12 great punk albums featuring songs from Dreamcast games

There are many reasons to love the Dreamcast. We assume you agree with us, as you're currently reading a blog entitled the 'Dreamcast Junkyard'. Arcade perfect gameplay? Check. State of the art graphics (for it's time)? Check. The last great 'hurrah' of the Sega of old? Possibly controversial, but check. Some of the best music ever committed to a video game library? Oh, you're damn right.

Whether it's the funky beats of Jet Set Radio, orchestral magnificence of Shenmue or Skies of Arcadia, eclectic soundtrack of MSR or the pure joy of the Marvel vs Capcom 2 character select screen...well maybe not the last one.. the musical magnificence of the Dreamcast can not be overlooked.

With that, we also had a fairly large number of games featuring licensed soundtracks. Ever since the compact disc became the games medium of choice in the 90's, games have not been shy about popping on some killer tunes to please their consumers. The Playstation was the epitome of this new gaming frontier, as a Sony product was always likely to be, and the merging of games with music was an integral part of the cultural impact the console had on a whole generation.

Thing is, whilst many of my fellow Junkyard writers were probably spending that period in their lives chilling out to the latest trance hit, or techno rave masterpiece (or whatever it's called, it's not my area of knowledge!), I was happily indulging in my own musical journey - one that very much consisted of a bunch of sweaty gigs, slam dancing lunatics and a healthy disliking of authority. Punk. A misunderstood genre, if ever there was one, was in many ways my first love, and it is a love that is well catered for on that little Sega made mistress of my dreams. Whether it's a nod back to the spit covered, pogoing era of the 70's, the DIY led revolution of the 80's or the ska and skate infused 90's revival, there's plenty for the discerning punk fan to enjoy whilst indulging in some Dreamcast gaming.

But I'm not just going to list a top ten of DC punk songs. Anyone who has read anything else I've ever written for the Junkyard knows that ain't my style. Being a punk fan that just about remembers a time before streaming services were king, it's always been about the mighty album for me. Punk albums are wondrous, beautiful things - full of unheard delights, musical experimentation and just plain weirdness, far beyond the narrow view that some have of punk rock. They're often overlooked, criminally so, dismissed as having just one or two good songs - but nothing could be further from the truth. And I think it's time to start setting the record straight.

So come join me as I take a look at a dozen great examples of punk albums, all of which feature songs from Dreamcast games.
Bad Religion - No Control (1989) 
(featuring 'You' from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2)

Bad Religion, more so than probably any other band, were responsible for helping shape the sound that punk became in the early 90's. Whilst they were part of the early LA hardcore scene (the fantastic 'How Could Hell Be Any Worse?' standing right up there with the best of that cities output), they didn't truly come into their own until they ended the 80's with a trio of masterpiece albums, 'Suffer' came first, 'Against the Grain' rounded them off, and this, 1989's 'No Control' is slap bang in the middle. It builds on what came before, 'Suffer' being the template of what the band's sound would become, but everything is that touch quicker, that touch harder, and that tad better sounding (although 'Suffer' remains one of my all time favourite albums). Greg Gaffin's lyrics are always a level above the often simple anti-authority diatribes, and on this he effortlessly melds philosophy, politics and the human condition, all laid on top of a melodic, fast southern Californian hardcore punk sound. Bands like the Descendents, Adolescents and D.I. had done similar things before, but it was Bad Religion who perfected this sound. Songs from this album still make appearances in the bands live sets, and there's a very good reason for that. No Control is one of the very best US punk albums ever recorded.

'You' featured in Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, and is a favourite amongst many, it's upbeat, high speed skate punk sound perfectly fitting the game.

Stand out songs:
- Big Bang
- I Want to Conquer the World
- Henchman

You can listen to 'No Control' on Spotify here.

 Goldfinger - Hang-Ups (1997)
(featuring 'Superman' from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater)

When the recent (at least, at the time of writing) announcement of the new Tony Hawks 1+2 for current gen consoles was made, many questions were raised about whether the original soundtracks would be included. By some margin, the one song mentioned the most in these questions was 'Superman' by Goldfinger. And there's a good reason for that, as it was an incredibly infectious and catchy ska punk song that pretty much demonstrated the band at their best. The album the song emerged from, Hang-Ups, is a great example of the mid to late 90's third wave ska punk that emerged from California, a style that for a while seemed to be the only punk that really mattered anymore, at least that is how it felt to me! Whether the album ever manages to quite match the opening highs of 'Superman' is debatable, but then I have listened to an awful lot of Ska punk in my life.There's plenty of pace changes with a few slower, more ska focused elements, as well as that beautiful so-cal punk sound, all merging into the sort of upbeat summer ska sound that always goes down well.

