However, one thing I've mentioned quite a bit over the past month or two has been brakusjs's Bemani 3-65 online radio station, full of music from DDR and other Bemani games.
I've never been very sure as to what music I like and always been faintly concerned that I'm generally missing out. In general, I think I like fast, happy, atmospheric, evocative, euphoric music. Game music (usually, but not necessarily, video game music) has got a good chance of being particularly evocative with me. I also tend to like happy, stupid songs which don't take themselves too seriously, particularly songs which can be sung along with at immense volume and little regard to accuracy. (Songs concerning BBC weather presenters are particularly good in this regard.) However, I also like songs that I can sort of whistle or hum an extra countermelody along to as well.
I generally don't like guitars, though I wouldn't go as far as saying I generally dislike them. I do generally tend to like silly vocal tricks, hence the "Ahhhhh ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh ahhhhh" references earlier in the month. (The king of vocal sillinesses is the Jarvis Cocker "whooooo oo-oo-00-oo-oo-oo" section at the end of that song about meeting up in the year 2000.) Of course, it's quite, quite possible to do this sort of thing badly. There is no formula which churns out good songs, but if I could work out exactly what I like then I would probably be able to find out more of it.
Anyway, here's to the review. There are fifty tracks on the three-hour playlist. I've probably listened to it through about six to ten times by now. I may end up using some highly technical terms completely incorrectly below, but I admit that I don't know what they mean and am just making them up for whatever sounds plausible. (Indeed, I suspect I have coined at least one original term below. Can you guess what it is?) This is normally considered extremely bad practice for the best of reasons, but I think it's appropriate in this case because I'm convinced that that's exactly what "real" music journalists do.
1. (BrakusJS - HOUR #1: Europop/Eurodance, Rock, etc.)
2. Bus Stop - Kick the Can - Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix
Very clever way to start the show - a nutty, infectious, high-powered way to start the playlist emphasising dancing for dancing's pleasure. (I wonder if the DDR routine to this actually does resemble the can-can?) Lovely, loopy vocals and a good job of picking instruments for an irresistible arrangement of a familiar tune. Strong thumbs up.
3. Captain Jack - The Race - The Captain's Revenge
Not a vast number of ideas, spun over again and again. Some weak lyrics: "The wheels go round and round", which is surely just missing an "on the bus" for the full effect. I'd much rather have had Yello's Race instead. Weak thumbs down.
4. Pete Shelley - Telephone Operator - DDR MAX (Full/Special/Original)
Man's relationship with a telephone operator - or, more to the point, the sound of his own voice. Very short on ideas and fun. Strong thumbs down.
5. E-Rotic - Do It All Night - DDR 3rd Mix
Makes no pretence to hide its aggression and contains some quite prurient overlaid vocal images over a very familiar instrumental track. Very cool-sounding, European rapping, but not hugely imaginitive. Weak thumbs down.
6. E-Rotic - Oh Nick Please Not So Quick - DDR 3rd Mix
Some wonderful sweeping arpeggios to sing and a much more developed sense of fun in the second half of the E-Rotic two-in-a-row makes for a much happier overall result, yet the content remains as heavily focused on the mechanics as ever. Definitely a lust song rather than a love song. Weak thumbs up.
7. NPD3 (remixed by BrakusJS) - After The Game (GER All Night Mix) - DDR MAX V-Rare CD
Agreeable, funky, lounge-ish tune with a little incidental singing. It has a relaxed, cool, mellow feel to it and is probably one of the most mainstream-credible songs on the playlist. I'm not familiar with the original so cannot comment on the remixing. Weak thumbs up.
8. King Kong & D. Jungle Girls - Walkie Talkie - Dance Dance Revolution
This has a strident keyboard theme reminiscent of early '80s disco synthpop, which is the signature section of the whole tune and is all the better for it. A blast apparently from twenty years ago. Easy, forgettable. Weak thumbs up.
9. Sana - Sana Morete Ne Ente - Sana-Mode
This has a very Latin feel to it with lilting rhythms, but very Japanese-sounding lyrics. It tends to accordingly fall between these two stools. Weak thumbs down.
