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Is Harmonix the New Wal-Mart?
By Justin Smith     |   Posted on February 20, 2008   |   Episode 142 (Show Archive)  

   

Make no mistake about it, Rock Band is one of the best games of the year, but Harmonix won't be winning a freedom of speech award any time soon!
"Goddamn you half Japanese girls, you do it to me every time." Those are the immortal words of Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer of college rock heroes Weezer, as he begins to belt out the first verse of El Scorcho. While this song, the first single off of the band's Pinkerton album, was never as popular other Weezer songs, the fact that is has an unusual melody, a few funny lines and at least one pop culture reference is enough to keep it lodged in people's memory for more than a decade.

I don't bring this up because I'm starting a Defunct Music website, but rather because El Scorcho is one of the three new downloadable songs for Rock Band. Along with Why Do You Love Me? by Garbage and Sex Type Thing by Stone Temple Pilots, this Weezer song

"Look up there, that's where our career used to be before we started releasing shitty albums!"
completes a trifecta of alternative songs by popular college rock bands. But there's more to this story than just talking about the new Rock Band music, because as much as people loved this Weezer song, there were a lot of Rock Band fans who were worried that parts of Rock Band would be edited in a way where it took the heart and soul out of Rivers Cuomo's lyrics.

Thankfully El Scorcho's heart and soul is very much intact, "Goddamn you half Japanese girls" is still perfectly preserved at the beginning of the song. Unfortunately not every song is that lucky, which is why people were so worried about a possible Weezer edit in the first place. Sadly there are a

There's just one problem with this picture: ever since Gene Simmon's took off his face paint he's been the butt of a thousand jokes (including this one)!
number of songs (from both the Rock Band disc and the optional downloadable content) that has been edited in weird and confusing ways.

This all started long before Rock Band was ever conceived, a number of previously released Harmonix games (including both Guitar Hero 1 and 2, as well as Frequency and Amplitude) have all featured songs that had words edited out of them. For example, in the Burning Brides' song, "Heart Full of Black," Harmonix altered the words from "That I would bury my goddamn halo" to "That I would bury my ... halo." Of course, that's just one example of Harmonix slightly altering words out of their games to conform with the ESRB's game ratings. While I'm certainly not happy about this self-censorship, part of me understands why they did it and I don't feel that it affects the fact in any significant way.

But Rock Band is another story all together, because in Harmonix's newest console game (assuming you don't count their iPod game, Pulse) you not only play guitar, bass and drums to these popular songs, but you also have the opportunity to sing them. As expected,

Not only should the Beastie Boys' song have not been edited, but they shouldn't even be in Rock Band ... they aren't rock!
Harmonix (and, perhaps more importantly, Electronic Arts/MTV) have managed to keep Rock Band at the T-Rating level, which means that they edited out all of the profanity in the songs offered on the disc. That means that instead of singing (rapping?) words like "So while you sit back and wonder why/I got this fucking thorn in my side" you instead have an awkward pause where the word "fucking" is supposed to go.

Seeing as that's on the disc and the disc is shooting for a T-Rating I can understand where the developer and publisher are coming from. But it seems like these edits are happening at an alarming pace, sometimes editing out things that don't feel like they needed to be edited. What's more, some of the things Harmonix is editing out are things they were able to get away with years ago, and vice versa.


Forget the downloadable Weezer songs, it's pictures like this that should come with an M-Rating!
A perfect example of these weird edits comes in The Clash's song, "Complete Control." At one point in the song the band's singer/guitarist, Joe Strummer, barks out that "This is punk rockers, we're controlled by the price of the hard drugs we must find/Freedom is control." Can you guess what was edited out of that song? If you guessed the words "hard drugs" then you are wrong, because the only objectionable word in that phrase (if you go by Rock Band's logic) is "drugs."

But wait a second, since when has the word "drugs" been considered bad enough to be edited out? After all, in the song "Say It Ain't So" (a song that is actually found on the Rock Band disc) Rivers Cuomo sings that you should "Say it ain't so ... you're drug is a heartbreaker." So apparently it's not the word "drug" that is the problem, either that or there's an incredible double standard. And to make matters worse, an upcoming downloadable song is the Nine Inch Nails' track, The Perfect Drug. Considering that the word "drug" is used almost three dozen times Harmonix is either going to have to do a lot of editing or figure out if they consider the word to be foul.
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