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SONIC DEATH MONKEY SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS - The Squid and the Whale

by Laura Kyle

The Squid and the Whale soundtrack is super comfortable – about as homogenous as it gets (even the different vocalists sound alike!). It might be lightly sprinkled with an affable little score by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (both took a break from their day jobs as members of rock band Luna to contribute a few pieces), but it’s really a 60’s and 70’s folk album.

Even though it’s set in the 80’s, Squid and the Whale doesn’t pull a Donnie Darko (except maybe with the Car’s “Drive”) and instead could almost be defined as The Musicians Who Inspired All the Indie Rock Bands on the Garden State (& co.) Soundtrack. Yeah, so, you may not have the Garden State soundtrack without the artists featured on this one. (You wouldn’t have Rufus Wainwright either. But that’s more of a technicality. Loudon Wainwright, who has two tracks here, is his daddy.)

Three slots on the soundtrack are reserved for legendary British folk singer Bert Jansch, my favorite being “Counting Blues.” The others are great though: the slightly remote “Bright New Year” and the uppity “Come Sing Me A Happy Song To Prove We All Can Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long and Dusty Road.”

John Phillips, of the Mamas and the Papas, follows up Jansch’s intro with “Holland Tunnel,” the third slot on the soundtrack. Then it’s Loudon Wainwright with “Lullaby.”

I hope you like this chilled out, too aloof to be Simon and Garfunkel saccharine, music of the 60’s…because we’re far from done here.

Anne and Kate McGariggle’s “Heart Like a Wheel” is a bit shrill at first (the sisters have a sharp tone, though to be fair vocals like that were sorta in style), but still sincere and agreeable. The Car’s “Drive” is about as close the Squid and the Whale soundtrack will get to the 80’s – I had almost forgotten about this likeable tune. Good one.

Oh, wait, before I forget to mention...Blossom Dearie's "Figure Eight," from "Schoolhouse Rock!" is on the soundtrack. I can't remember if it played some kind of role in the story or if writer/director Noah Baumbach just thought it would be funny to throw it in his film. Either way, 1X8 is 2X4.

“Let’s Go” by the Feelies sounds like something made for a film soundtrack. With airy instrumentals and unobtrusive vocals, “Let’s Go” pleasantly blends into the background of any task you happen to be doing around the house.

Composer Wareham departs from original songwriting for a second and takes on the intimidating task of covering Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” – the result is a more acoustic, upbeat, maybe even diffident, rendition. Just makes me smile to think about the plot this alludes to.

Book-ending the soundtrack is Wareham and Phillip’s score… well, for the most part. Actually, the soundtrack ends with two of its best folksy songs: Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” and Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song.” Both are ultra-catchy (Reed’s characteristically candor lyrics a nice touch), especially “The Swimming Song,” and they perfectly illustrate the almost self-contented, blasé tone of the film they accompany.

You can almost see the movie rolling its eyes at some of these happier songs, but you still get a feeling Baumbach lovingly handpicked each one. Never with the intention of grand emotional impact, the Squid and the Whale soundtrack is just, well, pleasant! (If a tad more sedated than the movie.)


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1652
originally posted: 11/24/05 03:00:44
last updated: 11/24/05 03:40:11
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