Category Archives: Soundtrack

450. Various Artists – “Juno” (Soundtrack)

Ooops, missed another J.

Soundtracks have been consistent under-performers thus far in my reviews. Admittedly many of them have been cast records from musicals (not a big love of mine), and/or retro compilations trying to capture the sound of some era.

This here 2007 release does have one cast performance, several throwback tracks from Buddy Holly, Mott the Hoople and Velvet Underground, and a couple of indie stars covering slightly incongrous classics. But what it manages to create is a perfect companion piece to a film I thoroughly enjoyed.

I presume everyone reading this has seen the teen-pregrancy flick in question.  If you haven’t, head straight to your local vid pirate pronto, confident this will delight even more than Spike’s battle for respect while her belly expanded on the first season of Degrassi Junior High.

The film was all sassy outsiderness and non-Gothic emo-ness, and the song choices reflect this perfectly. Belle & Sebastian fit in perfectly for the sensitive male angle, but it is Kimya Dawson who steals the show in the way that Ellen Page did.

Dawson’s songwriting and delivery are pretty much how you’d think Juno might sound as a singer – all fastpaced, incongruous, hilarious. We picked several tunes from this album for our post-wedding ceremony (and certainly aren’t Robinson Crusoe on that front).

Seeing the stars sing this track still makes me smile:

File under: How soundtracks should be compiled.

429. Various Artists – “The Jungle Book” (soundtrack)

The discussion of children’s records reminded me I’d missed a J LP.

When flicking through record racks in second-hand stores, I find it very, very hard to resist old vinyl gems like this.

The 1968 Disney film is a very fond memory from my childhood, particularly because of the antics of that big bear Baloo:

That dance with the tree is probably something that wouldn’t get past the prudish studio types these days.

This album, which only has nine tracks pulled straight from the film (dialogue and all), showcases the audacity of this film. It is filled with swinging bebop explorations, skatting, Gilbert & Sullivan-esque nonsense and class commentary, some lovely orchestration and one of the funniest Beatles impersonations you’ll ever hear (as hippie vultures no less).

It is a reminder that Pixar didn’t invent animation that adults could delight in, and that such films can be made without any use of Elton John or Randy Newman.

In the end it all gets down to the sheer brilliance of that big bear, however’… and one ranga I’d definitely vote for:

File under: Forget about your worries and your strife

367. Various Artists – “Dirty Dancing” (Soundtrack)

And thus I take the greatest risk at marital disharmony of my reviews so far.

This record is a definite favourite of my wife Catherine, and one I make many unnecessarily snide comments about.

So, I’ve been overly cautious and given this album many more listens of the past couple of days than it deserves.

Sure, I don’t like the associated film and all it represents, but perhaps the tunes sound good when released from the visual prison of Swayze’s snake-hips and Grey’s whininess.  Alas, that is not the case.

This collection is a testament to all that is wrong about mid-’80s Hollywood’s interactions with the music scene.  All too often pompous, over-produced no name bands (and desperate lead singers going solo) were trotted in to pump out grandiose facsimiles of genuine genres.  That’s what goes on here.

The Blow Monkeys commit fraud, pretending to be early ’60s crooners, not British pomp-popsters.  The lead singer of Surrender (a third-rate Foreigner) cribs Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

And I’d prefer to not to acknowledge the contributions of Carmen, E., and Medley & Warnes who have left their mark irrevocably on the world of Karaoke.

The actual highlights on here are the genuine late ’50s and early ’60s from the Ronettes, Bruce Channel and Mickey & Sylvia. The lowpoint of not just this album, but surely my entire collection is The Swayze Incident/War-Crime:

File under: I need a shower

364. Fugazi – “Instrument Soundtrack”

I’m working my way backwards through albums I missed along the way.  This one was overlooked among the Fs in my vinyl collection.

I was never cool or buff enough to embrace the world of Fugazi and the post-hardcore punk brethren.

I did enjoy their brutal take on rock whenever I encountered a clip of theirs on Rage or SBS, but at no point did I think ‘I need to pick me up one of the low-priced CDs’.

But, I did somehow end up buying this LP bundled with a doco of the band (on VHS no less – a rare pairing of defunct formats) at a Shock Records sale.

I did what the video at least once, and recall it as earnest, grainy but enlightening.  These guys clearly had/have a passion for playing loud and fast (and for scolding sweaty mosh pit aggressors).

This record is (not surprisingly) mainly vocal-less renditions and demos of what I guess might be their ‘hit’ tunes. It does reveal them to be highly competent at laying down some belting rhythms and nice licks. It is quite a groove they get up and this does work as great reading/office music (something I doubt they were aiming for). The vocal tracks tend towards the novelty and are less endearing.

I like this enough to think I should venture into their broader catalogue.

File under: More pleasure than torture

362. Various Artists – “Grease” (soundtrack)

Fingers were pointed and accusations flew across the breakfast table this morn when I found this album in our vinyl collection.

My missus vehemently denies bringing this double-record set into the home, but I am damn sure I didn’t buy it.  Irrespective of whether I’m right or she’s wrong, the album has been listened to repeatedly this afternoon.

Of course, most of these tunes are irrevocably etched in the skull of almost anyone born in the past 50 years. I actually saw the film at the cinema on first release around 1979 (not long after I saw Star Wars on the big screen).  I seem to remember thinking it was a little racy and that the music was loads of fun.

31 years later, listening to the 24 tracks with a reasonably open mind, and treating the album as a set of showtunes, I must say it’s a pretty solid album.  The stand-out tracks don’t feature the leads, but rather are tongue in cheek and a bit ‘adult’.

The future First Lady is suitably salacious and snide  on …Sandra Dee. Frankie Avalon is nasty on Beauty School Dropout.

