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Genre: Vaporwave

Favorite Tracks: “The Lounge,” “Fries and Coke,” “Diamond Firewall”

Unlike people, memes never die. That probably explains why I just listened to a vaporwave album in 2017. BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE is a collaboration between producers Rez and ArtFluids that aims to recreate and mock the adult education software of the 1990s. Though releasing 26 tracks that accurately parody the abrasive digital kitsch of the early years of the PC era is an impressive feat, BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE ultimately strives to keep the ironic spirit of the joke behind fads such as vaporwave, chillwave, and seapunk alive long after they stopped being funny.

BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE’s biggest downfall is the fact that it comes well after it could have been relevant. From the years 2011 to 2014, laughing at the chintzy design of Windows 98 was a pastime that seemed like it would never get old. In 2017, chillwave, seapunk ,and vaporwave have all returned to the subreddits from whence they emerged, and the joke is no longer the music itself, but instead the fact that any of these genres were ever respected or relevant.

Though the quality of music should not be evaluated by its intended audience, there is something so irritatingly hipstery about BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE that its fan base cannot be overlooked. The average music listener does not have time to listen to an hour and 16 minutes of metallic arpeggiators, intentionally ugly drum samples, and strange ramblings about why adults should appreciate now-outdated computers. If you put on a track like “Surfing for Seniors” in the average music listening setting, the people listening to it would realistically ask you to turn it off. One of the biggest flaws of the album is that the niche it appeals to is even more specific than the already polemical vaporwave genre.

Unlike more traditional vaporwave releases, BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE eschews a lot of the genre’s melodic synthesizers and glitchy sampling in favor of proudly ugly instrumentation. The sonic palette of the album perfectly replicates the digital brutalism used to soundtrack the software it parodies, but there is also a reason why the days of the metallic arpeggiator and digital bell have ended. The unpleasantness of the instrumentation is at its most obvious on the track “UFORCE,” which sounds like a half-baked Johnny Jewel track sans luscious Moog pads and David Lynch influence. Though it certainly stays true to the meme that fuels the album, it (like the rest of the album) is simply not enjoyable in the slightest.

BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE is also long. Absurdly long. It’s a 25 track joke that clocks in at close to an hour and a half. It is undeniably impressive that two producers can make a parody album that rivals the length of BITCHES BREW, but it can also make it hard to laugh at the joke when the joke never changes. In a lot of ways, BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE is like a full-length movie that never changes scenes. Though there are slight variations, there is no plot arc or development of any sort, ultimately making it simply arduous.

At this point it’s probably time to accept that vaporwave isn’t that funny anymore and that musical memes ultimately lock themselves into quickly fading fads. Listening to BRØDERBUND SOFTWARE LIBRARY DELUXE in its entirety was an undertaking that felt frivolous, as the joke that fuels the album has already played itself out and there is little potential for the album to leave a significant impact on music outside of a small and now irrelevant niche. While Rez & ArtFluids did a good job of developing a joke, it just isn’t a joke that most people need to hear.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Ted Davis is a culture writer and musician. He works in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

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11 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    This Ted Davis dude hasn’t even lived long enough to know what a Broderbund game sounds like, let alone know what the fuck he’s talking about.

    He completely misunderstands concepts of vaporwave that he probably read from a crappy TinyMixTapes article about ‘irony and memes in vaporwave’ or the Adam Harper article that the author later apologized for his own misconstued views.

    Most of this isn’t even vaporwave or whatever tacked genre Davis adds to sound relevant. Listen to a goddamn edutainment game. The kitsch existed then and has always been a part of the appeal of those games. It debunks parody and goes for celebratory nostalgia.

    Overall, good job for missing the entire point, Ted Davis. You really showed those ‘superior tastes’ and music knowledge snarkiness, my guy.

  2. James says:

    Do not besmirch what you do not understand, my child

  3. Ivan Corbett says:

    Hello, Mr. Davis.

    My name is Ivan Corbett, I am a lifelong fan of Brøderbund products and would like to make a few clarifications regarding your review of the 1996 CD-ROM, ‘The Brøderbund Software Library’. You appear to have falsely identified this album as a ‘meme’. I am unaware of the theory of Dawkins’ memetics, but I believe this sort of literature transposes poorly to an assessment of educational software. I am also unaware why you are critically reviewing a Brøderbund Software product over twenty years after its inception. This product is of a time that you are unfortunately unable to associate with and generate a nostalgic attachment to, and as a consequence you have assumed the only justification of revisiting this content is to mock it. This is unfortunate. By so coldly rejecting the historical influences of this product you have assumed that it is nothing more than ephemeral product of a bygone age rather than a focal point for recollection, creativity, and celebration. These values lie at the heart of Brøderbund Software products and are why I continue to consume and enjoy them after all this time.

