I have to admit it; I’ve lost some geek cred. I haven’t played a video game in about three years. Where once I owned both consoles in the Nintendo / Playstation war, now I have none. That could all change thanks to the new game, Stubbs the Zombie. The game centers on Edward “Stubbs” Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who is murdered during the Great Depression of 1933. His grave is forgotten when an industrialist creates Punchbowl, the city of the future, and paves right over it. So, in the year 1959, Stubbs rises from his resting place, fights a war of zombies against greedy humans, and looks for yummy brains to eat.
What makes this game different than most is not only the fact that you get to play the zombie, rather than the humans fighting the zombies, is its wonderful soundtrack. How do you score a game set in 1959 with zombies? Why with appropriate music of the time and themes! The soundtrack kicks off with a lighthearted rendition of one of the biggest bubblegum classics of the time, “Lollipop,” as performed by Ben Kweller, originally by the Chordettes. The Raveonettes bring a hot rod version of “My Boyfriend’s Back,” most often recorded by the Angels, and now in this zombie setting takes on a spooky meaning. Speaking of angels, Death Cab for Cutie play a Back to the Future worthy version of the Penguins’ “Earth Angel.” Pottsie himself couldn’t pull it off as well at Arnold’s Drive-In, although I would love to see Stubbs eat his brain. Hi-larity.
John McCrea of Cake will just always sound like John McCrea and that’s okay. He lends his distinctive vocal style to “Strangers in the Night,” generally best known as a Sinatra standard. The Walkmen provide a take on the Drifters’ classic “There Goes My Baby.” My absolute favorite on the album is by NorCal’s Rogue Wave. They take a cue from Matt Pond PA and their covers on Winter Songs such as Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road.” Their cover is Buddy Holly’s beautiful “Everyday.” No one else on the album seems to put as much a spin on their cover than Zach Rogue. The Dandy Warhols put wheezy quiet vocal effects on the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Oranger pull another Marty McFly with the Four Aces’ “Mr. Sandman.” The second best song, another unique take, is by the Flaming Lips who record the Scarecrow’s song from The Wizard of Oz, “If I Only Had a Brain.” The eerie laughter of children echo throughout the song which at times sounds like Ween with the alternating high and low pitched lines. Also, what a perfect song for a zombie game! Another great one is Texas’ Milton Mapes’ version of Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town.” Phantom Planet is the only band to record their own song for the album, as they seem to be eternally obsessed with zombies anyway. The song is called “The Living Dead” and just doesn’t seem to fit.
Both the game and the soundtrack can be enjoyed on their own merits, but having both is a real treat. The storyline of the game is one of the most original in years and those sick of first-person shooters and arena fight games should take heed. As for the soundtrack, it is something that can be enjoyed far outside the context of the game. If you love classic songs from the late fifties, or if you like any of the bands on the CD, then Stubbs the Zombie is for you. I remember looking at my dad’s yearbook (who was starting high school just about the time that Stubbs came back to `life’) and seeing that everyone was calling each other `real cool heads.’ Either that’s outdated slang, or that’s how the zombies liked their brains…chilled.
Various Artists- Back to the Future Soundtrack
Paul Anka- Rock Swings
Various Artists- Future Soundtrack for America