There’s something undeniable about a good 8-bit cover. Maybe it’s because they evoke fond remembrances of Super Nintendo game sessions past. Or perhaps it’s that the digitized tracks were already irresistibly hooky in the first place.
This week, the Internet greeted the latest foray into 8-bit composition — a couple albums’ worth of Radiohead. A YouTube user named Quinton Sung uploaded full-length 8-bit versions of OK Computer and, fittingly, Kid A, along with other selections from the band’s canon. While the introduction to “Airbag” and the pleasure of hearing the trippy “Karma Police” chorus are immediate draws on OK Computer, the technique works especially well for Kid A.
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The 2000 album, the one where the band “ditched the guitars,” as every review said at the time, is so isolated and ethereal, the fuzzy new video-game rendition seems almost warm and inviting by comparison. Example: “National Anthem,” which on the Radiohead album feels menacing, plays in 8-bit like the soundtrack to a boss level on some dusty Mario Bros. title.
While none of Sung’s Radiohead remixes can be deemed typical chiptune earworms (see: 8-bit “Beat It,” Michael Jackson), they also avoid the production mess that can plague a cover (see: 8-bit “Buddy Holly,” Weezer. You’ll be hitting “close tab” instantly).
The only song that sounds mostly unrecognizable, disappointingly, is “How to Disappear Completely.” If the original version of this song, as the tastemakers at Pitchfork originally wrote years ago, “boils down” Radiohead’s music to its “spectral essence,” then the 8-bit version just ended up lost in translation.