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June 26, 1997|MIKE PENNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "X Games: The Soundtrack Album"

Price: $15.99 (ESPN/Tommy Boy Records)

What music goes best while skurfing phat wakes in stoked pursuit of big air and the perfect hoochie glide?

Hmmm. Tough call.

"Adrenaline" by Phunk Junkeez is a natural, unless you bonk coming out of an air krypt. Then, it would have to be "Protect Ya Neck" by Wu Tang Clan, which is one of 17 tracks on the "X Games: the Soundtrack Album"--and, sound advice for any practitioner of the extreme sport of wakeboarding.

This is the sound of the X Games, currently underway, third time around, in San Diego. As per its self-designed station as the Alternative Olympics, every X Games gets its own soundtrack (this is Volume 3) with the basic idea being "to capture the excitement and energy of the X Games."

This means rap by Public Enemy, punk by Civ, grunge by Bush, ska by Fishbone, hardcore techno by the Prodigy and thrash-metal by Helmet.

And, suffice it to say, nothing by Mariah Carey or John Tesh.

"We were looking for songs that could match the temperament and vivacity and feel of the Games," said Brooke Wentz, music supervisor for ESPN. "Not all of these athletes are into this hyper music, but most of them are young and into the spirit of doing whatever it takes to master their sport. Which is exactly what this CD caters to."

The result may not be for the faint of heart, but is certainly more inspired than ESPN's other musical forays into Jock Rock/Jock Jam shlockdom.

What music goes best with skyboarding? The CD proposes "Johnny, Kick a Hole in the Sky" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not bad, but anyone familiar with the activity would have to call this a missed opportunity.

"Nausea," by X, would have truly captured the mood.

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