The OneUps – Volume 1
By Zach Patterson Tuesday, 6 Feb 2007

In any genre, there are bound to be subgenre upon subgenre. This is no exception to video game music covers, where interpretation means everything. Sometimes they will have rock covers like The Minibosses, and other times they will have jazzy covers, which is where The OneUps fall. This of course will not sit well with a some people who expect to be headbanging to Mario or Zelda. As such, it’s definitely a different change of pace from your standard video game cover band, but it’s an excellent disc nonetheless.

The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard The OneUps a few years ago (then known as The OneUp Mushrooms) was The Weather Channel, believe it or not. The song in question (a Kirby cover for the Dwelling of Duels competition) was very laid back, jazzy, and could have fit in easily while hearing “and now your local weather.” However, the musicianship was great (especially the horns section and guitars), and this album was released in much the same vein as that earlier preview. The album allows the band to show much more diversity over the course of 16 tracks and proves to be an entertaining listen.

The opening track is perhaps one of the best tracks on the album, as a funked-out rendition of Toe Jam and Earl is covered. Its use of synth, sax and a funky bassline captures the feeling of the game and allows a smooth segue into Super Mario Kart’s Koopa Beach theme. This one definitely falls into one of those “love it as a spot-on cover or you’ll consider it elevator music” songs (especially if you don’t know the source tune), but really displays the band’s strengths in picking songs that accompany their style. This, in turn, shows that not every cover needs to be metalized or techno’d out in order for it to be great. The OneUps have a style all their own, and they perform songs that are appropriate for it. Other stand out songs include a sunny, upbeat Isle Delfino Mario Sunshine cover, a touching string/horns version of Schala’s theme from Chrono Trigger (probably my favorite song on the album), some excellent female vocals to accompany a jazzy Katamari Damacy cover, a serene Donkey Kong Country aquatic cover, quality renditions of Bomberman and Kirby, and a great Paperboy with clapping and a bike bell to close. These songs work here because of the excellent game choices which range from well known to slightly more obscure, but they all feel very cohesive as an album. The style of music changes slightly from song to song (Earthworm Jim feels about ready to break into a hoedown, while Chrono Trigger is more of a somber ballad, for example), but it provides a pretty good variety without making it feel like too much of a mishmash of songs jammed onto a compact disc.

There are a few spots where the the a few of the covers seem to break the feel of the album, notably the metal-ly Koopa’s theme from Mario 64 (not a bad song, per se, but it feels out of place on the album and there were a dozen other Mario 64 songs that would have seemingly fit the style of the album better). There are also a few other songs that just feel too generic (maybe I’ve just heard the Legend of Zelda theme too many times?) or never quite get off the ground (the Axelay cover feels a little too slow paced), none of which are bad, but don’t especially stand out. Every album isn’t going to be perfect, but a lot of these come near the center of the album, so you hit a bit of a lull when you are dealing with 16 songs overall. On the plus side, there are some really great songs around them to balance out the few songs I don’t like as much.

I really do enjoy this album, but I can see how some people will not appreciate it for what it is. However, if you are interested in hearing some great jazz, funk, and rock versions of some well-picked video game songs, this is a pretty solid buy. I’ve found that this is a fun album for relaxing in the summer (kinda hard to picture that when it’s 5 degrees out, but humor me), so it’s worth taking a look if you have not already picked it up.