The Big Lebowski

Soundtrack

Mercury Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Matthew Turk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/17/2002

This movie was a Wagnerian epic about a bowler who is unemployed, smokes too much pot and listens to a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival. As such, the soundtrack reflects much of this epic (and satirically so) tone - from the la-la-la of the opening Bob Dylan song to the bizarre nature of Meredith Monk's entry, we get a wide variety of songs conveying many diverse emotions.

The soundtrack doesn't hold together entirely well, however. The first three or so tracks are great, and go together very well. The transfer from Elvis Costello's "My Mood Swings" to "Ataypura" by Yma Sumac is a bit rough, but the song works out well despite that. In fact, that one song conveys the attitude of the movie - grandiose, despite stupidity.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Traffic Boom" has a driving bass line, overlaid with great bombastic trumpets and other brass - it's a great song, very much like "Peter Gunn" in feel, but a bit more outgoing. We continue the sort-of retro feel with "I've Got It Bad And That Ain't Good," a softly bluesy, jazzy song by Nina Simone. It's plodding, but her voice is outstanding. "Stamping Ground" is very enjoyable - it consists of two disconnected but related pieces of music, strung together with dialogue read in the middle. It's very simple, with heavy percussion, but keeps the listeners attention quite nicely. The first half seems like a canvas that keeps getting painted over - more and more layers of sound and music add until the climax. The second half proceeds much the same, but with heavier clarinets and snare drums, thus similar in style but different in melody.

We move back into the 'pop' music section with Kenny Rogers' biting "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)". Meredith Monk presents "Walking Song," which consists entirely of vocal noises, like gasping singing, one from each stereo channel. I like this song a lot - it's unique, interesting, and very expressive.

Then an opera segment, as well as a Henry Mancini song, bring us back into the "classical" segment of the disc. The excerpt, from "Die Tote Stadt" is very much a stereotypical opera - which is precisely what it needed to be to keep the mood. The Mancini piece is a very flowery piece - one that the sunrise sequence of a cartoon might be set to. The latin version of "Hotel California" by the Gipsy Kings is just great - it's not just a cover, it's a reinvention. The German techno song that follows it is mainly for atmospheric effect, and I don't particularly care for it.

"Dead Flowers" by Townes Van Zandt is an appropriate way to finish the disc - a bit melancholy, but not really depressing.

This disc is good - but it seems to be a bit short of a full album. The songs don't flow together terribly well, and it comes across as a bit of a jarring effect at times. It isn't as great as the sum of its parts - which is a shame, because its parts add up nicely. It's definitely a great counterpoint to the film, as it captures the essence of the movie quite nicely.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2002 Matthew Turk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.