Released November 18, 2009
1 hr, 22 min, 29 sec
Gosh, do I love Sonic the Hedgehog.
What’s funny is that I never grew up playing the classic Sonic games, the ones that are universally considered to be “the good ones.” I had access to Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic & Knuckles, but I rarely played them, and I didn’t truly get into Sonic until Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, which I received along with my GameCube, the very first home console I ever owned.
I played that game so, so much. By the time I left for college in 2011, the disc had chips in it and was scratched to oblivion, but it never skipped or stopped working. I regularly cite Battle as my favorite game of all time because of how much I played it.
That’s not to say it was a great game, or even, honestly, all that good. Sonic in the 2000s was a case study in taking a beloved franchise and destroying it. Sonic Adventure was interesting, even/especially as it aged horribly. Sonic Adventure 2 was an equally polarizing game, which either improved or severely worsened the Adventure formula, depending on who one speaks to. Sonic Heroes is widely regarded as the decline of the franchise, bottoming out with the atrocious, half-finished Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006 (not to be confused with the original 1991 game; Sonic ’06 used the same title as a celebration of the franchise’s fifteenth anniversary). The series began climbing back into being a playable franchise with Unleashed in 2008, followed up by the excellent Colors in 2010 and Generations in 2011. Sonic: Lost World, however, was a botched attempt at a re-imagining, and now we sit in 2014 with the atrocity Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Horrendous. We’ve come full circle again.
Why am I talking about Sonic? Because Crush 40 is basically “The Sonic Band,” of course. Formed around 1999 as an in-house collaboration between Sega musician Jun Senoue and vocalist Johnny Gioeli, the band provided the soundtrack for NASCAR Arcade as Sons of Angels, recording the theme song for Sonic Adventure at the same time. They changed their name to Crush 40 during the development of Sonic Adventure 2, and have mainly recorded the theme songs for every Sonic game since.
The Best of Crush 40 – Super Sonic Songs is, as one might expect from the title, a compilation of every song they’ve recorded for the Sonic franchise, as well as a few vocal tracks from NASCAR Arcade (removed from my copy of the album because I have the original NASCAR Arcade soundtrack), a cover of The Cult, and a couple of original songs not tied to a Sonic game. Crush 40 is a prototypical hard rock band, while also incorporating electronic elements, depending on the game a song is recorded for. Most songs centered around the character Shadow the Hedgehog have electronic elements, for instance.
The songs aren’t works of genius, by any means, but they work as memorable, hard-hitting theme songs for the video games they’re included with. The band shows a lighter side in its original work, with “Live Life” and “Is It You” being softer, more uplifting tracks than the theme songs that surround them.
Several of the songs on the album have actually never been heard anywhere else – the four Sonic-related cover songs are exclusive to this release, recorded specifically for it. Additionally, the three songs with “2009” in their titles are re-recorded versions of those songs for this album.
Either for nostalgic reasons or because I really just like obnoxious rock music, I really enjoy Crush 40’s music. Gioeli sings with a surprising amount of sincerity and excitement in his voice, given that he’s singing about a blue anthropomorphic hedgehog, and he and Senoue seem to genuinely enjoy the live performances they do together. They’ve never really tried to branch out into becoming a “real” rock band, content to release an original song here and there in between the swaths of Sonic music they put out.
They don’t seem to be making progress on that front, however – Crush 40 has not provided the theme song to a Sonic game since Generations, which only featured remixes in itself. Sega is moving in a different direction with the franchise, and it seems that the days of Crush 40, and hard rock being the defining sound of the Sonic franchise, may be over.