Review: One Life Left: Music To Play Games By

By Kieron Gillen on December 4th, 2008 at 9:00 pm.

Let's play videogames, indeed.

As I mentioned before, I was at the One Life Left Christmas party last week. Which was quite the thing, as arriving into a room full of drunk people four hours into a session tends to be stressful. So I caught up. I also got into the other reason why they were having a party – launching their first CD, Music To Play Games By. It’s available to buy for seven quid, but you’ll find a review of it and what it’s like beneath the cut. And since this is a games blog, I’m going to keep tight reign on my usual bag of music-critic tricks. That is, I’m going to write-it-not-as-a-wanker. Well, as much not-as-a-wanker as I ever manage.

One Life Left stands apart from the average videogame podcast in a number of ways. Firstly, it has proper microphones, at least mostly. This scares and amazes RPS. Secondly, they aren’t about videogames very much, and are shameless egotists. This also scares and amazes RPS, who don’t believe subjective human experience should ever enter gaming discourse. Thirdly, they regularly interject their chat with a selection of videogame related music, mainly of the exciting chipcore variety.

So an album makes a lot of sense. Their videogames have always had a dance-element.

It’s an elegantly designed package, complete with intro and one-line-precis of every track which scream of some of the better Ste-Curran-isms (“I am Robocop dancing in an Italian disco” “I am your little sister having a Gauntlet tantrum” “I am the bad ending”). And, more fundamentally it is a package. I was expecting a pretty random selection of pure Chipcore hollering – and I’d have been fine with that – but the impression shows the variety of directions people take the videogame inspiration thing. Yeah, we’ve got enough examples of the nagging, restless videogame energy I was expecting – like the opening Copy by Playered, which does indeed sound like Robocop at an Italian disco and a perfect example of going-out-music for people who don’t go out.

But there’s more than that. Take the expanse from the accoustic-guitar-comedy of 7/10 by the doyouinverts (Where a man offends his girlfriend by, when she asks him what he’ll mark her out of 10, says a 7. She just doesn’t understand that seven is a decent score) to nerdcore rap sensations Optimus Rhyme‘s Do You Invert, whose forum-management bon-mots are held together by a truly dirty early-eighties bass-synth (And, in passing, this isn’t the version you’ll find online. I’d say this one’s crystaline’s game-isms works better than the live-instrument taut-funk approach). Oh yeah – and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Dulok’s Gauntlet-as-metaphor-for-failing-relationship yelp-pop masterpiece “Red Wizard Needs Food Badly” (And here’s the Duloks doing it live). And obviously, an OLL collection wouldn’t be complete without Derek William’s Free Market Economy bringing his advanced capitalism science to all those assembled.

In short, the album is splendid. I would give it at least 7/10 (trad).

You can purchase it from the internet.

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23 Comments »

  1. BeamSplashX says:

    I shouldn’t be surprised that the Duloks have a game-themed song, they’re labelmates of Bolt Action Five (look up their video for Spree). I wonder if they have any cartridge-sized art for the album. Or a cartridge with even chippier renditions of the songs.

  2. The Apologist says:

    Have bought, am about to play.

    Yay for OLL

  3. The Apologist says:

    Tragically, between review and release code it’s all gone tits up and none of the songs play.

    Ah ha ha ha…

  4. Ginger Yellow says:

    Looking forward to hearing this – I’m a big fan of the music on OLL, although I have to say the doyouinverts leave me a bit cold most of the time. Retronauts is the only other gaming podcast I know that does much in the way of music, and it’s almost always actual retro game music (obviously), which they fade out rather quickly.

  5. PleasingFungus says:

    @The Apologist: That was mean.

  6. The Apologist says:

    Sorry. I was going for humour in the face of adversity…

    I’m guessing I missed that mark?

  7. Zuffox says:

    Failed.

    (Someone had to say it)

  8. lungfish says:

    Arrived earlier today, and i agree, it is rather good.

  9. Robin says:

    I was also at the party. It was fun times.