Stand out songs:
- Superman
- Question
- I need to know

The Offspring - Ixnay on the Hombre (1997) 
(featuring 'Way down the line' and 'All I want' from Crazy Taxi)

The fact that the third album on this list is yet another band from LA perhaps shows how much that city impacted the punk scene from the 80's onwards. One of the LA bands that really took the new breed of 90's punk to the masses, however, was The Offspring. After a couple of great early albums, 1994's Smash (more on that later) was a critical and commercial success, and a somewhat surprising one at that, which inevitably meant that expectations for the bands follow up were extremely high. In truth, 'Ixnay on the Hombre' didn't quite reach those expectations. It lacked a certain element that 'Smash' had in abundance, didn't stretch the boundaries of the genre maybe quite as much - or at least not in the same infectiously catchy way, and honestly, just felt a little flat in comparison. That's not to say it's a bad album, however; 'Cool to Hate' is a tune, and 'Gone Away' is the bands melancholic sort of follow up to 'Self Esteem' on 'Smash', and it's cool. And any album which starts with a spoken word intro from Jello Biafra is doing something right at least.

It is however two songs from the latter part of the album which have had the greatest impact - and that's down to Crazy Taxi. Both 'Way down the line' and 'All I want' are now synonymous with Sega's manic taxi driving title, mere seconds of 'All I want' need to be played before people gleefully shout out 'Crazy Taxi!' to anyone they can find. The fast paced LA skate punk sound of the two songs is perhaps more in line with the Offspring of old, and they somehow managed to perfectly capture both the games frantic pace, and the early 00's feeling of upbeat hope that everyone felt. 
(The into to another song on the album, 'Change the World', also features on the games soundtrack, but is somewhat overshadowed)

Stand out songs:
- Way down the line
- All I Want
- Cool to Hate

Zero Down - With a Lifetime to Pay (2001)
 (featuring 'Bite the hand that feeds' and 'Going Nowhere' from Propeller Arena)

The worlds of punk rock and video games are both full of 'what if's?' Bands that broke up, games that never saw the light of day - both have histories littered with dashed hopes and things not going the way they should. For this list, Zero Down's 'With a Lifetime to Pay' really does fit the bill. Not only are the two songs from this album only connected to the Dreamcast through the soundtrack of the unreleased 'Propeller Arena', but the band itself would soon be no more with the tragic death of former Strung out bassist, and Zero Down vocalist Jim Cherry. We'll never know what the band would of gone on to release, but if it was anything like this album, it would of been great. One of my favourite ever albums, this is a skate punk, mid 90's Epitaph-Fat Wreck sounding punk record, with a decided downbeat edge to it. Melancholic at points, resigned realism at others, it comes across as a deeply introspective, working class punk take on the sub-genre, and sounds superb. On tracks like 'Empty Promised Land' and 'A Million More', Cherry seethes with the sort of anger that punk's always had - one part call to arms, the other barely contained rage at the injustices of the world. It is in some way's similar to the sort of darker punk of bands like Agent Orange, D.I or the Adolescents, but the end result of the album is something quite distinct, and massively compelling.

Stand out songs:
- Empty Promised Land
- A Million More
- No Apologies

Agent Orange - Living in Darkness (1981)
(featuring 'Everything Turns Grey' from Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX)

