The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is probably the most famous rock song about an arcade game, but a new track from Droids Attack, "Arcade Bully," might be the heaviest.
The song is available on the Crustacean Records 15-year anniversary compilation, as well as the band's upcoming album, Must Destroy, which is due out this fall. However, it's about games that are much older than a lowly high school freshman.
We're talking three decades here: The technology was a lot simpler back then, and not as many people had a gaming console in their homes. Going to the arcade was a ritual that could result in a having a kickass time playing Double Dragon, or simply getting your ass kicked.
Brad Van, the band's guitarist and vocalist, remembers this dynamic well.
"I'm a classic video game freak, and while I've got plenty of fond memories playing games in kid-friendly environments like the mall, restaurants and the Showbiz Pizza Place, this song celebrates the seedier, unsupervised back rooms of convenience stores and arcades downtown, where you would run into the older kids," he says. "If you couldn't hang, you'd risk losing a tad more than your high score on Millipede."
He might be referring to dignity, or he might be talking about an actual arm or a leg: Kicking off with sludgy guitar that quickly descends into a snakepit of metal-style riffage and vocals that's bound to remind former Atari and Commodore 64 owners of the gnashing teeth of Pitfall! crocodiles.
As Van puts it, the song "is basically about how feeling a slight element of danger can add more of a thrill to most any experience" -- even if that experience is all in your head, or on an 8-bit machine. The tempo gets your adrenaline rushing in the first minute of the song, explodes into a wild groove of guitar shredding and crashing drums, then dissipates into a hazy, psych-rock drift by the last 60 seconds. The final moments feel like the brain melt that sets in on the final level of Space Invaders, or that first moment of relief after escaping the clutch of a tormenter: freedom that's more confusing than it is liberating and a sense of having achieved something you can't quite explain.
An MP3 of "Arcade Bully" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by Droids Attack is available on the its MySpace page. The band's next show in Madison is at The Frequency on Friday, August 7, followed by a gig at the Annex on Saturday, August 29.
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