    The CD I was pleasantly surprised with. Copy is great as ever. The Optimus Rhyme track is rather apt. The Derek Williams track is decent (his performance-as-salesmanship-as-performance at the party was bizarre and brilliant). The Duloks… a bit “I AM 8-BIT” but I suppose that’s the point.

    Doyouinverts, okay I suppose, but I don’t really get OLL’s rabid enthusiasm for them. Namechecking games with disregard to rhyming, scantion and sometimes logic (a woman having “unfair level design”…?), and usually to the same basic tune – not exactly Tom Lehrer/Jonathan Coulton/etc…

    Anyway, yes, 7/10. Would buy again.

  10. Oddtwang says:

    No love for Kid Carpet? Granted, the Solitaire track on the album’s not his finest work, but I saw him in October supporting the wonderous Le Sac vs Pip (having never heard of him before) and he was amazing – impressive to see a lone man with so much stage presence filling a room (full of students making me feel old and nostalgic, damn them!) with the emanations from a drum machine and a few cannibalised toy instruments. I also got my arm nibbled by a random girl with amazing hair – that was a fucking weird gig.

  11. Derek says:

    Though I have to say that I don’t do a Free Market Economy on this CD, Mr C-Monster sir, it is more a track evangelising the playing of video games. There is little science involved. Or capitalism. But it doesn’t really matter and I love you anyway. Oh and by the way, Robin, I love you too.

  12. M.P. says:

    That youtube video of the Duloks does not convince me: isn’t she too young to have played Gauntlet?

  13. Hypocee says:



    It’s ‘Playered’ by COPY, actually?

    And I’m usually loath to rain on anyone’s parade, but with a breezy review and an echo chamber at Amazon I think it has to be said – I’m sitting here shellshocked, with my mouth hanging open in utter disgust at every one of the examples linked. 7/10 was looking like an exception – it was pretty okay until it hit what I think they think is a bridge and I killed the media player Sparta-style. I’m glad these people are having fun making music and inspiring feelings of community in drunken college students, I wish them the best of luck, but I don’t want any of those waveforms near my ears ever again. Praise for a few of the tracks has me halfheartedly hunting for samples (chiptune artists who hide their work, welcome to the new millennium of demoscene), but just having been associated with this they’ll have to reach a similar level to ‘Visitors from Dreams’ if they ever want to monetise me.

    Note to self: Listen to Gillen about games, at least when you can tell what he’s saying. Never listen to Gillen about music.

  14. Raff says:

    It’s a great CD except for the last 4 tracks which are rather dismal. Sorry.

  15. Heliocentric says:

    Surely kg has expressed his taste in music in the sunday papers.

    When a dog is shrieking at you and foaming at the mouth do you pat its head?

  16. Nallen says:

    I rewrote this about 10 times, but the long and short of it is OLL is up there with Eve TV as one of the things you could tell a woman you enjoy (and then painfully explain or demonstrate) to put them off you forever.

  17. milko says:

    my woman is an occasional listener to the show who finds it reasonably amusing, actually. But hey, I do know what you mean. Apart from I’ve never heard of Eve TV.

  18. SuperNashwan says:

    But does it have DRM?!

    *runs*

  19. Simon Parkin says:

    “complete with intro and one-line-precis of every track which scream of some of the better Ste-Curran-isms ”

    Hey, I wrote those :(

    (they were totally Curran-isms though).

  20. Andrew says:

    I like the album :) I don’t get these philistines who say the music “isn’t good”, bah, what do they know.

    Anyway, the doyouinverts rock. Nice on linking to them :) You really, really need to get the lyrics for it to make sense, I really don’t care for pitch-perfectness for that to work, and simply be fun songs they do.

  21. Miles says:

    I find Kieron’s right about music [ho ho ho ho ho] about 68% of the time. But I’m trying to work out some sort of algorithm. I’ll say this though, 7/10 is BRILLIANT.

  22. Oddtwang says:

    The score or the track? Man, that’s just confusing, that is.

  23. the video boy says:

    “M.P. says:

    That youtube video of the Duloks does not convince me: isn’t she too young to have played Gauntlet?”

    she won’t forgive me for saying this, but she’s older than she looks ……put it this way , she was born in the seventies………