10. Captain Jack - Dream a Dream - The Captain's Revenge
A dramatic, classical start introduces the Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King" theme which runs throughout the song. There's a mixture of moderately powerful female pop and downbeat, almost-rapped male vocal sections over the top. Strong ecstatic party feel throughout, but not exactly Captain $en$ible's "Happy Talk". Weak thumbs up.
11. Ni-Ni - Be Together - Dancemania J-Paradise
One of the star songs of the hour, with wonderful, dextrously sung counter-melodies to an active, attractive yet simple keyboard line and the rather spangly chorus is highly endearing. The breathy, tonal singing reminds me as much of "Lovefool" by the Cardigans as anything else, only five times less irritating. A wonderful, intricate piece of composition. Strong thumbs up.
12. Rebecca - Young Forever - Dancemania Delux 5 (Disc 1)
Powerful yet understated anthem to youth with a convincing "superior feel-good summery ballad for the ages" feel, like the Spice Girls used to sing. The female soloist gives an impressively strong performance of which the song does not take maximum advantage. Weak thumbs up.
13. Atomic Kitten - Right Now - Dancemania Diamond Complete 1
This was the breakout hit which brought the Kitten to prominence in the UK and remains powerful and punchily sung, with an excellent vocal line and what I think of as a cheesy '70s disco-style backing. A rather cheeky and aggressive song which manages to evoke a complicated combination of styles and gets away with it. Strong thumbs up.
14. Bus Stop - One Two (Little Bitch) - Get It On
Good-natured old-fashioned bad-tempered pub-singalong-style protest song by a bunch of misogynistic wasters with an irresistable mockney honky-tonk space piano, a mildly mickey-taking selection of instruments and attention-grabbing lyrics. Likeably wanton even though you don't share the sentiments and enjoyably different to the rest of the playlist. Strong thumbs up.
15. X-Treme - Wonderland (UKS Mix) - Dancemania DELUX4
Derivative mid-'80s nasty Stock Aitken Waterman wannabe song which eschews meaningful lyrics for seemingly mid-Atlantic vocal trickery. Strong thumbs down.
16. Loud Force - Rock Beat - Dancemania Diamond Complete 3
Singing "Are you ready to rock?" many times does not make this a rock song, more of an uninspired attempt at relatively guitar-y techno. A strictly by-the-numbers formulaic effort. Visit your checklist: faked live stadium performance, rap interlude, purported crowd noises, screaming, all the usual suspects. Strong thumbs down.
17. Captain Jack - Together and Forever - Operation Dance
Aggressively performed mildly romantic beaty ballad with pretensions at karaoke potential. Performed at sufficient pace and packs enough in that it largely convinces. Vocal stretching trickery on the lead female isn't strictly necessary, but gets away with it in context. Weak thumbs up.
18. (BrakusJS - HOUR #2: J-Pop and K-Pop)
19. JOGA - Dam Dariram - DDR 3rd Mix
Early '90s style romantic dance track with a well-delivered female vocal line that hits the high spots precisely. Vocal manipulation successfully fits in with the rest of the mood. Weak thumbs up.
20. Bambee - Typical Tropical - On Ice
Aqua-like camp singalong which establishes a party vibe that is somehow deliberately imperfect and tainted. Not quiiiite upbeat enough to pull the party mood off completely, somehow, but at least cheap and cheerful. Weak thumbs up.
21. SHARP - Tell Me Tell Me - DDR 3rd Mix Korean V1-2
Doesn't sound Japanese - a good indication of the differences between K-Pop and J-Pop. Ambitious song with tremendous energy that displays considerable variety from the initial rub-a-dub introduction through the affected English breaks and the weaved countermelodies. Strong thumbs up.
22. Smile.dk - Dancing All Alone - Smile Paradise
A lady slightly wistfully celebrates her singletonhood to a dance beat. This song will probably turn out to have fifteen hidden meanings which I have managed to completely miss. Starting to get slightly same-y in the context of the playlist. Weak thumbs down.
23. JOGA - Bye Bye Baby Balloon - DDR MAX (6th Mix)
Bright, buzzy start and one of the more clever vocal sequencing patterns of this hour. An attractive effort, but loses points for being insufficiently different from Dam Dariram and clearly has the feel of being a slightly improved remix of a familiar formula. Weak thumbs up.
