windwaker, a game that divided the gaming community from the start. Go read my review to see my views on the title. The song is kinda loopy, almost with a 60's / 80's mash. The core of the game itself was simple, if you want to complete everything there's about 18 or so hours of gameplay, a straight through play can be accomplished far quicker. Then again I think Ocarina of Time was full of points of bad game design. An endless debate, but a really good song.
Stage 18: Fatality
For some reason to me this sounds like something Romeo Void would have done before they fell apart. The content of the song is of course about things from Mortal Kombat and has a jazzy rock sound with just a small touch of electronica.
Stage 19: Monkey Ball
One of the games that made the GameCube launch, track 19 is about the game Super Monkey Ball as told from the perspective of one of the monkeys in the game, probably AiAi.
Stage 20: Ikaruga
Since impossibly difficult shooters that require god-like reflexes to play are one of my favorite genres, a song about one of them is a welcome addition. Ikaruga was one such shooter, released in the US on the GameCube (although the industry seemed to forget it came out in Japan on the Dreamcast a long time before) that had an interesting game mechanic where the player could change their color. If you're the same color as enemy fire you can absorb it, different color then you die. What was cool was you could change your color, so the game becomes a high speed reaction and reflex exercise as well as an impossibly difficult shooter that requires god-like reflexes to play. Not as difficult as the later stages of Gate of Thunder, Lords of Thunder, Thunder Force V, Blazing Star, or the impossible to complete Pulstar but it was pretty high up there.
Stage 21: FF 9
Another game that gets no respect and the same goes for its portrayal in the song. Don't get me wrong, I like the song, because I agree with most of it and the sound is good. However Final Fantasy IX was my favorite of the series, a series I think is still terribly overhyped. FFIX was difficult, that's why I enjoyed it. Yeah, the story was shaky but I liked the characters on their own. It's still nowhere as difficult as the original Grandia (my favorite RPG) or Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (where the game will kill you during the first battle if you get careless). On the other side of the coin Final Fantasy III (FFVI in Japan) is often cited as the best game in the series...... HELLO? The game's story ends halfway through, then you are expected to continue and explore and figure out what to do based on the mechanics of the game alone. It just doesn't work. Yes, the audio is excellent, but excellent audio does not a good game make. Chrono Trigger has openness like that, but it effects the world and there's some actual gratification for completing the tasks and they aren't crucial to the storyline. Anyway like I said, the song is good but I enjoyed the game.
Stage 22: Pong
Damnit I love this song! Who would have guessed the basic play mechanic of the most basic of basic video games would make for such a good speed punk song? Well it does and this is the proof. It has the same type shout out chorus as Big Grab did on Zombies In Robots Out and yet again is just good music.
Stage 23: Game Trafficking
A cool stylized punk song about the import scene, which at its core is illegal. Listening to this just made me laugh since in high school I was one of the few people I knew of that was installing PlayStation mod chips and bringing over Japanese releases. (Vib-Ribbon was what I sold the most of in case anyone is wondering, would have been Incredible Crisis but that finally came out stateside) Ahh, I miss the days of the swap trick with the first model PlayStations, using a thumbtack to hold down the door close pinswitch... bootlegs ahoy!
Stage 24: Glass
Yet another game that is long overdue for a song about it since it was part of a lot of firsts for the industry. The game, of course, is Marble Madness. The song is synth heavy and somewhat dreamy but maintains a punk edge and tells the mechanics of Marble Madness from the viewpoint of the player marble.
Stage 25: Beach Party
Similar to Veggie Sandwiches are the Best Sandwiches Ever from Zombies In Robots Out this song isn't specific to a single game. If you took the characters from some of the most well known franchises and best games from the industry and they all had a beach party, this is how it would go. It has a refined garage rock sound with the synth and drum tracks that tie this music back to video games just that bit more. Great music and great lyrics.
Bonus Stage 26: Super Tomb Raider
This is a remix of the song from Zombies In Robots Out that got people to buy the previous album (at least among the people I know). The lyrics are a little different but the song has the same message, Tomb Raider sucks. Where as last time it was more of a slow anti-love ballad, this time around it's high speed punk. Then 14 Year Old Girls go and top the original with the line "Tony Blair - piss off."
Final Verdict: If you liked Zombies In Robots Out then you're going to love Strategy Guide. It's the natural progression of a sound and genre that only seems to be getting better. There's not a whole lot to say since the music really speaks for itself. It sounds completely different from the previous album yet you know it's 14 Year Old Girls the moment a song begins. I only hope the albums keep coming and the quality of the music continues to get better as it has thus far. Is it 100 times better than Zombies In Robots Out? Naaa, it's about 10 times better but that's only because Zombies In Robots Out was so good. Lastly, the lyrics in the liner notes being presented on what resembles a giant Qix play field was an awesome idea.
For more information check out http://www.14yearoldgirls.net/
or their label at http://www.retarddisco.com.
Written on 02-04-05 by David, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last amended 11-18-07 by David, email@example.com
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