Another week of singles and another week of Happy Times. There’s some gems this week, though funny how landing just that one “perfect” song can make a release amazing even if you don’t like anything else in it. (But I do, so bonus!)
+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available
The Beastie Boys kick us off this week with “Make Some Noise”, a track from their latest album which I actually hadn’t heard until just now. (First of all: awesome video.) It has that “I don’t know this” plastic wrap that packages all new songs and prevents them from immediately connecting on a deeper level, but you can hear that it wouldn’t take more than a few listens to do that. I wandered off to take care of something after listening to the song and ten minutes later as I return to this post, the chorus is still looping in my head. Instrument-wise I’m happy to say it fares much better than Rock Band 2’s “So What’cha Want”, even if it’s kinda buried in there. Drums – which sound pretty fun – and especially vocals are where this song lives however. As predicted for “King of Rock”, having multiple vocal tracks for rap songs in Rock Band is bloody amazing. “Make Some Noise” is a song with fun built into it already; for an even better time just add some friends with good vocal rhythm (or none at all for fun of a whole different kind).
This bring us to “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, which was the Beasties song I was lobbying for way back in Rock Band 1. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to finally have it in the game. It’s a pounding energetic blend of rock and rap, which is one of my personal genre pets; when it’s done well it’s tough to beat. While the drums sound like they’ll be less interesting than the other Beasties song, for guitar it’s no contest. Although riff-heavy, that riff is constant and is an integral part of the song rather than tacked on. And that’s without getting into the solo (by Slayer’s Kerry King) which is shredtastic. All of this coupled with the three-part rap and a fully shoutable chorus that begs for audience participation makes this a must for any Rock Band party.
After all these years of talking incessantly on the internets about stuff I love and stuff I hate, you probably think you could make a decent guess about what I might think of certain groups. Groups such as say Heart – great guitar and stellar vocals from a hard rock girl-led band. What’s not to like? I agree with you totally, up until the point where I remember that I just don’t like Heart. I don’t even know why. I could not begin to tell you. I say all this to help explain my surprising lack of enthusiasm for “Barracuda”. I recognize that it’s a classic. I can get into the driving galloping guitar to a point. I’ll probably even pick up the song to give my library a wider selection of female rock vocals. But that’s about as far as my feelings go for “Barracuda”.
Let’s jump genres entirely to James Brown with “Super Bad”. If you haven’t played funk tracks in Rock Band yet, let me tell you it’s bloody hard. I don’t know that any drum track quite stresses me out like “Sex Machine”; I start that thing totally relaxed and end up with clenched shoulders like I’m the Juggernaut, bitch. That said, I think “Super Bad” is almost too much for Rock Band. It’s nearly 10 minutes long and is essentially a jam session. Everyone involved is a master of his instrument and playing from his soul, which makes it all the more difficult for a plastic replica following a structured chart. As amazing as this song is, as much as I adore funk, no matter how badly I want to play some Bootsy Collins pro-bass, I just don’t think I’d have fun with this in the game.
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus (and Chaka Khan) wraps up the week, and makes a good funk alternative to “Super Bad”. It’s a very sensual song, between the wah-driven guitar, slinky bassline and amazing Chaka Khan vocals. Of course the difficulty curve is way the hell lower too (except on vocals). It lacks the punch and energy of most of the other songs this week, making it a great addition this week for variety’s sake.
Keys players are kinda boned this time, but if you’ve already mastered all those Yes songs from last week, well you probably should be in a real band and not a plastic one.
Bassists, you need to check in with “Super Bad”. Much as I want that pro-bass chart I’m not sure it’s for us, but it might be for you. Otherwise “Tell Me Something Good” is a solid choice, with “Barracuda” a distant second.
For drummers, “Super Bad” easily claims the most difficult spot – I mean are they even going to chart you those bongos? If so, well, good luck with that. If you’re looking for a bit less intensity then I’d say “Make Some Noise”.
“Barracuda” is the natural go-to for guitarists, and I suppose I can’t argue that too much. Don’t overlook “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” however. Like I said, it’s pretty riff-heavy until the solo, but that’s fairly comparable to “Barracuda”‘s gallop in my book.
Vocalists? Take your pick. Unlike the instruments probably the one I’d recommend against the most is “Super Bad” – not a lot of fun or challenge there, and those squeals of James Brown’s, holy god, good luck not making your bandmates want to punch you when you try to hit them. Otherwise it mostly depends on your style. If you’re predominantly a solo singer then “Barracuda” and “Tell Me Something Good” both will be fun (the latter more challenging). If you have a group however then it’s all about the Beastie Boys.