In the witty, gory video game Stubbs the Zombie, the dead roam a "city of the future" circa 1959, forcing the living to do their bidding before feasting on their brains. Meanwhile, on the game's soundtrack, indie rockers both famous and obscure reanimate classic songs from the late '50s and early '60s. Despite the album's high-concept nature, many of these covers aren't nearly as jokey as they could've been, and most of them mix a real love of the original songs with distinctive approaches. "There Goes My Baby," for example, is one of the best songs on the soundtrack (not to mention as early rock/soul history). Wisely, the Walkmen don't try to ape the swooning heights of the Drifters' version; instead, they give the song the distant, wintry romance of their own ballads. The game's fusion of '50s innocence and 2000's irony also runs through the soundtrack, with a roughly even mix of bands who treat the music seriously and those who view it a little more archly. Death Cab for Cutie's simple, and simply effective, version of "Earth Angel" rivals almost anything on Plans when it comes to pure yearning, and Ben Gibbard's voice is perfect for the song's hopeful-yet-bittersweet feel. Meanwhile, "Lollipop" is more sugary than ever when Ben Kweller sings it; he must be one of a handful of contemporary guys who could sing "gee, my lollipop is great" without smirking or gagging. Rogue Wave's surprisingly lush cover of "Everyday" manages to pay homage to the Buddy Holly classic while changing it almost completely; likewise, Clem Snide's "Tears on My Pillow" trades the mannered melancholy of the original for something a lot drunker, sloppier, and more uncomfortable (in a good way). Oddly enough, the Flaming Lips' "If I Only Had a Brain" ends up being one of the soundtrack's most faithful reinterpretations -- or maybe not so oddly, since they sound like a local band from Oz a good deal of the time anyway. The more purely ironic covers don't always fare so well: the Dandy Warhols' "All I Have to Do Is Dream," with its oddly muffled and squeaky vocals, is more weird than bad; it doesn't work on its own, but it could work as background music within the game's context. However, Cake's take on "Strangers in the Night" -- complete with cheesy brass and a Latin dance beat straight from a Casio -- and Oranger's fuzzy, playful "Mr. Sandman" are triumphs of kitsch and make a far better musical backdrop for brain-munching and turning hapless citizens into zombies than, say, a soundtrack full of alt-metal or a purely instrumental score would have. Indeed, Stubbs the Zombie's only complete misfire is Rose Hill Drive's "Shakin' All Over." Though it's hard to do a bad version of this garage rock standard, the band tries its hardest, bringing the tempo to a near-standstill and attempting to fuse it with "Purple Haze." Phantom Planet do a better job of mixing their love of '50s/'60s rock and zombies (as reflected in the actually-kind-of-eerie "Big Brat" video) with their original song, "The Living Dead." The other minor disappointment is the almost total lack of female artists on the album, although that helps the Raveonettes' darkly surfy spin on "My Boyfriend's Back" stand out even more. Still, Stubbs the Zombie is a hugely entertaining and creative soundtrack that helps the game create its own world, using just a little bit of familiarity to make it that much funnier and creepier.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares