I know my posts make me come off as a bit of a retro gamer. Kind of a Disco Stu for something that doesn't suck.
The thing is, I totally play modern consoles.
Case in point: I played the everloving hell out of the Rock Band series. That might have been my favorite game series of the last generation, simply because it was so goddamn fun. No matter who you are, what age you were, what background you came from, you could have some sort of fun playing Rock Band. You could bang away at the plywood-esque drum kit, or pretend that you're Jimi Hendrix with that sweet plastic guitar. I stuck to vocals, because I like to surprise people. I know I poured multiple weeks' worth of time into the series as a whole, and that's in between bringing all the instruments to my college's video game club every Friday night. If any of my former Rock Band band-mates are out there reading this: 'Sup. We need to hang out more.
The Rock Band series is also the best argument for continued production of downloadable content that the game industry has. It helps that Rock Band games are pretty loaded with content initially, and the DLC is completely optional. Still, it's a hell of an experience to blast through a dozen songs that weren't even on the game disc originally, and it's even cooler to see your favorite bands get represented in the exhausting catalogue of downloadable songs for the Rock Band games.
That said, I'm absolutely HYPED for Rock Band 4. I'm going to say this now, so it's out there: If Harmonix finds a way to make past-generation DLC compatible with the new version of Rock Band on a new console, I will buy an Xbox One IMMEDIATELY (all of my DLC is on the Xbox 360, of course).
Harmonix recently put out a song request form on their website. I've been putting in my requests like crazy, but here's a more in-depth look at what I would like to see in Rock Band 4. Keep in mind that this list is subjective, it's in no particular order, it could be fairly eclectic, blah blah blah... Let's do this.
Barenaked Ladies - Every Subway Car
I'm a huge fan of Barenaked Ladies. Also, the band is pretty good, too.
...I'll see myself out...
Anyway, this band is one that already has a little bit of representation in the Rock Band series, as their song "One Week" was one of the tracks in Rock Band Blitz. I really, really hate that song. Why, you ask?
Oh, here we go...
"One Week' was the first track off of BNL's album Stunt. It was, and still is, a fantastic record. Stunt is the album that put Barenaked Ladies on the map, solidifying the work they had done previously with Born on a Pirate Ship and their earlier efforts Maybe You Should Drive and Gordon, which didn’t have much penetration in the US market. "One Week" became the band’s biggest hit to date (Yes, even all these years). It's fairly obvious why this song was chosen to be in Rock Band.
Chances are, if you’re not already a fan of BNL, you’ve no doubt heard this song before. It’s less of a song and more of a thinly-veiled attempt to cram as many puns, wordplay, and pop culture references into three minutes’ worth of audio. This song was such a huge hit that it got these guys to sell out venues across the goddamn world. People came to their shows just to hear it. It’s funny how that works, because the song sounds absolutely nothing like their other songs (save for the singles they released that were meant to copy the song’s success, like “Another Postcard”, from 2003’s Everything to Everyone).
Even songs that were inherently silly, like “If I Had $1,000,000″ (off of their debut album, Gordon), had lyrics that were sincere and heartfelt. They were lyrics that could stand on their own without the few humorous lines in the song. “One Week” is just a mess. The worst part of all of it is that it has prevented people from taking the band seriously. Every single song from every one of their albums is going to be compared to it, and every journalist or television personality has proclaimed each successive album that BNL releases to be a more serious effort than what they’re known for.
Personal bias aside, "One Week" is a decent choice for Rock Band because it's a fun karaoke standard and it's basically a hallmark of late-90s musical pop culture. It's just not what I would have chosen. I guess that's why I don't work for Harmonix (but I would really, really like to. Damn them for not offering internships out-of-state...)
Herein lies my reason to pick "Every Subway Car" as a Rock Band 4 track: It's a track from the current, post-Steven Page BNL. This is much more representative of their current sound than "One Week", and it shows that the band could write something beautiful and emotional without being sad, and without record scratches or pop culture references. It also showcases every Rock Band instrument flawlessly: you could choose anything and have a fun time on it. Good stuff.
