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by Laura Kyle

Sonic Death Monkey is going back about a decade this week as we examine the soundtrack to Hollywood’s wonderfully bemusing take on high school in the year 1995: Clueless.

After I saw this epic teen flick at the movie theater (I remember the occasion well because Clueless was a PG-13 movie and I was just 10 at the time) I proceeded to watch it over and over and over again at slumber party after slumber party after slumber party. I watched it into my teens and even revisited it a few times in college. Clueless is a gazillion times more enjoyable than it has any right to be and is one of those few movies that’s impossible for me to separate from the experiences I had at the time.

So in the same sense that Clueless the movie is inexorably attached to my memories from pre-adolescence, its soundtrack is admittedly, awesome by mere association.

The Clueless soundtrack is riddled with covers (which usually get on my nerves) and is undeniably 14 tracks of unremarkable pop tunes that are about as hip as they are obvious… in other words, they are incredibly hip and obvious. I can’t recall the timeframe these hits were released but whether or not they were designed specifically for Clueless is really a moot point. Simply put, they’re just not forgettable and are utterly cool.

I can still hum Coolio’s brief “Rollin’ With My Homies” chorus, not because I didn’t outgrow my rap/hip hop phase about 8 years ago, but because I remember how Elton taught the song to Tai after she got bumped on the noggin with a flyaway shoe. I still get a kick out of the Muff’s “Kids In America” (cover) – not because I know anything else that band ever did, but because I’m instantly transported into a state of pure carefree girlhood on the rare event I hear it. I also recall girls auditioning to do renditions of “Supermodel” by Jill Sobule at the middle school talent show.

The soundtrack feels a bit obnoxious as a collective whole. But it’s got an interesting character, as does the movie, like it’s aware of its generic quality and consequent limitations; it’s just very contented in remaining sprightly and lighthearted. A prime example of this is Supergrass’ “Alright.” The British pop group demonstrates skill and their giddy number here is indeed, alright, quite musical – but there’s a certain resistance to be mistaken for anything remotely pretentious.

As are the aforementioned songs like “Kids In America” and “Supermodel;” they're audaciously melodic but never hint at being anything more than happy-go-lucky one hit wonders, even though they’re probably a lot more sophisticated than you’d be compelled to give them credit for (especially The Smoking Pope’s 80’s/punkish “Need You Around” and the instantly likeable “Lightning Seeds”). “Rollin With My Homies” is about as profound as its title implies but that’s what’s so great about it. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Where’d You Go” has a real nice, goofy big band sound to it, and you might just remember that as this band is performing in the film, Cher explains to Tai that bitchy Amber is only pretty from really far away. Well, I remember. (Shut up.)

World Party delivers an amiable cover of David Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes,” however I advise you not to listen to it… you’ll recognize it right away and will not be able to get it out of your head for at least three days straight.

Other tracks suit the film well but aren’t nearly as fun. Cracker’s “Shake Some Action” (cover) is upbeat but amazingly plain, the gruff lead vocals reminiscent of Bruce Springstein almost. And well, I don’t really like Bruce Springstein. Sue me.

Meanwhile, more established bands like Radiohead and the Counting Crows contribute sweeter, mellower, not quite grungy tracks like “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Ghost In You” (the latter’s a cover). And the Beastie Boys offer up “Mullet Head,” definitely the least clean, most chaotic track.

“Here” by Luscious Jackson is a fun dance number that definitely shows its disco roots. Velocity Girl’s “My Forgotten Favorite” is similarly wispy and is just the epitome of what so many anti-grunge chick songs sounded like in the 90’s – in fact, this one might be a bone thrown to all the kids who expected a Cranberries song to make an appearance on the soundtrack (seeing as how they're mentioned in Clueless).

It seems a little silly to devote a lengthy SDM to a dated soundtrack of almost 100% 1990’s Top 40 radio fodder, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person out there who wouldn’t want to take a trip down memory lane via the music to Clueless. So if I’m right and you’re anxious for some nostalgia, this soundtrack totally accomplishes that and much more. I mean, for real, like totally.

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originally posted: 03/02/06 17:52:58
last updated: 03/02/06 18:10:22
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