Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Miracles Do Happen

Many a drink or chat or pop culture discussion has been ruined, by me, with my admission that I'm not too keen on The Beatles. Such a statement appears to be like some kind of neuron-stripping destructo-meme, so virulent and so dangerous to those who experience it that it has the effect of instantly atrophying all parts of the brain not devoted to the reflexive and deafening defense of the lovable Scouse quartet from criticism by heretics. Even when I admit I like about half of Revolver, and think Tomorrow Never Knows is one of the most incredible pieces of music in the entire 20th Century, this is not enough. "But... but... you have to admit they are the most important popular artists of the 20th Century!" Well, I don't really, as I think you could make a case for Elvis or Dylan, but fine, if it makes you happy, The Beatles are the most important popular artists of the 20th Century, and I still don't have any urge to listen to their music.

Or at least, I didn't until today. There were so many great games and projects announced at E3, including such inevitably-to-be-owned-by-me things as BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bungie's Halo: Reach and Halo 3: ODST, the inevitable by-products of the seriously mindblowing Project Natal, the pure joy that will be Super Mario Galaxy 2, Alan Wake (a very welcome kind of reserved horror game after enduring the incredibly nasty -- and incredibly entertaining -- Dead Space), the baffling Metroid: Other M, and Valve's Left 4 Dead 2. And yet, I find myself most excited about a game I figured I would buy Canyon as a birthday present and not bother with myself. Consider myself surprised.

What was it that triggered my sudden overwhelming, concentration-wrecking enthusiasm for a game revolving around a band I care so little about? Marketing, baby. Stunningly well-designed marketing. First, this gameplay trailer shows ten of the forty-five songs available on the original disc.

Though I've never been a big fan of the band, I do love the iconography, and am fully aware of the progression the band took, and how their sound evolved. Seeing that captured within the game thrills me, as does the inclusion of Taxman -- which transcends its whiny origins to be a fun track -- and Here Comes The Sun. I'm very much a George fan. Oh yes. That song gives me chills. As does this other trailer, which is beyond belief.

Recently we saw Julie Taymor's Across The Universe, and I'm not sure who was more disgusted by it. Canyon is a huge Beatles fan, and was horrified at the dreadful reimagining of those songs, especially when the juxtaposition of the songs and images was so completely wrong. She almost completely lost it when Happiness Is A Warm Gun was played over a hallucinogenic scene with one character suffering PTSD in a military hospital after being wounded in 'Nam, man.

My main gripe with it is that I'm not crazy about the songs anyway, but I'd much rather hear the original band sing them than Jim "Wet" Sturgess, or Bono, who makes I Am The Walrus even more unappealing than I already find it. In addition to that is the awful shoe-horning of Beatles song characters into the Hair-inspired narrative. When Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood are introduced as Jude and Lucy, I had to be restrained from turning the hellish thing off. There was much gnashing of teeth when a character called Prudence gets depressed and locks herself in a closet, which naturally means the other characters have to sing a song to coax her out. That song? Eleanor Rigby, of course. (This is a lie.)

The second trailer shown above does what Richard Lester once did, and what Taymor (and writers Dick Clement and Ian LeFrenais, on a really really off day) completely failed to do: capture the essence of the Beatlesniverse. They had a public persona that remains appealing even after all these years, four scallywags running through life with pure joy fuelling them. They also created a weird inner space of imagery and mood, with their interest in psychedelia manifesting as that sinister and candy-coloured alternate universe of Blue Meanies, Buddhist and Hindi imagery, and swooning surrealism. Across The Universe tried to get at this and failed. That short trailer nailed it, and did something else; addressed the enormousness of what The Beatles were, and what they achieved. I came over all emotional when I saw it.

So yes, I cannot wait to play the game. The new peripherals, shown above, are not essential, but I'm a little in love with the drums, even though I doubt Ringo's drumming will pose the same challenge that mimicking Jimmy Chamberlin or Keith Moon has in the recent past. Even more interesting, the vocal game has been expanded to include harmonies. I've long wanted to get a mic stand so I can sing and play guitar at the same time, and now I see that you can play this with three mics as well as the other instruments. Imagine playing this as a four-player game, but with one drum, two guitars and three mics. Even more exciting is the knowledge that some bands that I've had no time for in the past have become firm favourites now that I've experienced their songs from "inside" via Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I expect the same thing to happen here. Ninth September 2009. It's scribbled on my calendar, and I'm ready to finally join the only band bigger than The Beatles: their enormous, hyper-passionate fanbase.


Masticator said...

OMFG, I am there. You, Canyon, me and Masticatrix (eight months pregnant – as she will be in September – schmeight months pregnant) playing and harmonising on "I Saw Her Standing There"? Bliss. Apart from for anyone who hears us, of course.

Like you, I've had accusations of philistinism and unEnglishness flung at me because of a cultural preference. When I profess not to be a huge James Bond fan, I'm sometimes left feeling like I might as well pack my bags and move to Russia. But for me, as for many people our age, it's not so much that I'm a fan of the Beatles, more that I feel like they're part of my DNA, that I was more or less born knowing the words to their songs (although possibly in a slightly different version; I'm told my grandma used to sing "She loves you, yes, yes, yes" because she thought "yeah" was vulgar). Bearing that in mind I can't imagine getting upset by someone levelling even the slightest animosity at them. Say they're not the greatest pop band ever, say they're overrated, say they're rubbish – it doesn't matter. Like the Royal Family or trees, they're just there, and they're beyond criticism.

Jaredan said...

I am planning on using my student loan money (whenever that comes in) to invest in a 360 and I too will be strumming away to the latest Rock Band bliss.
Across The Universe made my ears and eyes bleed.
Poor lesbian Prudence needing to be coaxed out of the closet made my eyes bulge in disbelief.
One of the dumbest films I have ever seen.