I have a semi-obsessive love of early 80's American Hardcore punk, and i'm not ashamed to admit it. Before the term 'Hardcore' became solely connected to the metal-influenced sound created by the late 80's New York scene, it covered a much broader range of bands - each city in the US seemed to have it's own different approach to how they would interpret punk, which led to some amazing sounds. Whether it was the funky sounds of Texan bands like Big Boys or the Dicks, the noise-orientated and experimental sounds from the Midwest that would create bands as diverse as Naked Raygun, Husker Du and eventually Big Black, or the emergence of Emocore from the DC scene, from Minor Threat to Fugazi, the term was a catch all statement about the bands 'attitude' rather than a pigeon-holed specific sound. 
In California, this developed a more approachable, some would say 'poppier' sound; one that would lead to many bands in this list (Bad Religion, The Offspring) as well as much of punk rock for the last 30 years. But some bands did something a little different. Agent Orange were very much one of those. Their melding of surf rock guitar, punk and a rather downbeat, some would say almost 'Gothic', feel created a unique and ultimately mesmerising sound. 'Living in Darkness', their debut album, was the bands best, an 8 song masterpiece of summery surf rock (including a version of Dick Dale's 'Miserlou') dripping with melancholy, regret and downright despair. It may sound jarring, but take a listen to the song featured in Mat Hoffman's BMX, the fantastic 'Everything turns Grey', and you'll realise that somehow the band managed to perfectly create that melding of ideas. It has the air of the soundtrack to a particularly grey skied morning of surfing - as if the sun-kissed beaches of California has been enveloped in a haze of Victorian fog. It's an amazing album, one of the very best US punk albums, and even now nearly 40(!) years on it's just as fresh to listen to. 

Stand out tracks:
- Everything turns Grey
- The Last Goodbye
- Too Young to Die

Pennywise - Straight Ahead (1999)
 (featuring 'Might be a Dream' from MTV Sports Skateboarding and 'Greed' from Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX)


Yet another product of the LA punk scene, Hermosa Beach's Pennywise will be known to pretty much anyone who's ever played a video game with a licensed soundtrack in the last 20 years, such is the commonality of their appearances. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - and as a massive Pennywise fan for over 20 years, the bands melodic brand of hardcore skate punk is always a joy to listen to. Straight Ahead was the bands follow up to 1997's Full Circle, itself a follow up the massive 'About Time', and it continues the bands trademark punk aural attack with plenty of singalong choruses, catchy verses and a blend of socially aware and mildly political subject matters. It's at times fierce, and at times a tad more sedate, but it remains consistent in just delivering powerful guitar heavy punk rock from start to finish, as Pennywise always do, and perhaps define the 'skate punk' sound of the 90's better than any other band. Whilst the album isn't quite as good as it's two immediate predecessors in my opinion, it still delivers an essential slice of driving, uncompromising punk rock.
The band's music also featured in the Sega arcade game 'Top Skater', contributing the entire soundtrack. 

Stand out tracks:
- Badge of Pride
- Alien
- My Own Way

Dead Kennedys - Give me Convenience or Give me Death (1987)
 (featuring 'Police Truck' from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater)

Okay so I may be cheating slightly here, as 'Police Truck' originally appeared as the B-side of the 'Holiday in Cambodia' single (below), but it's only album appearance was on the 1987 compilation of singles, b-sides and rarities, 'Give me Convenience of Give me Death'. 
But this album is not your usual rarities collection - a concept which has had mixed success with other bands. Arguably just as good as the Kennedys later albums, this is a relentless punk rock record, capturing the full range of the bands musical onslaught - whether that's their genre-defining early punk singles (the aforementioned 'Holiday in Cambodia' and the scathingly brilliant 'California uber Alles'), compilation appearances which take their sound in different directions (the thrashy 'A Child and his lawnmower'; the brilliantly reworked version of 'I Fought the Law'), politically heavy, but musically inventive,  B-sides ('Police Truck', 'Saturday Night Holocaust') or even a few live recordings ('Pull my Strings' is legendary). Jello Biafra has gone down as one of the truly legendary punk front-men, and it's on this record that you really get to hear him at his fiery, sarcastic and unapologetic political best. 
It's not as focused as 'Fresh fruit...' or 'Plastic surgery disasters', two other Dead Kennedys albums, but then it's not really meant to be. The impact the band had on the emergence of punk rock in the US can not be emphasised enough, and this compilation of the bands work perhaps shows them at their most anarchic, inventive and scene setting. 

