Well, Harmonix confirmed the list of 20 ‘free’ DLC tracks included in the Rock Band 2 retail bundle, and here it is:
The 88 - “Sons and Daughters”
Authority Zero - “No Regrets”
Between the Buried and Me - “Prequel To The Sequel”
The Cab - “Bounce”
The Chevelles - “Get It On”
The Cocktail Slippers - “Give It To Me”
Dealership - “Database Corrupted”
Endeverafter - “I Wanna Be Your Man”
The Ghost Hounds - “Ashes To Fire”
Hollywood Undead - “Young”
Kutless - “The Feeling”
The Len Price 3 - “If I Ain’t Got You”
Lesley Roy - “I’m Gone, I’m Going”
Opiate for the Masses - “Burn You Down”
Semi-Precious Weapons - “Magnetic Baby”
Shaimus - “Like a Fool”
Thenewno2″ - Crazy Tuesday”
Tickle Me Pink - “The Time Is Wrong”
Underoath - “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures”
X Japan - “I.V.”
The first surprise that the entire list is made up of lesser known bands - a lot of people, me included, assumed that Harmonix was keeping some headliners in their back pocket to undermine some of the GHWT marketing; perhaps the inexplicably missing tracks from the recent Nevermind DLC for example (Come As You Are and Smells Like Teen Spirit, the two most recognisable tracks, were not part of the Nirvana release). But no, the entire list is staunchly ‘indie’, and it’s annoyed and delighted people in seemingly equal measure.
Firstly, the downside: everyone knows and likes headline bands and signature tracks. In a ‘party’ situation especially, almost no-one picks tracks they don’t know. That’s a shame, because there’s some real gems even in my current listing that occasional players just pass over in favour of playing the same few tracks they know all the time; I do try to counter that by picking different songs when I’m doing vocals even though that’s tough when you’re less familiar. Playing in the World Tour mode with friends resulted in them commenting on tracks they’d never heard of but ended up really liking. But, the fact is when people drop in for a quick party game, there’s a good chance they’ll resist playing anything they don’t already know, so most of these 20 songs will probably never get played in that setting, making them less useful.
On the plus side though, I’ve started listening to these tracks and I already like maybe 70% of them, and a couple have been really excellent. Harmonix have said in the past that one of their goals is to introduce people to new music, and by doing this they certainly tick that box - after all, where else but in a ‘free’ 20-song set could you pack in things people wouldn’t have heard of? Regular DLC from less well known bands tends to be cheaper in Rock Band, but there’s nothing like ‘free’ to really disseminate music.
It was always fun in the first 2 Guitar Hero games to play tracks from small bands the Harmonix team and their friends were members of, like Freezepop and Honest Bob And The Factory to Dealer Incentives, bands I would never have encountered outside indie gigs in Boston, and this track pack follows firmly in that vein. After getting over the initial shock of the fact that I didn’t recognise most of the names on this list, and after listening to some of the tracks, I’ve come around to the positive camp on this. There’s a really good range even in the small number of tracks I’ve listened to so far, some speed metal, pop/rock, blues/funk, indie, punk - so I’m sure most people will find something they like in here; I certainly have. While headline bands would have been an instant PR win, in the grand scheme of things it’s nice to be randomly exposed to some unknown music every so often - after all how would you find new bands you like otherwise?