American Wasteland

For the past seven years, a new skateboarding game in the Tony Hawk series has been released. This week is no different as the seventh (yes, seventh) installment, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, comes out. As a big fan of the series, I dust off my Playstation 2 and give the new game a whirl. I give it high marks but then again, each new game improves upon the last one. No Law of Diminishing Returns here.

A new addition to the series is a portion of the game's soundtrack featuring old school punk songs covered by modern punk and hardcore bands. Yes, that's My Chemical Romance doing the Misfits' "Astro Zombies," Thrice doing Minor Threat's "Screaming at a Wall/Seein' Red," Emanuel doing the Stooges' "Search and Destroy" and Taking Back Sunday doing the Descendents' "Suburban Home/I Like Food" to name a few. Hearing these covers makes me think about how the sound of punk rock has slowly become over-polished over the years.

Now I'm not someone who enjoys out-of-tune drivel but I like to hear a relatively human aspect in recordings, especially in punk rock. When I hear Black Flag, I hear grit and beauty. When I hear Taking Back Sunday, I only hear safe, glossy wimpiness. Maybe it's the kind of technology that's available now to make records sound the way they sound (ProTools is a popular one) but I believe this lack of humaness is not because of the machine that records it; it's the humans playing the songs.

In the case of Emanuel's version of "Search and Destroy," I wonder where the overmodulated drums, off-key vocal wails and raunchy guitar bends went. Those characteristics are only there in small doses but I want more. What I get is more or less a straightforward cover with no teeth. Not surprisingly, I want to get out my copy of Raw Power so I can blow this out of the water.

Has modern punk rock become so safe that something like Raw Power would be considered arcane? Most definitely, but that's what happens when a certain kind of music sticks around for years and years. It keeps getting reintroduced to younger people whether the old fogies like it or not. Maybe the whole point of these bands covering old bands is to show those old bands in a newer light. I think we all come back to music that makes us feel alive and not like a cold computer. Speaking of that, now I really want to grab Raw Power and air-drum and air-guitar along.


Eric said…
Today's "modern" punk rock is a joke. Auto-tuned vocals, slick as ice production. That's not punk. Punk is Black Flag, Descendents, Bollweevils, Ramones, Misfits, FYP, stuff like that. Dirty, obnoxious stuff like that. NOFX, Rancid, Crimpshrine, etc... Energy, rebellion, diy collectivist spirit. Man I miss when that was "real" to me.