Various Artists

Spiderman 3: Music From and Inspired By OST

(Record Collection; 2007)

By Andre Perry | 10 July 2007

The first two Spiderman soundtracks featured music from the following bands: Train, Pete Yorn, Alien Ant Farm, Sum 41, Hoobastank, Jet, and various others of similar inclinations. These soundtracks were clearly marked vehicles for bland corporate rock. Now, the lineup for Spiderman 3’s soundtrack, which includes the Flaming Lips, the Yeah Yeahs, Black Mountain, and Rogue Wave, suggests a less streamlined sound. To top off that surprising list, Record Collection Records, an indie-leaning subsidiary of Warner, is releasing this album in lieu of Sony (who put out its predecessors). With the impressive list of bands and Record Collection’s guidance, it seems this might actually be a worthwhile collection of songs. Alas, a dashing of hopes is in order. As it turns out, the soundtrack is quite bad, its problems numerous, and its cultural value pretty much nil.

To even refer to this as a soundtrack is misleading. I went to see Spiderman 3 with the idea that I’d get to hear Hamilton Leithauser or Karen O screaming their faces off while Spidey squared up against the Sandman or Venom, but I am fairly certain the only song I heard during this film off this “soundtrack” was Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” In all fairness, they did play the Snow Patrol song as the credits rolled, but the point is that a vast majority of these songs weren’t worked into the fabric of the film which, I suppose, is implied by the fact that the soundtrack is entitled Spiderman 3: Music From and Inspired By, essentially a bad compilation with the marketing appeal of the Spiderman franchise slapped on top for good measure. If Record Collection (or Warner — who knows who’s pulling the strings here) wanted to release a comp where these bands could just plain stand up then fine, but with its faux-soundtrack packaging, spare chronological or stylistic cues to help the songs cohere, and little to no adherence to the actual movie, this is just shamelessly exploitative capitalism. OK, this sort of deceptive marketing isn’t necessarily a new idea. So, what about the actual music?

Despite the promise of the bands, who mostly contributed unreleased tracks, there’s not much in the way of new or intriguing ideas. In fact most of the bands on this seemingly indie fare end up sounding like the by-the-numbers corporate rock they’re supposedly gathered to put away. Snow Patrol’s “Signal Fire” comes off like a boring Coldplay outtake from X&Y (2005), and Rogue Wave’s “Sightlines” is little more than a tired Shins rip-off. It’s astounding to find Rogue Wave playing it so safe, this being the same band responsible for the indie pop flourishes of Out of the Shadow (2004), but when unimpressive label-rock trickles in from most of the other bands as well—Jet, Sounds Under Radio, the Killers, and Simon Dawes all deliver tracks that would fade into the indiscernible static of a boring alt. rock radio playlist—one wonders why anyone would bother going through all the trouble of nailing down Dawes or the Flaming Lips when Hoobastank is just a text message away?

There are a few of bright moments in this dark ages culling of tracks. The best song is Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” an undeniable rock n’ roll classic first released in 1960. “Red River” is solid, if standard, Walkmen music. Matt Barrick’s signature rolling thunder toms are as intense as ever and Leithauser’s cursory sing-shout approach still does the trick; it’s a fine teaser for their next album. Black Mountain contributes a strong piece of atmospheric folk called “Stay Free,” and with spare instrumentation and airy vocals it’s one of the least bloated tracks on this compilation. Jason Schwartzman’s new band, Coconut Records, also delivers a surprise standout track, “Summer Day,” a simple slice of French-tinged folk-pop, with Schwartzman and Kirsten Dunst sharing vocals, that seems more suited for a Wes Anderson flick than a Spiderman soundtrack.

As far as soundtracks go, the “artier” and “hip” independent films (listen to last year’s Half Nelson soundtrack) tend to fare better than the blockbusters, but for the most part the blockbusters usually don’t try to fool us. It’s a given that Danny Elfman will whip up a score and then the producers will throw on a FM radio hit or two from bands like Velvet Revolver and Creed. Perhaps the executives were trying to kill two birds with one stone: amass some indie cred and pay less for the songs. Or perhaps this Spiderman 3 “soundtrack” went to unnecessary lengths to trick us into thinking it might be good.