53,596 HOPOs and 600 Songs Later...

So, if you don't know this about me, I like to play Rock Band. Actually, I like to play a whole lot of Rock Band. Recently I got the HOPO-cidal Maniac achievement (a crazy reference to a Dead Rising about killing an absurd amount of zombies) which gives me a pretty good idea how much I've put into Rock Band 3 alone. This isn't even counting the ton of DLC and spin off games involving LEGO, Beatles, and AC/DC. It's a perfect excuse to write something up about one of my favorite music-type games and talk a little about the years of songs, solos, and dumb band names.

The Bands

Flying Battery from RB2
Flying Battery from RB2

When I make a band it usually involves two things: Top Hats and Gas Masks. Not together though, because it clips something awful and looks really terrible. The character creator doesn't give you a whole lot of options from the start, but the clothing is when you can really make members stand out. It's also a trivial aspect that doesn't affect how well you can play a song or modify your score... but I love customization so I'm glad it's in there.

I do really hate how the Top Hat (Male) automatically gives you long hair like you're trying to be Slash. Can't a guy just have a top hat? I mean really.

Band Names:

  • Trail of Woe (RB1)
  • Animal Coitus (Roommate's Favorite Suggestion- Google at your own risk)
  • Flying Battery (RB2 and 3)
  • The Jackjaws (RB2)
  • Back in Brick (LEGO)

The Songs

The most compelling reason why I keep coming back to Rock Band is the damn impressive stream of DLC songs (the meat of this blog) that have been rolling out ever since the first Rock Band launched in 2007. I would have never expected any company to be so consistent. The biggest DLC snafu I can think of (that affected me, at least) involved Rush's Moving Pictures that got pushed back a few weeks or so. But when it came out, it was totally worth it.

In all, the game says I have 602 songs across five different releases and DLC. That's a hell of a lot. But there are so many good songs that keep coming out I have a hard time turning down stuff like "Bad to the Bone" and "Edge of Seventeen" when they're right there. So here's a list of highlights, disappointments, impulse purchases and party favorites for your consideration.

Big Favorites

Now when I make a list like this, I don't mean to snub the literal thousands of other great choices. These are just go-to songs. The tunes I can easily think of when starting up a game of Rock Band. It's also nice that I can play these songs (and their solos) and get decent scores without feeling like I was flailing around too much.

  • "Highway Star" by Deep Purple
  • "Green River" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • "The Hellion/Electric Eye" by Judas Priest
  • "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue
  • "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
  • "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty

Big Surprises

People may feel differently, but Rock Band does offer exposure to a lot of songs you probably wouldn't give the time of day otherwise. I never knew I liked these songs until navigating a note chart or stumbling through lyrics when forced to sing.

  • "Antibodies" by Poni Hoax
  • "The Way That it Shows" by Richard Thompson
  • "Electric Crown" by Testament
  • "Hillbilly Deluxe" by Brooks & Dunn
  • "Use It" by The New Pornographers
  • "Knight on the Town" by Kula Shaker

A special mention goes out to "Sin Wagon" by the Dixie Chicks, because I bought it with the intention of someone getting drunk and tricking them into singing it. Unfortunately, this backfired and I got to sing it. But it has crazy hammer ons and pull offs and pretty fun to play for a country band most people have their reasons to despise nowadays.

Impulse Purchases

Songs regularly go for two dollars or less on the XBLA Marketplace. That's the right threshold for me to think "what the hell" and download songs based on the short preview or a few seconds of YouTube videos. I usually always, always regret it either because the song is way too hard. Or it's not really fun or because none of my friends want to play them with me. You know, because they have standards.

Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? [Album] by Megadeth

  • Yup. I enjoyed Peace Sells on Rock Band 2 so much that I decided to buy the album- because I can go for some Megadeth every now and then. But I had gone crazy and forgot just how insane the guitar parts are. I play on expert and I can barely squeeze by any of these songs. "Devil's Island" is especially bad with a murderous solo just seconds into starting the song. It is fun to watch people suffer on drums though.

"Runnin' Wild" by Airbourne

  • I saw someone describe this band as not-AC/DC so I gave a listen and I was fine with the lyrics. The guitar part is okay. It's really more of a guilty pleasure. But no one, and I mean no one, will play this song with me. And when the AC/DC track pack came out it got ignored fast.

"Surfing with the Alien" by Joe Satriani

  • Do you like trills? Because holy shit, Joe here has them in fucking spades. The worst part is that I know who Joe Satriani is and I know his reputation and I still bought this song because I like how it sounds. I think I've beaten it twice overall. This song is hard. God damn hard. It is pretty funny to load it up in LEGO Rock Band and watch all those bricks come screaming down the note highway. Silly brick people, trills are for experts!