24. H.O.T. - We Are The Future - Para Para Dancing
A slow starter, drawing heavily on a shuttle-launch countdown motif we have heard before. (I always liked the implementation in "Rofo's Theme".) Muddy, indistinct vocals, but some evocative albeit brief melody sections. Not an inspired effort. Weak thumbs down.
25. Bambee - Cowgirl - Fairytales
Happy, saucy paean to girl power. (We all know what songs about cowgirls and missionaries are really all about, don't we?) Draws very heavily on the cowgirl theme, getting away with a whimsical, goat-ropin' instrumentation and a blatantly cheeky "bang-e-do-bang" vocal motif. Novelty hit written all over it. I'd love to see a video for this. Strong thumbs up.
26. H.O.T - (Full of) Happiness - Para Para Dancing
Indistinct, grubby vocals but an infectious, bouncy melody that conveys the spirit of the party with style. The singers convincingly convey happiness making the song a success. Weak thumbs up.
27. Papaya - Pink Dinosaur - Pink
The female soloist serenades her pink baby dinosaur toy. Saccharine-sweet song (Madonna's "Dear Jessie" has nothing on this) with a thumping dance beat. The brazenness of the lyrics sometimes asks a little too much ("Deeno, Dino, Doo-da-doo-da-doo"?) but the song's heart is pure. Perfect song for nine-year-old girls, and there ought to be a little bit of nine-year-old girl inside of each of us. (No, I'm not doing that joke.) Strong thumbs up.
28. Bambee - Bumblebee - On Ice
Another infectious, bouncy dance track purportedly dedicated to a cuddly toy - in this case, a bumble-bee with apparently romantic, heroic properties. Maybe it's a metaphor, or something. High proportion of humming to lyrics. Weak thumbs up.
29. Papaya - Operator - Pink
Papaya's rather nasal tone suits this song rather less, for she's singing about a lover who she can't contact rather than a pink dinosaur. It doesn't escape its uninspired, repetitive shackles nearly so well. Weak thumbs down.
30. smile.dk - Butterfly (China Power Mix) - Dance Dance Revolution
Slightly fey female vocalist sings about being a butterfly. The effect is faintly reminiscent of an inverse "Karma Chameleon". The lyrics aren't distinctive enough from the tune to have as much effect as they might. The song doesn't benefit from the mix, which is far more of a repetitive extension than the deeper exploration of the contrasting elements of the song that you would hope for from a remix. Weak thumbs down.
31. (BrakusJS - HOUR #3: Eurobeat/ParaPara/Techno/Trance/Raver)
32. Dr. Love - EUROBEAT - Para Para Paradise
This rather self-referential song about dancing rather unsubtly establishes its purported Eurobeat credentials by reminding you of its title frequently throughout. There is one often-repeated effect which might be fifty people shouting "Yo" slightly out of sequence of each other, or might be a brush down a skiffle-board. Either way, it's annoying. Not enough different elements to this song for it to be truly euphoric. Weak thumbs down. Third in a row, oh dear.
33. 2 Unlimited - Tribal Dance - No Limits
Old-school techno track from when the genre was fresh and exciting in the UK. The rapped sections are weak, but the female singer and the swooshy, mother-earthy noodlings always convince. Doesn't have enough to it to stand up in court as a new release today, but the song has the weight of history behind it. (Of course, if you aren't familiar with the song in its historical context then it's a turkey.) Weak thumbs up.
34. Naoki - B4U (Long Version) - DDR 5th Mix
Has one particularly nice key change late on to it, but not a lot else going for it. Undistinguished fast breakbeat. Weak thumbs down.
35. Dave Rogers - Allez Japan - Para Para Paradise
The European pretentions (mixing in French - "Allez!" - and Spanish - "Olé!" - into the chorus) are a veneer on a distinctively Japanese nationalist optimistic fight song. No other country writes these; no other country is quite gung-ho enough to go "Are you ready for the fight tonight?" and get away with it. (Compare with the translated lyrics to "Yatta!", for instance.) Then again, this is the country which brought the world kamikaze pilots. Strong thumbs up.
