—Note: Any songs I refer to in my posts will be available to listen to via http://www.grooveshark.com. I encourage you to pop over to listen to the songs as they come up for a better understanding of what I am writing about.
The Seatbelts – Part 1 left off with the foundation of the band and their background/influence in anime. Now it’s time for the knitty-gritty: the music.
To start let’s look at the opening theme for Cowboy Bebop, which happens to be a song titled Tank! and it is a jazz fusion of sorts. The song bursts forth blaring horns, spiced with a splash of drums, and quickly moves into a bass riff. Hand drums then pop in and continue for the rest of the song while a melody is played with the saxophones and the rest of the horns. The tune swings and sways all over the place with squealin’ rhythms and an awesome sax solo at around 1:45 into the song. If this is any indication The Seatbelts know how to throw down the jazz and blend in a few instruments. This tune is important for the Cowboy Bebop series because it captures the lifestyles and characters of the show. These people move and jump all over the place, like the crazy squealy horns in Tank! One minute they’re chasing a bounty on Mars and the next they’re back to earth searching for a Beta player in a flooded skyscraper. It’s chaotic and spastic, but beautiful and full of energy.
Moving on they have other more melodic pieces like the simple song Pitiful Faye. This melody is made with only a piano and, like it’s character, leaves the listener wondering what more it could be hiding. Elegant and beautiful, it charms the ears with a melancholy that pervades to the depths of mood and tonal texture.
Now Fingers, a tune used in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, is another of their wonderfully mellow songs, starts with some chimes or some kind of wooden percussion with a drum track running in the background. Once more the piano sweeps in to lay down a voice and then at around 1:05 some vocals slide in with an Erie otherworldly feeling. Within the series, songs like Fingers and Pitiful Faye are used to create depth in the people. As I’ve said, each character in Cowboy Bebop gets a thorough investigation and by the 26th episode the viewer is exposed to the past that Spike or Jet are trying to run away from. These songs pop in at those tender moments and help to add tone and color. It’s simply beautiful to watch this show and feel the music blend in so wonderfully. The Seatbelts also use reoccuring sounds to bring segments back to the center and act as flags to deeper expressions. Stella by the Moor and Goodnight Julia are instrumentals whose sole purpose seems to be as triggers into characters and their pasts.
Of course, the songs that blend in are not only used to help characters “spill their guts” so to say. Most are there in the background creating the proper mood overall. Take for instance the episodes such as Session #11: Toys in the Attic and Session #20: Pierrot Le Fou. These episodes are outside the normal Bebop realm because they are not focussed on the centralized theme in any way. That is to say that they do not take the crew closer to the bounty they are chasing or towards their personal fulfillment, but rather they do allow us to delve into the characters psychologically. Thus, the music for these episodes is more low key, in the background, but weird none-the-less. Such songs are Eyeball and Cosmic Noh (Eyeball is on grooveshark while Cosmic Noh might not be).
Ok, so we’ve got one fast paced jazz based song and a couple of slower melodic pieces. What else makes their tracks “dynamic.” To make it simple, here are a couple of lists that groups their songs into genres.
- Spokey Dokey: Begins with a set of amazing harmonica blues riffs and slides into a soul rattling blues tune. Slide guitar comes in to add emphasis and flavor, this jam is astounding.
- Don’t Bother None: This time slide guitar begins the song with a sweet solo. Eventually the guitar fades into rhythm and female vocals come through delivering a story about a woman . After the first chorus harmonica comes in and plays in the background adding to the overall bluesy feeling.
- Forever Broke: A guitar based blues song, the slide guitar uses a variation of slide techniques along with tapping and false harmonics to make this come alive inside the listener.
- Digging my Potato: Harmonic + light drums in the background. Simple.
- Bad Dog No Biscuits: Ok…this song is odd. There’s some kind of weird synth scratching that goes through the whole song, but it is mostly horn based. A jazzy, punchy melody like a chase scene that eventually turns into a carnival ride. That’s how I choose to describe this. Kind of polka-ska. Make sure to note that horn at 1:35 and on.
- Go Go Cactus Man: This tune begins with a flare of spanish guitar and then slows with a chorus of whistling. The distinct character of this screams of a man on a horse in the old west. He rides out to the sunset and gallops away with his beauty clinging tight to his waist. As they run away the guitar and whistling moves back and forth countering one another. Whammy bar is used quite a bit on guitar to add to the Spanish/Southern sound.
- Diggin’: A quick country guitar riff and then country vocal patterns begin this song. This jam relates the character’s past, and then laments this past as a traditional country song does. Of course there’s a guitar solo at 2:40 beginning with the opening riff repeated. This goes until around 3:25 and then the chorus rings out once more. It ends on the opening guitar riff like all “good” country-origin songs.
- No Reply: Huge string section + vocal dynamics + major phrase changes throughout the song = No Reply.
- Blue: Played at the end of the final episode, Blue is the most tender, emotional songs of the series. A children’s chorus opens the song and goes into rounds. As the song breaks out a guitar with light distortion plays as female vocals come in slowly. At 1:50 the song builds and builds with cymbals reverberating into the chorus. The lyrics are here and the video for the final 10 minutes is here, too. To get straight to the music browse to 5 minutes into the video.
- Is it Real: Is it Real is hands down an amazing song. Light piano chords are the backbone of this song. The beauty lies primarily in the male vocal work.
- Mushroom Hunting: This is a strange tune which uses a lot of percussion. A narrative voice guides the listener through the song by pointing these instruments out and a distinctive African sound comes through. Eventually horns pierce into the song and the vocalist lists off countries for some reason. It’s a fun song, but I can only listen to it every once in a while.
- Doggy Dog I/II/& III: These songs have gotta go here mainly because they are remixes that use such a variety of sounds.
- Go Go Cactus Man: This song also fits here because of its traditional “Western” sound and, as I said earlier, that “Hispanic” guitar flare.
Well, that’s not all of their music, but it is quite a bit. Not only do The Seatbelts have all those categories covered, they also use Techno sounds, instrumental tracks, game-culture beats, and much more. Seeking to capture a larger production, this band had it cut out for them but in no way let us down. After seeing Cowboy Bebop and then listening to the music, going back to the show and tuning into what was happening tonally only heightened the awe inspiring aspects of both artistic realms. The two are in sync with one another, and this is one of the key reasons why The Seatbelts are amazing. Of course, if you have never seen Bebop, there’s no risk in checking it out, and if you do not want to then The Seatbelts’ music will still be a really awesome and a surprisingly diverse source of entertainment.
Thanks for reading, and as always, Find the Beat or The Beat will find you.