Album Review: Various Artists – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World OST


Slackers around the globe are gearing up for the action-packed tale of Scott Pilgrim, a disheveled young bassist played by Michael Cera, who after finding the love of his life, must defeat her seven evil superhuman ex-boyfriends or lose the girl. The movie is based off a unique comic book series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley and published under Portland-based indie comic book company Oni Press. So it makes sense that an indie film based off an indie comic book would need a proper indie rock soundtrack, and Frank Black, Broken Social Scene, Beck, and the Black Lips, amongst others, were happy to lend a tune.

The album starts off with a loud yell, “We Are Sex Bob-omb”, announcing the name of Scott Pilgrim’s band before breaking into a fast, three-chord garage punk ditty. In total, there are four different Sex Bob-omb tracks on the Scott Pilgrim OST, all penned and performed by Beck, and all of which flirt with post-punk and stick to fast, three-chord riffage with lyrics about girls, summertime, and other typical slacker subject matter, except for the old 1980’s Nintendo/arcade-throwback, “Threshold (8 Bit).” Unfortunately, none of the Sex Bob-omb songs really breach the surface; they’re fun a time or two, but aren’t any more than what you’d expect from a fictional-movie-band. Although, “Garbage Truck” with its thumping, bluesy verses and catchy chorus may be the best fictional-movie-band song since “That Thing You Do” by The Wonders. Regardless, the tunes play an important part in the movie and do a fine job at making the soundtrack gel.

Cohesiveness is a necessary quality to any soundtrack – it’s crucial to have great individual songs and string them together in a way that makes sense. The Scott Pilgrim OST does a fine job at stringing the songs together, for instance, leading into the T. Rex classic “Teenage Dream”, with its large orchestration and bombastic choruses works really well after “Garbage Truck”, as does the transition from “Scott Pilgrim” by Plumtree into Frank Black’s classic “I Heard Ramona Sing”. Plumtree is a 90’s teenage band from Nova Scotia, who are credited for coining the Scott Pilgrim name, and after listening to their track, it’s easy to discern why O’Malley equated the song with his comic book – the track exudes teenage powerlessness, confusion and most all, a happy go lucky brand of naivety that the movie will surely bear.

Where the soundtrack fails is in its song selection. The lo-fi surf punk of the Black Lips’ “O Katrina!” is nothing special, and the songs from Sex Bob-omb rival band Crash and the Boys, written and performed by Broken Social Scene, serves as filler to an album that already has plenty of it. The Beck track “Ramona” is pleasant, with its swelling orchestration and Beck’s lovely, arching croon – it would work great as a Sea Changes B-side – but its overly repetitive and wobbly chorus bogs it down. Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl”, shows potential early on with a soporific melody and a delicately picked banjo, but the track goes into a repetitive chorus for about two-minutes too long, and ultimately ends up as a neatly placed side note.

Not so surprisingly, the best parts of the soundtrack come from the old guys. The Led Zeppelin meets The Stone Roses track, “Sleazy Bed Track” from the 90’s Britpop band The Bluetones, is a distinctive and exceptional track, “Under My Thumb” from The Rolling Stones, with its depiction of sexual struggle and head-bobbing marimba taps, fits perfectly on the soundtrack, while both of the Frank Black songs are wonderfully blissful – the twangy rock ballad “By Your Side” is easily the album’s highlight. That goes without mentioning, the Metric song “Black Sheep”, performed numerous times live in the past couple years but not officially released until now, is a definite highlight – a distorted new wave track with a catchy-as-hell chorus and a sprawling guitar-heavy ending.

So the soundtrack doesn’t live up to the hype of the movie. Beck, Broken Social Scene, Black Lips, and Metric all add tunes that fans will enjoy, but they don’t produce anything better than you’ll get listening to their own albums. However, there’s enough blistering, heavily distorted garage punk and requisite classic rock, to keep even the most angst-ridden, slacker teen satisfied until the end of summer.

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