The thrill for me has been reacquainting myself with the silliness that is retro-champs Sha Na Na. They cover ’50s classic with aplomb. I distinctly remember the primetime show from these guys (a sort of cross between Sesame Street, Young Talent Time and Laverne and Shirley).  I’d see them on stage before I’d bother with Grease:

File under: It’s the word

361. Various Artists – “Ghost World” (soundtrack)

Again, my alphabetisation skills are shown to be lacking. My excuse is that this resides down in the Soundtrack section.

This is the most ambitious soundtrack on the shelf.

Film director Terry Zwigoff engages in one of the most delightfully self-indulgent exercises I can recall.  Just as the Steve Buschemi character in the film collects rare blues 78s, so does Zwigoff.

Thus this CD is an intriguing mix of such relics, plus some exotica from the Caribbean and India. Zwigoff also got a few jazz bands to recreate some songs he couldn’t license plus a few originals.

It all hangs together like the soundtrack to some grainy black and white archive piece that predates the talkies…

The track selection and sequencing is first-rate, apart from a couple of weird tracks – a rap from the film that is very grating, and a hilarious blues spoof Picking’ Cotton Blues that could easily have appeared on a Spinal Tap collection.

The absolute winner track is the opener, however, which is ridiculously infectious:

The CD would be worth it for that tune alone.  The remaining rough diamonds are a big bonus.

File under: Spookily splendid

225. The Commitments – “The Commitments”

Reviewing the Detroit Cobras reminded me I had missed a CD down in the soundtrack section which was also all about covering old classics.

Back in my early undergraduate days I managed to see this film three times at the cinema.  This perhaps reflected some ill-fated dating and lack of imagination, but mainly it was driven by my enjoyment of the flick.  It may well rank up there with various Star Wars editions and Can’t Buy Me Love as the film I have seen most often on the big screen.

Despite this, I never purchased said soundtrack (my missus did).

There is a substantial contrast between this release and the works thus far reviewed from the Cobras.

Music of the soul/R&B description (indeed, almost all popular music) must have some sexual aspect to it.  For a hetero male listener, the women must sound alluring and raunchy, and the males should seem threatening or jealousy-inducing.

That dynamic is very much at play with the Cobras.  Here it is a little lacking.  These pasty-faced Celts are too clean and tidy and, well, white.

Andrew Strong does a better job of pushing into the soul domain with a belting voice that could well be that of a bourbon-drinking Lothario (rather than a 16-year-old Dubliner).

The Commitment-ettes are the weak spot here.  They deliver very saccharine, colourless versions of tracks, that lean towards showtune versions of ’60s Supremes pop.

It just doesn’t turn me on.

File under: Diet-Soul

220. Depeche Mode – “101”

Back in 1989 a film was made of Depeche Mode’s US tour. I saw said flick and some time later acquired this double album which is, in effect, the soundtrack to the film.

The film had a curious “fish out of water” angle, as these poncey Brits with a predilection for bondage gear and a songlist high on sadomasochistic imagery, fill stadium after stadium across the very whitebread US. A small portion of their fans adopt the homo-goth uniform (and no doubt bear the brunt in their day-to-day lives). But most of the crowd look like the could just as easily be at a George Benson or James Taylor show (or perhaps even a Monster-truck meet).

But turning to the music, this is one of the better live albums I own. The production quality is astounding (I guess helped by the electronic nature of much of the material). The crowd are not typically intrusive. Indeed, the stadium setting is far from apparent on the record. I tend to imagine the recording as emanating from some cavernous, smoky, multi-levelled underground nightclub in Central Europe overrun with a crowd who look like extras from The Lostboys or Suburbia.

This albums also contains most of the band’s best tracks, such as these two (alas blemished by unnecessary crowd singalongs):

File under: A lesson in live recording

109. Buena Vista Social Club – “Buena Vista Social Club”.

I, like so many people fell in love with this bunch of haggard old Cubans through the stunning Wim Wenders doco of the same name.

buena-vista-social-club-album-coverThe film was a beautiful insight into the joy of music and the staying power of some ancient troubadours.

This album has been played to death around my place (as well as in many, many cafés around town). It’s been ages since I’ve seen the film (although I’m sure we own it on DVD). As such, I only vaguely remember what the subtitles to the tunes revealed. I seem to recall one was about being on fire(?).

That’s a bit academic anyway. The main point of the album is that it showcases a music that was pretty unfamiliar to me before the film. It’s a music that is sensuous and warm and heartfelt.

The various voices on here are all honey-smooth. The piano is delicate. The finger-picking flamenco-style guitar is light. The rhythms are subtle but hypnotic.

This is perfect dining music, lounging music and waltzing music.

Even the front cover is cool – Ibrahim Ferrer is a dude of the highest order – as is Ry Cooder for heading to Havana to record this time capsule and revitalise the various Clubbers’ careers.

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade, here’s a clip of what you’ve been missing out on:

File under: Buena Música

65. Björk – “Selmasongs”

My wife Catherine (and much of the rest of our state) had the day off today while I was slaving away at work, and she volunteered to listen to our next Björk CD. Incidentally this album was the soundtrack to the second movie we ever saw while dating – Dancer in the Dark – a harrowing and completely inappropriate date film. Here’s her review.


Like the film this music was written for, this album is unsettling and even somewhat disturbing. I found myself turning the volume lower and lower to avoid the full impact, but even so I found it a jagged and grim experience. The best thing about this album is that it only last for 32 minutes.

Given I only paid about a dollar for the CD, I think I may just chuck it out, free up space for more enjoyable listening and certainly protect myself from ever having to endure the experience again.

That’s pretty condemning.

File under: Harrowing