ModNation Racers -Road Trip- Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris
ModNation Racers: Road Trip is the second game in Sony's kart racing series, exclusively released for the PlayStation Vita by SCE San Diego Studio. While the soundtrack for the original game featured plenty of interesting ideas, most of them were poorly realised. The soundtrack for the sequel refines many of these ideas with the help of a new cast of composers. The final soundtrack features eleven racing tracks by names such as Red Dead Redemption's Woody Jackson, Twisted Metal's Brain Lovechild, and several popular music producers. As is customary for Sony, the soundtrack was released digitally in conjunction with the game.
The developers wisely carried little music over from the original ModNation Racers to its Vita adaptation, favouring new compositions and fresh sounds. Nevertheless, the "ModNation Theme" the so-called anthem of the series is reprised at the end of the soundtrack. While the reprise helps to build continuity in this new IP, it's at the sacrifice of Road Trip having a unique, defining theme of its own. It's also an inadequate theme to define a franchise by the song is pretty flawed on all levels and would have benefited from a complete revamp.
The background music in Road Trip evokes a sense of driving through a range of means. Throughout its entirety, "Le Jeune Jus" relies on one of the oldest tricks in the book: using edgy, funky rhythm guitar licks to create that edge and motion. But while its core idea isn't original, its treatment is and the whole composition boasts impressive artistry. It's clear that Woody Jackson is a master of guitar writing and his decision to incorporate an actual guitar performance, rather than tired samples, further lifts this composition. Indeed, just one instrument was all he really needed to ensure this track succeeds.
Other contemporary stylings are explored in the rest of the soundtrack, usually to considerable success. "Afterparty" is a much tighter jazz piece than those featured on the original game. The opening trumpet parts really latch listeners in, while the funky bass riffs and extravagant saxophone soli keep things motive. One of the few intense tracks, BZ Lewis' "Outta My Way" gets the guitars thrashing and should entertain rock listeners out there. The eclecticism continues with the 'feel good' synth lines of "Motorbumpin'", club grooves of "Move This Sound", and the classic stylings of "South Street Boogie". While some of these tracks are derivative, they're well-produced and fit the gameplay well.
Though many tracks recount familiar stylings, there are a few pleasant surprises here. Building on the inspired but botched ideas on the original game's soundtrack, Brain Lovechild's "Better and Better" blends colourful electronic samples with tastefully manipulated vocals. The final result puts listeners into a dreamy state that has a curious effect in conjunction with the gameplay. Other pleasant surprises include the dazzling flute leads in the otherwise conventional funk piece "Hey Wait a Minute!" and the contemporary bebop fusion "Horns Over My-Hammy", which really goes off the beaten track.
ModNation Racers: Road Trip offers eleven well-produced, cutting-edge pieces to accompany the racing gameplay. While they vary in their originality, there are a number of very inspired and emotional tracks here, most of which build upon the musical ideas of ModNation Racers beautifully. That said, the soundtrack release is hard to recommend. At 10 USD, it is overpriced given the few tracks, lack of defining themes, and derivative tendencies. It may be better to pick off individual tracks instead of listening to the whole release.
Overall Score: 6/10