Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 8/4 – Back in the USA

Do you know whose neck that is? Surprise, surprise!  This week features six (count ’em, six) tracks from two (count ’em, two) American bands!  That unfortunately means no accent-mocking.  But now that I can understand the singers completely, I’m sure I’ll find something to rag on.

Both of the acts are pop-oriented, so don’t expect large tracts of uniquely generated traffic patterns.  It’s mostly (save a few exceptions) timekeeping drum traffic.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though it does make you pay more attention to the lyrics, et cetera.  MMO is an LA-based pop/rock act that, surprisingly enough, is just one guy.  I’m sure he had studio musicians help him record this, but his sound definitely exceeds the technical expectations I generally set for one-man acts (save this guy).  After much Internet-rummaging, I finally found Grayscale’s website.  They’re an indie duo from Cleveland.  I suppose we shouldn’t hold that against them.

I’ve said it before and I”ll say it again: lyrics can make and/or break a ride in Audiosurf.  Read on to see which songs failed because of or succeeded in spite of their words.

Recommendations

See you around, DickChang! When I booted up “Textual Healing,” I had the pleasure of seeing that someone named DickChang was also riding the song.  That’s almost as great a username as I saw on Red Faction  the other day: Sh4mwowGuy.  Just wanted to give you a quick shout-out, Mr. Chang, for putting me in a good mood before I even started playing.  Sorry, I suppose I should talk about the track now.  It’s a little pop-punk for me.  Think All-American Rejects.  I’m not a huge fan of the vocals, but I can get behind the guitar work.  And it’s slickly produced, which helps.  Everything sounds crisp and not-Garage Band-y.  Plus, the lyrics are topical!  Even Wired ran a piece about texting in the company of others.  The track is a straightforward, downhill ride, with not a lot of variation.  Enjoy it for the mildly challenging traffic, but don’t expect it to push you.

Protip: Don't let your friends use your cellphone to drunk dial.  Bosses inevitably get called. Why is “Drunk Dial of the Year” the angriest song ever?  With a title like this, I assumed it would be a bit goofier, like Say Anything’s “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too.”  Instead, it’s a furious tale about calling an ex.  Your voice is “Piercing” and “Searing” when you drunk dial?  I think it’s more like “Slurring” and “Bumbling,” but okay – I can agree to disagree, MMO.  The tone shift between “Textual Healing” and this is like night and…early morning.  You can still tell it’s the same artist, but it’s closer to heavy rock than the other song’s pop-punk feel.  It’s got palm-muted riffs and a guitar solo/breakdown that could easily have been on a Joe Satriani album.  While the instrumental section is certainly impressive, the track left something to be desired.  Halfway through, the traffic starts mapping to the drums, but it doesn’t feel like it lines up with the strong beats.  It’s jarring and distracted me from an otherwise enjoyable track (questionable telling of a Drunk Dial story aside).  Play this song on Pro, and if you like it, kick it up a notch for a challenge.

Why the apostrophe? “The Fake’r the Better” is a critique of the self-absorbed, image-driven Hollywood lifestyle.  Unfortunately, this material’s been covered before.  We already know about Cougars, Housewives, and Phonies (oh my!).  Face it, this issue’s about as new as the printing press.  I mean, you’re honestly going to reference L. Ron Hubbard?  As if Tool hadn’t done that already (twice)?  Or South Park?  I got a little carried away there.  Sorry.  All ranting aside, it’s in this song that MMO really lives up to its Foo Fighter-esque description.  Now, the singer’s voice is less interesting than Dave Grohl’s, but the music’s not bad.  Certainly a serviceable background for some sound-wave-riding fun.  The beat-matching in the solo is a lot better this time around, making the whole bridge a pretty fun ride (though I did have to tune out the lyrics a bit).  Take my complaining with a grain of salt, turn off your mind a little bit, and enjoy navigating your way through the track.

Other selections
If you can’t tell by now, Grayscale lost the competition, if there ever was one.  My basic criteria for picking recommendations (even if I’m not the song’s biggest fan) is if I’m moved to say anything.  Anything at all.  Most of the Grayscale songs just left me bored.  I can’t even tell you if the rides were that bad.  I’m sure they were fine, but I have no interest in turning off the sound just to ride some cool hills.  “I’m Stuck With Me” isn’t the worst idea for a song – accepting your own destiny in the face of all the famous people you could’ve been – but it sounds cheesy.  After the first MMO song, I expected “Any Girl Would Do” to be a track about tongue-in-cheek womanizing.  No such luck.  It’s about…well, I don’t remember really.  While not the best ride, “A Summer Washed Away” has more pep than the others.  Expect to find it on a Zach Braff compilation someday.

Author’s Note
All song’s were played on the Pro difficulty at least twice, using the Vegas and Eraser characters.  My Tool reference in my “The Fake’r the Better” write-up snowballed into a full-blown listening session.  I haven’t really listened to music this heavy since high school, but the complexity of their compositions is always impressive.  I promise that for next week I’ll try to find another turn-of-the-millennium metal act to reference.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor and give them a surf.