Jun 032011
 
Rock Band DLC

A pretty straightforward week of DLC, but it’s still nice to be back to the weekly unknown; a chunk of DLC announced ahead of time is always cool for the first minute but drags the hell out of the month. And hey, E3 next week! Harmonix have been hinting they have something to announce and we know it’s not Rock Band 4. Another major artist on the way? Excited to find out.

But before then we have next week’s DLC: two three-packs, one for Rise Against and one for Bruno Mars.

– Bruno Mars – “Grenade
– Bruno Mars – “Just the Way You Are
– Bruno Mars – “Marry You
– Rise Against – “Audience of One+
– Rise Against – “Help Is on the Way
– Rise Against – “The Good Left Undone+

+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available

Also this week are legacy upgrades for pro-guitar:
– Mötley Crüe – “Kickstart My Heart
– Pearl Jam – “Even Flow

Who the hell is Bruno Mars? I have no idea. Which excites me – it’s been a while since Harmonix brought in DLC from someone I’ve never heard of before. Wikipedia sites his genres as a crazy list of some crazy shit, which makes me all the more interested. So! Let’s check out Bruno Mars.

First is “Grenade”. What first stands out is the beat. It’s very prominent without dominating. Definitely one of those songs where you want to play drums before anything else. Keys is also a standout with a melancholy riff threading throughout the song. Guitar and bass, not too much here for you. The song itself is somewhat of a ballad, though nowhere near that overwrought – the latin-flavoured beat helps to keep it from spiraling too far into its own pathos. Vocally this isn’t the most interesting song to ever hit Rock Band, but it’s a decent melody, and (at least in this song) there are hints of Michael Jackson in Bruno Mars’ voice at times. While I don’t think it’s for me, this is a promising introduction.

“Just the Way You Are” is next, and again we have a ballad, though much brighter in mood than the previous. Drums and keys you again stand out – sensing a theme in this artist this week. I think this was a much less interesting song than “Grenade”. Very love-song-by-numbers to me. I didn’t hear anything in this song that wasn’t done better in the previous and there wasn’t anything different enough to me for my plastic band.

Finally for Bruno Mars is “Marry You”, and given the style of the previous two songs plus the title of this one, I’m not expecting much, let’s see. This is actually a much poppier song than I was expecting. Once more drums are the go-to instrument here, though as you’d expect from the genre, they would sit in the upper-easy difficulty bracket (not that that’s a bad thing – I fucking love the drums on “Geraldine” and that doesn’t have a single kick in it). Keys are present again, but mixed in and not as apparent in this song. Still though, despite the uptempo, I don’t think this is for me. Bruno Mars has a lovely voice and perhaps some of his other music styles would appeal to me more – Wiki mentions reggae fusion, and that sounds like it could be amazing with his ear for beats – but these three songs didn’t bring enough to the table for me that I can’t already find in Rock Band.

Dramatically on the other side of the spectrum we have melodic/hardcore punkers Rise Against. Rise Against already have one pack of DLC in the game, and were on-disc for RB2 with “Give It All”, so you’re probably decently acquainted with the group already.

So of course we start with “Audience of One” which is way alt-rock. Basically this means you get the sensibilities of the lyrics but musically it’s a lot more accessible. I tend to like my punk angry and kicking my teeth in, but there’s a place for this as well. It’s got a great hook, and makes for a good counter-offer to the functionally guitar-less Bruno Mars.

“Help is on the Way” is back to the punk side, trading catchy for passion. It’s Rise Against’s style to blend instrumentation and anger, making the music a vehicle to carry you through the song rather than another weapon to bludgeon you with. The lyrics demand and receive center stage, but there’s still a lot happening around them. The problem, so to speak, is that the music isn’t especially complex. During the chorus and verses you’ve got rapid but fairly standard block chords driven by an incessant unchanging beat. The bridge breaks things up a bit, but then it’s right back to the standard. The speed will provide the challenge here, not the intricacies.

Last for the week we have “The Good Left Undone”, which is something of a balance between the two previous tracks. It’s got strong punk roots but does some really interesting things. There’s several dramatic tempo switches throughout, almost becoming a different song entirely. Harmonies are used to great effect here, as is the guitar, with the whole song becoming an intense blend of outrage and sensitivity. Easily the most interesting song released this week, both for the game and on its own merits.

 
When we have such disparate styles released for DLC, it’s a pretty easy map to navigate. If you’re a keys player, turn left at Bruno Mars. If you want guitar or bass, stay straight for Rise Against. Drummers, it’s all about your preference. If you’re looking to break a sweat go for Rise Against, but if you enjoy interesting beats without thrashing your limbs all about, check Bruno Mars. Vocalists too: angry versus hopeful, rough versus smooth … if you’ve come this far, you know where to go. As for specifics it’s an easy recommendation: “Grenade” for Bruno Mars and “The Good Left Undone” for Rise Against. Each of those tracks hit the selling points for that individual artist over its release counterpart.

And pro-guitarists, don’t forget our legacy tracks this week! “Kickstart My Heart” and “Even Flow” are both amazing additions to our library.