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Culture » Video Games

Guitar Hero 5

This version finds Nirvana’s revered frontman singing— shudder—Bush.



Did you ever order a meal in a restaurant that appeared to be the greatest plate of food you’ve ever received? It looks good, it smells great and tastes 10 times better than it smells or looks?

But as you make your way through the platter of nirvana, you see it sitting there, streaming from the center of the potatoes and onto the steak—a long, disgusting hair. Is it from the chef? The waitress? Some people can plow right through the hair and keep right on munching. But for others, the meal has been completely ruined.

Now substitute the steak with Guitar Hero 5—one of the most anticipated video games of the year—and substitute Kurt Cobain for the hair. That’s the feeling I had as I played and started seeing all the news coming out about one of the biggest video game fiascos of all time.

As a college student of the 1990s, and a servant in the House of Cobain, I wasn’t sure about his inclusion in such a crassly commercial (although extremely fun) venture like Guitar Hero. But, I thought, if Nirvana songs are going to be in there, it might be fun to actually have Cobain singing them. Then the videos started popping up of the Cobain likeness singing hits like Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself.”

I know what you’re thinking: WTF, as the young kids say. It’s an abomination— or, as music critic Everett True wrote in his blog: “Um. [Dave] Grohl and [Courtney] Love sanctioned this one for the new Guitar Hero. So respect due to Grohl and Love then. Fucking corporate cocksucking memory-destroying fret-wanking MTVsupporting fame-chasing money-grabbing grave-turning publicity-loving vacuous spoiled jaded cunting rock whores.”

How could this have happened, and why do I care so much? While it’s true Grohl has no control of Cobain’s image, he does have control over the music, and that could have been used as leverage to make sure the entirety of the project wasn’t tainted. Then again, when you sign on the dotted line to accept huge amounts of cash from a video-game company, you probably shouldn’t be too surprised at anything that happens. Love has been threatening to sue Activision—the game’s maker—for letting Cobain sing such swill as “Comedown” by Bush, but she agreed to let his image be used as an unlockable character. She, and even Grohl to a lesser extent, should have known this was possible.

Now, I’m probably overreacting here. First off, I’ve been playing the game on my Wii, and it’s incredible. I can certainly play the game without using Cobain as my playable character. But this could have been so great. Nirvana, in fact, probably should have gotten its own game treatment, like Aerosmith and Metallica did previously.

It makes me question whether I should even play future titles. For example, if you buy Guitar Hero 5 before Oct. 1, Activision will send you a copy of Guitar Hero: Van Halen for free when it releases in December. But that game’s going to be a debacle, too. No Sammy Hagar and, worse yet, no Michael Anthony. Instead, you get to revel in the bass playing of Eddie’s seed Wolfgang. It’s just insane.

I’ve never been a Rock Band guy, but I might be switching over. I just started going through The Beatles: Rock Band, and I like what I’m seeing. It’s not overly challenging, but it is a fantastic tribute to one of the most influential bands of any generation. It’s also a wonderful introduction of The Beatles, their music and their message to a whole generation of young people who barely know who they are.

I’m not saying that Nirvana is on The Beatles’ level, but there’s no question that they were extremely influential. And someday, the band may be mentioned with the same level of respect and reverence that the Beatles have now—that is, as long as the band’s image isn’t tarnished by video of a digital Cobain singing “Hungry like the Wolf.”