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Now if they would only put one of her damn songs in the game
November 27, 2007 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Carrie Brownstein's new band, a.

Rock Band has been released, and has, unsurprisingly, the gaming press enamored. So how does it compare to, well, a real band? Guitarist Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Sleater - Kinney) takes it for a go-around and gives it a write up.
posted by Weebot (38 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Dude. Not. Fair. I was so excited by the prospect of Carrie Brownstein being in a new band. Oh well...
posted by Tesseractive at 8:25 PM on November 27, 2007

A lot of her review isn't all that fair. A lot of us don't have the time or skill to play actual instruments. With this, you get the fun of hanging out with your friends and feeling like you are rocking out without the frustrations of being in a real band. I mean, sure there is no way it's going to be like a being a real musician and having the adrenaline rush of performing in front of an audence, but damn it it's fun.
posted by piratebowling at 8:35 PM on November 27, 2007

Speaking as someone with a massive crush on Carrie Brownstein, I have to say her critique of Rock Band (Dude! Start a real band! You can do this! This is life!) is misplaced. This is a game and is for those who want to avoid reality, and for hose who don't want to work for a small period of time. Learning an instrument is hard work, and forming a band is even harder. The two do not match up.

In short, asking Carrie Brownstein to play this game is like asking a Donner party survivor to play Oregon Trail.
posted by suckerpunch at 8:40 PM on November 27, 2007 [5 favorites]

THOSE, not hose. I need a new keyboard. I'm not at fault. Not me!
posted by suckerpunch at 8:42 PM on November 27, 2007

I thought her overall review was pretty positive. And enjoyable to read.

The Donner joke was awesome though. Hah!
posted by lazaruslong at 8:45 PM on November 27, 2007

Carrie Brownstein comes out of the Pacific Northwest DIY punk scene. Of course she'll tell you to start your own band. It's like if you ask a Catholic priest what would lead to a more fulfilled life, he'll almost certainly suggest coming to church.
posted by Kattullus at 8:53 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Girl, please. I'm 33. I've got two small children. Even if there are five guitars and a drum set in my basement, I'm hardly in a position to learn to use them and start my own band in between laundry loads and menu planning. On the other hand, I will certainly be taking delight in smashing my real-musician husband in the nads with my Rock Band skills, and then letting him give me a blowjob backstage when I'm done. I just don't know if I can be more rock and roll than that in this lifetime.
posted by padraigin at 9:14 PM on November 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

I keep crossing my fingers and hope that the remaining members of the band will reunite with Mario Lopez up front and tour under the name "Slater-Kinney."

This post has dashed those hopes once again.
posted by dhammond at 9:20 PM on November 27, 2007

Carrie Brownstein comes out of the Pacific Northwest DIY punk scene.

Q: Could she dare to stoop down from her hipster perch to admit having fun with a video game, without risking indie cred?

A: No, never, not in a million years. It would be like watching John Lydon film an American Express commercial seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

So, essentially, she's saying video games aren't real? There's a revelation! Next she'll be telling us to get a life. Oh wait...

I bought Guitar Hero III for the Wii a few weeks back and I love it. I know full well that it's not an actual guitar I'm playing. I know all I'm doing is pressing a button in time to passing coloured circles on screen. I know many would not consider this to be no true Rock 'n' Roll fun. But I don't care. It is fun. And the songs are, for the most part, awesome. It's essentially as though I'm listening to some of my favourite songs on iTunes, except now there's an element of interactivity. Now if there's something wrong with that, then god help me Carrie, I don't wanna be right.

That said, she has some support for her assertion that being an actual musician makes playing these music based games harder. In Guitar Hero III you can unlock videos of the making of the game. Contrary to what you might expect, this does not feature hours of footage of pimply nerds coding on computers while chowing down pizza and 7-Up. What one of the videos does feature is an interview with Slash, who contributed some of his music and 'signature rock moves' to the game. In the video he says that he found playing Guitar Hero II to be harder than playing an actual guitar. So there you go. My perfect ranking on Pearl Jam's Even Flow makes me a better guitarist than Slash.

Of course, Super Mario Galaxy came out today down here in Australia and this will cause me to forget Guitar Hero III (not to mention all the other Wii games I own) even exists. So yeah. Forget Rock Band. This is where the real fun is at.

Mind you, when Brownstein reviews Super Mario Galaxy for Slate she's gonna be telling people that touching a Bee Mushroom isn't as fun or real an experience as taking actual mushrooms, I'm sure.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:38 PM on November 27, 2007

posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 9:38 PM on November 27, 2007

I don't know Carrie, but is she kidding when she says that green dreads and navel rings offend her? Because if so, the deadly serious tone of this review makes sense.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:48 PM on November 27, 2007

A: No, never, not in a million years.

