Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! Soundtrack, Jonathan Geer, 2020
What do you do if you have delivered two successful instalments of your cooking simulation franchise and are wondering where to take things next? If you are developer Vertigo Gaming, the answer is: don’t change your winning formula, but have some fun with the premise. In other words: the core loop of clicking on the right ingredients at the right time while juggling multiple food orders didn’t change much. Reviewers did point out issues with the game’s UI and occasionally punishing difficulty level, but by large and enjoyed Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! (and its appetising art style). Where things took a left turn was with the game’s narrative. Set in a post-apocalyptic USA, your restaurant empire has been blown to pieces and now you’ve hit the road with a couple of helpful robots who’ve let you turn their van into a food truck.
Less surprising was the game’s choice of composer: Jonathan Geer returned after delivering solid work on the previous two CSD games. However, this was easily his most ambitious franchise entry so far, sporting significantly longer compositions than previous CSD titles – with the soundtrack clocking in at a whopping 102 minutes. And it’s not just the scope of the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack that impresses. Geer’s most creative work yet in his already eclectic discography is impossible to swiftly sum up and label with a genre tag. If one had to find easy descriptors, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! might well be dubbed game music’s most ingenious easy-listening score.
Indeed, what ties the soundtrack and its astounding abundance of ideas together is the summery, breezy mood of these laid-back compositions – but their seemingly effortless nature only betrays how supremely inventive Geer’s work is. His approach to scoring a game with a sci-fi narrative as odd as Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is to bring together a myriad of various musical genres, all evoking a hazy sense of nostalgia, made amiably surreal by the unusual combinations of sounds. Geer’s playful concoction is equally appropriate on another level. While the music is superficially relaxing, it maintains a constant, light rhythmic motion that gently pushes the cues forward – balancing the game’s busy gameplay while never neutering its heart rate-increasing impact.
Right from the start, the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack announces its ability to charm and surprise listeners. “A la Idavay” kicks off a strings of bossa nova-inflected pieces whose tropical lounge vibes fuse harmoniously with Geer’s well-established jazz instincts. It all might sound easy-going and uncomplicated, but Geer’s carefully crafted melodies and insouciant instrumentations readily highlight his skills as a composer. A more superficial listen might unfairly give the impression that the score treads close to elevator music territory, but that would ignore the fact that Geer never rests with one musical idea or segment for too long before introducing something new.
And if there is one thing that the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack excels in, it’s delighting listeners with a constant flow of fresh musical ideas. When the bossa nova influences return on “Huauzontles”, they appear on curiously watery-sounding synths before a piano solo introduces clearer tones in understated yet effective fashion. The kooky percussion of “Is That From CSD?” suggests Raindogs-era Tom Waits on a cruise through the Caribbean – delightfully eccentric but never showy. The mix of a swift-footed piano solo and a vintage synthesiser on “The Sizzling Future” evokes 1960s prog-rock. A track like “The Poutine Prince” emphasises contemporary electronics and big melody hooks but still mixes in retro synths and jazz piano. “Dosa and Drive” uses a similarly quirky, irreverent fusion to underscore the game’s sci-fi scenario in a more dissonant fashion. The list goes on and on.
And that’s still leaving out what might be the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack’s single most important musical trademark – Geer’s own feathery vocals. Indeed, few game scores feature more vocals than this one, but again, Geer finds an idiosyncratic way to make his presence known. Usually, he treats his voice as another instrument, his wordless scat vocals complementing the music’s nonchalant flow. Cleverly enough, Geer eases listeners into this unusual stylistic choice. On the bossa nova-influenced pieces that open the soundtrack, his vocals feel like a natural inclusion and expected part of the palette. Things get really interesting when Geer applies the same vocals to other musical genres – taking the score’s light, innovative nature to the next level (as always without breaking a sweat).
As a result, listeners enjoy wonderful surprises like “King Potato”, featuring the album’s fastest, polka-esque scatting on top of lively jazz, vintage game synths and anthemic rock drums. “Chakalaka” is the ultimate proof that Geer’s vocals are anything but a mere novelty – the intricate vocal arrangement and its various layers suggests the Beach Boys performing acapella at a Brazilian carnival.
And when Geer’s vocal delivery slows downs – for example on “Mufuchofo Gufustofo!” – his smooth tenor perfectly suits the music’s neo-soul inclinations during the score’s dreamier moments. Yes, as it turns out, the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack can do lushly arranged soul pop as well. Given Geer’s vocal talents, it’s no surprise to see him also shine on those tracks that feature actual lyrics. “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone” builds into a glistening synth-pop chorus with a massive hook line, while “Apocalypse View” surprises as a genuinely pretty acoustic guitar and piano ballad.
Despite its genial atmosphere, the Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack can also tighten the screws if need be – but the music never loses its wonderfully light touch. “Ayam Goreng with Soto Ayam” is the first composition with a more expansive sound that now accommodates overdriven guitar riffs. In tandem with the colder, percolating electronics, this is the score’s closest approximation of more traditional sci-fi game scoring. “Seafood Boil” shows how Geer’s formula also has space for more outwardly dramatic music – big drum patterns and insistent organ ostinati do their bit to widen the soundtrack’s scope.
Things come to a head on “Iron Cook Speedway Action”, where Geer’s exhilarating scatting competes with a densely layered bed of electronic rhythms. Remove the vocals, and you would end up with an excellent electronic action cue overflowing with ideas – add Geer’s voice, and the music turns into something truly unique and inspired. And those are certainly fitting words to describe the entire Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! soundtrack.
- 01 - A la Idavay Geer, Jonathan 2:46
- 02 - And Miles to Go Geer, Jonathan 2:31
- 03 - Hanamari Dango Geer, Jonathan 3:01
- 04 - Haulin' Buns Geer, Jonathan 2:42
- 05 - Ayam Goreng with Soto Ayam Geer, Jonathan 2:54
- 06 - Dosa and Drive Geer, Jonathan 3:18
- 07 - Boba Tea Nights Geer, Jonathan 3:05
- 08 - Everything is OK Geer, Jonathan 2:22
- 09 - Huauzontles Geer, Jonathan 2:34
- 10 - Is That From CSD? Geer, Jonathan 2:51
- 11 - The Poutine Prince Geer, Jonathan 3:43
- 12 - We Can't Ever Stop Geer, Jonathan 3:11
- 13 - Mufuchofo Gufustofo! Geer, Jonathan 3:19
- 14 - Pasta Salad Geer, Jonathan 3:06
- 15 - King Potato Geer, Jonathan 3:05
- 16 - Bits n' Chips Geer, Jonathan 2:53
- 17 - Chakalaka Geer, Jonathan 2:41
- 18 - It's Dangerous to Go Alone Geer, Jonathan 2:57
- 19 - Pho Geer, Jonathan 3:44
- 20 - The Sizzling Future Geer, Jonathan 2:44
- 21 - Seafood Boil Geer, Jonathan 2:41
- 22 - Sunny Drive Downtown Geer, Jonathan 3:20
- 23 - Rush Hour 2013 Geer, Jonathan 2:24
- 24 - Iron Cook Speedway 1 Geer, Jonathan 4:35
- 25 - Iron Cook Speedway 2 Geer, Jonathan 3:15
- 26 - Iron Cook Speedway Action Geer, Jonathan 3:35
- 27 - Apocalypse View Geer, Jonathan 3:10