Soundtracks is where we take a look back at the use of licensed music in games. So far I’ve covered a couple of EA games – FIFA 2000 and Need for Speed: Underground, while Stoo added a touch of class to what was becoming a dangerously flippant series with a look at the music of Homeworld. There’s an overview and introduction to the series here if you want to know a little more.

This time we’re taking a look at FlatOut 2, an absolute beauty of an arcade racer that was perhaps a little overlooked at the time, with some reviewers placing undue emphasis on the slightly tasteless driver-through-the-windscreen mechanic and associated sub-games over the core racing, which was (and remains) thrilling stuff.

The original, while fun, had a distinct ‘PC game from the early 00s’ vibe, while this sequel amped up the presentation as well as the excitement, with the addition of the by-now obligatory soundtrack of songs by real-life bands to make sure it kept up with the flashy console racers of the day.

It appears that the main criteria for selection on this soundtrack are the presence of crunchy guitar riffs that make an appropriate background accompaniment to fake cars smashing into things repeatedly, and whatever you might think about the featured artists here (and some of them certainly have been on the receiving end of some strong opinions over the years), the songs do marry up with the action quite well.

By happy coincidence, despite remaining moderately hopeless in 2006 when it came to keeping up with music trends (although around this time my friend PG and I were embarking on an ill-advised and short-lived musical collaboration, to which I contributed unintentionally awful lyrics and vocals and a solitary keyboard loop, and he did the guitars, drum programming and, well, everything else) the artists here were relatively well-known to me even before being forced to listen to their music across 25 or so hours of lap-based racing.

Right. Enough waffle – let’s get going:
 

Papa Roach – Not Listening
(Geffen, 2004)

“Not Listening” is a very Papa Roach song title, with previous hits being based on the themes of “I hate myself” (Last Resort), “I hate capitalism” (Between Angels and Insects), and “my girlfriend hates me” (She Loves Me Not). Still, whatever you might say about nu metal, there’s something fairly irresistible about the combination of a heavily guitar-based pop song and lyrics that are basically about telling everyone to fuck off.

It’s not the kind of thing that necessarily sustains an interest across an album or multiple albums, where if nothing else the lyrical boneheadedness might begin to grate (Infest, the opener from the album of the same name, contains the borderline unforgivable line, “What is going on with the world today; The government, the media and your fami-lay”) and by this track doesn’t quite have same lustre as the earlier hits described above (which I’d be happy to defend) but it still gets the job done.

 

Nickelback – Believe It or Not
(Roadrunner, 2003)

Believe It or Not, some people like Nickelback. (Ho ho). Well, personally, I didn’t mind How You Remind Me at the time, even during periods of ubiquitous radio play, and even if I did have difficulty believing that the attractive actor-slash-model that features in the video would ever have had a romantic relationship with singer Chad Kroeger, at that point still in full ‘poodle-hair’ mode.

Since then the feeling has been more along the lines that it might have been best for all concerned if they had kept a low profile after their big hit. Follow up single Never Again featured macho lyrics about duffing up a wife-beating father (Sample: “You’re just a child with a temper…kicking your ass would be a pleasure”) and was about as good as that sounds. By the time Chad was releasing Hero for the Spider-Man movie soundtrack, there was a definite feeling of a glitch in the Matrix that had caused us all to live in a parallel universe in which this was Definitely Fine.

This one isn’t something I’d listen to usually but, as a backdrop to the mayhem of FlatOut 2, it’s perfectly ok.

 

Supergrass – Richard III
(Parlophone, 1997)

At or around the time of their third album (also called Supergrass), my wife and I were idly flicking between music channels and ended up watching a documentary fluff piece on MTV that repeatedly referred to them as ‘one of the biggest bands in the world’, which didn’t seem to have been the case then, before or since. However, in the 20 or so years since we saw it, every mention of the band or their music produces an involuntary repeat of that claim, sometimes with further embellishments, much to the bemusement of anyone else who might happen to be present.

Cheeky-chappie Britpop staple Alright wasn’t my favourite song of the 90s and it sort of misrepresented the band in the same way as cockney stompalong Country House did for Blur. This, from 1997’s In It For The Money, was one of their rockier numbers, and much more up my street. What exactly it’s doing here nearly 10 years after release, I’m not sure (although the title track from 2005’s Road to Rouen album also features) but it’s certainly appropriate for the action, and always good to hear it again.

