AMERICAN HARDCORE The History Of American Punk Rock 1980-1986 (Rhino/Warner) Rating: NNN
The Steven Blush- and Paul Rachman-produced documentary film American Hardcore left a number of gaping holes in the epic story beyond the absence of commentary from Jello Biafra and Glenn Danzig, but whatever crucial points they missed or glossed over, there was no denying the film had one helluva soundtrack. When you're working with a list of potential music contributors that includes Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Middle Class, Void, Big Boys, Really Red, Die Kreuzen, Flipper, etc, there's no shortage of great songs to pick from. And while some track selection might be questionable (D.O.A.'s Fucked Up Ronnie? Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown?), the disc still offers a reasonably good cross-section of the exciting stuff being created at the time, and may even inspire Green Day and Billy Talent fans to dig into the past.
BORAT Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Downtown/Atlantic) Rating: NN
For better or worse, your enjoyment of this collection of chaotic Balkan bangers both authentic and fabricated will be directly proportionate to how much you appreciate Sacha Baron Cohen's bizarro Borat character and his non-PC pranks on film. In addition to Cohen's composer/trumpetist brother Erran's original tunes like Grooming Pubis and the Star-Spangled bastardization O Kazakhstan, which adapt the sonic signifiers of vaguely Eastern European music into a curious pastiche, there are some great tracks here, like Gypsy brass band Koçani Orkestar's mariachiesque Siki Siki Baba and Romany star Esma Redzepova's caterwauling Chaje Shukarije. Unfortunately, the Borat-delivered numbers and skits, like In My Country There Is Problem (Throw The Jew Down The Well) and Pam Anderson tribute You Be My Wife, depend so much on their visual context that they fall flat on disc.
SHORTBUS (Team Love) Rating: NNN
Although PJ DeBoy's rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner belted into the asshole of another dude during a romping gay threesome (a glorious celluloid moment that garnered cheers from the Cannes festival audience and much press attention) didn't make the cut, the Shortbus soundtrack has the heartwarming glow of tender indie rock. Standouts in the collection (complied by director John Cameron Mitchell and released, fittingly, on Conor Oberst's label) include Jay Brannan's lilting Soda Shop and the hooky blaze of eccentric Swedish glam rockers the Ark. Local darlings Gentleman Reg and the Hidden Cameras make poignant appearances, and the soft, driving beats of Jasper James and the Jetset beckon sexily.
STRANGER THAN FICTION (Columbia/Sony BMG) Rating: NNNN
Other than a stellar cast, one of the best things disappointing lit-dramedy Stranger Than Fiction has going for it is a note-perfect soundtrack co-produced by Spoon savant Britt Daniel. This disc isn't an accurate reflection of what happens in the film the Spoon songs here are instrumentals onscreen, so as not to distract from Emma Thompson's clipped narration. But the minimal, muscular urgency of Daniel's songs is crucial in building dramatic tension, and in their original versions (as heard on the album), his action-driven writing is an ideal counterpart for Stranger Than Fiction's play-by-play concept. That's not the only selling point, though. Along with a new Spoon song, there are enough cool selections here (Delta 5's jerky art-punk Mind Your Own Business, the Jam's That's Entertainment and Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World, which serves as a centrepiece in the movie) to make the disc feel like a meticulous mix tape made by your high school counterculture crush.