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Various Artists – Shortbus soundtrack

July 12, 2010 1 comment

Team Love Records, 2006

This is one of those movies that I have had a casual interest in seeing, but since the significant other has already seen it, how does one spin it so that it can be rented again?  “Hey babe, ah, you know … you know that movie you saw?  The one with lots of sex and emotional relationships .. yes, yes, the nudity, yes … well, so … I dunno, how about we rent that one since I haven’t seen it?”  She’s an understanding one, but I doubt that we’ll be getting this one anytime soon, especially since “Calendar Girls” and “Boys On the Side” are very high in our her queue.  Well, dammit, if I’m not going to see the movie soon then at least I can listen to the soundtrack!  HA!

The movie is about a sex club called “Shortbus” where people are allowed to be sexually free beings.  There are emotions, conversations, and relationship challenges … and some of that sex stuff, okay.  But regardless, since this is sort of a serious movie (or a movie that takes itself seriously), the soundtrack is obviously going to contain some of the more lighter fare.  This music provides quirky, sometimes upbeat background music to whatever is going on in the film.  Without having seen the film, I can’t tell you if certain music is during a truly graphic scene or if it’s of someone walking down the street, so I’ll just talk about the music itself.

Scott Matthew starts the soundtrack off with a kind of Magnetic Fields-sounding ukulele tune which includes vocals that sound utterly forlorn.  If that sounds like a great listen to you, then you’re in luck, for he shows up five more times on the soundtrack with varying degrees of pained singing.  While tunes of well known bands like Yo La Tengo and Animal Collective appear here, songs that really stood out are the upbeat “Beautiful” by Lee and Leblanc, the busily paced “It’s Not Safe” by Gentleman Reg, and the sensual dance groovin’ “This House” by Jasper James and the Jetset.  Considering that many of the songs on the soundtrack are solo efforts with varying degrees of emotion, these few tunes particularly stood out as songs that could stand on their own without the soundtrack.

One of the softer songs that worked for me was “Boys of Melody” by the Hidden Cameras, which despite having violins and plinking piano, didn’t sound forcibly trite.  Yeah, I imagine this was a getting busy song somewhere in the movie.  If I were to guess a few more movie scenes based on the songs, John LaMonica’s wretchedly quivering “Kids” must also be during a sex scene.  I say “wretchedly” because he has that voice that so typifies a forcibly fragile male singer along the lines of Iron and Wine … which I can’t stand.  But yes, sex scene.  The Ark’s excellent party tune “This Piece of Poetry Is Meant to Do Harm” seems dead on as a background track for a sexually free dance scene at the Shortbus club.  Finally, Justin Bond and the Hungry March Band’s eight minute epic “In the End” is clearly the last scene heading into the credits.  Bond’s ragged drag queen voice has the wilting nature that sounds like something is about to end, likely with characters in slow motion and looking at each other as a conclusion.  (By the way, I looked this up later and ho ho, I was spot on.  I should be a soundtrack director!  What am I doing writing blog posts, man?!)

Since he shows up frequently on the soundtrack, I figure a link to Scott Matthew’s MySpace page would help one get the gist of what they’ll mostly hear on this soundtrack.  Have a listen!

As a soundtrack, “Shortbus” is a pretty good listen from beginning to end.  There’s nothing that sounds outright terrible and a few songs are strong enough on their own to garner a repeat listen.  Perhaps it’s the low key sound that permeates throughout that makes the soundtrack inoffensive by definition, so I suppose one really couldn’t complain about much except for the safe choices.  I suppose that’s only fair, though, since I’ve heard the movie more than makes up for the lack of punch from the soundtrack.  Speaking of which, “Shortbus” is now on its way to my house.  Woah, hey, I wonder how that happened …

Various Artists – Fear of a Black Hat soundtrack

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Polygram Records, 1994

At some point during an evening where I was procrastinating something yet again, I flipped on the Independent Movie Channel and stumbled upon this rap mockumentary entitled “Fear of a Black Hat”.  It turned out to be something along the lines of “Spinal Tap” where three guys start a rap crew and have varied levels of success, inner turmoil, and wayward side projects.  It actually turned out to be quite funny and some of the borrowed songs in it were amusing in their ability to match the originals.  I likely recommended the movie to a few friends but thought nothing of it afterward.  As luck would have it, the soundtrack of the movie was found in a dollar bin not too long after I saw the movie, so I figured if I wasn’t going to get the DVD for an expensive three bucks, I could go for a buck and be satisfied.

