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The Megas, if you’re not familiar, are a band whose entire discography is made up of their interpretations of the 8-bit themes from the classic Mega Man video game series from the late eighties and early nineties. Their first album, Get Equipped, was a rockin’ concept album based on the Mega Man 2 soundtrack. They also collaborated with the band Entertainment System on a suite of songs inspired by the first Mega Man game called Megatainment. In their latest outing, they have reimagined the entirety of Get Equipped with acoustic arrangements, and appropriately titled it Get Acoustic.

Broadway musicals and rock operas often include reprises—instances where a song is sung a second time, often by a different character or at a more reflective tempo. I’m a big fan of Get Equipped, so for me this entire album feels like an introspective reprise of an album I already know and love. The lyrics and sound of Get Equipped brought to mind a glowing city full of robot monsters; at once candy-colored, menacing, and emotionally complex. At first this album brings to mind the barren, ghost town version of the same backdrop. What sounded like neon and chrome has been replaced by sepia and dust. And while this is at first a jarring change, what The Megas have created here is a unique piece of art unto itself, with many advantages over their debut album.

The first thing I noticed besides the drastic change in style was the improved quality of the recording and better placement of vocals in the mix. The lyrics of The Megas strike a rare balance between poetically dramatizing the Mega Man mythos and making subtle winks at the audience through clever wordplay and references to elements of the games. “The Annihilation of Monsteropolis”, their version of Air Man’s theme, is the song that made me realize how thoughtful their lyrics really are. When Air Man sings “Do you know what it’s like to be built this way? With only the power to push others away” he transforms from a ridiculous 8-bit baddie to a living character with a heart and a story. These brilliant lyrics are easier to hear and understand in this outing, and that works well with the more introspective feel of the music.

Where Get Equipped rocked and wailed, Get Acoustic broods, marches, and soars. Though a few instances of a string section in the accompaniment are unconvincing in terms of realism, they far more often add a cinematic weight to the songs as well as an element of maturity. Get Acoustic has plenty of interesting choices in terms of orchestration, an example being a xylophone solo in the aforementioned “Annihilation of Monsteropolis”. In some places, The Megas seem to have actually unlocked the purest forms of their interpretations, such as “The Quick And The Blue”, their shootout-at-high-noon take on Quick Man’s theme. The acoustic guitars here mixed with a chugging string section bring to mind a futuristic western and really have you picturing Quick Man in a black Stetson. A few tracks feel like they were forcibly acoustic-ized against their will, like the comparatively lethargic “I Want To Be The One”. In still other cases, The Megas subvert the limitation of an “acoustic” sound by turning the emotional subtext of a song on its head, such as in “Programmed To Fight”, which—despite the fact that it involves a possibly suicidal Crash Man—begins with a gentle lightness in the strings that implies a very deep and complex situation for the character. Who knew the Mega Man robot masters were so Shakespearean in their longings and woes? The Megas paint broad strokes of these characters, showing us a dramatic framework of hopes and vulnerabilities, and in so doing allow us to see ourselves in characters who were once only pixelated obstacles to winning the game.

The album ends with “Lamentations of a War Machine”, in which Mega Man questions his purpose and the ethical implications of being a “robot built to fight”. It offers a poignant denouement to the adventure, with our hero asking whether his quest was necessary, as we all do from time to time. While listening to the first few tracks, I was wondering the same thing about the Megas; was this a necessary and essential addition to their catalogue, or would they have been better off creating a new album based on another Mega Man title? After a thorough listen, I can tell you that there is merit to their choice to strip their debut album to its bare essentials. It allows their clever and surprising portraits of these characters to speak for themselves and provides an arguably improved opportunity for fans and strangers alike to do the unlikely—that is, to experience feelings of empathy and endearment for a company of fictitious robots. In Get Acoustic, The Megas defeat the robot master Pathos Man, and, like the blue hero they chronicle, use his power for the forces of good.

PROS: Clever lyrics, huge nostalgia bomb for any Mega Man fan, universally enjoyable tunes for the casual listener, ear-tickling solutions to the challenges of going acoustic.

CONS: Style takes some getting used to for fans of the old version, occasionally fake-sounding instrumentation.

Overall score: 8.5 out of 10.

Get Acoustic is available on iTunes for $9.99

You can also purchase it and other Megas merchandise from http://themegas.com and you can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/themegas.

2 Comments

  1. That pretty much sums up Get Acoustic. You managed to put the way i felt when i first listened to it into words perfectly. You should consider doing the the protomen’s albums they are incredible and with your musical theater background I would be interested to hear your opinion on the rock opera that is the protomen. Nice work!

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