Various Artists, ‘Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland’ (Vagrant)
What do jaded male teens love these days, besides downloading Maxim photo spreads as desktop wallpaper? While the young dudes don’t really interact much with the adult journalistic community, it’s not a stretch to surmise what they’re into. They’ve adopted video games as their new subversive suburban activity of choice, where lessons include putting down a Middle Eastern insurgency with lethal force or hotwiring a ’67 Chevy after carjacking it — with a tire iron — from an unsuspecting yuppie. They also dig on skateboarding, which has seen a renaissance of sorts thanks to Bam Margera, Pharrell, and Lords of Dogtown; twenty-somethings now send their moms on crucial attic missions to dig up vintage Santa Cruz decks. And of course, there’s loud rock’n’roll of the Warped Tour variety, something that seems to unite all strata of youth, from burly jocks to reclusive nerds to confrontational punks.
It doesn’t take a marketing genius — or even a scrub online music critic — to figure out that a sleek combination of those three pastimes could haul in a pretty penny. Say hello to Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, the latest afternoon-wasting title to emerge for your favorite home gaming console. Not only it is a skateboarding game; it’s designed in the anarchist, go-where-you-want mold of Grand Theft Auto, a title that irritated more soccer moms than Cindy Sheehan. For the soundtrack, game manufacturer Activision teams up with pop-punk label Vagrant to deliver a 14-song set of punk classics covered by today’s Warped Tour faves.
But while Tony’s game might reveal what an ollie looks like, or how to tag a local convenience store, the soundtrack doesn’t expose a damn thing about punk rock — even as its cover art pays homage to a certain British band’s landmark debut. Nowhere on the disc itself or in the liner notes are the original bands identified plainly (although there’s plenty of ink displaying links to websites of bands that contributed to the compilation). Most kids will recognize the classics — the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” (covered by Emanuel), Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” (with Saves the Day’s Chris Conley trying so hard to sound gnarly), the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” (rendered slickly by Thursday’s Geoff Rickly) — but little else. And if the target audience includes hordes of kids who rarely move far from their TV and computer screens, that’s a problem.
Hopefully, since some of these emo kids hang hopes and dreams on every word their heroes utter, the bands can help out their forefathers a smidge. So go on, Gerard Way, make a post on MySpace about how awesome it was to take off your bulletproof vest and join your My Chemical Romance buddies to rework the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies.” Way certainly has panache to burn (and less paunch!) these days, even if he sometimes sounds a bit like fellow Jersey boy Sebastian Bach. Get typing, Thrice, and send out a mass e-mail saying how proud you were to record a chipper romp through Minor Threat’s “Seeing Red/Screaming at a Wall.” And maybe — just maybe — Sidekicks will start to vibrate in a thousand wood-paneled rec room basements, signaling the dispersal of knowledge. Maybe, if we might be so honored, some will take a deep breath and press “Pause.”