I don't know...I think the part about playing so long that she began developing a callous on her thumb is a strong endorsement of the game per se.
posted by Weebot at 9:50 PM on November 27, 2007

What a horribly written (and almost pointless) article. I have a hard time picking out which sentence is the most ridiculous, but I've finally settled on this:

But maybe by pretending to be in a band, there will be those who'll find the nerve to go beyond the game, and to take the brave leaps required to create something real.
posted by dhammond at 9:51 PM on November 27, 2007

I've played in a cover band, paid gigs, but also have played Guitar Hero; and don't understand the hate. We might as well ask why kids waste time playing Grand Theft Auto when they could be out shooting real live pimps.
posted by kurumi at 10:17 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

In the realm of fakery, I would choose Rock Band over American Idol or over any of the other flimsy truths masquerading as music.

You know what, Carrie? Up yours. Packaged and slick as it is, American Idol actually has people performing music. I may not like Clay Aiken (and in fact, I don't) but that motherfucker can sing and I have a helluva lot more respect for his hard work and showmanship than I do for some knuckleheads playing a videogame. Or a semi-retired rocker who parlays that into a marketing job and a writing gig based upon her cred.

Okay, I'll stop now. There's just so much idiocy in that article.
posted by dhammond at 10:18 PM on November 27, 2007

i enjoyed the article.

She speaketh the truth when she says that the drum game is actually useful & you learn crossover skills to real drums. Guitar and bass though is a different planet.

Inevitably, as in all video games, I betcha it gives you a feeling that you're wasting your life away.
posted by dydecker at 10:51 PM on November 27, 2007

I saw Sleater-Kinney during their final week of live shows, and it's understandable that a guitarist from one of the most volatile, visceral live acts of the past two decades would find a video game version of her profession underwhelming. I'm sure the same goes for pilots and soldiers and athletes, whose lives I have imitated for years on my computer screen.

The major difference is that anyone can pick up a guitar and learn how to play, and not that many of us get a chance to be a star forward in the NBA. So I agree with Carrie that, at the very least, people should be invigorated enough by Guitar Hero and Rock Band to go out and experience the very cheap, very easy real-life version of the video game world. Starting a band is a totally different story -- it's not always easy to find people at your skill level who are confident and ambitious enough to devote time to making music together. But, at the very least, I would hope that Guitar Hero aficionados see the creation of music as an adventure that goes beyond the XBOX. It might be the one video game activity that you can do in real life without ever getting off your ass.
posted by eitan at 11:09 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Carrie? I liked Rock Band right away and after many years I still don't like Sleater Kinney. Ha ha /nelson
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:09 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good grief, people, unless you just have a deep-seated need to argue, RTFA. She had more fun than she expected, which she was very honest about, and pretty obviously says that the game doesn't really substitute for the real thing. But we do live in an era when actual NBA stars play basketball videogames and actual Army Rangers play special ops videogames.

Now, does Slate plan to have her write again when they do an article about the hot new video game, Hasbians? 'Cause I wanna read that one. It might be even more tongue in, er, cheek.
posted by dhartung at 11:51 PM on November 27, 2007

The creative directors told me that the ideas were funny but that I "wasn't putting rock on a pedestal"

The odd thing about the article is how she is putting rock on a pedestal though. The idea running through the piece is that the "fake" is less worthwhile than the an idealized "authentic" - thus the cracks about green dreads (a "fake" appropriation of rastafarian hair), body peircing as popularized by Queen fake Madonna, gaffaws at American Idol etc - is no substitute to "the real thing": in this case, the myth of the authentic rock - bass, drums, no bullshit - which Sleater Kinney were a late-period example of. It surprises me in 2007 that she wrote the article with this assumption unquestioned - like this

There is something sad about the thought of four teenagers getting Rock Band for Christmas and spending all of their after-school time pretending to know how to play.

Could easily be applied to teenagers getting together and aping the rock ritual in 2007, a gesture as codified, conventional and ultimately empty as any Playstation video game.
posted by dydecker at 12:36 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Could easily be applied to teenagers getting together and aping the rock ritual in 2007, a gesture as codified, conventional and ultimately empty as any Playstation video game." - Dydecker

Completely. But still somehow less sucky, if only a little, than aping the aping of the rock ritual - a simulacrum of a cliche, eh?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:24 AM on November 28, 2007

I thought her tongue was firmly in cheek for most of the article, but then again I play video games and then feel guilty about it. (And once had trouble playing in a "real" band because I had played too much Guitar Hero)
posted by drezdn at 6:39 AM on November 28, 2007

I'd rather pretend to be in Radiohead than actually be in Sleater Kinney.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:18 AM on November 28, 2007

I'd rather pretend to be in Radiohead than actually be in Sleater Kinney.

