In more than one discussion, I have described a particular track or album as, for want of a better phrase, ‘videogamey’. Believe me when I say this is a sincere compliment. If you’re reading this review, there’s a fair chance that like me, videogames were a big part of your childhood. Neon splashes of coloured pixels, blowing out the inside of a cartridge to make it work, unnaturally bright Sega skies – these memories slot alongside riding a bike for the first time, or the last day at primary school. They are part of who you are.
Anamanaguchi understand this better than most, it would seem. In the creation of their debut (of sorts), they have tapped into a well of pure and powerful nostalgia, using it to craft something altogether sweeter – overwhelming euphoric. At its best Endless Fantasy is gloriously invigorating, and FUN.
The New York four-piece are often pegged as chiptune, and while that tag is not inaccurate, it fails to illustrate the true depth of their sound. Anamanaguchi have engineered something unique here, and while they ultimately spread themselves too thin (the album clocks in at a not inconsiderable 76 minutes), it’s a rich enough concoction to sustain several truly excellent tracks.
It’s an enjoyable record right from the off, with the title track providing a huge rush as it soars into infinity on the 1:02 mark, setting the tone for a consistently surprising and tingle-inducing 6 minutes. It’s followed by ‘Japan Air’, which has one of the rare instances of vocals in Anamanaguchi’s back catalogue. The lyrics are largely meaningless, but the song is so effervescent it really doesn’t matter. Other highlights are ‘Prom Night’ (a bona fide pop song, really), ‘Akira’ (perhaps the quintessential Endless Fantasy cut, with its onrushing, escalating highs), ‘Snow Angels’ (epic and emotional, in the grand tradition of climactic story beats in many a JRPG), and ‘U n ME’ (late on in this very long album, a relatively stripped back piece is welcome).
While it boasts some superb and near endlessly replayable tracks, Endless Fantasy is not perfect. As mentioned earlier, it’s simply too long. Being ruthless, you could probably cut about half this album and end up with something far tighter. Another issue is that the band can rarely resist going into hyperactive mode, even when some restraint would be more effective. As joyous and exhilarating as this formula can be, after a while it leads to diminishing returns. Indeed, once fatigue sets in (round about track 17 for me), it becomes difficult to muster enthusiasm for the final stretch, no matter how fun and colourful it is.
Like staying up all night playing videogames, or eating a whole tub of sweets in one sitting, Endless Fantasy is too much of a good thing. It's a deliciously addictive formula, but What starts out beautiful ends sickly and headache-inducing.
6Elliot McVeigh's Score