For many, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series marked the first time they were introduced to bands via a video game soundtrack. Pro Skater was directly responsible for the piles of Primus and Goldfinger albums that still pepper op-shops around the country, and is the perfect distillation of that messy Y2K-ridden time around the turn of the century when rap, rock, ska, punk and wallet chains all meshed into some musical hybrid that someone should really construct a theory about.
We revisited the first two soundtracks and slipped back into the vibe as easily as doing a Varial Heelflip Judo to Bluntslide.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 (1999)
1. Dead Kennedys – ‘Police Truck’
A punk rock surf stomp about police brutality by a vehemently anti-corporate band that is best known for appearing on a video game sold by a major multinational conglomerate. Isn’t life grand?
2. The Ernies – ‘Here And Now’
Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine can be blamed for a lot of terrible cargo-short-wearing, wallet-chain-whipping, cornrow-white-boy, rap rock turntable horseshit. This makes 311’s ‘Down’ seem like a Beethoven movement.
3. Even Rude – ‘Vilified’
Aiming for the Cobain vocal growl can often result in landing somewhere in the Puddle Of Mudd realm, which is OK if your aim is to sell a million records, get on rock radio, and sleep with an Olsen twin or three, but this song is so pedestrian it almost convinces me skateboarding is a crime.
4. Goldfinger – ‘Superman’
Isn’t it crazy there was a period of time when kids went mental for horn-driven, up-stroke pop so cheery it sounds like a juice commercial? Remember ‘skanking’ and how openly people did this dance in public? The chorus is a bit of a rip from ‘Basket Case’ too. Otherwise, great song!
5. Primus – ‘Jerry Was a Race Car Driver’
Sounds like a migraine nightmare animated by the guy who did Ren & Stimpy. “But the bass player, the bass player…” Oh, shush!
6. Speedealer – ‘Screamer/Nothing To Me’
Does what it says on the tin. This is actually two songs in one, which is the kind of value you’re dealing with when you buy Tony Hawk on PS1.
7. Suicidal Tendencies – ‘Cyco Vision’
There’s a Suicidal Tendencies song that was on heavy rotation on Channel [V] years ago where they mostly chanted their own band name, and got ugly tattoos in the video. I liked it for some reason, despite every ounce of me wanting to reject it like a foreign kidney.
8. The Suicide Machines – ‘New Girl’
Lots of suicide-themed band names here, which may or may not be a CTE-related side effect of all those head-dives on the skate bowl. Google ‘Matt Hoffman’ if you doubt the science.
9. Unsane – ‘Committed’
This would have been a nice song, but some fool recorded the vocals badly so they distort, and then they went and mis-named it too. Sloppy.
10. The Vandals – ‘Euro-Barge’
The Vandals sound like everyone’s first punk band. ‘Euro-Barge’ sounds like a film where Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Biggs go on a boat trip to save their relationship and chaos ensues. Also starring Topanga from Boy Meets World.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
1. Rage Against The Machine – ‘Guerrilla Radio’
Not to be confused with Gorilla Radio, a tax-funded farce that lasted one broadcast before handlers had to intervene and stunt-dart the entire breakfast team. Also, these motherfuckers invented Limp Bizkit – search your feelings; you know it to be true.
2. Bad Religion – ‘You’
This once sounded like revolution and independence, but now all I can picture is ‘Impossible’ to ‘Shove it’ to ‘Kickflip’ to ‘Indy’ to “Fuck, I always crash out right at the end, this shit is rigged, man – pass me the Cheese Supreme Doritos.”
3. Anthrax feat. Chuck D. of Public Enemy – ‘Bring The Noise’
I like the bit a minute in when the distorted guitars and drums quickly drop out and Chuck D. is left rapping furiously about soap on a rope.
4. Powerman 5000 – ‘When Worlds Collide’
Fun fact: The singer of Powerman 5000 is actually Rob Zombie’s younger brother, so you can probably imagine this song without hearing it. Remember when all those diet-metal singers did the same vocal fry thing as those female NPR broadcasters? Crazy days.
5. Naughty By Nature – ‘Pin The Tail On The Donkey’
Yo, you gone ran your mouth didn’t you? You messed with the wrong motherfuckers. Didn’t anyone warn you how naughty we are? It’s not an acquired characteristic, either – so watch your back!
6. Papa Roach – ‘Blood Brothers’
Oh, I never knew this song was Papa Roach. “It’s in our nature to destroy ourselves / It’s in our nature to kill ourselves / It’s in our nature to kill each other.” This guy would have set off all sorts of red flags for his high school counsellor back in the day, no doubt.
7. The High And Mighty feat. Mos Def & Mad Skillz – ‘B-Boy Document 99’
Historians are conflicted as to whether the ‘B-Boy Document 99’ parchment in the National Museum of American History is indeed the original or a very clever forgery. Whoever does the second verse (Mad Skillz, Google tells me) is like a Jay Z who can keep time.
8. Consumed – ‘Heavy Metal Winner’
This song sounds like a bunch of British guys arguing loudly in some sad tavern about the result of a Premier League game. Actually, not even a Premier League game, a rubbish Third Division repeat from the ’90s they’re airing because it’s Tuesday morning and there’s no football on, innit?
9. Dub Pistols – ‘Cyclone’
This chick is a bad influence on him if she has him running in a cyclone. Just being outdoors during such an environmental disaster is a huge mistake.
10. Swingin’ Utters – ‘Five Lessons Learned’
Ahh, they were so close. The sixth lesson was, “For Chrissake don’t have such a horribly evocative band name!” The seventh was, “Clear your throat before doing the vocal take.”
11. Styles Of Beyond – ‘Subculture’
When the second Tony Hawk game introduced more hip hop songs to its soundtrack, my PlayStation skating style became a lot less speed-addled and furious, and way more relaxed, like I had all the time in the world to nail that Kickflip McTwist. You know what I’m talking about.
12. Millencolin – ‘No Cigar’
There’s a great documentary where the Swedish singer of Millencolin is explaining the meaning of each of their songs, and it is so literal sometimes he just quotes the lyrics and says, “That’s what it is about.” It’s quite funny, even if you didn’t just do the accent in your head.
13. Alley Life feat. Black Planet – ‘Out With The Old’
I think we are about overdue for a resurgence of bands with a dedicated turntablist. This song references ’Slim Shady’, which should have been a hilariously of-its-time reference but instead sticks out as the only truly timeless thing here.
14. Lagwagon – ‘May 16’
I do love this song, but I’m writing this on May 17, which feels like a metaphor for something substantial and sad. A day late, a buck short.
15. Fu Manchu – ‘Evil Eye’
The clip to this song involves a “Parents Against Rock Emergency Meeting” and it made me a bit nostalgic about the days when parents were the ones rallying against rock music, rather than the ones desperately trying to fan its flames.