Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Forging A Better Soundtrack

The tracklisting to the upcoming Transformers movie soundtrack has been released to the general public. It's easily one of the most lackluster soundtracks I've seen come from a summer blockbuster movie in a long time. It's a good half-mix of Nineties bands trying to clutch at fleeting straws before fading into radio obscurity and modern bands no one's heard of trying to make a name for themselves by attaching themselves to a blockbuster soundtrack full of washed-up Nineties bands. It's sad when the top most anticipated bands on your soundtrack are Smashing Pumpkins, followed by Disturbed, followed by Linkin Park. Smashing Pumpkins is definitely the best name out of the entire bunch, and that's just pretty pathetic.

1. Linkin Park "What I've Done"
2. Smashing Pumpkins "Doomsday Clock"
3. Disturbed "This Moment"
4. Goo Goo Dolls "Before It's Too Late (Sam and Mikaela's Theme)"
5. The Used "Pretty Handsome Awkward"
6. HIM "Passion's Killing Floor"
7. Taking Back Sunday "What It Feels Like To Be A Ghost?"
8. Styles Of Beyond "Second To None"
9. Armor For Sleep "End Of The World"
10. Idiot Pilot "Retina and the Sky"
11. Julien-K "Technical Difficulties"
12. Mutemath "Transformers Theme"
Goo Goo Dolls? They're still a band? I didn't know they put out anything after "Iris." I'm sure they probably do have a pretty loyal fanbase or something because otherwise greater bands have disbanded for less, and it's not like I'm fiercely loyal to bands who haven't made a dent in the public's conscious since the mid 1980s, but they just kind of came out of nowhere with this. As a cheap knock-off of Collective Soul, I always have found the Goo Goo Dolls to be a bland band with an insipid name, but I've previewed this song in its entirety, and it's easily one of the most boring songs ever put out by a band whose entire staple seems to be boring songs. Of course, it's a romantic ballad prominently featured in a Michael Bay movie, so I'm sure it'll win them a Grammy. At least they won't have to completely change their sound to continue popping out boring, half-hearted ballads for the rest of their career to try to win that ever-elusive second Grammy like certain other bands have done.

Most of the other bands on the soundtrack I've heard of in passing but haven't cared enough to actually seek out music from, primarily because I'm fairly certain that what they call "music," I call "sucks." In fact, I probably have heard some of these bands on the radio, but mistook them for the other, more accomplished band from whom they stole their sound. I never bothered to find out who they were because for me to take the time to look up a song that I've heard on the radio the song has to first be good. Generally speaking, if it's "good," it almost invariably won't be played on the radio because modern radio is all about shoving the same generic, recycled sound down our throats until we are so inundated that we don't know what's good or bad anymore and just assume that if it's good enough to be played on the radio it has to be good, even though radio anymore is dominated by the corporate music industry and songs with the most financial backing get played regardless of what they sound like. I guarantee you that if Sony or EMI suddenly fell in love with the Clapping Spoon Jug Band, we'd be hearing hours of clacking spoons on the modern rock stations.

The worst thing about this soundtrack is the utter annihilation of the original first generation Transformers theme song by a relatively obscure band named Mutemath. You can go to their
MySpace page to hear the song if you'd like, but let me warn you, it is staggeringly repulsive. Yet somehow it's not nearly as bad as the one Linkin Park attempted, which it seems they somehow found the formula to conjure using nothing as ingredients except complete and total failure. I mean it starts out strong and you think, "Hey this isn't too bad," then wham, it just punches you as hard as it can right in the balls and you're left standing, mouth agape, not believing what you just heard.

Like any Michael Bay movie, they chose their bands primarily on the basis that they'd be relatively well-known and appeal to their target audience, which in this case consists primarily of late-teens to early-twentysomethings who would go see a live action movie about giant, shape-shifting robots wreaking havoc all over the globe. Like Armageddon, which was targeted toward adults in their twenties to forties and had Journey, Aerosmith, and ZZ Top among its ranks, this soundtrack is geared toward younger kids with a lot of bands who can make their guitars stomp and like to throw in a lot of electronic distortion. However, there are bands who can make their guitars stomp with one repetative, crushing riff, and then there are bands who can create a powerful sound while still composing music. These bands might not all be popular, but I guarantee you they'd make a soundtrack that could blow this one out of the water and sell many copies while still being respected musically.

Without hearing the songs beforehand, I'm willing to allow Smashing Pumpkins, Disturbed, and maybe Linkin Park to stay on the condition that their songs don't suck outright. That leaves nine more bands to fill at my discretion. Keep in mind that not all of these bands would be willing to sell out to a major blockbuster motion picture to gain a few extra bucks, especially not one for a toy property from the Eighties, but these are all bands who I think could contribute a much more brutal soundtrack for a movie about giant robots beating the living scrap out of each other all over creation for upwards of two hours.

1. Smashing Pumpkins
2. Disturbed
3. Linkin Park
4. Tea Party
5. Devin Townsend
6. Dead Soul Tribe
7. Nevermore
8. Rob Zombie
9. King Crimson
10. Bruce Dickinson
11. Korn
12. KMFDM

Tea Party could do the main romantic ballad because Jeff Martin kills with pain-ridden angsty vocals and half their albums are generally semi-acoustic gothic ballads that still stomp the shit out of the Goo Goo Dolls. KMFDM would redo the Transformers theme. Although I think either Devin Townsend or Dead Soul Tribe would kick ass at it, both Devin Townsend and Devon Graves like to write their own music, so I don't think they'd be as keen on performing what amounts to a cartoon theme song. Part of KMFDM's schtick is to be tongue-in-cheek, so I think they'd have fun with the Transformers theme while doing a better job than either Mutemath or Linkin Park. Every cover song they do is a parody in itself, ("Mysterious Ways" by U2, "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra, and "Material Girl" by Madonna, without changing the lyrics in their characteristic mechanical growl), and probably the only way they would contribute to what they see as a sell-out is if they could do it in satire.

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