“Stubbs The Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse” is a video game in which the titular character attempts to subjugate a faux-futuristic city with his arsenal of undead hordes and soporific flatulence.
And it might have the best soundtrack of the year.
The game takes place in the 1950s in an Epcot-esque “city of the future.” To complement the atmosphere of post-WWII-pre-Vietnam America, the developers drafted contemporary bands to recast some hits from the 1950s.
First, the bad. Some of the covers are a little disappointingly dedicated to the originals. Ben Kweller’s cover of the Chordettes staple “Lollipop” is almost disturbingly faithful to the version we know and love. Another Chordettes classic, “Mr. Sandman,” suffers the same fate; the Oranger version is delightfully upbeat but doesn’t really try anything new.
The two worst tracks on the album are contributed by the Ravonettes and Rose Hill Drive— “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Shakin’ All Over.” The Ravonettes don’t have nearly enough fun with their song, while Rose Hill Drive has maybe too much; the song ends up sounding like bad nu-metal.
The rest of the album, though, ranges from fun quirk to absolute brilliance. The Dandy Warhols cover of “All I Have To Do Is Dream” sounds like somebody chained Courtney Taylor to a percussion set and threw him down the Mariana Trench. “If I Only Had A Brain,” as performed by the Flaming Lips, becomes less Jack Haley sing-along and more ghoulish, grinning, Wayne Coyne bad trip.
The song selection really makes the album. Clem Snide turns in an honest arrangement of “Tears On My Pillow,” while Milton Mapes delivers a great copy of Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town.” I’ve never been a huge Cake guy, but they turn in a fun version of “Strangers In The Night.”
Two songs are obvious stand-outs. “Plans” and “Transatlanticism” didn’t do a ton for me, so it was a great treat to hear Death Cab For Cutie’s cover of “Earth Angel,” quite possibly the best thing they’ve committed to tape in four years.
Even better is the Walkmen’s rendition of the Drifter’s classic “There Goes My Baby.” These are two of those hackneyed record review words I avoid like the plague, but the take is absolutely transcendent and ethereal. This song alone is worth the price of admission.
This soundtrack is definitely an all-purpose pleaser, setting its sights on generations of music fans. Connoisseurs of everything from Little Anthony and the Imperials to Cake can walk away happy from this one.