If you've been following the hugely popular video-game music scene over the past few years, you've no doubt known what a chiptune is. If you have, and you have any self-respect, you won't admit it. If you're a normal adult, meanwhile, you have no idea what I'm talking about. Allow me to explain.
Imagine the Game Boy you had in 1989. If you're too young to remember that, remember the big gray brick you saw at a garage sale in 1998. Think back to the sounds that emerged from this plastic juggernaut. There weren't many; pretty much just "beep" and "boop." To the average listener, they were sounds of little consequence, but to children of the early '90s, they were auditory gold. Naturally, when those children grew up, they wanted to make music as amazing as they remembered.
Many moons ago, two good friends sent me a sampler pack of chiptunes. I had never listened to chiptunes before, but I like being a Debbie Downer, and so I listened and decided I hated them. Years later, when the opportunity came up for me to write articles for a music blog, one of the first things that came to my mind was writing about how terrible chiptunes are and how everyone who listens to them is the worst.
So with all the blood and vinegar of a Redwall badger charging into battle (I referenced '90s kids earlier, try to keep up with me), I queued up those four songs my friends had given me so long ago and got ready to hate. The problem was, I couldn't.
Chiptune heroes Anamanaguchi are scheduled to perform Sunday, July 14, at Rhythm Room.Failotron - "Tristan"
I gripped the arms of my chair and steeled myself for a cacaphony of dated sounds. This is it, I told myself, the most terrible music in the world. I loaded up the first song, Failotron's "Tristan," and hit play. I expected to be blown backwards like the Maxell Hi-Fidelity guy (any '80s kids in the audience?), but what assaulted me instead was a mellow fusion of two simple tracks that lacked even a single laser sound.
I raised an eyebrow and kept listening. A minute passed, and the melody kicked in, and by God, the melody wasn't terrible either. I shook my head. This had to be a mistake.Statikz - "Let's Go To Tokyo"
"Fine," I said, "Maybe one is good by accident." The rest, though -- those will be terrible. I skipped forward to Statikz's "Let's Go To Tokyo" and sat back with a smug look on my face. Surelythis
song would be the nightmarish conflagration of beep-booping that haunted my dreams.
Two minutes passed before I remembered I was supposed to be miserable.
The melody was clear and bright, the background tracks were complementary, and I might have even heard a real instrument or two in there. I couldn't believe this was one of the same songs I'd hated years ago, but I was not going to be denied my venom, so I angrily slammed my finger into the "next song" button on my keyboard.Nullsleep - "Her Lazer Light Eyes"
"Hah!" I said aloud, seconds into the song. "A laser noise!" I was vindicated -- all chiptunes were garbage, and I was the greatest reviewer in the history of the world.
In my jubilation, though, I forgot to turn the song off, and it kept playing. It wasn't bad. It was . . . good. About as good as a Game Boy could sound. I wanted to hate it, but I respected it too much. Everything I knew to be true was a lie.Starscream - "Gravity in Terms of Space-Time"
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There's beeps and boops all around of me, the cacaphony I feared for so long, but I can't fight it any longer. I want to thrash my head while waving a glowstick at a reedy 20-something jamming on his Special Edition Pikachu Gameboy Color. I want to make a MySpace page, and I want to refer to it as a My_ page. I want to be everything I've learned to hate.
I think I like chiptunes.