Stand out tracks:
- Saturday Night Holocaust
- Police Truck
- I Fought the Law

Sublime - Sublime (1996)
 (featuring 'What I got' from Dave Mirra)

My pick for the 'best summer album ever made', Sublime's eponymous album is the perfect accompaniment to a lazy sunny afternoon chilling out with..whatever you wish to chill out with! It's hard to underestimate how influential this album was to the late 90's punk scene, and indeed the broader world. It's blend of hard punk, ska and reggae perfectly melds into a haze of sound, whether in the gorgeous chill of 'Santeria', the hazy, riotous intent of 'April 29, 1992' or in the more punk sounds of 'Wrong Way' or 'Same in the End'. The second half of the record isn't quite as good for stand out songs, but it still smothers itself in the same all-encompassing, humid summer afternoon feel. Although they were not the only ska band of the late 90's that hit near-mainstream appeal, Sublime's greater Reggae influence, and an undisputed ability to write chilled out punk songs, means they remain a highly influential and loved band.

Stand out tracks 
- Santeria
- Same in the End
- What I Got

The Offspring - Smash (1994)
(featuring 'Genocide' from Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000)

I think it's fair to say that the Offspring, more than any other band, are connected to the Dreamcast in the mind of an awful lot of fans. We've already covered the 'Ixnay on the Hombre' above, and the band's Crazy Taxi connections, but as well as appearing in the sequel to that game (we'll cover that album in a future article), they also contributed the track 'Genocide' to Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000, from their high selling break through album 'Smash'. More than any other album (aside maybe from Green Day), this was punk's sledgehammer opening of the mainstream in the mid 90's, the highest selling independent album ever released, and a damn fine slice of So-Cal punk. The bands origins as part of the latter 80's hardcore scene (and we're once more talking about 'hardcore' in the attitude sense, rather than muscly dudes beating each other up in a pit) are clear here, spitting attitude along with the more laid back, chill vibes the scene can produce. 'Bad Habit' is a speedy gut punch of adrenaline, 'Gotta Get Away' slows it down to produce a churning, volatile number and 'What Happened to You' even flirts with a little ska sound beneath the more surf-rock inspired sound the band clearly loved. There's two big hits of course as well - and whilst punks do love to hate on the popular, there's no debating that the rumbling 'Come Out and Play' and pop-punk masterclass of 'Self Esteem' are both classics of the era.
As it featured in a game routinely listed amongst the worst on the console, it's no surprise that you may have missed the bands appearance in Jeremy McGrath - but 'Genocide', the track included, is a cool, sped-up surfy guitar Offspring sound that recalls their previous album 'Ignition' - no bad thing, as it's an overlooked but great album in it's own right.

Stand out tracks:
- Come Out and Play
- Self Esteem
- Gotta Get Away

Bad Brains - Bad Brains (1982)
(featuring 'Banned in DC' from Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX)

There's few punk lists that I've ever written that don't include Bad Brains. Whilst in some quarters their reputation will forever be tarnished by some questionable views, there is absolutely no denying that for a while, Bad Brains were probably the best fucking band on the planet. Hyper-sonic, intense punk rock with a slice of the reggae influence that would become more prominent in later albums, their self titled debut is a pure, raging hardcore record, abundant with classics - the blistering pace of 'Attitude' or 'Sailin' on', the boiling build up of 'The Regulator', leading onto that pit-inducing start to 'Banned in DC'. Originally released on cassette only, this has been released on CD many times since, and is essential listening. Some may find fault in the long, slow reggae numbers, but that has it's own role to play here too - although the band did this side of their music better in 'I against I' a few years later.

Stand out tracks:
- Attitude
- Sailin' on
- Banned in DC

Consumed - Breakfast at Pappa's E.P. (1998)
(featuring 'Heavy Metal Winner' from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2)

We've had a particularly large number of LA bands in this list, so it's good that we do also have a band from the slightly less sunnier environs of Nottingham, England to mix it up a little. Consumed were a favourite of many gig goers over here in the UK, and few British punk bands did the Epitaph-Fat Wreck sound (a sometimes used phrase to describe the sound of bands prominently on Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords labels - everything from Bad Religion and NOFX to Pennywise and the Offspring) as well as on this 1998 E.P. (yes, it's not an album, I know) - which fit quite well, as this E.P. came out on Fat Mike's Fat Wreck. A rollicking modern day punk classic, this is skate punk done the British way - melodic hardcore, a bit of early pop-punk sentiments rather than fiery political rhetoric and catchy, punchy songs with a smattering of British pop-culture references rather than the usual Californian-centric ones. Half a dozen songs in 15 minutes, this record had a real influence on me in my latter formative days, 'Nonsense Cone' and 'Bye, Bye Fatman' still get regular plays in my house. 