Having seen both a number of times, you'll have a lot more fun in Slater-Kinney (plus Thom Yorke's stubble tickles)
posted by jalexei at 7:37 AM on November 28, 2007

Further comments on this topic from Ms. Brownstein on her blog at NPR, Monitor Mix: Are We Not Gamers?.
posted by tew at 10:07 AM on November 28, 2007

Also, Super Mario Brothers is nothing like being a real plumber.
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

You've clearly never worked as a plumber.
posted by Kattullus at 10:26 AM on November 28, 2007

From tew's link: So, do I like Rock Band? In short, yes. If people listen to David Bowie or Black Sabbath because of the game, if they get even one glimpse of Keith Moon's frantic genius or feel how Kurt Cobain's guitar lines were as expressive as his hoarse cry, then Rock Band is better than listening to most of the awful music out there. And, the truth is, not everyone should form a band. Any stroll on MySpace or visit to a modern rock station will tell you that. There are probably a handful of bands who would be doing the world a favor if they broke up and played Rock Band instead. They might actually learn a thing or two.
posted by drezdn at 10:34 AM on November 28, 2007

"You've clearly never worked as a plumber."

You're obviously not a golfer.
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 AM on November 28, 2007

It's plain to see no one's ever given you the reins of an applecart.
posted by Kattullus at 11:09 AM on November 28, 2007

Weirdly, we had pretty much this exact conversation at band practice last night. And our consensus pretty much lined up with Brownstein's; Guitar Hero and Rock Band are fun, but not as fun (for us at least) as plugging our instruments in and making a big fucking noise. I got a new SG as an early Christmas gift from my wife; I love being able to pick it up and just wind up somewhere completely unexpected. That's tons more fulfilling than hitting buttons in the right sequence to recreate someone else's guitar part.

I love being surprised when one of my bandmates pulls off something outrageous. I love doing weird shit like working up a Sonic Youth-style arrangement for "Walking on Sunshine." You can't get that from the video games.

On the other hand, I did get a lot of joy hearing about one of my bandmates-- a fantastic guitar player, way better than I'll ever be-- getting completely schooled in Rock Band by his 10-year-old nephew.
posted by COBRA! at 11:40 AM on November 28, 2007

Carrie Brownstein comes out of the Pacific Northwest DIY punk scene. Of course she'll tell you to start your own band.

Look. I went to Harvard, own 6 cashmere sweatervests and occasionally wear a bowtie to my day job as a neurologist. I say, start your own damn band!

I understand what Rock Band and Guitar Hero are, but they make me sad. For the price of an Xbox 360 and a full Rock Band setup, these kids could buy enough real music gear on Craigslist to go out and ACTUALLY ROCK.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:01 PM on November 28, 2007

ikkyu: you do understand that when I play Rock Band, it is with a local news videographer/wine bartender, a comics artist, a home automations engineer and myself, the would-be media studies academic, and we're all plastered, right? It's not kids wasting their talent who play this game, any more than kids are wasting their talent playing Xbox. There's nothing sad about playing, in and of itself, however you choose to play.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:43 PM on November 28, 2007

I'd guess that playing a real guitar plastered would be easier than playing Rock Band that way, A.V.

I dunno. Either I'm underestimating how fun Rock Band is, or I've been playing the guitar so long I forgot how hard it is. It never seemed all that hard.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:47 AM on November 29, 2007

I've played the guitar for a nearly 10 years, but found Guitar Hero much harder.

The thing is, I have small hands. So, I have trouble stretching my pinky to reach the last button.

On a guitar, it causes trouble to, as I have trouble playing chords. However, with a guitar I was able to compensate by playing more intervals and focusing more on bass where it wasn't as much of a liability.

The Rock Band game, while I would never actually play it, serves a different purpose than actually playing a guitar. For me, when I play guitar it's to try to come up with something new and interesting and slowly turn it into a song. It's about creating something from nothing, like writing a story or building a birdhouse.

A video game doesn't give you the same act of creation, but that isn't the point. For me, it's more about the release after a long day of work, and it's a bit more involved than just passively watching tv or something.

I wouldn't be surprised though if with games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band that they start setting up competitions in bars (if they don't already exist).
posted by drezdn at 6:38 AM on November 29, 2007

I wouldn't be surprised though if with games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band that they start setting up competitions in bars (if they don't already exist).

I've seen places that do this.

I am already confused as to why 75% or more of the karaoke bars in the US don't have a projector (or whatever), a PS2 and/or Xbox, a couple controllers and a copy of Guitar Hero.
posted by sparkletone at 11:43 AM on November 29, 2007

Tycho chimes in on the, "HURR. PLAY REEL INSTRUEMTNZ" thing.
posted by sparkletone at 11:43 AM on December 7, 2007

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