 

Megadeth – Symphony of Destruction
(Capitol, 1992)

Rightly or wrongly, my main impressions of Megadeth are of Metallica’s weird cousin, sticking to ‘proper’ metal while their hipper relation went off to court a wider audience, doing covers and a live album with an orchestra. (Before going off the rails themselves of course, all on film, including a teary encounter with Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine – once of Metallica – in 2003 documentary Some Kind of Monster).

To the untrained ear – and I defer to my friend and colleague on all things metal related; without necessarily outing him as a current fan of Megadeth, I’m sure a D. Mustaine featured in midfield for his Puma World Football ’98 team – this sort of sounds like Metallica, although with more of the Spinal Tap style pantomime theatrics in the intro.

 

Audioslave – Your Time Has Come
(Interscope, 2005)

00s supergroup Audioslave – a combination of 90s rock royalty in the form of Soundgarden vocalist and songwriter Chris Cornell and 3/4 of Rage Against The Machine (minus Zack de la Rocha) – ultimately fizzled out after three albums amid moderate inter-band grumbling, but their first, eponymous, album was a triumph, with lead single Cochise a statement of intent that was backed up by the rest of the record.

To be honest, as someone largely ignorant of Soundgarden and of Rage (beyond their major calling cards) I might have been satisfied with the occasional hit of Cochise on the radio (nu metal was the gateway to more guitars on the radio in the UK, I’m tellin ya), but I accepted a loan of the album to try and ingratiate myself with some colleagues at my temp job. Fortunately, it was a banger, and one of the few albums from the 00s I listened to repeatedly from start to finish (and hence I was spared the need to awkwardly feign enthusiasm in the way that you do when someone you don’t know very well lends you something they really like and asks for your opinion).

My own interest in the band seemed to diminish in line with that of the general public: I was dimly aware of second album Out of Exile (from which this and Audioslave’s other contribution to this soundtrack are taken) and a fan of single Doesn’t Remind Me, but didn’t at all realise at that they’d released a third record before splitting up. I’m not sure either of the featured songs here quite hit the heights of the first album, although both are also perfectly suitable as backing for the muscular collisions of FlatOut 2‘s gameplay.

 

Yellowcard – Breathing
(Capitol, 2003)

I’m not sure Yellowcard ever made any impact in the UK, possibly because there seems on this evidence to be little to distinguish them from the many other similar pop-punk-type US bands around at the time (and we’ve got to leave room in the pop charts for our own collection of bands that all sound the same). My main memory of them is of an appearance at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards where they supplemented some kind of award/tribute to The Breakfast Club with a frankly awful slowed down “emotional” cover of Don’t You Forget About Me which crawled along painfully as the camera focused in on the ageing stars of the film to gauge their reaction (fixed smiles and some mild bopping from Ally Sheedy was as good as it got).

This is more representative of their shtick: again, while the main riff conjures up fond memories of playing the game, the tune itself is fairly forgettable stuff.

 

The Vines – Don’t Listen to the Radio
(EMI, 2006)

Remember all the ‘The’ bands in the early 00s? The Strokes, The Datsuns, The Hives, The Vines? I remember Sum 41 did quite a funny video (no, really) about them being very fashionable. What I don’t remember us too many of them having a lot of hits, and even The Strokes went from being the cool kids from New York that everyone wanted a piece of to being dismissed as style over substance within a couple of years.

Australian combo The Vines were featured heavily in the UK music press around this time (and were even compared to Nirvana by some excitable journalists), with pieces invariably making excitable references to unpredictable and/or hyperactive behaviour from front man Craig Nicholls, as if that was all part of their appeal. (It turned out he had undiagnosed Asperger’s).

This song, from later on in their career, sticks out on the soundtrack because it often appears in game prior to the silly stadium events based around launching your driver through the windscreen, as if it’s being played to the assembled fake punters via a PA system. (That sounds so weird I might need to double-check it. [Runs upstairs for 30 minutes or so]. Yep! I was right). Not bad, but not Nirvana, either.

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And that’s it for now: another thorough (?) and well researched (??) look through some music from the 00s. I do apologise for the Nickelback. And the Papa Roach. There’s not even half of the actual soundtrack featured here, so the trend for 20 songs or so seemed to extend beyond EA and into the wider gaming world around this time. That’s a good thing for a racing game, though, because if you play for any significant period, you’ll hear each of the songs about a million times, as they play over the action and not just in the menus (as they would in, say, FIFA) so I’m sure a more limited selection would soon get incredibly repetitive.

See you next time.