Thursday, March 12, 2009

5 Songs That Need to Be in Rock Band

1. "Scotty Doesn't Know" by Lustra
If the title of this song isn't familiar, you NEED to go out and see Euro Trip RIGHT NOW. The movie's about average among the great college humor movies of the last 30 years, but then again, it does have its moments. This hilariously dirty song about Fiona and Scotty's sham of a relationship told from the point of view of Fiona's backdoor man, who makes a big joke about everything, and it's a lot of fun to listen to, and sounds fun as hell to play for all four instruments. Best of all, nobody's heard of Lustra, even people who have seen the movie. You might remember the song, but the band is still an independent act out of Southern California. Harmonix should have no problem licensing their song, which would only make lots of money for both parties. And speaking of parties, it would become the essential song to play at a Rock Band party, along with The Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)".

2. "Through the Fire and Flames" by DragonForce
Yeah, I went there. But seriously now. Not only is TtFaF the sole measuring stick by which all virtual guitars are compared, it's the first song most people think of when you talk about Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock, the last Guitar Hero title most Rock Band loyalists played. Before Rock Band came out, GH3 was THE music game to play, and while it had a lot of great songs which will still be legendary 25 years from now, the song that anybody who beat it will remember it for is "Fire and Flames". The song is nearly impossible to pass on Expert and it's solely responsible for clever gamers to rig "bots" to pass songs for them. God challenging Satan to a duel with this song at the end of the tutorial helps as well. Onto the gameplay, though. We know the guitar is challenging - or do we? When you play "Fire and Flames" in Guitar Hero 3, you're doing the work of two guitarists. Watch the video - during the solo, the guitarists trade off. They clearly show it. Put it on Rock Band and divide the work in half. It'll still be hard as hell, but people who do good on Rock Band's "Green Grass and High Tides" and Rock Band 2's "Painkiller" shouldn't have too hard a time getting through it. It sounds like a blast on drums, and it'd clearly be epic to sing. The only problem is that it could be seen as too closely tied to the Guitar Hero brand and it's widely hated by Rock Band loyalists, at least, in words on message boards. Put it out and watch them all download it to prove themselves on the other three instruments. I know I want a crack at it on bass. I might not be able to pass it on Expert, but I know I can on Medium and I can probably get Hard after a few tries.

3. "The Pursuit" by Evans Blue
I really don't know how to classify Evans Blue. They sound like Tool, but not as creepy. Maybe a cross between Tool and Disturbed, but with a vocalist who is completely beyond compare. As for the singing, you might label it as emo, and it's certainly emotional rock, very emotional, with lyrics about relationships, most of them amazing failures, but the music is beautiful and angry at the same time, but it's a controlled anger, more of a dark passion. Both of their albums proceed like a dream, especially their second and final album. "The Pursuit" is both an abbreviation of the title, "The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends", which is also the last line of the song, delivered after an epic buildup. This band has many great songs as both of their albums are nearly perfect for the kind of music it is (and how many bands can you say put out as many near-perfect albums as albums they put out in total?); other candidates include "Dear Lucid, Our Time is Right Now", "Q (The Best One of Our Lives)", "Kiss the Flag", "In a Red Dress and Alone", "Beg", and even the two songs that got heavy rotation on rock radio in 2006, "Cold (But I'm Still Here)" and "Over". Unfortunately, the band broke up last year - well, technically they just fired their vocalist, who was better than two-thirds of what made them special to their fans in the first place. While some bands, most notably AC/DC, have come back stronger than ever after changing vocalists, only time will tell.

4. something in Latin
Doesn't matter what. My picks are "Salva Nos" by Yuki Kajiura, the FIFTH version of the song from her "Fiction" album, and "One Winged Angel" by Nobuo Uematsu. The metal version used in the second Final Fantasy movie, "Advent Children". See, with all these wicked instrumentals coming out with "NO vocal part" as exclaimed in red when you go to buy the song, e.g. "YYZ" by Rush and "Rude Mood" by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vocalists need a song that is clearly a song for vocalists, but not a pushover, either. Rock Band has enough of them, they're called "Testify" and "Give it Away", two songs I can gold star in Performance Mode (track invisible) and I suck at singing. No, vocalists need a challenge beyond reading words on a screen (or knowing them by heart) and matching tone and pitch. Once you can do that, the hardest part seems to be singing songs by vocalists with certain special tones, such as Geddy Lee from Rush, or Bon Scott or Brian Johnson of AC/DC. Or if you're a guy, the female vocals will get you every time. But change the language, use one that nobody really speaks, and what you have would be to vocals what "Through the Fire and Flames" is to Guitar Hero guitarists. The new measuring stick. Oh, and both of those songs would be good on the other instruments, though "Salva Nos" is techno and would have to be translated. Not an impossible task. On the business side, I imagine either of those songs would be fairly easy for Harmonix to license.

5. "The Pharaoh Sails to Orion" by Nightwish

I used to say that the biggest reason Nightwish wasn't in Rock Band (clearly a match made in heaven) is that Harmonix didn't want to deal with a huge increase in customers returning broken instruments, but the release of Yngwie Malmsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan songs recently have shot a few big holes in that theory. The music is just as fast and wickedly twisted as DragonForce's "Fire and Flames" and would be a good answer to that song for the Rock Band platform. I would actually prefer that they wait for a future platform which would allow for dual vocalists (duets) as the male and female parts go so well together on this track. Activision has dealt a decent slap to Rock Band with the announcement of a Within Temptation song to go on sale next week. Within Temptation are one of the more successful European metal bands trying to copy the formula of Nightwish's second and third albums. While nobody's actually done it (including Nightwish themselves, especially after breaking up and re-forming with a new vocalist), Within Temptation have come the closest. Seems to me Harmonix can either do nothing and hope that their less-experienced customers who haven't heard either band won't notice... or they can trump Activision and drop some Nightwish. Pretty much anything from "Oceanborn" or "Wishmaster" - the live version of the latter's title track would win on all kinds of levels. We're talking metal somewhere between Iron Maiden and DragonForce with vocals in the opera range. Think Enya. But singing to DragonForce or Iron Maiden. And you wind up with something that, for years, I didn't think was possible. And it pretty much is impossible in America - you've got to go to Europe for music like that. The closest thing we have is very heavily diluted - I think Evanuisance is still the closest American approximation, and it's like comparing Dora the Explorer to Akira - both are animated, but one is infinitely more complex.

There are hundreds of songs that should be in Rock Band. The oldest compilation album I still have to this day that I made contains some of the best songs of the 1990s, and a lot of those bands aren't in the game. Sure, you have Alice in Chains, but what about Soul Asylum, Counting Crows, The Wallflowers (Bob Dylan's son Jakob's band), Collective Soul, Live? Where's Marilyn Manson? He's got to have a song that's both clean enough for the game and popular enough for the fans. What about Korn? Oh, and let's not forget two of the best of all time, Elvis Presley and Led Zeppelin, are still absent. So are The Beatles, but that's coming in September. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Seger, The Doors, The Eagles, all on Guitar Hero World Tour but nothing for Rock Band. So while one can hardly fault the selection so far (592 songs at the time of this writing), there is still a long way to go.

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