Usually soundtracks are best heard not long after seeing the movie since one has a better chance of remembering the scenes the songs were featured in.  If you hear the soundtrack when your memory of the movie has faded, your fondness of the songs is sometimes hindered because you spend more time analyzing if you like the song at all on its own instead of recreating the movie scene it represents.  I don’t own too many soundtracks for this reason, but the songs for “Fear of a Black Hat” defy that scenario because the tunes do well in representing themselves separately from the movie.

Written mostly by Rusty Cundieff and Larry Robinson, the rap songs on the soundtrack all resemble comedic versions of originals from that late eighties, early nineties era.  “Ice Froggy Frog” is an amusing spin on Snoop Dogg’s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” and essentially details a story about a thuggin’ frog.  Cheeky lyrics like “I never hesitate to give a dragonfly his last” and “Polly gets what Polly-wogs/the frog with the biggest log” is what you’re going to get throughout.  “Granny Says Kick Yo Black Ass” is obviously based on LL Cool J’s tune that featured him confronting his critics.  The movie echos the original song’s intent as one of the characters tries to split from the group, so when he rants “When my foot goes in that posterior/you’ll taste it in your mouth’s interior” you know he’s a dangerous butt kickin’ dude.

The best song is the most uncomfortable one.  “I’m Only Human” does a great take on P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss” in that it has a similar airy sound of love and peace.  However, the cool toned rapper discusses bodily functions and how no matter how gross the topic we are all human and perform the same functions.  The chorus of “You are just like me/I am just like you/We all stand or sit when we pee” is catchy but it’s hardly the most unnerving.  When the rapper gets into mucus, toilet habits, and earwax one gets conflicting feelings of horror and amusement.  It’s definitely my favorite on the disc for that awkwardness alone.

Other songs mimic the likes of NWA, Public Enemy, Ice T and C & C Music Factory, so there’s bound to be one that you might find amusing if you liked rap from that time period.  Check out some of the tunes at Grooveshark.

It turns out that this movie was the first one that Rusty Cundieff wrote before he went on to write such ‘classics’ like the horror spoof “Tales from the Hood” and “Sprung”.  He then went on to do a lot of television including the Dave Chappelle show, so if you haven’t seen this movie then you probably have heard a few Cundieff jokes somewhere in your media travels.  I liked the soundtrack for certain songs, but if I’m going to recommend anything here it is the movie.  Go check it out sometime and, if you are a fan of mockumentaries like me, I think you’ll find it’s worth a rental.

Dollar Bin Tragedies (or When I Cry in Public): Scratched Discs

December 4, 2009 2 comments

Yup, that about sums it up when I sift through some cheap cds, pick out some surprising stuff, and then find the cds to be beat up beyond belief.  They are as if someone has vengefully taken a knife to an album that they didn’t like on a particular day and then figured, hey, maybe someone still wants this!  So they give it to the nearby affordable goods store and think nothing of it.  They certainly don’t think of the poor sod who gets his or her hopes up that they scored quite a find.  This is me, see.  Usually when I get to a thrift store, (and not a music store, since they take better care of even their foulest castoffs) I am usually able to sort out at least 4 or 5 discs that look promising.  It is inevitable, however, that at least 2 of those discs are seriously banged up.  Unlike the person looking through an assortment of fine trousers or the other customer sifting through capable plate-ware, I’m the one emitting an emotional grunt of disdain in the corner of the room that makes people around me jump.  It’s a short, terrible feeling when you hold in your hands what could have been great quality listening but which is now a circular piece of unsellable crap.  Do you feel these pains too?  Come, wallow in pity with me for the following albums that I just recently found and then just had to lay to rest back into the dollar bin.

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