"Spider-Man 3 Original Soundtrack"
The hanging black bangs and forlorn look Peter Parker sports in Spider-Man 3 suggests an emo style, but the soundtrack to the new movie is instead a less-than-super mix of indie-rock offerings.
The box-office behemoth is fittingly complemented with new songs from indie "it" bands, but most sound like how a summer blockbuster views: explosive and impressive but ultimately unsatisfying.
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The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Wolfmother flex their muscular strings to little effect, and Australian act Jet -- normally known for swaggering, classic rock tunes -- take a different tact with "Falling Star," an average orchestral pop tune. And while it's a classic, Chubby Checker's "The Twist" feels dropped in and out of place.
One of the best of the batch is the Flaming Lips' "The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-Man How To Be In Love," which is a send-up of the 1978 Superman vs. Muhammad Ali comic. As it turns out on this psychedelic anthem where the Lips nicely fly their freakiest flag, the band is a perfect match for the weird, four-color quirk of the movie's comic book source material. Finally, not-quite-Coldplay balladeers Snow Patrol launch the album with the lasting insta-hit "Signal Fire," an intently earnest contribution perfect for a touchy-feely hero movie.
Despite fresh sounds from hot indie-rockers, only a few tingle the Spidey senses and the overall result is an album that leaves you longing for the classic superhero themes by Tim Burton and John Williams.
- Aaron Sagers
"Sky Blue Sky"
Wilco singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy has always bristled at being defined or wedged into any category, particularly "alt-country," but with Sky Blue Sky, Wilco completes the transition into a genre that was noticeable even within the pop-experimentation of the magnificent "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot": alt-rock adult-contemporary. That's not to say that the record is unpleasant, but every track, from the lonely domesticity of "Hate it Here" to the wry laments of "Impossible Germany," to the aptly titled "On and On and On," sounds like a variation of the same plaintive, mid-tempo song, full of lightly-strummed guitars, time-keeping percussion, pleasant organ lines, and the occasional electric guitar outburst.
Over the last few years, Tweedy has surrounded himself with avant-garde leaning musicians, like guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glenn Kotche, and collaborator Jim O'Rourke. Given Tweedy's sterling track record and his bandmate's well-established musical chops, it's been more than a bit surprising how straight-up and laid-back Wilco has become ... which is just a respectful way of saying that their music is now kind of boring.
- Greg Chow
No matter how much drummer Bryan Devendorf gets paid to pound the skins for The National, it's not enough. Almost single-handedly, he keeps the Cincinnati quartet from drifting off into a gauzy netherworld of romantic regret. Vocalist Matt Berninger possesses a baritone as deep and rumbly as Leonard Cohen's. You'd follow him anywhere as he sings isolation anthems like "Mistaken For Strangers" and "Start A War," but the guy does straddle a very thin line between elegant world-weariness and sounding like he can't be bothered to get up off the floor. But, like a long-lost cousin of John Bonham's, Devendorf keeps thrashing away with barely controlled fury, helping give songs like "Squalor Victoria" and "Apartment Story" a propulsive, swaggering intensity.
- Amy Longsdorf
"Favorite Worst Nightmare"
The Arctic Monkeys' 2006 debut, "Whatever People Say I Am, I'm Not," was long on spunk but short on music memorable enough to justify the wild hype that preceded the Brit band's U.S. arrival. "Favorite Worst Nightmare" should balance the ledger, and then some. Cheeky singer Alex Turner sprays barbs at lovers gone astray, faded romance, conformists, nostalgia lovers, the media and aging club rats ("You used to get it in your fishnets, now you only get it in your night dress," he tartly observes). His bright, brash (though not entirely unsympathetic) verbal volleys are propelled by Jamie Cook's guitar work, which can casually obliterate as well as skillfully underscore, and Matt Helders' equally intense, foot-stomping percussion. (Such concentrated firepower brings to mind The Strokes' early work.) The singles "Brainstorm," "Teddy Picker," "Balaclava" and "Fluorescent Adolescent" are the picks of this 12-song litter. But "Favorite Worst Nightmare" is strong enough overall that even the most jaded indie-rock fan will want to allot some head-space for it.
- Len Righi