Monday, February 4, 2008

Mmm... Brains

If there are two things I love in life, they are cover music and zombies. Which is why I flipped when I popped in a Home Movies DVD and this popped up in the preview reel. This bizarre little video is the preview to the soundtrack to the video game Stubbs The Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse, and the prospect of a video game in which you ARE a zombie and a soundtrack featuring Indie Rock covers of classic rock tunes had me instantly intrigued. I quickly acquired both the game and the song (legally... of course) and they both pretty much rule.

The game itself is fun for the simple reason that you get to fulfill all your zombie fantasies, by shuffling around eating people's brains. The game takes place in Punchbowl, a 1950s "City of the Future" inhabited by all kinds of quirky convenience robots, and the whole thing is carried off with heavy doses of sly humor, pop-culture references and general hilarity. The real downside to the game is pretty predictable, in that basically all you do is shuffle around and messily devour brains. Sure, the story and it's awesome cut scenes keep you interested, as do the variety of enemies (cops, scientists, backwoods militiamen who think the zombie apocalypse is a communist plot) and different weapons (throwing your exploding guts, ripping off your hand and steering it around to possess enemies and farting), but the gameplay itself gets undeniably stale after a while. Even the weird minigames, like the Thriller-inspired dance-off against the Chief of Police don't do enough to provide gameplay variety.

The dance-off does provide a showcase for the awesome soundtrack to this quirky game. Because the movie is set in the 50's, the songs are all covers of bubblegum music from the era covered by indie rockers of today. As I mentioned before, I love cover music and this is no exception. The most annoying songs on oldies radio are redone by bands like Death Cab, Cake, and the Raveonettes among others, transforming chestnuts like "Mr Sandman" from unbearable kitsch to semi-ironic entertainment. Like the game, the album's genre creates predictable highs and lows. The Raveonettes take on "My Boyfriend's Back," Ben Kweller's "Lollipop" and the Flaming Lip's trippy "If I Only Had A Brain" are creatively done, and unique enough to make them sound fresh, whereas Cake's "Strangers in the Night" and Death Cab's "Earth Angel" fall into the overly faithful, phoned-in category. Still, even these low notes score high on the novelty scale, as do the covers of Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and already weird "Lonesome Town," creating a remarkably solid album experience which never forces you to remind yourself that this is the soundtrack to a video game. On the downside, most of these songs are so damnably catchy, you may just find yourself singing "Ooh-lolly, lolly-lolly" as you chew your way through the zombie apocalypse.

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