Road Trip/Titan A.E./Gone in 60 Seconds

Road Trip

Music From the Motion Picture

Dreamworks

Titan A.E.

Music From the Motion Picture

Capitol

Gone in 60 Seconds

Music From the Motion Picture

Island

These three soundtrack albums (for films I haven’t seen, and with the possible exception of Titan A.E., have no intention of seeing) came into the Ink 19 offices at about the same time, and really seemed to illustrate something that I feel is endemic of today’s soundtrack albums: like a lot of the movies coming out of Hollywood, they’re being thrown together with little thought to style, substance, or feeling, but instead calculated to have a broad commercial appeal and little relevance to the actual film. Gone are the days when a John Hughes would carefully pore over a soundtrack album to put together a package that actually says something about the film. Today, itÕs “give us the hit single, the name artists, the band the label’s trying to push, and the cool nostalgia trip, throw a movie cover on it, and get it out there to move units.”

The most prime example of this is the Road Trip soundtrack. Hit single? Probably Kid Rock (with Uncle Kracker)’s execrable “e.m.s.p.” Name artists? The Jungle Brothers, Buckcherry, Supergrass, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Ween (OK, cooler names than most, but all known commodities, in any event). Bands the label’s pushing? How about the K.G.B., eels, Ash, and the aforementioned Buckcherry? Nostalgia? Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” and Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky” fill that bill. Hell, even the JSBX and Ween tunes (“Lovin’ Machine” and “Voodoo Lady,” respectively) are older. Actually, most of the stuff here is previously released, and while a lot of it is interesting (especially the eels and Jungle Brothers tracks), I’d rather hear full albums from the good individual bands. Besides, is this the music of frat boys on a road trip? Probably not, for the most part. Next!

Next is what looked like the most promising of the discs, the Titan A.E. soundtrack. While the “hit” is from one of today’s crappiest bands, Lit, the “names” were interesting – Powerman 5000, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Jamiroquai, and what’s being touted as one of the last Luscious Jackson tracks. They even skipped the nostalgia trip, and only had a few “being pushed by the label” bands. Unfortunately, most of the “name” tracks seemed beneath the bands involved — Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ track was OK, but not great, Jamiroquai’s was a big disappointment, and the “last Luscious Jackson” tune, while an interesting electronic song, is really a Jill Cunniff solo affair (I realize Luscious Jackson often worked that way, but it was disappointing to know that Gabby and Kate weren’t involved in the “final” track). What’s worse is that most of the other tracks were boring, tepid pop-tronica (exception to this being Splashdown’s “Karma Slave,” with an interesting Middle East goes techno vibe) or faceless alt-rock. Wailing Souls’ reggae track “Renegade Survivor” was a nice surprise, but overall, Titan A.E. winds up the weakest of the three efforts — and certainly wasn’t music that makes me think of epic space battles of good vs. evil in the distant future after Earth’s destruction.

So the surprise winner here? It’s Gone in 60 Seconds, the movie that has the absolute least appeal for me, and the record that — at a glance — seemed to be the worst offender of the bunch, especially since the “hit” is another one of those shit-laden Dianne Warren-penned power ballads that’ll be all over the radio (think Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” only this time, the Cult are the victims). Most of the rest of the CD is made up of big names, but they’re names that are known for quality as well as popularity, and their tracks here aren’t throwaways – rather, it’s mostly top-notch electronica and/or hip hop. It’s hard to argue with the likes of Gomez, Moby, the Chemical Brothers, and BT (with vocals by Soul Coughing’s M. Doughty!) on the electronic side, and Method Man & Redman, and Ice Cube on the hip hop tip, with Groove Armada meeting nicely in the middle of the two genres. OK, I’ll admit that I don’t understand the appeal of DMX at all (why this guy’s selling millions of records is completely beyond me), and the faceless alt-rock stuff like Caviar and Citizen King (A3’s moody track works in a major way, though), but overall, the tunes are solid, and more importantly, the dark and frenetic vibe of the majority of the record seems appropriate to a movie about stealing cars.

So while at first glance, all three records seem to fall into the same old boring modern soundtrack trap, the one I expected to be the worst (Gone) is actually pretty good, the one I had the most hope for (Titan A.E.) was the biggest disappointment, and the Road Trip disc held all the purpose of a halfway decent mix tape, except without the personal significance of such an endeavor. The bottom line is, the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, these ain’t.

Dreamworks, 9268 W. 3rd St., Beverly Hills, CA 90210; http://www.dreamworksrecords.com

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