36. JS-16 - Stomp To My Beat - Dancemania Delux 3
Generic heavy-handed party song with bee-drone and airhorn effects. The pitch-bent string-section hits are particularly overdone. Strong thumbs down.
37. Ventura - Lupin III '78 - Dancemania J-Paradise
Apparently this comes from an anime of the same name, which I can well believe. From the "start-the-car" opening to the wild gun explosions, this clearly depicts the signature tune of a rough, tough, ramblin' retro-futuro hero performing acts of galactic derring-do. The female orchestras sing out his name in ecstacy as if Lupin (where the "pin" is the pain-as-in-French-bread sound which doesn't otherwise appear in English) had saved the planet enough times to deserve their idolatry. Some day I shall have the chorus singing "Chris-M. Dick-son" in such adulation... I wish. (Stretching for a negative criticism, the outro - everything after the final chorus - is needlessly long.) Happiest song on the playlist. Strong thumbs up.
38. Dave Rogers - Kingdom of Rock - Para Para Dancing
Sometimes Dave Rogers's unfamiliar, Japanese stylings amuse Western ears. Other times, like here, the result is insufficiently distinctive to get away with it. The wheeze of adding an unexpected strings-and-harpsichord break in the middle is a fair try, but smacks of desperation. Weak thumbs down.
39. CJ Crew - Rhythm and Police - Dancemania J-Paradise
Faintly smacks of a dance version of an orchestral not-classic, always a fairly high concept. Impressive pace, but not a lot else in its favour. Weak thumbs down.
40. TaQ - Era - DDR 4th Mix
Syncopated, futuristic, squeaky pseudo-ambient number which conveys a tremendous feeling of discovery and open space. A piece of music rather than a song. An impressive avant-garde accomplishment that crescendoes to a natural climax, but far more difficult listening than the rest of the playlist. I'd skip this track every time if I could. Strong thumbs down.
41. Aurora - Ordinary World - Slinky: Inter-Continental
Far more familiar territory here - simply, an up-tempo, beaty, airy rearrangement of a well-known song. Well sung, catching all the subtleties, and the song combines the vocals with the backing in a balanced, stylish fashion. Weak thumbs up.
42. Triple J - Follow the Sun - DDR 3rd Mix
A relatively minimalist song compared to the complicated two that preceeded it, but features a lovely repeatedly-hit piano-meets-bells percussion instrument that I haven't heard used for years. The buzzy breakdown works very well in context and the gabba beat suits the nutty style ideally. Perfect pop, but overstays its welcome. Weak thumbs up.
43. Sarina Paris - Look At Us - DDR MAX2
Light, well-constructed love song with the crystal-clear vocals slightly underutilised throughout; Sarina has a wonderful timbre, she should be allowed to use it. The second half of the song is rather weaker than the first and feels redundant, but the first half meets all its goals with style and distinction. Weak thumbs up.
44. Niko - Speedway - SUPER EUROBEAT VOL.101
Hilariously unnatural Engrish lyrics throughout, as are the hysterical overdriven guitars. Tries rather too hard to be fast to emphasise its theme. A deeper-voiced singer probably would have suited better, unless they wanted it to sound like it was being sung by Mika Hakkinen's hitherto-unknown Japanese cousin for some reason. Listen to this one while reading the lyrics sheet for a chuckle. All the same, a very honest effort. Weak thumbs up - no, oh, go on, strong thumbs up.
45. 2 Unlimited - Maximum Overdrive - No Limits
One of 2U's B efforts, this, spreading far too few ideas far too thinly. Nice echoey octave beeps that came straight from the arcades and the singer sounds suitably sultry (-r +t, anag.) but there's not a lot to it. Weak thumbs down.
46. Niko - Night of Fire (English) - Gundam Wing-D Selection 3
It's Niko, it's Engrish, it's "not a danger, not a blackie stranger". All of these are good except the third. Just as overloaded and jam-packed as "Speedway". The novelty has gone, but he's still trying hard. Weak thumbs up.
