REVIEW: Soundtrack to All of Me (TVT)

-Eric Hsu

Often the only appeal of a soundtrack is either of its one single, usually flogged relentlessly on music video, or as a collection of b-sides and outtakes and unused dribble from well-known artists. Many of the songs here have been pulled from the regular studio releases of the artists, so in this case the appeal of the collection won’t be to completists, but to people looking for a sampler introduction to some of the new women in rock today. The compilers (the direcftors Alex and Sylvia Sichel) try for more, attempting to provide, more than a coherent soudtrack, nothing less than a collective manifesto of female empowerment and self-awareness. I can’t address the success or failure of the bigger goal, but it’s not a bad collection of music. There are a number of highlights, backed up by a few better than average songs and no song is worse than average.

The standout track here is the dynamite “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” by Sleater-Kinney. In a time when grunge has made screaming dull, this song leaps out of the speakers and mates melody with noise in one big blast of fresh air. This is an album track, though, so by itself it’s not a convincing argument to by this record.

Also memorable are Helium’s “Hole in the Ground” (with some surprisingly memorable and beautiful wailing to complement the Lou Reed type vocals), and Patti Smith’s “Pissing in a River” from 1976. It’s interesting to hear how up to date this song sounds twenty years later, compared to, say, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue”, also on this record, and even compared to the Geraldine Fibbers’ “Dragon Lady”. This song has a kind of charisma to it, especially the passionate vocals, but its average grunge stylings distract and instantly date this song in a way that the rave-up rock backing of the Patti Smith Group doesn’t.

Michelle Malone and Ani !DiFranco have impressive voices and supply what sound to me to be totally average songs for them, “Dimming Soul” and “Shy”. Somehow neither of them have ever particularly moved me, but I think their fans will be pleased by these selections, and the curious will find these songs to be pretty representative of their work.

On the list of average to above-average songs are the Murmurs offer the moody “Squeezebox Days” and the Amps’ “Empty Glasses” (the Breeders’ Kim Deal’s new band), Alison Piptone’s “Dynamite”, and Tuscadero supplies the perfectly serviceable “Game Song”, and 12 Rounds offers the strangely compelling “Something’s Burning”, muttering over a grumpy guitar line. “Hello” by Babes in Toyland is unfortunately the first track, but fans of their out-of-tune and lurching style might not mind, and Drugstore supply what sounds like a Mazzy Starr single (not a compliment in my book). Miki Navazio contributes moody film score music scattered throughout. Nothing exciting, but nothing horrible either. Most indulgent moment: the secret track containing the director’s band 6 Foot Hero.

This soundtrack really gives you your money’s worth of time and songs (sixteen tracks). This is a decent introduction to a number of these bands, a number of which I’d never heard before. As a coherent musical statement, it makes less sense to me, but this is an unusually well-considered and well-intentioned soundtrack.