Video game taverns are often accompanied by memorable, rousing tunes, and no genre is more conducive to such establishments of respite than our very own favorite, RPGs. Real world taverns have their own unique soundtrack, but what if the two worlds combined in a sort of crossroads pub located on the borderlands between Earth and the World of Balance (or Ruin, I suppose)? I haven’t visited (yet), but someone else has, and they recorded what they heard there and christened it “Beer SQ.”
What an inspired and joyful set of tunes. The album begins with a brassy, punchy, hyper rendition of the Final Fantasy main theme, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to start. The melody plays out wonderfully over a backdrop of quiet, but animated percussion, and listeners will be hard pressed not to start toe tapping or dancing outright. “Gold Saucer” follows with a delightful and danceable version of the classic theme. You’ll be too busy moving your feet to notice how repetitive it is. “Guardia Millennial Fair” from Chrono Trigger features some classy trumpet in a quieter, slower setting and “Roman & Vorspiel” brings out a variety of strings for a spirited performance of a dynamic tune.
“Can You Fly Sister” picks up where “Gold Saucer” left off with another perfectly danceable tune in the style of an Irish jig, making it one of my favorites on the album. “Wanderer” is a curious track heavy in acoustic guitar that sounds quite jarring and perhaps even dissonant at times. The final track is an odd Eastern/synth remix of the Final Fantasy “Prelude.” The result is one of my least preferred tracks on the album, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Perhaps the greatest achievement on the album is the nine-minute wonder, “Spinach Rag.” The tune makes its way through each of the character themes from Final Fantasy VI in a swingin’ succession of pure delight. Any Final Fantasy VI lover with a playful ear will fall in love with this track, from the opening highs of the titular ragtime theme to the melancholy lows of Celes’ and through to the end, a return to that rompin’ rag.
The bonus disc contains a pair of lengthy oddities and a sweeping orchestral track that doesn’t fit along with the main disc so much, although it’s pleasant in its own right, with evocations of the Far East and the traditional Japanese RPG – an oddly nostalgic song. The pair of tunes that share a title are poppy, synthy, noisy things that favor something resembling style over substance. Some might find this fun dancing music, but I found it obnoxious and unpleasant.
Dim the lights and grab a mug of beer and your lover’s hand for a night of wild dancing to Beer SQ’s endearing and slightly insane tunes. The second disc is questionable, but that’s just a bonus anyway. The first disc is wonderful, even if you’re only slightly familiar with the games. When real taverns and bars start playing music like this, we have truly seen victory.