Thursday, May 3, 2007

Music From and Inspired by Spider Man 3

Author's Note: This review was originally published on It can be found here:

The action movie soundtrack has become the last bastion of shallow cock rock in mainstream American pop music. Nothing accents the American male’s appetite for explosions like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” or Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness.” Songs like these help us relive the explosion of testosterone we felt in the theatre as we watched our spandex clad heroes dispatch the bad guys.

The previous Spider Man soundtracks fulfilled this stereotype, taking ponderous ballads by Chad Kroeger and Dashboard Confessional to the top of the charts. These songs fit the bill for an action movie soundtrack: Completely shallow and utterly disposable. The Spider Man 3 soundtrack attempts to resolve these sins by giving Spidey an indie rock makeover.

This decision is admirable, but fails in execution. When you think of Spider Man swinging through New York City on his way to battle The Green Goblin, do you hear the dulcet tones of Snow Patrol? There is nothing wrong with Snow Patrol, but how do they fit with Spider Man? This is a question that repeats itself throughout the record. How does this band fit within the confines of Spider Man 3?

The album begins with “Signal Fire,” from the aforementioned Snow Patrol. “Signal Fire” is a great song, but fails as an opener. The first rule of making a great compilation is to get the listener’s attention, which “Signal Fire” fails to do. The Killers’ U2 style rave-up “Move Away” would have been a better choice, because it helps to set the mood. “Move Away” is the perfect setup for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Sealings,” as the song expands on the darker tone of the film.

The problem with the Spider Man 3 soundtrack is not the music; it’s the sequencing. Songs seem to have been placed haphazardly on the disc, with little care for flow. There is nothing on this disc that is particularly bad, but many of the songs don’t belong next to each other. Some tracks should have been moved up, and some should have been moved down. An example is Wolfmother’s “Pleased to Meet You,” an acceptable slice of neo-stoner rock. However, it follows the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Killers, so you go from two detached art rock bands to a band that wants to be AC/DC.

The weirdest addition of all is “The Twist,” by Chubby Checker. “The Twist” is one of the most important songs in history, but considering the somber mood of the disc, the presence of Mr. Checker is confounding. The odd choice is amplified by its place on the album. Chubby Checker’s 45 year old hit is sandwiched between introspective ballads from Simon Dawes and Rogue Wave. Although “Sightlines” and “Scared of Myself” are pleasant, they don’t exactly make you want to twist again like you did last summer.

Perhaps the reason the Spider Man 3 soundtrack doesn’t work is because the film hasn’t been released. Therefore, the listener is essentially blind, hearing these songs without knowing what their context is. However, even if the songs work within the confines of celluloid, this is still a poorly planned soundtrack album. Saturday Night Fever, Empire Records and Dazed and Confused are considered classic soundtracks because the songs work within the film and as a cohesive album. Spider Man 3 feels like a random collection of songs. It’s a shame, because there is nothing particularly bad about any of the music here. At least Spider Man 3 is Chad Kroeger free.

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