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SONIC DEATH MONKEY SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS - American Wedding & Pirates of the Caribbean

by Natasha Theobald

Captain Jack and Stifler - the anti-heroes of summer.... What do the two have in common? Well, they both found some action with an old bag of bones. Beyond that, their paths diverge.

The soundtrack for American Wedding is not your typical wedding compilation disc. There is no "Sunrise, Sunset" here. The disc, instead, is a mix of punk pop and modern rock intended to attract younger buyers with familiar radio friendly names while introducing other interested parties to groups they may not have heard before, with names they may not instantly recognize. The whole presents a good party mix, as the beat stays fairly consistent throughout, almost too similar from one song to the next, until the near end when things are slowed a bit. The lyrics and music run the gamut of teen emotion laid bare, and, while every generation thinks their pain is fresh and new, there will be lots for non-high school types to nod with and remember.

The soundtrack is front-loaded with radio faves, including familiar tunes from the Foo Fighters ("Times Like These"), Good Charlotte ("Anthem"), Sum 41 ("The Hell Song"), and All American Rejects with "Swing, Swing," an infectious song you will be sure you have heard before, even if you haven't or haven't been aware of it. It is instantly familiar in the best way, that you feel you know it from the first listen and will be mostly happy that it sticks in your head the rest of the day. There is also previously unreleased material from Avril Lavigne ("I Don't Give") and New Found Glory ("Forget Everything"), both of which are okay, not exceptional, though the slim story behind "I Don't Give" will probably end up the follow up to Lavigne's other song turned movie.

The back half sets off with Matt Nathanson's cover of the James song "Laid." It's the first song in the movie ("This bed is on fire/ with passionate love...") and ably sets the tone and the level of the proceedings.

Boston group American Hi-Fi is up next. You may be familiar with the previous bands of drummer Stacy Jones, which include Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt. He has his own group now, and they are on board with "The Art of Losing," a pounding party song which elevates those who get knocked down and get back up again, the not-cool people who don't care what you think about them or do to them. It's a great anthem for the underdog.

Hot Action Cop, the Nashville based group whose multiple influences add up to something MTV.com calls dirty south hip hop, is next. "Fever for the Flava" is a Stifler song if I have ever heard one; the titular "Flava" is of "the coochie." It is pretty forthright - "what do I have to say to..." well, you know. The sound is fresh and invigorating, fun and dirty, well worth a listen.

Canadian punk group Gob shows up with "Give up the Grudge," adding to the quantity of sour, break-up lyrics. It is an apt follow-up to the previous track, and the tone is equally honest. "I may be a loser/ but at least I'm not alone." Harsh.

Sugarcult, another punk pop entry, this time from California, offers "Bouncing off the Walls." If you are a fan of radio punk pop, this is in the same vein. It is a short burst of energetic beats with angsty lyrics. Again, for the soundtrack, it is more of the same, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is nothing worse than a mix-tape that switches gears too much or too quickly. That certainly cannot be said of this compilation.

UK alt rock group Feeder does "Come Back Around," a "we broke up, but can we try again" song. The emotion seems genuine and fits the movie. Nu gives us "Any Other Girl," and a welcome female voice in a male dominated mix. The point is that a girl likes to feel like she is the only girl when she's with you, fellas. The Working Title brings "Beloved," a slight change of pace, getting us ready for the slower songs ahead. I was unable to find anything about the group, as "Working Title" does not offer great potential for search success. Sorry about that.

Texas group Blue October is "Calling You." It starts quiet and builds, a welcome change from the pulse-pounding party songs. It is a more pure love song than those before, about how great life is with that special whoever. In terms of the movie, the move makes sense. After all of the chaos and nonsense, the film, ultimately, becomes the future love story of Jim and Michelle.

Finally, we have reached the song we hear as they walk on the beach. Ohio native Joseph Arthur, who was discovered by Peter Gabriel, shares the closest thing the movie has to a love anthem, "Honey and the Moon." "If you weren't real, I'd make you up...." It is the one song from the movie that I remember hearing and wanting to hear again. If multiple message boards are to be believed, I wasn't the only one. A note to those people, the soundtrack is always a great first place to look for songs from the movie. (ahem)

The CD closes with The Wallflowers doing Van Morrison with "Into the Mystic."

