You could make the argument that EA’s NHL 14 is perhaps the company's best work ever. The controls are precise and demanding, the AI is smart, and the career mode is deep, incremental, and totally addictive. Simply put, it's a tremendous video game.
And while there are numerous things to enjoy about NHL 14, the soundtrack is definitely not among them. You’ll never meet a video game more desperate to tell the world that rock music is still alive, and yet fail so miserably to prove it. We decided to do a song-by-song critique of the NHL 14 soundtrack, and suggested the optimal year that each of these songs actually belong in.
Come on EA, you can do better.
Wolfmother – “Joker and the Thief”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘01
Straight up, I completely forgot “Joker and the Thief” came out in 2006. It feels like Wolfmother should’ve broken up in 2006, after three meandering years and solo albums following the career peak of sub-headlining Lollapalooza ’03 with The Vines. We are a much smarter North America these days -- we’ve traded in our Jets and Wolfmothers for Tame Impalas.
Here’s some advice to EA, don’t pick any songs that have also been prominently featured in the Shrek franchise.
Buckcherry – “Gluttony”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘99
The lead singer of Buckcherry is a 43-year-old man. In the “Gluttony” video he is wearing an unzipped leather jacket, silver chains barely hanging on to oily, pallid skin, and he says “you say I eat too much, you say I smoke too much, what the f*** am I supposed to do?” In the late '90s this would be a classic, ironically remembered anthem of tarnished youth, but out of his 43-year-old mouth it sounds like the melodic equivalent of Ozymandias.
Look hard at his neck tattoos, and despair.
Airbourne – “Live it Up”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘87
I can’t think of anything funnier than the first 30 seconds of this band’s music video.
Heaven’s Basement – “Fire, Fire”
Optimal Year – NHL (Whenever Your Sophomore Year of High School Was)
EA thinks you are really, really white. Like borderline translucent. EA put a bass solo in their hockey video game. The music ends with a montage of nuclear reactors melting down, and also the drummer is not wearing sleeves. It's quite possible that this entire video cost $15 to produce.
Biffy Clyro – “Modern Magic Formula”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘09
If you had The Proclaimers cover the 7th best song on Ten, it would probably sound a lot like Biffy Clyro.
Black Veil Brides – “In The End”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘14
I can’t complain, this is apparently what the kids are listening to right now. You can find their shirts all over Hot Topic (I’m not sure why I know that). It has goofy guitar runs that sound specifically written for a post Guitar Hero world. The singer has the most generic “cool sounding” voice of all-time. He says he’s “not afraid to die” and then a violin starts playing Braveheart music. Does it make me happy that somebody is still making that Warped Tour money? Sure! Is it really funny that they’re all wearing gloves? Yep! Does it warm my heart that isolated kids across America think they are subverting the man by essentially listening to Quiet Riot? Absolutely!
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Let The Day Begin”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘05
This is EA’s attempt to appeal to the thinking hockey fan. They picked a band that I saw open for Cold War Kids at a music festival sponsored by Jameson.
Bullet For My Valentine – “Riot”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘07
This is the song you’d expect to hear in a Night Elf Hunter’s PvP montage. NHL ’14 has really shown me that I hate it when people “rock out.”
Big fan of the symbolic breaking glass in the video. Hope they didn't go over budget to do that.
Dropkick Murphys – “The Boys Are Back”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘04
I can’t quite explain the Dropkick Murphys phenomenon, but for a certain type of barely-pubescent boy, I'm sure the idea of a bunch of dudes playing badass bagpipe music seems entirely awesome and not at all embarrassing. I mean, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly were two of the most popular bands in my middle school.
Hanni El Khatib – “Family”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘14
This basically sounds like The Black Lips if The Black Lips didn’t care about writing songs, which makes it a perfect sign of the times.
New Politics – “Harlem”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘08
Carrying on with our theme of white lead singers who have nothing to say, there's this guy who decided to open his song with “I spend my money on the everyday miracles!” and expect not get punched in the face.
Rise Against – “Lanterns”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘06
Haha these grown men play in a rock band called “Rise Against.”
Soundgarden – “Been Away Too Long”
Optimal Year – NHL ‘96 I honestly don’t know what’s more depressing. The fact that Soundgarden are still recording, or that modern Soundgarden sounds entirely dissolvable with the rest of these deplorably self-serious rock songs. This Is your life in 2014, where you’re not sure if it’s Soundgarden or Bullet For My Valentine. Thanks EA, I always love some generational dread with my hockey games.