    Mr. Davis, I can only hope that even in your darkest hours no man misrepresents the essence of your passions so gravely that you see no choice but to generate irate comments on a comments section on the internet.

    – Ivan Corbett

  4. Devin says:

    Hey Ted. Sorry you didn’t like my album. But I think you need a few things cleared up. As Dave mentioned in his comment, I think you’ve entirely misunderstood the point. It was never meant to be a “meme”. The album isn’t a “joke”. It was meant to be fun for sure. That was our ultimate goal; to make a fun vaporware album that hits on a specific feeling of nostalgia we felt from a certain time in our lives.

    We grew up playing educational software on DOS, and that’s the feeling we wanted to bring back in the music. We searched for samples that felt familiar from software we remembered playing with. It was a blast to make the album, and that’s all we really wanted to accomplish. Having fun making something we were proud of was all that mattered. It wasn’t about making a “meme” or a “joke” album. And that’s why I think you’ve missed the point entirely.

    But as for the music, I believe you’re right. This IS music for a specific niche. It’s not 2017 music. But that’s kind of the point of vaporware isn’t it? I’m sorry listening to it was an “undertaking that felt frivolous”. You said “there is little potential for the album to leave a significant impact on music outside of a small and now irrelevant niche.” and you’re probably right about that, but that’s okay with us.

    It wasn’t supposed to be a joke, or a masterpiece. It was meant to be a fun way for us to let out some creative juices. We enjoyed making it, and a lot of people are enjoying listening to it. In the end that’s all that matters to us.

  5. Max says:

    goo goo ga ga baby’s first music review

    stick with the Beatles, Ted, it seems to be more your speed

  6. Charlie says:

    An brilliant review Ted; that was highly enjoyable.

    But you should run; you have rustled the gremlins and they have crawled out of reddit to line up and take completely useless swipes one by one. You see Ted, feelings are king in that scene; and these darlings are consumed by a multitude of very complex ones – you’ve hurt them Ted; hurt them with with a few paragraphs – but dont worry it’ll blow over as quickly as the hype of this album.

  7. Gary says:

    Nostalgia is MAGA Lite. Even if this album weren’t a joke, and is an actual, sincere expression of nostalgia for what is obviously a shitty experience forced on us by mass-produced capitalist 90s crapware, would that mean it has any value? Wallowing in the nastiness of the past with no other take or examination of it is not art but simply a decent memory, and an understanding of how to install the generic general MIDI sound font and run it through Camel Crusher.

  8. Camino 84 says:

    This is a respectable review and valid opinion. Gonna get a lot of hate comments from vaporwave fans for sure, but the only reason they’ll single this review out instead of just ignoring it is because it hits too close to home.

  9. Aethelred says:

    An good job at grammar too

  10. DK says:

    You don’t dislike Broderbund; you dislike vaporwave. And that’s okay, but the mark of a good reviewer is one who is able to recognize their biases and either write a review that foregoes those biases to critically evaluate a project or pass on the album to someone with more knowledge. Your character assassination based on your assumption that vaporwave is just a “joke” demonstrates that you’re not actually a part of the culture and you did not seek to do much more research on it other than visit /r/vaporwave. You do a disservice not only to the music but to yourself as a critic.

    Next time you review an album, focus less on character assassination or complaining about things that aren’t “for you” and instead look at how a producer could have done “x” or “y” differently in order to produce a better effect. Or, if the album *really* isn’t for you because the theory behind it just isn’t your style, pass on it. You don’t have to write about everything out there, and when you blatantly disregard a community like in this article, you come across as an immature 19-year old looking to make a name than you do a competent and mature critic.

  11. ZBCat says:

    It’s hard to read through a review that has so much bias and hate towards the subject he’s writing about. It’s like reading a food critic review from someone who prefers McDonalds and Burgerking.

    And honestly, it’s fine you think it’s a joke, or a meme. People thought the same about dubstep, not understanding it’s musical merit. And everyone accepts the joke about that! But the the people who joke about it’s sound, don’t go writing reviews on it. Coming in on a review showing such a distinct dislike, and cracking down on the genre only makes yourself look bad. Because it does not make you come off as a self-respecting reviewer, but someone who’s eager to put out a slander piece.

    And if that were the case, this ‘review’ would’ve been better off about vaporwave rather then this particular album. At least we could’ve all laughed about how tastes differ. And not everyone needs to like or understand all musical genres.