Most, if not all, of the songs on the American Wedding soundtrack can also be found on the artists' releases. So, if there is a song that strikes a particular chord with you, I'm sure there is more of the same to be found with those discs.

The original soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has absolutely no punk rock. The score was written by Klaus "Bowsprit" Badelt and produced by his frequent collaborator, Hans "Long John" Zimmer. It was Zimmer who, in the late 90s, brought Badelt from Germany into the American movie music fold. Badelt has since worked on music for movies from Gladiator to The Recruit. He also was previously involved with music for another Bruckheimer affair, Pearl Harbor.

As you might imagine, the score is a spirited, adventure-filled roller coaster ride layered with emotion and tension as befit the story being told. Taken as a whole, the music rises and falls with the characters' fortunes, like waves of the ocean, a crash followed by a brief retreat. From the beginning, the songs are haunted by an underlying tension, sometimes barely audible, a dark undercurrent. This isn't one with which to put the kiddies to bed. Rather, it is dark and tumultuous, rich and textured, with few light moments before the final resolution.

Track one starts with a mysterious atmosphere and sense of foreboding. The feeling is unsettled, and the tension of it is palpable. A sweet melody enters into the mix, but on its heels follows a low drum-rhythm march. In the second, the march gains a grim determination which continues throughout. The tempo increases. Track three, "The Black Pearl," enters with a discordant sound followed by low, mysterious, repeating notes. The whole slowly crescendos to a frenzied pace - racing and heart-pounding. The listener can hear the mix of the heroic sounds confronting the counter evil.

Track four is racing again but more gallant. The same melody is offered with more levels. The high energy is stalked by darker elements, and the whole mix ends on a high note. Five begins with wariness and uncertainty. The deliberate pace builds. There is action, and the sound is bold, still building, adding strength. Some exotic notes are added to the mix.

Six, "Walk the Plank," starts with screechy strings. The pace is still quick, featuring choppy string sounds undercut by a lower, smooth string line. The song, then, seems to convert into a sort of Irish jig, if that is possible. Seven is stronger yet, bolder, with a fuller sound aided by added voices. The action is frenzied, full of fear and fight. An eerie flute hovers.

Eight, "Blood Ritual," is more melodic, softer and simpler. There are contrasting highs and lows. The softer sound gains to a faster pace, however, and the track ends on the action theme of grim determination and pursuit. Nine continues with a low melody over the determination notes then comes with something softer, almost danceable, old-fashioned dancing, of course, before the return of the darker tension. It closes with the fastest pace yet until track ten slices through, followed by fast fighting notes. Good vs. evil is confronted in melodic responses. The track slows for a sweet melody before the undertones sneak up again, regaining darkness and depth.

Eleven features the sounds of good pirate action, as I imagined it, a back and forth of momentum with musical thrusts of the sword. The song crescendos to the fast pace action music and ends with a dramatic switch-up, perhaps a change in fortunes. Twelve continues the harried pace and adds a fast drum rhythm. Thirteen is murky and fluid, weighted down and sad. At the last gasp of the hero, though, the music lightens and softens, growing more assured as it goes. It is briefly broken by a last gasp for darkness, a choppy and disturbing sound.

Fourteen aims for some resolution, beginning on an unsettled high note and melody. The pace is still fast, but the foreboding is gone. The dramatic swells of music offer some comfort, as it is the "lived through it" music for a movie. There is a tenuous newness, beauty and light. It gradually regains footing and confidence as it progresses. Unexpectedly, the last track comes in with a fresh adventure and energy. There are not low notes, just a "more to come" enthusiasm and a spirited, free-wheeling nature.

The score of the film tells its story through song, accomplishing exactly its goal. Badelt is a welcome presence in movie music, as he is able to offer the listener emotion through sound and signify actions and events with conviction and strength.

link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=793
originally posted: 09/20/03 15:47:55
last updated: 05/05/05 17:27:45
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