Sounds of Skullmonkey

Tim has asked me to guest post on his blog about my favorite video game’s soundtrack. I’m honored. Here is the post — also available on

I’ll be frank. I hate monkeys. Can’t stand ’em. They inspire pure rage from deep in my bones. Why? It’s a long story. I’m in the process of unpacking it. First installment is on my blog for more reading.

Some years ago, must’ve been in 1997, maybe earlier, I stumbled across this amazing PC video game called The Neverhood. It was like Myst, only in claymation. And it had amazing gameplay, a bizarre story, excellent soundtrack, and was generally the coolest game I had seen for a long time. I skipped many consecutive college classes lost in the game until I finally beat it. I avidly scoured the fledgling internet seeking more information about the game and its creators. Soon it was announced that the Neverhood creators were working on a console game. I waited with baited breath.

And then I promptly forgot about it. But a few years later, browsing in BlockBuster, I discovered this Playstation game called Skullmonkeys. It looked suspiciously like the sequel to The Neverhood. I promptly rented a Playstation, purchased the game, and skipped work for several days to play.

It was incredible. It was not what I expected – instead of puzzle, Myst-style game play, it was a side-scroller in the grand tradition of my beloved Contra and Super Mario Brothers. But damn! – it was fun, it was claymation, and it had an even better soundtrack than the first one. Best of all – the point of the game was killing monkeys! Skullmonkeys! And I hate monkeys! It was as if a group of top-notch game designers sat around and tried to decide how to make the perfect video game just for me: monkey-killing, strange folk-music-esque soundtrack, bizarre colorful claymation creations, acid-tinged incomprehensible story line.

So a couple months ago when I bought a Playstation Two (used) to fuel my Dance-Dance-Revolution obsession, the second game I bought was a used version of Skullmonkeys.

And that’s what I’m really here to talk about. The Soundtrack to Skullmonkeys. And what soundtrack it is. The Skullmonkeys soundtrack, like the soundtrack of the Neverhood, is fueled by a most creative imagination – and someone with a rich knowledge of music, spanning several genres. It is part blues, part jazz, part yodel, part folk, and part video game. I absolutely love it. For the most part, video game sountracks are stuck in the dark ages – and for a brief shining moment Skullmonkeys offered us the future, and what did we do? We said, Forget you. Video game soundtracks continue to be a disappointment to me.

For some reason I had it in my head that Carter Burwell had done the soundtracks to the Neverhood and Skullmonkeys. Carter Burwell, of course, is the musical genius behind a ton of movie soundtracks, including most of the Cohen Brothers’ films – my favorite Carter Burwell soundtrack being Raising Arizona (note the yodeling sounds like Skullmonkeys yodeling), my favorite Cohen Brothers film being The Big Lebowski.

But then some serious web surfing alerted me to this Skullmonkey tribute site – where a noble gentleman provides not only screenshots of the amazing claymation Skullmonkey game, but it also provides MP3 clips of sections of the soundtrack.

The little clips are delectable and will undoubtably add joy to your day. The main theme to the Skullmonkeys gives you a taste of what you’re in for, with it’s flapper style folk-jazz coupled with nonsense skat-esque mumbling: “bee bop buh de da lop bop da leet dat do”. It doesn’t quite work on blogging. It’s completely worth a quick listen.

But if you’re only going to listen to one thing – if you’re one of those busy people who has already suffered through this entire blog post – then listen to the bonus level song. The lyrics is what makes this an amazing song – in the game, you’ve got to collect these little extra items and then you get bounced in to a special bonus level, where the song begins “Here’s a little bonus room, I know you’ve had it tough…” and includes such gems as “You’re incredible, You’re the Bomb, Me I’m like your dad, and a little like your Mom” and a verse about how important it is to show everyone how well you play the game – “show them you’re individual, show them you’re bold – besides I get residuals from every game that’s sold!” Tim finds the song creepy – but I can’t stop singing it. It’s got a catchy tune. Listen.

There you go, Tim. My MP3 blog post for you. I hope it lives up to the hype.

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