Texas indie rock band Man Factory released their final album in their Street Fighter 2 inspired 3 album rock opera, appropriately titled "Street Fight!!! Round Three," on December 27th, 2013. In doing so, they made good on a goal they'd set forth on 6 years prior. There was little fanfare, just a tweet
to their loyal, though modest, following. Most of the major videogame news outlets eventually got around to covering the release, but all of them seemed to miss one crucial detail. The detail? These 3 albums are fucking awesome.
Their facial hair is also awesome
Full disclosure-- I'm a fan of rock operas. The Who's "Tommy" is one of my favorite albums, and if you bring it up to me at a party, I will wax poetic (drunk) for as long as you'll let me about how influential it has been to rock music and pop in general. For the sake of brevity, The Who:Tommy::The Beatles:Sgt. Pepper. You can thank me when you ace the analogy portion of the SAT.
Like most people of my generation (old), I played Street Fighter 2 as a kid. I wasn't very good, but I was happy to throw the occasional Hadoken and watch the colorful and eccentric characters duke it out on screen.
Had you asked me what the story for Street Fighter was, all I could have told you was that M. Bison is a bad guy, Sagat is his henchman, and Chun-Li makes me feel funny. Like, climbing a rope in gym class funny. Since I was never that good at fighting games, I never saw everyone's final cut-scene. As a result, I just sort of made up my own back stories for characters. I get the feeling from listening to "Street Fight!" that Man Factory had a similar experience.
As it turns out, I really prefer most of the "Street Fight!" back stories to the Capcom official cannon. Vega is a prime example of this. In the video game, Vega climbs on the chain link fence of his caged arena. Oh, yes. He's a cage fighter. The dude was MMA BEFORE MMA. He sports a mask and a claw. Obviously, the dude must be a badass. Well, according to Capcom, he wears a mask because he's... really pretty.
So pretty... So confusing...
Man Factory has a different take. In the world of "Street Fight!", Vega is a warrior who traded his honor for power. He killed Chun-Li's father, and hides behind the mask to keep Chun, his former lover, from knowing that it was him. He's part Ronin and part Darth Vader. I won't spoil his character development, but he is a dynamic character.
Ken and Ryu get similar treatment. In the game, they are best buds who are concerned about stopping M. Bison and... training to be better fighters. Man Factory told a different tale. Ryu reached celebrity status for defeating M. Bison years ago, and he's been enjoying his celebrity by being lazy in the USA. Also, he's banging Ken's wife. Ken is a cuckold husband who has been ignoring all of the glaring signs of his wife's infidelity. This leads to one of the punniest (see what I did there?) lyrics in "Street Fight!"
How come she always mentions him?
Could she be shoryuken my best friend?
Aside from all the narrative elements of "Street Fight!", the albums do a fantastic job of using the melodies and other musical elements to tie together a cohesive rock opera. The first track of the the first features a melody where they list all the characters. This melody is set aside until the last album when it's reprised in "Pilot Sonata".
Oh, that's right. Man Factory created an additional character and 2 songs out of this...
They cut the song about the flashing "Press Start" prompt
"But, Zach! Why would they waste time on a pilot?" Thanks for asking, person who broke into my house to write that on my blog. The character of the pilot is, in my opinion, a mouthpiece for the band itself. His first song, "Chun-Li, I'm lovin' it", is an optimistic love song to Chun. This is off the first album, and you get the feeling that the band is speaking directly to Chun-Li. They have a crush on her. Maybe they had a similar realization when climbing the rope in gym class (2 boner jokes in my first blog. You're welcome).
By the time we get to the final album, you get the impression that Man Factory is starting to get a little irritated with the confines and the pressure of completing their ambitious opus. Not that they seem like they are out of ideas. They certainly aren't out of talent either. But, years of being harassed about when the next album is coming out, being asked why they change so much about such iconic characters, and, frankly, singing songs about a 1991 arcade game for over half a decade has to take some sort of toll. So, we get "Pilot Sonata". It's a song about a young man who fell in love when he was young. He made a vow to look after Chun-Li, but against his better judgment takes her to what he knows might be her death. As a self-imposed punishment for this, he flies his plane into an oncoming hurricane. The song fades out with the repeated lyric:
So caught up in Street Fight
Why bother to write all this? Well, for starters, "Street Fight!!! Round Three" is Man Factory's swan song. One of the singers is moving to Chicago, and the band is hanging up their proverbial gi's. Also, for those of you who are in the Dallas/ Fort Worth region, they are playing all three rounds, back to back, one night only. This will be the only chance for you to hear all three albums live. A local community theater was kind enough to give them this opportunity, and I wanted to do my small part to help promote the show. Details about the show are here. Buy their albums here. Say hi to them on twitter.
I'll leave you with one of their more popular songs.