Hollywood Records HR-62188-2
The characters that fill High Fidelity are insecure, pathetic nightmares who are only sure of one thing: they know what’s good. They are emotionally, socially disfunctional people who, when placed in control of a stereo suddenly become Han Solo.
”Hey, what is this?”
“The Beta Band.”
”It’s really good.”
No debate needed. I know it’s good, therefore it is good. It is the central metaphor of an excellent film, and practically guarantees a good soundtrack.
Many of the bands are familiar, but this is no greatest hits compilation. Bob Dylan, The Kinks, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder and The Velvet Underground are the legends present, offering tasty selections and fine points of comparison for the non-legends that contribute the album’s most memorable songs. The Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain” achieves a level of pop euphoria rarely reached since, well, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” by the Velvet Underground. Or how about the distorted wailings of Royal Trux echoing the crazed, classic howl of Roky Erickson with The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. John Wesley Harding’s vocal stylings are eerily similar to Elvis Costello, just as Smog’s “Cold Blooded Old Times” would fit in well on any solo Lou Reed effort. High Fidelity slips a notch with the inclusion of actor Jack Black’s rendition of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get it On,” as well as the mysterious, Jewel-like “Fallen For You” by Sheila Nicholls. If Sheila Nicholls isn’t ex-Huxtable Lisa Bonet (another of the film’s stars) in disguise, I guarantee this is the kind of tripe she would have submitted had she been asked.
The liner notes are deliberately vague. They don’t offer release dates, or titles of the original albums the songs are pulled from. I don’t know whether the idea here is to force the listener to learn about bands they might otherwise have ignored, or an attempt to create a greater sense of ‘whole’ for the compilation. I suspect the former, although both concepts are rather tedious.
The film concludes with John Cusack’s character describing the process of, and rules behind the creation of a great mix-tape. As producer of both film and soundtrack, I’m sure Cusack jumped at the chance to make the ultimate mix-tape to be shared not only with a friend or lover, but with the world. My next trip to the record store will definitely include a flip through the likes of The Beta Band and Royal Trux, and for me, this is the surest sign that a soundtrack/compilation has succeeded.