REVIEW: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt OST
This is seriously the best soundtrack I have ever heard to an animated program. That is only hyperbole in the most, but whenever I listen to this soundtrack’s greatest songs, it feels so true. Hideaki Anno, director of Gainax’s previous flagship series Neon Genesis Evangelion, said that in the years that have passed since Eva that there has been no newer anime. While this is certainly true in a literary sense, where Eva‘s imitators have fallen prey to Aping Watchmen and just going dark and edgy without going smart, there have certainly been more modern anime. Leading the pack in modernity since October of 2010 has been Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt–an unrelentingly, unapologetically different series that takes the traditional magical-girl premise and fills it with sex, violence and gross-out humour. Helping it along this path is one of the most righteous soundtracks in existence: a blast of techno and genres that have only existed since the year 2009. Wonderful.
It opens with five of the loudest crashes and bangs possible with the aptly titled “Theme for Panty & Stocking”. A one-chord wonder barely passing thirty seconds in length with improvised lyrics mumbled into an autotuner in a language the singer doesn’t speak, it is perhaps the most addictively simple theme song in history, aside from Hawaii Five-0. It conveys almost all of the feel of the series in thirty-two glorious seconds of blasting techno. Following on this theme is the extended version of our heroines’ power-up theme, “Fly Away”. I don’t know if they credit samples or not–perhaps I shouldn’t have said that–but this is a blastingly compressed, crunchy-to-the-max ode to side-chained compressors. With a kick drum sharp enough to rock your skull and bassy enough to flap your pants, it’s a glorious song even out of context.
Episode 10 of the series was the weird episode, in comparison to all the others. It ended with a music video for “D City Rock”, evidently performed by the girls, their priest and their dog-like-guitar-humping-thing. The entire song is on this record with new vocal distortion and correctly placed bleeps to keep you from hearing them rhyme “one” with “one”. The delightfully mostly English vocals feature the best use of an autotuner outside of a Major Lazer record and keep its surprisingly punky feel intact. This album features what a lot of soundtracks or score albums miss out on: good original songs.
Surprising musical theme on this album: women having orgasms. In “Pantscada”, a woman being brought to what sounds like the climax of her life is cut up into the least conventional lead instrument I’ve ever heard in a song. In “Juice”, the vocal performance is left unmolested, if you catch my meaning. Turn that one down when the inlaws visit. Things take a surprisingly somber turn on “CHOCOLAT”, featuring a performance from cast member Mariya Ise about a Ghost her character Stocking didn’t expect to fall in love with. Out of context, it’s a shockingly crunchy, crisp and compressed take on the techno love song.
The inaptly named “Theme for Scanty & Kneesocks” follows, being a dark, seethingly angry power-up anthem for the pair of Psycho Ranger demon sisters. It too is fantastic, riding its deep, dark and alto vocal sample bed for all the sexy, evil power it can muster. As is “Corset Theme”, a song almost identical in theme, feel and structure, but with the righteous feel of a distorted guitar blasted into oblivion harnessed for the main riff. Dark, demented and twisted love songs both, “Corset Theme”‘s vocals often go from a dark, moody low-range to an all out scream, accompanied by distorted and wailing guitar bursts.
Things wrap up with “Champion”, the world’s finest feel good song that isn’t performed by Coldplay/Keane/your mum’s favourite band and “Fallen Angel”, the closing theme to the anime. This is one of the only times the closing theme to an anime hasn’t felt like a padded out version of the minute long credits version. It feels like a natural, actual song that was then cut into a minute long chunk that made as much sense as its four-and-a-half minute real version, as opposed to a minute long song padded by repeating every riff eight times. And “Champion”, should Dave scold me for letting that song get off light, is possibly the only feel-good piano ballad I’ve heard that wouldn’t sound out of place among its techno-based friends on this album. Even the opening whole piano riff is compressed and crunchy beyond what it should logically be anywhere else.
The (I’m) Still Not a Fanboy Award for Overstaying Your Welcome goes to: it’s a three way tie for “Schranz Chase”, “Tenga Step” and “See-Through”! Three songs near the end of the soundtrack that contribute relatively little, could be cut to ribbons without anyone noticing and arguably displaced a host of far better songs that were only heard in the series from making it onto this soundtrack. “Schranz Chase” is the worst offender, having one riff to its title and the longest running track time to not incorporate a hidden track on the album (5 minutes, 23 seconds). “See-Through” is nearly as bad at four minutes, forty-seven seconds of less than one riff repeated into oblivion. It stopped being fresh around 2 minutes, why didn’t you cut it at three?
“Tenga Step” will seem an odd inclusion on that list at a scant two minutes, fifty-two seconds. How can something so short overstay its welcome? Well, it’s also the only “dubstep” recording on this soundtrack, which was interpreted to mean aimless, pot-fueled wandering with useless vocal samples and heavy reverbbed chakking guitars. It has none of the direction or purpose of the other songs on this soundtrack, and is worse off for it.
At the end of the day, while there has indeed been no newer anime than Neon Genesis Evangelion, PSG bucks as many trends with as much gusto and a lot more style. Almost all of that style is from the brand new, fresh sound of its music. And in the measure of enhancing the visuals it’s put to and emphasizing their themes, this soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in my life. FOUR STARS