“FUCK SHIT UP” it reads in scattering, pulsating neon behind our heroes as they jump and gyrate all over the stage, awash in UV lights casting a candy-coated hue to the spasm inducing dance pop roaring from the speakers at a billion miles per second. Anamanaguchi is a chiptune band that transcends the genre whose music is mostly akin to taking a hundred Adderal and downing it with a 6-pack of Mountain Dew before attending a laser tag mud fight with radioactive materials for refreshments. It’s rad stuff, but don’t dismiss this as vapid novelty dance music. With the help of a hacked NES system from 1985, these guys are creating incredibly meticulous and riveting dance music that incorporates elements of counterpoint and pop melodic phrasing with just the right amount of sophistication to keep this music as compelling on the mind as it is on the hips.
The inimitable chiptunes dance-pop group is back with their second LP, the self released Endless Planet (May 14, 2013). After the success of their debut, 2009’s Dawn Metropolis, and the hugely successful single “Airbrushed” this is one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year for a large section of nerds, danceheads, international listeners, and candy-kids of the Northeast who need their fix of the caffeinated wunderkinds. While the music can be as shamefully sweet as having a chocolate fountain in your own bedroom, there is a richness in the punk rock infused drumming and overdriven basslines that keep the frantic treble of the lead guitar and 8-bit synth from overwhelming the palate too quickly. Endless Fantasy brings more of the same with 22 tracks of finger-licking fun that actually caused this writer ankle pain from over an hour of foot tapping.
With tracks like opener “Endless Fantasy” and the excellent second single “Planet” the band reveals their excellent sense of counterpoint with canonical melodies overlying one another and exquisite juxtaposition of momentum shifts, perfect for a dancing crowd. Track after track hits the dopamine reward center in the brain with a strong balance of both expected and unexpected energy shifts and swells with releases that are breathtaking and compelling in a way that brings out the inner beast of the listener. And damn is the album catchy! The melodies are the work of experienced songwriters reflecting a grasp of pop, punk, and classic 80’s/early 90’s video game music. Conversely, they have a couple lullaby type hymnal moments to help space things out throughout. Like the first interlude which finally finds the band relenting and creating a space to catch your breath. Think of the reflective, softly produced cut scenes in the Zelda franchise, for instance. And come on now, you love the Zelda soundtrack. On that note, check out the band BADBADNOTGOOD’s cover of a couple Zelda staples.
A band utilizing such a potentially annoying sound as 8-bit synth will inevitably take a couple missteps in a 22 track album. First single (and video, check their website) “Meow” has a very unfortunate and grating attack of “meows” in the verse that just doesn’t carry the song as well as the catchy chorus would deserve. Additionally, with a limited sound palette like a Nintendo system for lead melodies, it’s inevitable that on such a long recordsome of the tracks will begin to feel like filler when placed next to compositional successes like “Planet.”
Considering the tendency for some of these tracks to feel like filler, the album can somewhat overstay its welcome with this long running time. On the whole it suffers a bit from being moderately samey-samey. However, this album does employ some excellent vocal tracks (such as “Prom Night” and “Japan Air”) as well as a couple refreshing slower tempo tunes to break up the skittery mad-dash to the finish line. Perhaps instead of a 22 track LP 4 years after a debut, producing shorter, more frequent releases would lead to a greater appreciation of each track individually. There’s no doubt that to grasp the nuances of each track presented here requires a lot of focus for over an hour of indulgent candy eating.
Overall the album is a joy to listen to from front to back because it’s not such dense listening material that one needs to focus on the music for the duration. This makes the album the perfect driving album, dancing album, workout album, post-coffee drinking album, and general get-your-shit-zooted album. Check Anamanaguchi in a northern city near you this month, don’t miss the explosion, get “fired up on the dream”, and fuck shit up.
OurVinyl Senior Writer
5/16 Hamden, CT – The Space Hamden
5/17 NYC, NY – Irving Plaza
5/18 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
5/19 Philadelphia, PA – North Star Bar
5/22 Ottawa, ON – Mavericks
5/23 Toronto, ON – The Hoxton