47. 2 Unlimited - No Limit (RM Remix) - Dancemania Diamond Complete
Old, older, oldest school techno. A truly genre-defining song which taught a quarter-generation of Brits the mystic incantation "techno techno techno techno". Classic hedonist anthem, even though as ever - and you knew, but knew, that this was coming - no-no, nono no-no, nono no-no, nono there's no lyrics. The original would have been better than this remix, but a man from 1975 still can't not give it strong thumbs up.
48. D. Essex - Boom Boom Fire (B4 Za Beat) - Para Para Paradise
Your old Speak and Spell introduces a song by someone indistinguishable from Niko on speed. It's the cousin of that man again and this time he has "big explosion in your heart". A very heavy beat, some gratuitous ay-ee-ay-ee-ay, the Japanese National Castrati in mid-alteration and all the usual "if in doubt, pack some more in" malarky. As jam-packed as a Tokyo subway train. However, this version lacks the bravery to keep it short and sweet so it only gets weak thumbs up.
49. (BrakusJS - FAREWELL)
50. Naoki Maeda - Burning Heat! - beatmania IIDX 7th Style
Inspired, ideal conclusion to the playlist. I say: bo, selecta. Unashamed video game theme tune at its most essential. Wonderful introduction organically builds up to the melody which works through an excellent assortment of variations without becoming repetitive. Fine teased false conclusion, revelling indulgently in the potential of the sub-genre, with a powerful, joyous outro leading up to a satisfying, positive true conclusion. Tremendously well-crafted, barely wasting a beat. What a way to finish! Strong thumbs up.
Adding the forty-six musical tracks up, we have twelve strong thumbs up, eighteen weak thumbs up, eleven weak thumbs down and five strong thumbs down. A ratio of slightly less than two good to one bad, which is not bad at all for a station considering that I'm a picky, er, buznugger. Far better than any traditional wireless radio stations that I know about.
Another general comment is that Jeremy Soria is a very good - I don't know what you'd call it, maybe a DJ, maybe an announcer. He has a voice which is very easy to listen to and evidently is enjoying talking about the music. The music he's talking over is possibly a little loud, making it difficult to hear what he's saying; furthermore, being incredibly picky, the first two or three syllables of each of the tracks with his voice seem a tiny bit overdriven to the point where it's not completely clear what he's saying. As it's so consistent, I suspect it's a microphone / sound recorder problem rather than a "talking too loud" problem.
All told, a station that I enjoyed listening to a great deal; I guess that the music that it plays is an example of some of the music that I generally tend to like. I'm in no rush for the music to change, but if Jeremy is thinking about a change then I look forward to whatever he decides to change it to. Many thanks to Jeremy for putting so much time, effort and thought in to establishing the station as a resource for the rest of a lucky, grateful world and well done for succeeding quite so enjoyably. :-)
Not sure quite how music reviews can help when you're not deciding whether to buy some music to listen to or not, but if these descriptions make you think that you might enjoy listening in, please do give it a try. You can then form your own opinions and tell me I'm wrong, or something. (Or, more helpfully, tell me about other things I might like, why I might like them and where I might find them.)
Incidentally, the Live365 interface is a pain, but I've found that if you set Live365 up to play through WinAmp and then bookmark the stream, you can go straight to the bookmark and get to the music without having to go through the graphical ad-ridden web site. (I suspect the URL I use for the stream would not work for you, as it mentions my static IP address.) At least, this worked for me when I tried it last time; the technique might well not work in general for people whose Internet connections have dynamic IP addresses. Is this generally considered Live365-hostile bad practice, or is it something that "everybody" does?
One other thing while I'm talking about music reviews. I Googled for jiggery pokery the other day and was amused to see that the second result was for a so-named song, which may possibly be for a line-dance. A free mp3 of the song is available.
It's very silly indeed but quite good fun, somewhere around "so bad it's good", somewhere around "listen to it twenty times in a row and it'll drive you mad". The kazoo section is particularly trying - it's not possible to tell whether there are deliberately two separate kazoo lines or whether there are lots of people trying to do the same kazoo line and one of them is just doing it awesomely badly. It's the lyrics that make or break a song like this, though, and there are some which, well, you just aren't going to get anywhere else. I particularly like the one about "jiggery_pokery's mixin' up a little bit o' fear".
Now there's a thought!