Last year, The OneUps took on a new style and new image. They were officially a funk band, and they made sure everyone knew and understood what they were all about by launching the band into outer space with the album Intergalactic Redux.
In January, we got a glimpse of what their new album would include with their MAGFest set (the evening one, not the afternoon one). Now, nine months later, The OneUps are giving birthday to their full-length follow-up, entitled Intergalactic Continuum.
After the jump, we give you our review of the album. And check back tomorrow for a chance to win this album before it’s even available for purchase!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best tracklist ever written:
01 Birds, Stars, Pigs and Quasars (Angry Birds – Main Theme)
02 Two Dragons, One Cup… of Funk (Double Dragon / River City Ransom – Opening Theme)
03 That Spaceship Gave Me Zits and a Rash (Battletoads – Ragnarok’s Canyon)
04 Zeus, I’ve Got a Feeling Your Whole Family’s Going Down (God of War II – Main Titles)
05 Kill Everything and Everyone (Top Down Bullet Time) (Ikari Warriors – Ikari’s Theme, Gate)
06 I Do It For the Faeries (The Legend of Zelda – Overworld BGM)
07 Super Solar Sewer System (Anybody Else Wanna Go Green?) (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game – Sewers, Winter Park)
08 The Earl of Funk (ToeJam & Earl – Big Earl Bump)
09 Take This Broken Wing and Learn to Funk Again (Final Fantasy VII – One Winged Angel)
10 Robert Plant Vs. Rob Zombie (Plants Vs. Zombies / Melolune – Ultimate Battle)
If you don’t get a chuckle out of these track names (esp 4, 9 and 10), we can no longer be friends.
Let’s just take these one at a time. Each of the ten tracks deserves some thoughtful analysis.
Angry Birds starts the album, as it also started the MAGFest X performance. The main theme is simple and catchy; composer Ari Pulkkinen has a knack for this sort of stuff (he also did the two Trine soundtracks, and those are totally solid). This piece was begging for the style of arrangement provided by The OneUps. This opener is the shortest track on the album, but even then, it’s nearly 4 minutes in length. It’s fun and substantial. Very chill.
The DD/RCR track may be overdone in the remixing community, but I don’t know anyone who’s managed to pull off live band funk and dubstep-friendly bass modulation for these famous musical motifs. It gets your head bouncing, so long as you’re not stuck in a JIMMY/BIMMY headlock. Yes, Bimmy.
Looking for something truly meaty? The longest track on the album, even with a moderate-bordering-on-speedy tempo, is the Battletoads track. I had forgotten just how prominent the bass was in this game’s soundtrack. But Mustin and crew must’ve realized how perfect it would be for their band, and the resulting arrangement is simply perfect. The big, sweeping keyboard pad synths, the polyrhythmic repetition of the guitar in the final minute, and that super-strong bass … mmm! That’s a tasty treat right there.
Now the next track, this might have been my favorite from the live show. And it still stands strong in album form. Taking the over-the-top epic rock/choir theme from God of War and morphing it into this jazzy, funky syncopated melody was a gutsy move. But I appreciate it for more reasons than just “oh, that was bold.” It’s catchy as hell, and even in completely rehauling the style, the melody still fits Kratos’ character perfectly. I can just imagine this track playing while Kratos throws on a pair of shades and delivers the track title, a rip off the classic Billy Madison quote, to Zeus and the rest of the pantheon.
The Ikari Warrios track is easily the closest to a straight rock style among all the tracks on the album. It’s ideal for bringing a good ammo-overload ass-kicking to all the bad guys. You know, all of ‘em. Put ‘em in one room and go insane. I loved the Ikari franchise as a kid, but I’d forgotten just how catchy the music from the first game was. Thanks for the reminder, gents.
If you’re looking for a solid, funky jam with a lot of great instrumentation (rhodes organ sound through the keyboard, yes!), you’re looking no further than the classic Zelda overworld music. It’s a short one, but a good one.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for sweet synth bass and some awesome drum fills that the band follows like a well-oiled machine, skip one track ahead to the TMNT2 track. And, again, the guitar’s crazy repeated phrases atop everything else … so much fun! I get lost in the time signature(s). And that makes me a happy, happy man.
Because they just can’t stay away from this classic series, we get even more ToeJam & Earl. The track on Intergalactic Redux was good, but this track, “Big Earl Bump” (probably one of the best-known tracks from the original game) needed to be on this album. It simply had to happen. And we’re all better off for it happening.
Now, for the One Winged Angel arrangement, I think this goes without saying: you have every right to be like, “oh lord, not another one.” We’ve all heard OWA done a thousand different ways, right? Well, you’ve never heard it like this. And what’s crazy is that it works! I mean, if you look at the piece structurally, it’s actually perfect for a band like The OneUps. With an emphasis on chromatic scales, and containing about five unique sections that can each be elaborated upon, it just serves so well as a piece for a tight-knit collaborative band like The OneUps. And the instrumentation is perfect, too. The drums sound fantastic. I’m sure Hanyuda-san, the drummer for Earthbound Papas (and Black Mages before that), would approve.
And finally, for the closer, we have “Ultimate Battle” from Plants vs. Zombies (apparently also used in the prior indie game Melolune). If you’re a PvZ “nut,” then you recognize the song from the fight with Dr. Zomboss. This is one of Shigihara’s best tracks, and it works really well for the “state the theme, elaborate and improvise” formula that The OneUps applied for their arrangement. The slow breakdown in the final minutes of the song is simply perfect. A great end to a great album.
I can’t overstate this point: nobody is doing what The OneUps are doing. Their prior albums, more jazz-focused with the sax often taking the lead, a few other people were doing, especially in Japan. But now, with this emphasis on funk, it’s safe to say that the two “Intergalactic” albums are truly uncharted territory for game music arrangements. Not only that, but their diverse track selection helps sharpen them so that their brand of sound can be applied almost universally to game music. Frankly, I hope Mustin and crew are able to get plenty more mileage out of this new sound before they go and remake themselves again. This is great music that deserves all the accolades I can throw on it. And, seriously, I can’t wait to hear them live (again!). As good as this CD sounds (props to Chris @ East Hall and Frank @ DiggiDis for recording and mastering, respectively), there’s nothing like hearing this band live.Tags: Funk, Intergalactic Continuum, Mustin, Mustin Enterprises, Reviews, The OneUps