Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Rock Band Wish List #4: I Am PWNed by Activision

Like Orly Taitz in the grip of another craziness-burp on national TV, I've gone on about Rock Band with off-putting regularity over recent months, which makes me feel bad after Canyon was kind enough to buy me Guitar Hero World Tour for Christmas. For the record, I think Neversoft have done a terrific job of taking over the Guitar Hero brand from Harmonix, though their note-placements on some tracks are kinda weird, especially on Guitar Hero III. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it can ruin a song. That said, I think their Medium level is more of a challenge, which is nice for me at my current skill level (bored by Rock Band Medium, taxed almost too much by Rock Band Hard), and there are some innovations on Guitar Hero World Tour that Harmonix should seriously consider adopting. Having a five-second pause after you restart a level is a brilliant move (how many times have I had to pause a Rock Band level and then missed six notes when I pressed Resume?), and I found their noteless Beginners level very useful for getting used to the drums. Also, the Music Studio is a superb addition, and though I've not had enough time to really give it a workout, even just a cursory attempt shows how much depth it has. My kudos to all involved. I'm sure they will all appreciate my fragrant and robust kudos.

Still, Rock Band is my religion music game of choice. The interface is cleaner, the flow of the note-placements is far smoother, and the songs available for download are incredible. At least one guest to our house has been converted to the Rock Band cause after seeing the awe-inspiring selection. Guitar Hero's selection is deeply disappointing, apart from the odd highlight: Born to Run and My Lucky Day by The Boss, an Eagles of Death Metal pack containing Cherry Cola, lots of Jimi. That's fine, but some of their selections are utterly overshadowed by Rock Band. Example: You can get Debaser and Monkey Gone To Heaven, but with Rock Band you can get all of Doolittle. Rock Band FTW. Even so, I know I'll be getting Guitar Hero 5, because the song selection is genuinely surprising, and has given the franchise a shot in the arm. The final list was released last week, and some inspired choices have made me very excited.

  • 3 Doors Down - "Kryptonite"
  • A Perfect Circle - "Judith"
  • AFI - "Medicate"
  • Arctic Monkeys - "Brianstorm"
  • Attack! Attack! UK - "You And Me"
  • Band Of Horses - "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands"
  • Beastie Boys - "Gratitude"
  • Beck - "Gamma Ray"
  • Billy Idol - "Dancing With Myself"
  • Billy Squier - "Lonely Is The Night"
  • Blink-182 - "The Rock Show"
  • Blur - "Song 2"
  • Bob Dylan - "All Along The Watchtower"
  • Bon Jovi - "You Give Love A Bad Name"
  • Brand New - "Sowing Season (Yeah)"
  • The Bronx - "Six Days A Week"
  • Bush - "Comedown"
  • Children Of Bodom - "Done With Everything, Die For Nothing"
  • Coldplay - "In My Place"
  • Darker My Love - "Blue Day"
  • Darkest Hour - "Demon(s)"
  • David Bowie - "Fame"
  • Deep Purple - "Woman From Tokyo ('99 Remix)"
  • The Derek Trucks Band - "Younk Funk"
  • Dire Straits - "Sultans Of Swing"
  • The Duke Spirit - "Send A Little Love Token"
  • Duran Duran - "Hungry Like The Wolf"
  • Eagles Of Death Metal - "Wannabe In L.A."
  • Elliott Smith - "L.A."
  • Elton John - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)"
  • Face To Face - "Disconnected"
  • Garbage - "Only Happy When It Rains"
  • Gorillaz - "Feel Good Inc."
  • Gov't Mule - "Streamline Woman"
  • Grand Funk Railroad - "We're An American Band"
  • Iggy Pop - "Lust For Life (Live)"
  • Iron Maiden - "2 Minutes To Midnight"
  • Jeff Beck - "Scatterbrain (Live)"
  • Jimmy Eat World - "Bleed American"
  • John Mellencamp - "Hurts So Good"
  • Johnny Cash - "Ring Of Fire"
  • Kaiser Chiefs - "Never Miss A Beat"
  • King Crimson - "21st Century Schizoid Man"
  • Kings Of Leon - "Sex On Fire"
  • Kiss - "Shout It Out Loud"
  • Love and Rockets - "Mirror People"
  • Megadeth - "Sweating Bullets"
  • Motley Crue - "Looks That Kill"
  • Muse - "Plug In Baby"
  • My Morning Jacket - "One Big Holiday"
  • Nirvana - "Lithium (Live)"
  • Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
  • No Doubt - "Ex-Girlfriend"
  • Peter Frampton - "Do You Feel Like We Do? (Live)"
  • The Police - "So Lonely"
  • Public Enemy Featuring Zakk Wylde - "Bring the Noise 20XX"
  • Queen & David Bowie - "Under Pressure"
  • Queens Of The Stone Age - "Make It Wit Chu"
  • Rammstein - "Du Hast"
  • The Rolling Stones - "Sympathy For The Devil"
  • Rose Hill Drive - "Sneak Out"
  • Rush - "The Spirit Of Radio (Live)"
  • Santana - "No One To Depend On (Live)"
  • Scars On Broadway - "They Say"
  • Screaming Trees - "Nearly Lost You"
  • Smashing Pumpkins - "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
  • Sonic Youth - "Incinerate"
  • Spacehog - "In The Meantime"
  • Stevie Wonder - "Superstition"
  • Sublime - "What I Got"
  • Sunny Day Real Estate - "Seven"
  • T. Rex - "20th Century Boy"
  • The Killers - "All The Pretty Faces"
  • The Raconteurs - "Steady As She Goes"
  • The Sword - "Maiden, Mother & Crone"
  • Thin Lizzy - "Jailbreak"
  • Thrice - "Deadbolt"
  • Tom Petty - "Runnin' Down A Dream"
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "American Girl"
  • TV On The Radio - "Wolf Like Me"
  • Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"
  • Weezer - "Why Bother?"
  • The White Stripes - "Blue Orchid"
  • Wild Cherry - "Play That Funky Music"
  • Wolfmother - "Back Round"

