For Music Monday this week, I’ll be selecting an album to go with Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk classic, Snow Crash. But what to choose for this multifaceted gem? Read on to find out! Music Monday is the creation of Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek, and this is my take on it.
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A freewheeling, breakneck journey through a stylish vision of the future, Snow Crash established its author Neal Stephenson as a major talent. It featured all the things readers had come to love about cyberpunk already laid down by its early visionaries – rebellion, all-powerful corporations, cyberspace, AI and so on – and injected it with a big shot of anarchic, self-aware fun. I mean, you can’t call one of your main characters Hiro Protagonist without people wondering just how serious you’re being, you know? Don’t let the jokes fool you though – Stephenson addresses a lot of big ideas here. Religion and linguistics come into play heavily, particularly later on, and there are several extremely poignant moments of philosophical musing. In between the hacking, slashing and general mayhem that seems to accompany Hiro and skateboarding teen Y.T. wherever they go, there’s a lot of food for thought. I’m a big fan, as you can see in this review.
What to pair with this eclectic story then? There’s the technological aspect of course, but then there’s also the chaotic fun of the whole thing. What goes with that?
For me, it’s The Mad Capsule Markets, with their eighth album Osc-Dis (1999). Back in the early noughties, it seemed like this Japanese trio were primed to take over the world. Like many artists remembered fondly by gamers of a certain age, the band had a song featured on the soundtrack for one of the Tony Hawk’s games – specifically, the third one. The song was Pulse, and it would prove to be their most popular, along with this album, which it comes from. Sadly, they went on hiatus in 2006 so the members could pursue other projects and haven’t reformed since, leaving quite the legacy behind them. Twenty years after beginning as the punk band Berrie, the band had eleven albums to their name, numerous compilations and a live album (020120). But what is it about their music that makes it a perfect fit for Snow Crash?
Cyberpunk as a genre is probably forever associated with the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Marilyn Manson and Ministry now, thanks to The Matrix. That’s just an inescapable fact. Industrial rock and slick production; these are the essential ingredients for a cyberpunk soundtrack. But on top of these, The Mad Capsule Markets threw in even more electronica, along with so many other ideas too, with samples, synthesisers and rapping melding with their driving riffs to produce a uniquely futuristic sounding, riotous party soundtrack that worked better than it had any right to. It’s the ships from Wipeout divebombing the track from Amplitude and blowing it all to hell. It’s Nine Inch Nails and Refused battling each other with guitars and synths from the backs of the lightcycles from Tron. It is an electro-rock injection of primal anti-sad, the musical version of futurism to Snow Crash‘s literary one. They started with punk, and they made it cyber.
It’s also worth mentioning that the band supposedly chose their name as a reference to suppliers of the drug Betaphenethylamine from Neuromancer, which (if true) is a pretty damn cyberpunk thing to do.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Music Monday – sound off in the comments with your thoughts! If you think Snow Crash sounds like your sort of thing, you can buy a copy through this affiliate link.