This week’s DLC announcement is nothing short of awesome. I gotta tell you, they could’ve announced just one of these songs and I would’ve been thrilled. Add another nine that are also awesome on top of it, and you’ve got a killer DLC week that will go down as one of the best.
Join with me in enjoying our eight-pack of R.E.M. and three-pack of T. Rex.
R.E.M. – “Driver 8” +
R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” +
R.E.M. – “Living Well Is the Best Revenge”
R.E.M. – “Radio Free Europe” +
R.E.M. – “Stand” +
R.E.M. – “Superman” +
R.E.M. – “These Days” +
R.E.M. – “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”
T. Rex – “Children of the Revolution” +
T. Rex – “Cosmic Dancer” +
T. Rex – “Jeepster”
+ = LEGO compatible
The R.E.M. pack starts with “Driver 8”, which goes way back there (when Michael Stipe had hair!) While not one of my all-time favourites by them, it has that great melancholy feeling that haunts much of their music coupled with a catchy guitar riff. Both the lyrics and the music (and the video) evoke train imagery, which helps the song feel almost inexorable; we’re going somewhere, it’s only a question of how long it takes. This shouldn’t be especially challenging to play, but very satisfying. (BONUS: The beginning of the video I linked to up there just smacked me in the face hard with my childhood. I think I took the red pill.)
“It’s the End of the World As We Know It”. It almost seems ludicrous to offer up an opinion of this song. Is there anybody reading this who actually doesn’t know it? If you don’t, go click the link above and within about 10 seconds you’ll have an “oh THAT song!” moment. And if you still don’t know it, keep watching. You’ll be glad you did. What else is there to say? This is a no-brainer purchase. And every single time I play it, I will remember me and Mindy driving down the highway, windows down, singing this at the top of our lungs, me on the main part, her on the “Can I have some time alone?” bits, agreeing “Right?” “RIGHT.”, and of course “LE-O-NARD BERNSTEIN.” I’ll be 17 again every time.
Moving a bit forward in time is “Living Well is the Best Revenge”. It’s probably my least favourite of the R.E.M. pack. It’s a good enough song, don’t get me wrong. It’s very energetic (the bass line in particular sounds like it’d be a hell of a lot of fun), but it doesn’t really sound like an R.E.M. song. The vocal styles aside, if you didn’t know it was R.E.M. you probably wouldn’t ever guess it was them. And again, not a bad thing, just that I can’t see most going for this one on its own.
Next is an utter classic, “Radio Free Europe”. This song is the one that set the tone for R.E.M. for the next two decades. It’s got a beautiful musical flow throughout, with every instrument an integral part of the song; nothing is extraneous. What is he singing? Who knows. What he’s singing isn’t as important as how he sings it. Again a no-brainer purchase.
“Stand” continues the long tradition of having Rock Band songs that you can sing Weird Al to. It’s also one of those songs that you sort of love but sort of hate that you love it too. It’s nonsensical, with a simple child-like tune. But that’s maybe why it works so well. Anyone can sing “Stand”. It, in fact, demands that you do so. Possibly while doing the dance from the video.
The next R.E.M. isn’t actually an R.E.M. song: “Superman”. It’s an odd choice for the pack I think. It’s a perfectly fine song, but one of the big draws of the R.E.M. version is the harmonies, and being pre-RB3, harmonies isn’t a guarantee. Other than that, I think the spot in the pack could’ve been better taken with other songs (“The One I Love” leaping first to mind). Still, like I said, “Superman” is a good enough song, and just because there’s no chart doesn’t mean you can’t still get some friends together and harmonize the hell out of it.
“These Days” is next up, and back to fantastic choices from the group. It’s a much harder song, both in tempo and instrumentation, and easily offered up as proof that R.E.M. can rock as much as any other group. The lyrics here are also some of my favourites; the polar opposite of the fluff that is “Stand”. I expect this will be a blast to play in a full plastic band.
And finally we have “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” Guys. Guys. I cannot express my love for this song. The album Monster is by and large a disappointing one, and was I think the last R.E.M. I ever actually bought. But this song. I think I played this song every morning before school for three or four months straight. On repeat. I’ve heard it hundreds of hundreds of times and I still can’t stop myself from turning the volume up as loud as possible when it queues. There is nothing about it I don’t love. The dirty guitar, the drum fills, the lyric flow – it’s all perfect. Not only will I be insisting we pick this up first thing next Tuesday, I will probably get up early to play it before Mike goes to work so that I can then spend the rest of the day playing it obsessively on every instrument. So excited. And now I’m going to go listen to it again and thrash about the room. Excuse me.
Ahhh. That’s better.
But we’re not done yet. Marc Bolan! T. Rex! And another great score for Rock Band.
If you’re not familiar with T. Rex, “Children of the Revolution” isn’t necessarily the benchmark for their overall sound; it’s a much heavier track than is typical of them. That said, it’s a fantastic pick for the pack for just that reason. We already have examples of the more “traditional” T. Rex in the game, and this one makes a nice contrast to that. This song, as mentioned, is much heavier by contrast, while still keeping the glam vocals firmly in place. It’s definitely catchy, and the bassist sounds like they’ll have the most fun (besides the vocalist of course). Also, please enjoy that video I linked to, which is delightfully loaded with very white dancing. (My favourite is the girl in the plaid shirt at 1:07, who looks like she’d be more at home if it were Christmas and Schroeder was playing.)
“Cosmic Dancer” is next, and is a must for your trippy space-themed playlist come RB3 (I’m looking at you, Bowie DLC). It’s a much slower song, but no less intense because of it. Marc Bolan had one of those voices that just sucks you into whatever it is he’s telling you at the time. The instrumentation isn’t so much about grabbing your attention so much as weaving a backdrop. That is, until the end, when it surges to the forefront and the vocals take their turn at support. I’ll be curious to see how this one plays, since it’s usually something that for me is more part of the background soundtrack of my life rather than an active participant.
And closing out this week of truly fantastic DLC there’s “Jeepster”. This too is a different sort of sound from the other T. Rex in the game, with a bit of a country/bluegrass current running through the riff. In truth, it’s not one of my all-time favourites, but it’s undeniably catchy and possibly a more accessible choice out of the pack this week.
Harmonix undoubtedly hit a home run with the DLC this week. I do believe this is a full purchase all around for me, and would be the first multi-artist DLC week where I’ve bought it all in … I don’t even remember how long. Awesome.