Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland The Soundtrack: Where rock meets punk.

I write about a lot of random junk here. Such as writing about about having a strange collection of video game related albums in the past. Sometimes just simple soundtracks of games, other times stuff like the soundtrack of the the first Tomb Raider film, or even a set of songs featuring the cast of the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? game show. I thought I’d grab one of these and give a fairly quick review to wrap up 2017.

So let’s look at the soundtrack album to the the once-yearly skateboarding franchise: Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. Or as the spine calls it, “TONY HAWK’S AMERICAN WASTLAND.”

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An album cover homage nobody asked for.

This is the second (and final) soundtrack album for a Tony Hawk game. The first being a “music from and inspired by” album for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, which had weird choices like Outkast, Papa Roach, and Drowning Pool, while omitting stuff like Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”

This is only a small portion of the 60+ (!) tracks in the entire game, and the 14 songs featured are all covers of songs by punk artists of the ’70s and ’80s like Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, The Stooges, even Black Flag. So this is a hell of a lot better than the last Tony Hawk soundtrack album.

Here’s the track listing:

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Did you think I was kidding with the typo on the spine?

Some of these are bands I’m familiar with thanks to their appearances in Rock Band or Guitar Hero — My Chemical Romance, Dropkick Murphys, Fall Out Boy, Rise Against — but the rest are fairly unknown (to me) pop-rock, post-punk or emo-rock bands that came and went. A fair share of these bands were modestly popular for the era, but my music knowledge post-1990 is like swiss cheese: lots of gaping holes.

I will admit that some of the covers, like Fall Out Boy’s cover of Gorilla Biscuits’ “Start Today” has that particular sound of the band, but for others like Dropkick Murphys’ “Who is Who” cover really threw me for a loop, especially for a guy like me who’s only familiar with “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”

A few of the covers even decide to cover two songs by the same artist, like Taking Back Sunday covering The Descendents’ “Suburban Home,” but segueing into another song by the same band, “I Like Food.” I assume this is done because many of the songs are under two minutes, and an album under 30 minutes probably didn’t seem kosher to the record label.

I’m not gonna go track-by-track like I’ve done before with similar soundtrack albums, but a lot of the covers seem to kind of blend together, ending up with artists that sound too similar to each other, especially considering how particularly diverse the overall punk sound was. It’s a shame too, because there’s some good covers in here otherwise.

Most of this album made me want to go hunt down the originals, and at times the covers actually sounded better than the originals, which sounds like heresy to some. While there are a few misses mostly by the relatively unknown bands, there’s enough good stuff in here to warrant a few listens. Especially if you’re gonna be rocking this station’s music in game.

Though, admittedly hearing a cover of The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” that’s more like the original is nice, considering my point of reference is the Fine Young Cannibals cover from their The Raw & The Cooked album which sounds drastically different. It’s also amusing as it’s one of the few songs I have where I own two covers of the song, but not the original version.

This reviews sounds a bit cynical, I know. I’m not saying the album is completely awful, far from it. There’s a bunch of good stuff in here, and if you like the bands and wanted to hear My Chemical Romance cover a Misfits song, here you go. A fair share of the songs are on YouTube — provided they allow them to be played in your country, of course — so I’d only get the album for the novelty, or if you really like that portion of the soundtrack.

I mean, when you think about it, this is almost one of them “Modern tribute to punk rock” cover albums you’d see at thrift stores for a pittance, like this:

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Ahh, it’s like they were cashing in on something…. (I sadly did not buy this.)

Amusingly, my Tony Hawk experience stopped at Pro Skater 3. I did buy Pro Skater HD off Steam before they removed it, and finding copies of the older Neversoft-era Tony Hawk games are plentiful (and likely cheap). Maybe I’ll give American Wasteland a shot sometime.

One more thing: There’s a bit of irony of the album cover making an homage to one of the biggest punk rock albums of the late ’70s — The Clash’s “London Calling” — yet not a single cover of a Clash song is featured on the album or even in the game. They couldn’t get any of the emo-rock bands to do covers of “Brand New Cadillac,” “Rudie Can’t Fail” or “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)”? Makes the record company come off as real lazy, out of touch, or both.

PERSONAL FAVORITES FROM THE ALBUM: Institutionalized, Suburban Home/I Like Food, Astro Zombies, Start Today, Ever Fallen in Love, Fix Me

(Some images courtesy of Discogs.com.)

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