"Afterlife" by Avenged Sevenfold

  • I bought this song purely for the novelty of (at the time) one of the craziest solos in Rock Band history. Little did I know that literally EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER had also bought this song. Online, Afterlife was picked almost every single time because it was the only DLC song two or three players had in common. Luckily that trend toned down before I had the urge to delete it and waste two perfectly good dollars.

Good Songs to Torture Me With

It's inevitable with track lists that there are going to be a few songs that you don't like. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about songs I can't even stand. When they show up in random set lists, I have zero motivation to play or even do well. If I was trapped in a room with these... things... I would produce a rope from thin air and hang myself. To be fair, these are all on-disc songs that I have no option to delete, with a few exceptions.

HOWEVER, I don't mean to start shit with other people. Music, like art, is one of the more subjective things in the world. I don't like the songs in this list, but that doesn't mean I think less of other people for enjoying them. It's just my opinion. Go your own way. Anyway you want it. That's what you get. You oughta know.

  • "Welcome to the Neighborhood" by Libyans
  • "Visions" by Abnormality
  • "Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • "Electric Version" by The New Pornographers
  • "Oh My God" by Ida Maria
  • "One Armed Scissor" by At the Drive In

Biggest Live Disappointments

You can't always get what you want... but it still hurts when it doesn't happen. Harmonix has been pretty good about representing songs in a game play format for plastic instruments... but sometimes they have to fall back on Live versions of songs for various reasons. And when they choose a Live version over the Studio version... man. It should go without saying that I'm just being damn picky at this point. These are minor annoyances that I wish I could live without.

"Hallowed be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden

  • This was pretty crushing for me. While it is great to have Iron Maiden in Rock Band... the cost of including a few live versions affected one of my favorite songs in a terrible way. Hallowed be Thy Name performed live really screws with all the singing practice I put in with the studio version. I could have lived with a live version of "The Trooper" or "Powerslave" or "Run to the Hills." Not this one.

AC/DC Live Track Pack

  • Apparently AC/DC is pretty protective when it comes to distribution of their music... which makes an entire track pack of live songs a pain in the ass. I know I should feel lucky to even have songs like "Back in Black" and "Shoot to Thrill" in a music game... but shit gets ridiculous on the plodding ten minute version of "Jailbreak" and the nine minutes of "High Voltage." Not to mention the fucking absurd intro to a simple song like "Highway to Hell." I'm sure the concert they used for this track pack was great... but what a bummer not to have the studio versions. Brian Johnson's voice is pretty rough here.

"Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest

  • I don't have anything outstanding to say about this other than if they ever release "Diamonds and Rust" or "Heading Out to the Highway" and it's a live version... I'll be shaking my fist.

Songs I Will Never Ever Escape

To wrap this section up, I wanted to make some kind of comparison with other Rock Band fans. In parties I've been to, these songs always get picked more than a few times. I wish "Highway Star" was this popular.

  • "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran
  • "Maps" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden (Before it was dropped)
  • "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria
  • "Nine in the Afternoon" by Panic! at the Disco

The Suggestion Box

If Guitar Hero ever lets go of The Eagles and they release "Hotel California" or "Life in the Fast Lane" or maybe even "Get Over It" that would be fantastic. Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" would also be great if the world ever ends and that kind of thing becomes possible. I'm sure billions of DLC suggestions are already out there... so I'll leave you with some odd ball Rock Band Network suggestions complete with YouTube links if you're really interested.

Red and Black from the Bayonetta Soundtrack

  • I'm all for video game music on Rock Band. Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV is a great start, so I'd like to continue that plan with Red and Black from Bayonetta. You usually hear it during boss fights with Jeanne and it has an awesome piano track with synthesizers and a fucking fantastic bass line. I'd love to see it playable.

Dead Batteriesby SnappleMan (a remix of Flying Battery Zone from Sonic and Knuckles)

  • I heard this on OCRemix a long, long time ago, but I still think it's perfect. It has great bass and it's just as fast as the Genesis song it's based on. I'm not sure how drums would work out, but guitar would be fun.

Red Fraction by Mell, the opening to Black Lagoon

  • A guilty pleasure song. It has some pretty heavy guitar, synth, drums, and ridiculous (somewhat entertaining) Engrish lyrics as the opening theme to an anime called Black Lagoon. There's a longer, more techno-ish version called the I/O Mix which would also work pretty well in my opinion.

Keep Quiet by The Protomen from Act II: Father of Death

  • If I had to pick one band I could expect to see on the Rock Band Network soon, I would pick these guys. They're a band that puts a dark spin on Megaman who have been around for awhile. Act II: Father of Death is very 80s (very unlike their debut) and would work fantastic for Rock Band. One of my favorites, Keep Quiet, even has some harmony going on.

Sturm's Theme from Advance Wars

  • Now to be totally ridiculous. I would take a remixed version of Sturm's Theme in a heartbeat if Betus Blues (Retro Remix) is any indication.