Rilo Kiley - Patiently
Rilo Kiley is another band that has a track in the Rock Band series already: "Portions For Foxes", off of their album More Adventurous, was in Rock Band 3. "Portions For Foxes" is a great song, if a little, uh, unsubtle? Yeah. That's a decent description.
"Patiently" is off of the B-Side collection Rkives, which was released a couple of years ago, well after the band broke up. It's a shame that sort of thing goes down, but it happens.
Oh, that's right. "Who the hell is Rilo Kiley?" you ask?
Remember the redhead from The Wizard, that movie that was made specifically to advertise Super Mario Bros. 3? She formed a band with one of the kids who was on Salute Your Shorts and, together with a couple of other people who didn't have some sort of impact on my childhood, they took on the world. Sort of. Maybe it's more accurate to say that they took on the midwestern United States.
I like "Patiently" because it showcases two sets of vocals, sometimes at the same time. Jenny Lewis' voice is the primary one, and Blake Sennett's is the secondary, as it is on most RK tracks. The both of them are completely distinct, which would make for a fun set of vocal harmonies. Plus, I really like the guitar in this song. It would probably annoy a dog or a cat, but it's really nice. The opening also showcases some neat, Pixies-esque volume shift that hooks you in immediately, and could be a hell of a wake-up call for the less-energetic of players.
Nada Surf - The Way You Wear Your Head
Ah, Nada Surf. One of the best bands named after an existential concept. Nada Surf became a bit of a late-1990s success due to their song "Popular", which used a spoken-word style of lyrics for the verses and a sung chorus. The song was definitely post-grunge in sound, with a vocal style that sounded like a deadpan mix of Henry Rollins at the start and Sam Kinison near the end. In a similar fate to the previously-listed Barenaked Ladies, the rest of Nada Surf's catalogue sounds nothing like that, at least not vocally. Despite that, the truth of the matter is that if Harmonix were to actually pick a Nada Surf song to use in Rock Band 4, it would be "Popular" due to it being the band's most well-known track, no doubt about it.
Let Go is Nada Surf's third album, released in 2002, and GOOD GOD it is fantastic. I have a copy of the European version of the album, and it is basically flawless pop-laced indie rock. "The Way You Wear Your Head" is a standout track in an album full of standout tracks. It's loud, it's intense without being overwhelming, and the lyrics are absolutely beautiful. This would be a great vocal track and a great guitar track to play as well. Keyboards are MIA, but that hasn't stopped Harmonix from releasing DLC in the past without it.
Y'know, I'd love to see the entirety of Let Go as an album release for RB4, but I'd have more luck hitting the lottery than for that dream to become reality. Oh well. Let's hope that Nada Surf gets some sort of representation in Rock Band, because not only does the band deserve that recognition, it would be an absolute blast to play through their catalogue on a plastic guitar.
Edith - Peek Into Your Window
(No YouTube link for this one, since it's not on YouTube at all. Here's an Amazon link to Hunker Down, the album that this track came off of)
This is an obscure one. Stay with me here.
I've wanted to write about this band for a very long time, but I've avoided it for a while because this is a hard band to promote: They haven't been a real entity since the early 2000s, and their albums are IMPOSSIBLE to find if you didn't live in Boston, Massachusetts during that time. Thankfully, we have the internet, where you can buy the most obscure albums for a penny and $4 shipping.
No, there was no one named Edith in their band. I don't quite know why they chose that as the band name, but I'm sure that all of the people asking which one of them was Edith got annoying real quick. Their first album was called Outfit, released in August 2001. It's really nice. The sound is definitely power pop, with a little late-90s grunge thrown in some places (it's most obvious during the instrumental track "Intermission", which is exactly what it sounds like).
