For record labels, videogames and music are a match made in target-audience heaven. EA Sports pushes major-label names in rock and hip-hop on the company's yearly Madden and NBA updates, and Tony Hawk games sport underground punk and metal soundtracks. While those are somewhat appropriate, the latest music-in-games development comes off as a bit odd.
2K Games' Major League Baseball 2K6, out in stores this week, has given its soundtrack duties to Matador Records. Home-run derbies with Belle and Sebastian, bullpen checkups with Pretty Girls Make Graves, 4-6-3 double plays turned psychedelic by Yo La Tengo they're all there. The lonely-record-collector-bastard songs don't seem steroid-pumped enough for MLB action, but you gotta admire 2K Games' willingness to push indie music on seventh-inning stretchers. So listen up, game makers here are more weird-ass suggestions in light of Matador's unexpected coup:
Super Mario Bros.: Jam bands like String Cheese Incident, Phish, and the Grateful Dead. What, you expected the Three Tenors? Mario eats mushrooms and flowers that make him grow huge and get caught on fire. He fights lizards and talks to mushroom-shaped people. C'mon, his dream girl is Princess Toadstool! I'm already on a level-3 trip.
Donkey Kong: Though Gorillaz and the Monkees were in contention, Tommy Lee wins out by composing a pro-ape soundtrack dedicated to ex-wife Pamela Anderson's devotion to PETA.
Paperboy: Cypress Hill and Peter Tosh. Oh wait those are newspapers, not rolling papers? Then make it Editors and the Ink Spots.
Pac-Man: Drum 'n' bass songs by Photek, Aphrodite, Goldie, and Grooverider would be as rave-worthy a companion to Pac-Man's colorful, pill-eating world and ghost-fighting hallucinations as a water bottle and an insecure girl who wants to touch you "alllll over your body."
Tetris: Bloc Party. Duh.
Dance Dance Revolution: Emo Edition: For this special release of the popular rhythm-stepping game, Yellowcard, Dashboard Confessional, and Taking Back Sunday deliver painful stories about being lonely and full of feelings. Rather than demanding that players spazz out like epileptic monkeys trying to keep up with the game's usual electro-cartoon soundtrack, this version tests how long you can sit on your bed and silently weep in time with a gently strummed guitar. Sounds like a winner. Sam Machkovech
Hey, kids! Go ahead and leave the room. The grownups want to watch a TV show starring puppets and 7-year-olds. But it's not a program for children, OK? Why? Because it's too subversive, that's why. What? Oh, well, that just means a couple of guys who grew up on Sesame Street and The Electric Company got all warped on weed (or worse), spent too much time lost in the late-night-cable hinterlands, and made a show for Mommy and Daddy. Now go on, get out of here! I'm serious! Yes, I know that fuzzy, googly eyed critter looks like Elmo, and, well, that does sort of resemble Mr. Hooper's store, but Wonder Showzen (released on DVD last week) is actually culled from the same anarchist cookbook that William S. Burroughs used to bake deconstructivist soufflés, from the same recipes Negativland followed to create social commentary cutups. In other words, it's not for you it's for me and my glue-sniffing, pot-smoking, acid-taking inner child. Sure there's a "message" if you want to find it (factory farms, exploitation, and racism are bad, mmkay?). Yet that part isn't as cute and funny as watching the way childhood innocence is virtually flayed alive, screaming as hungry black-humor ravens strip its tender skin away in strips. What Wonder Showzen provides over these eight episodes kids saying things they shouldn't against an annoying and disturbing backdrop of bad-trip byproducts isn't far removed from the insanity of say, TV Funhouse. But that show didn't have any Chili Cheese Milk, it didn't make moppets interview strangers on the street, and it didn't manage to offend both the Anti-Defamation League and white supremacists on a weekly basis. And that's why, kiddo, you're going upstairs to bed, and me and Mommy are going to get nice and high. Jeff Stratton
Besides the normal MTV-video rips and late-night TV appearances, YouTube.com contains a treasure-trove of rare music videos of rock stars before they hit the big time. (And by treasure-trove, we're not talking about Madonna's legendary appearance on American Bandstand.) Here are a few choice clips we've found that we suspect musicians won't be screening at their high school reunions:
Now: Pregnant pop star and No Doubt diva
Then: Fashion disaster fronting a wacky junkyard-ska troupe that really, really liked Was (Not Was)'s "Walk the Dinosaur"
Unintentional hilarity: Gwen's Kriss Kross-inspired backward overalls and geek-chic dance moves
Redeeming quality: Her Betty Boop-meets-Cyndi Lauper vox stole the show even then.
Now: Flame-haired, piano-playin' mom and storyteller
Then: Trying to make ends meet by "acting/singing" in a TV commercial for Kellogg's Just Right cereal
Unintentional hilarity: Where to start? Amos' creepy, orgasmic enthusiasm for a spoonful of the stuff or the painfully '80s ad jingle?
Redeeming quality: Mmmm, breakfast cereal
Maynard James Keenan
Now: The dark underlord of twisted prog-metallers Tool
Then: Intense mullethead fronting a garden-variety new-wave rock band
Unintentional hilarity: A toss-up between his skin-tight leotard and the spoken-word slam-poet breakdown in the middle, featuring mic echo on the word free.
Redeeming quality: Makes Keenan seem much less threatening today
Now: The biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world
Then: Skinny rockers roaring through "The Fool" a blistering early original akin to early Echo and the Bunnymen on an Irish talk show
Unintentional hilarity: One of the critics describes U2's sound as "a curious amalgam of heavy metal and new wave and maybe a Bowie influence in there too."
Redeeming quality: Besides the fantastic song? Well, the band's youthful enthusiasm and bright-eyed energy are impossibly infectious.
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Now: Influential alt-poets who still tug at the heartstrings live
Then: Camera-shy college rockers debuting with their first music video, the now-disowned "Wolves, Lower."
Unintentional hilarity: The awkward angles, slow motion, dim lighting, and artsy freeze-frames make the clip appear to be a chin-stroking student's disastrous senior thesis.
Redeeming quality: Again, the tune. Its burnt-orange jangle and cryptic lyrics still burn with mystery and optimism today. Annie Zaleskie