Stand out tracks:
- Nonsense Cone
- Heavy Metal Winner
Dropkick Murphy's - Do or Die (1998)
(featuring 'Never Alone' from Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX)

Celtic punk firebrands and trend setters the Dropkick Murphy's are a band that I have a deep affinity with. Maybe it's just because they play the occasional Irish folk song that my late father would play endlessly my entire childhood, but to be honest that's a good enough reason. Their debut album 'Do or Die' was the only one with original vocalist Mike McColgan, it's a rougher sounding record compared to what would come, but all the elements of the band are there - street tough Boston punk rock with a pronounced Oi influence, working class anthems and of course, an Irish flavour. It's an uneven album to be fair, and not to the level of later classics such as 'Sing Loud, Sing Proud!', but the Dropkicks know what they wanted to do, and the street punk contained here ticks all the boxes for those who like their punk more Sham 69 than The Clash. 'Barroom Hero' is also a bar slapping, gang chorus shouting romper of a song.

Stand out tracks:
- Barroom Hero
- Never Alone

That wraps up this short look at some great punk albums with Dreamcast connections. There's plenty more - and I know some who are reading this will be thinking 'hang on, they missed (insert album name here)'. But don't worry -  I'll be back soon with another selection of great Punk albums - if only because combining two of my great passions is just damn fun!




4 comments:

OriginalName said...

Man, did I write this?! I'm a huge punk and Dreamcast fan, and was literally listening to an old Japanese compilation called "Great Punk Hits" with my trusty Dreamcast sitting right next to me as I came across this. So, no matter what doubts you may have had, this article did indeed have an audience waiting!

What they wrote in "Don't Blow No Bubbles" and said to poor Biscuit aside, the 'Brains were unbeatable from the late 70's to the late 80's. Never played Mat Hoffman's, so I had no idea they made an appearance on the Dreamcast. Now THAT is an incredible combination.

I'm looking up the soundtrack now. It had PAILHEAD on it?! So Bad Brains AND Ian MacKaye made it onto the Dreamcast? Man, wonders never cease.

I really enjoyed this article! Thanks again!

Tangentially, if there's ever a third Jet Set Radio, I will personally hold a hunger strike outside of Sega's Tokyo offices until they contract Melt-Banana to appear on or, better yet, co-compose the soundtrack.

Spaceturnip said...

Cheers, glad you enjoyed the article! It was definitely the most fun I've had writing one for the Junkyard yet!

The Dreamcast era pretty much coincided with my first deep delves into Punk - so in my head, DC games will be connected with the many, many Hardcore bands I got into about the same time. I distinctly remember playing NBA 2K whilst listening to a compilation of Dutch and Japanese hardcore bands (BGK & Genoa specifically), and I have some strange vague memories of Virtua Tennis mixed with some great Texan bands ('Kill from the Heart', still one of my favourite ever albums, on repeat whilst playing the world tour mode). I also didn't explore the MSR soundtrack at all, as I played AFI's 'Very Proud of Ya' on repeat whilst playing it - I still have the album in my head when I play the game.

I do sort of wish there was a bit more in the way of 80's hardcore on DC games - I fired up Tony Hawks 3 today and was greeted with 'Amoeba', which instantly led me to listen to the Adolescents at length. But what we got - especially Bad Brains - sort of makes up for that.

And I second the belief that a Melt Banana composed JSR soundtrack would be an incredible thing. It would be utterly mad, but in such a great way!

Cheers again for commenting, always glad to see others who have a shared love for the DC and Punk!

Vince said...

Thank you for the article. I was initially gonna write a wall of text but it looked more like a disjointed list of bands than anything else so I dropped it. I didn't know Bad Brains were in Matt Hoffman either, but then I never played that game lol.

Lewis Cox said...

Great article and incredible records mentioned! It's amazing how so many people associate music with games, and the Dreacast is no exception! I for one remember buying No Control after hearing "You" on THPS2, and Ixnay on the Hombre after hearing "Way Down the Line" on Crazy Taxi!