Underrated #1: Thoughts on Crush 40…

This is my second actual review, and who better than Crush 40? Truth be told, Crush 40 was the very first rock band I ever heard in my life at age 8, while playing on a friends “SEGA™ Dreamcast”. The game was called “Sonic Adventure”, the first game to feature their music as a band. Since then, they were the only band I knew for some time and followed up on them religiously. Since 2011, I’ve heard ALL of their songs from every album, and now I like a lot of things about them…

Anyway, most people I know have never heard of them (something I get a lot), and almost all of their songs have been created for OR featured in video games, except for their cover of “Fire Woman” (originally by the Cult), and some of their newer songs like “Sonic Youth” and “One of Those Days” and “Rise Again”.

Just a sample of their new material, which I’m not sure I’ll ever hear unless some clown uploads it on YouTube, but I decided to review some of their older work, which will be brief, since they only have two studio albums (A third compilation album).

Thrill of the Feel

The album was created for the video game Nascar arcade, when the band was known as “Sons of Angels” and just from the lyrics, the theme of the entire album revolves around racing, save their bonus track “Open Your Heart”. Crush 40 is very dedicated to staying on point when in comes to music, never deviating away from the primary element expressed in the video games. Jun Senoue even shows off his solo skills in “Star Sprinkled Banner”, “Rush Into The Crazy World”, “On the Road Again”, and “When the Sun Goes Down”.

This album was released in 2000, and it really came across as a film soundtrack. Whether or not it was an EP I’m not sure (Each track easily follows in suite with the next), but it easily earns Four Stars from me:

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Crush 40 (album)

It’s basically the same as thrill of the feel, but the Norwegian band “Sons of Angels” reunited, and the band had to change their name. So all the songs were shuffled onto the new album (Minus Jun’s amazing solos), and a new track “Live and Learn” came as the first track and two bonus tracks from the 2001 video game Sonic Adventure 2, “It Doesn’t Matter” by amazing singer “Tony Harnell” (TNT) and “City Escape” y the formerly mentioned artist and Danger Danger front man Ted Poley. The band line up is a bit different; Takeshi Taneda – bass guitar (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”), and Katsuji – drums (“Live and Learn”, “Escape from the City”). Because these songs weren’t rewritten like they were on the album… I’ll give them a five, because “Live and Learn”, one of there most popular songs, was recorded after Johnny’s musical hiatus, showing no receding in vocal delivery, and the two bonus tracks, “It Doesn’t Matter” and “City Escape”, all show Jun’s remarkable skills as a sound engineer, a trait he’s proven time and time again since ’94. Great job there!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Best of Crush 40, Super Sonic Songs

This is their first (and only, as of 2012) compilation album. Ironically, it’s hardly a compilation album: Only five original songs appear on the album, and three songs are cover songs that Jun helped to compose for other Sonic games. It seems much more like an anniversary album to me. It includes many cool new songs from past Sonic games, like “I Am… All of Me” (Shadow the Hedgehog, 2005), “Never Turn Back” (Shadow the Hedgehog, 2005), “Sonic Heroes” (Sonic Heroes, 2004), “What I’m Made of” (Sonic Heroes, 2004), “Live Life” (Sonic and the Black Knight, 2009) “Knight of the Wind” (Sonic and the Black Knight, 2009) and a non-game track called “Is it You”, perhaps the fist love song from the bands Chronology.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Why five? Because I love their version of Fire Woman better (which is the main goal of a single: making it sound better than before), and they’re new material explores some new areas of rock. I Am has a darker metal riff, and so does Ungratify (another brilliant cover). And for the first time, they remixed “Open Your Heart”, to show that Johnny (vocally) still has it.

Criticism

The biggest criticism I have towards this band is their distribution. Most of the material from the band I’ve heard simply from playing the video games, and living in Canada, this music is not available in stores OR on Itunes. On top of that, Crush 40 has only done TWO live performance outside of Japan, at that was “Summer of Sonic” in London (2010), and Club Nokia. At least they were generous enough to post it on YouTube:

And Club Nokia is here:

Another thing: Why are almost ALL they’re songs for video games? Granted, Sonic the Hedgehog has high (and extremely loyal) fans (so loyal that they make up their own pseudo characters and actually believe that their real), so I guess that’s why they always manage to pack a crowd no matter where they go. But I’d love to see them branch out and expand their audience, because, minus Sonic, they still have amazing potential they doesn’t erode with time.  Still, the albums need to be made more available internationally, because if you think about it, some people might love them as a band, not just for the games Jun composes for. Although of course, that would only be getting about 1/6 of the total package, since Jun makes amazing background music for these amazing games.

Conclusion

Crush 40 is going to continue to surprise us. They haven’t pulled a Linkin Park on their fans (in other words, their music isn’t digital and drenched with auto-tune and other synthetic special effects as opposed to their older work).  Plus, they always bring their old songs to the plate at every show, never letting some of their classics go buried. And as I mentioned, they’re good at amplifying the story of the present event in the games their songs are featured in, like a movie soundtrack. Who knows what’s next? Maybe they’ll be Grammy nominated… or winners.

GOOD LUCK GUYS!

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