It’s a bluesy kind of week in Rock Band Network territory, with two shining examples of the genre making their way to Xbox 360 and PS3, respectively. Joining the bluesome twosome is this week’s throwback track, You’re a Wolf, which might trigger flashbacks of a zombie uprising for some sharp-eared movie fans. With the output from authors back to full capacity it’s another outstanding week of musical diversity on the Rock Band Network.
Xbox 360: Jeremy Manjorin – Skinny Seventeen
First up comes this track – a bargain at the 80MSP price point – that is well and truly old school blues (there’s even a harmonica solo!). From the delightfully twangy guitar opening, the song is already drenched in blues spirit. The remaining instruments join in, adding power to the song that already has a hell of a performance from the vocals.
Guitar, as can be expected in a blues track, is a mixture of strong, dominant chords and sneaky, smooth riffs. A tricky solo full of triplets and the occasional hammer-on chord or two rounds out the song – one that’s varied enough to provide a challenge but still allow for a bit of showboating. Bass isn’t as complicated – there aren’t any devilish solos – but provides emphasis for the swaggering rhythm. There’s plenty of movement around the frets, as well as a good mix of sustains and single notes to keep bass players interested. The hardest part the bassist might encounter would be the occasional slide up or down but there isn’t anything acting like a progression barrier.
Drums are deceptively simple; while they focus on a slow and steady beat that mainly comprises of single limb hits, there are a fair few fills that could cause a slip-up. The odd snare roll adds spice to the song, especially when they involve a triplet or two. Conversely, with the harmonica charted to the keyboard a large portion of the song is available for keyboard players to tackle. Harmonica parts are often spontaneous and constantly changing ‘riffs’ and their appearances in Skinny Seventeen are no different – be prepared for a lot of movement on Pro Keys and Regular Keys. It sounds awesome, however, and it’s great that such fundamental portions of the song have found a home on one of the instruments.
Propelling the song forward come Jeremy’s outstanding vocals – loud and dynamic lyrics and melodies that perfectly suit the tone of the song. Every genre has a specific way for the lead vocalist to behave; we’ve seen this in Rock Band 2’s genre specific animation sets. If there was ever an animation set filled with swagger, confidence and in-your-face power it’d be blues. You get a real sense of this in Skinny Seventeen; learn the song and then blast out the vocals yourself!
Sounds like: Old school blues
Perfect for: Vocalists, guitarists, keys
A slightly different breed of blues – the blues instrumental – Steve Fister’s Dodgin’ Bullets might not have any vocals but it lets the guitar do the talking. Sounding like a cross between Joe Satriani and upbeat background music to an arcade racer (maybe Outrun?) the song has plenty to test the mettle of guitarists while not slouching in the bass or drum charts either.
Guitar rightly takes precedence in the song – there are plenty of bends, slides and solos to keep you on your toes. The upbeat rhythm helps judge the improvisational parts while repeated motifs mean that once you have that part locked then you’ll have sections you can use to regain overdrive. The improvisational nature of the track does mean you’ll have to be on the lookout for hammer-ons and strummed notes; they don’t always occur when you think they will and can throw you off at times. Bass has everything you’d want from a bass part – alt-strumming, long chains of hammer-ons as well as chords – keeping bass players (and guitarists too!) constantly moving through varied parts.
Finally, the drum chart mainly consists of a blues swing-beat – not too hard on the arms but with constant double kick hits – punctuated by a snare heavy breakdown during the middle of the song. The purpose here is really to keep thing buoyant as the guitar and bass go crazy, but don’t let that dissuade you from buying the track if you’re a drummer. It’s still a lot of fun whatever instrument you happen to play.
Sounds like: A bluesy, road-running Satriani
Perfect for: Guitarists, bassists
Throwback: Sea Wolf – You’re a Wolf
A track that is the polar opposite of our blues double act, Sea Wolf were one of the first artists available on the Rock Band Network. While this does mean the drum track isn’t pro-charted it doesn’t really matter because it’s such a moody, atmospheric track.
None of the charts are hard here at all – this is a low-tiered song for good reason. What it does mean, however, is that you can potentially zone out, allowing the song to get under your skin. It’s got a slightly creepy, almost folk-tale aesthetic aided in no small part by the cello accompaniment. Guitar alternates between a chord pattern and an echoing single note refrain while bass sticks to a repeated, steady rhythm mainly on the lowest three frets.
Drums start out basic – a simple snare and kick pedal alternating rhythm – which changes into a more standard rock beat later on, albeit making use of the green tom. Somehow, this basic rhythm feels laced with dread and menace and is an example of a very easy track that I can’t stop playing, perhaps because it truly adds character to the song. Vocals tie the song together with an easily sung melody that reads like a folk-tale. It’s melancholy, eerie and memorably dark that stays with you long after the song ends.
Fun fact: the song features in movie zom-com Zombieland, perhaps lending it an even creepier air.
Sounds like: Almost like a folk-tale Coldplay
Perfect for: Those looking more for the feel of a song than a challenge