Of course, while that's a tasty list, Rock Band has already stolen some of the thunder by releasing some of those songs as download content. Over the last year, we have downloaded Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees, Wolf Like Me by TV On The Radio and Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon, and The Rock Show by Blink-182 came out last week (how long until we get all of Dude Ranch or Enema of the State, sans stupid "comedy" tracks?). Many more of these songs will become available soon, I'm sure. Still, hats off to Activision for making Guitar Hero more inclusive than it has been in the past. As I've always maintained, these games can do more than rock out. They can bring different genres of popular music into the fold, and Guitar Hero 5 is definitely doing that.

I cannot even begin to express my joy at seeing Stevie Wonder represented in a game so often determined to plough a very boring pure rock format. It makes me wonder if there's any way to get all of Talking Book into the game or, even better, all of Innervisions (my favourite Stevie album). Indie nerds everywhere must be psyched at the appearances by Band of Horses -- with a track from their incredibly moving sophomore album -- and Elliott Smith. Actually, someone questioned the inclusion of the latter on the AV Club, worrying that Smith's family have become lax in holding onto the rights of his songs. To be honest, while that commenter has a point, I'd hope his family gets a chance to profit from his songwriting genius in a way he never really got a chance to. It's not because I'm eager to "play" one of his songs. Honest.

Other highly anticipated tracks in that list (for me, at least) include Bullet With Butterfly Wings by the Pumpkins¹ and Incinerate by Sonic Youth (the highlight of their last Geffen album Rather Ripped), but the songs that inspired the title of this Wish List post are Plug In Baby by Muse, Blue Orchid by The White Stripes, and A-Punk by Vampire Weekend. Muse are a band with a sound that usually makes me want to remove my skin and stamp on it, I hate it that much. Nevertheless, Plug In Baby is a madness-inspiring rock anthem I am unable to resist, even if I were to use protective enchantments from ancient Cimmeria, and had planned a Wish List entry about it. I'd even found the video out and everything. Here it is. It's a monster song.

I'm not sure I would have picked those songs by The Stripes and The Weekend - I'd plump for Seven Nation Army and Oxford Comma - but I'm thrilled anyway, especially by Blue Orchid. So far the only Jack White songs available are his Bond theme with Alicia Keys (and it's great fun to play), some Raconteurs stuff, and three songs from the Dead Weather album Horehound. Treat You Like A Mother is like Bohemian Rhapsody re-written and performed by a sleazy old tramp who has broken into your house and hides under the stairs with his collection of doll hair, and thus is one of the greatest songs of our time. The other two are excessively boring. That's why we need primo Jack White music in our music games, thank you. Preferably White Stripes stuff. What with The White Stripes being the best band in the world, and all. Just sayin'.

So, where next for the Wish List? As a lazy way to maintain the blog while I work on other stuff (by which I do not mean using Twitter to bitch about bad movies), I intend to keep going, especially because -- in these days where laziness and stress battle it out for dominion of my soul -- the game that once was just a pastime has now become a passion, so much so that I will almost certainly be buying DJ Hero even though dance music doesn't excite me as much as a well-gamified bit of Silversun Pickups². More than that, I see further scope for expansion of the songs available for download, branching out into unexpected genres. More on this as the year progresses.

¹ This song was included because eleven out of ten rock fans polled expressed a wish to whine the lyric "Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage" in a voice that sounds just like an angry rat in a cage. A bald angry rat in a cage. A bald angry rat in a cage wearing an ELO t-shirt and being chased around said cage by Courtney Love.

² That said, DJ Shadow worked on the mixes, the song list includes Herbie Hancock's Rockit (!!!!), and you can play the game as Grandmaster Flash or DJ Jazzy Jeff. If that doesn't make you want to play the game, well, fair enough. But it should make you want to play the game.

1 comment:

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