"Peek Into Your Window" is the second track off of Edith's second album, Hunker Down, in 2002. The sophomore release from the band, like a surprising amount of other bands, sounds very different from the previous album. This change isn't in genre or lyrics, mind you, it's in the production. It's very clear that the Hunker Down's recording process was completely different than that of Outfit. In a few cases, they don't even sound like the same band. From what I can tell from liner notes and other sources (as few as they are), Hunker Down was chock-full of guest musicians playing on each track for one reason or another. I'm not quite sure why, but it happened, and it made for a very interesting spread of tracks for the album. Another interesting thing I've noticed about the album is that some of the songs appear to be unfinished or possibly rushed through production. Maybe it's just me, but tracks like "Digging Around" and "Suffering Again", while great, seem to end at least a minute too early. The last bit of lyrics for "Digging Around" aren't even printed in my copy's liner notes.
"Peek Into Your Window" is a personal favorite. It has a great Pixies-esque "quiet, then loud, then quiet, then loud, then REALLY loud, then REALLY quiet" sound to it in terms of volume, not necessarily in musical style. The lyrics are clever and memorable, sticking with you for a while after the fact. This would make a fantastic choice for a Rock Band track, if only for the fact that more people would get to hear it and hopefully be pleasantly surprised by it.
As for the band itself? Edith more or less dissolved after 2002. All was not lost, however! The band got back together in 2009 under a new name: The Vivs. They've had a few lineup changes since then, but the core of the band is still there: Karen Harris, the front-woman and main songwriter is still at it. They're releasing a new record in May, which means that some new tracks from the The Vivs are prime candidates for inclusion in Rock Band in some form, as well. Fingers crossed.
Tribe - Miracle of Sound
This is another relatively-obscure one, but chances are if you're a Rock Band fan, you've heard this band before: Their song "Outside" was a bonus track in the first Rock Band. That's actually where I first heard the band, and I kind-of-sort-of fell in love with Tribe.
I was about a decade and a half too late, of course, but still. I actually found a copy of Tribe's first album Here At The Home in my dad's old music collection, no doubt some sort of impulse buy, since it really isn't the sort of music my dad liked.
Tribe itself was one of those cult favorite bands in Boston, Massachusetts. My aunt claims to have gone to one or two of their shows in the early 1990s, and I envy her quite a bit because of it. It's kind of hard to tell the level of success the band had before their breakup in 1994, but it seems to be fairly substantial: they definitely played at venues overseas and in areas outside of New England, though they are still remembered as a local favorite to your 90s hipster Bostonian.
Musically, they were very much a late-80s rock band, in the style of 'Til Tuesday or Siouxsie & The Banshees. In fact, those are the two bands I would use to describe Tribe's sound. Their second album, Abort came out in August 1991, which is decidedly poor-timing in retrospect: It was one month before Nirvana's Nevermind came out, which changed the landscape of music completely. I don't need to go into detail about that, of course. Suffice to say, Tribe seems to have gotten left in the dust.
Their third album, Sleeper, gave us the track "Miracle of Sound", which pokes some fun at bands that lip-syned and mimed their concerts to a pre-recorded track, a la Milli Vanilli. It is something that I'd love to see in Rock Band 4, as, once again, every instrument gets a chance to shine in this track. It would be kind of funny to see this track in the game, due to the song's subject matter, as well. Hopefully someone at Harmonix has a good sense of irony?
Oh, by the way, Terri Brosius, the woman who voiced SHODAN in the System Shock games, was Tribe's keyboard player and occasional vocalist. She also currently plays keyboard and vocals in The Vivs, as well. It's kind of crazy that the source of a lot of my childhood nightmares is also the vocalist in two bands that I really enjoy.
I'm honestly surprised that we haven't gotten more Tribe in Rock Band - At least two of the members of the band are employees of Harmonix, and since Harmonix is chock-full of musicians who would love to promote their music, past or present, it's a wonder we haven't gotten more. Maybe there are royalty issues or something causing problems, but I'm sure something like that could be worked out. Hell, Harmonix managed to find the master tapes for Rush's Moving Pictures and a metric ton of Beatles recordings. I'm sure a couple of Tribe songs aren't out of the question for the future.