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Friday, December 2, 2011

Buckner & Garcia - Pac-Man Fever

Band: Buckner & Garcia
Album: Pac-Man Fever
Year: 1982
Style: Novelty
Similar Bands: Weird Al, Dr. Demento, The Megas
"One-Word" Review: Juveniley-Embarrassing-Fun-Pop
Based Out Of: Akron, Ohio
Label: CBS, Columbia,
Pac Man Fever - Cover & Sleeve
Pac Man Fever - Back & Sleeve

Pac-Man Fever (1982)
  1. Pac-Man Fever 3:56
  2. Froggy's Lament 3:27
  3. Ode to Centipede 5:37
  4. Do the Donkey Kong 4:32 /
  5. Hyperspace 4:15
  6. The Defender 4:09
  7. Mousetrap 4:08
  8. Goin' Bezerk 4:23
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Bands:
Jerry Buckner - Vox, Producer, Cowbell, String Polyensemble, Space Gun
Gary Garcia - Vox, Producer, Keys, String Polyensemble, (Grupo Ladron)
Ginny Whitaker - Drums
Larry McDonald - Bass
Chris Bowman - Guitar
Rick Hinkle - Guitar
Mike Stewart - Moog
David "Cozy" Cole - Percussion
Steve Carlisle - Backing Vox
Sharon Scott - background vox
Greg Quesnel - Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
John Berg - Design
David Kennedy - Photography

Unknowness: I've definitely heard of Pac-Man Fever, and the song it parodies, Cat Scratch Fever has a universally known melody...but I've never heard the song, let alone know that there was a whole album of novelty Atari video game songs. I love the more recent band, The Megas, who take the theme song to each Mega Man 2 level, and put lyrics to it. I can only hope this is similar somehow. I've got a grasp on 7 of the 8 songs, as to what game they reference (not sure about hyperspace), so it should be fun. I'm not expecting much, in fact, I anticipate that I will not be able to sit though the entire album out of lyrical embarrassment.

Album Review: “Pac-Man Fever” is apparently a parody of Cat Scratch Fever, but it does not sound spot on. It begins with Pac-Man sound effects, and then it begins with a stripped down, electronic parody of Cat Scratch. Rather than guitar solos and accents, it features more video game sound effects. And the lyrics are very descriptive of events that take place in the famous video game, which, I gather, is par for this concept album.
“Froggy's Lament” explains, in extraordinary repetition and detail, the strategy of Frogger from the frog’s perspective. We are first introduced with the music from the game. The vocals are deep like a bullfrog’s would be. There is a chorus of vocals singing ‘go froggy go.’ The song is slightly catchy, and a bit electro-prog. The song ends with the music played over sound effects as if the game was in play at the time of recording.
“Ode to Centipede” begins with a Journey - Separate Ways like intro mixed with the game’s sound effects…which might have been planned, since in the game play, the centipede is split when you shoot it, and the pieces do go their separate ways. The instrumental sections include a monotone voice, as the voice from the player’s perspective. Again, the lyrics are a mix of metaphoric emotion for the video game characters and a description of the game play. It is kind of embarrassing with lyrics like “Go ahead and run your little legs off / do you have Nikes for all of them?” At least the chorus is catchy and could be seen as more of a general lyric outside of the game. But this is the same embarrassed yet enjoyable feeling I get when listening to the Megas put lyrics to various Mega Man level themes.
“Do the Donkey Kong” starts off with game effects and a drum loop. The lyrics, again, describe the game, and the tempo and style is like a soft 70’s AOR rock song, with a little country style with the verses. If this were a song about a dance, it would be “Locomotion” right down to identical song structure. It is not too bad actually, if it were, you know, not about Donkey Kong.

“Hyperspace” is a little jazzier, quicker and dancier, and reminds me of Lionel Ritchie for some reason. This song, about Asteroids, also includes samples from the game, as if a game of it were being played.
“The Defender” samples the deafening thunderous shooting from the game, which is eventually overlapped by a bouncy pop-piano melody, and the song, a rock ballad of sorts, begins.
“Mousetrap” is as close to a bluesy pub rock song as they will ever get. The vocals are trying to be gritty, but the musical production is smooth, done I suspect to make sure that the lyrics (which are the center stage product) are completely audible and understandable.
“Goin' Bezerk” begins like an Air Supply ballad, but quite early on, the game audio is included overlapping the piano. The song has a very fun rolling melody, and most of the lyrics are just abstract enough that they could be seen as not about a video game, and have a more universal appeal.

If you can, listen to all these songs, especially if you were ever a fan of the video games these songs instruct upon. The songs are not that bad, but may make you blush out of disbelieve that they exist. They are definitely worth hearing once, and each one, although the same format across the board is inherently different and interesting for one reason or another. There is merit in these songs, buried below the silly conceptual surface. Just give them a chance if you can scrape off the novelty.

Stand Out Track: Pac Man Fever


1 comment:

  1. Thank you mentioning our song, “Pac Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia. I invite you to check out my new internet show, “The 1 Hit Wonders Show” with Jerry Buckner: http://the1hitwondersshow.com/
    It features interviews with the artists and producers behind the classic one hit wonder records of all time.