SCENE & HEARD: “The Avengers”

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Written by UTG critic Grace DuffyScene & Heard takes a look at the music that makes our favorite films so memorable. Whether it’s the 400-piece orchestra Christopher Nolan used for The Dark Knight, or the dozen or so bands that contributed to the soundtrack of Top Gun, there is no denying the impact music has on movies and this column hopes to highlight the best of the best.

If you have a suggestion for a film we should cover on Scene & Heard, please contact us by emailing utgjames@gmail.com.

Superhero movies from big studios tend to come laden with rock soundtracks, but they’re rarely very interesting rock soundtracks. Point of fact, they’re prone to blander-than-bland, generic, socially acceptable (sort of, Black Veil Brides are in here) rock bands that are all pomp and no substance whatsoever. I mean, the theme to Spiderman (Tobey Maguire’s outing) was a decent song, but it was still performed by Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott. Unfortunately, The Avengers isn’t an exception, which is a shame as a film of this calibre could have soared with an edgier, more colourful selection. There are good bands here – and several of them, including Rise Against, Shinedown, Soundgarden, and Evanescence – and the songs are generally worthy as individual choices, but as a playlist they’re inane and dull. They add little to the sleek, raucously enjoyable fare that the film itself offers, and not just because few of them actually appear in it. Indeed, considering both the quality of the film and the talent involved, it’s a shame the makers didn’t deign to be a little kookier. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) posts a ‘Song of the Day’ every day on his twitter, and some selections from his exquisitely eclectic taste wouldn’t have gone amiss.

By my reasoning, it would have been great fun to divide the soundtrack up by character and give each superhero a dedicated theme – something to reflect the whims of their personality and the scale of their legend. Picking something lofty and stiff-upper-lip for the two Asgardians would have been particularly fun, while the self-aggrandising swagger of one Tony Stark, Esq. could have informed many a pompous metal riff. Indeed, it’s worth noting that in the film itself, Iron Man enters to the trademark thrills of AC/DC and Stark sports a Black Sabbath t-shirt, but neither of these bands appear here. A unifying theme could have been added after these individual notes to illustrate the coming together of the volatile bunch, but I’m getting carried away now.

So, as regards what we’re actually given, there’s a healthy amount of cruising, testosterone-fuelled tracks designed to pump you up and keep momentum at optimum. It’s competent, if not stylish, and some of the tracks are standouts. “Live to Rise” by Soundgarden (which plays during the credits, if my memory serves me correctly) is very enjoyable and grittier than most of the other tracks. This may have a lot to do with Chris Cornell’s vocals, but the chorus is particularly gripping and creates an air of smooth, accomplished, classic cool that befits the effervescence onscreen. “I’m Alive” by Shinedown sounds like an occasion track. It opens with a rasping wail and lots of distortion. It is fun and really thrilling, a holier-than-thou and shamelessly catchy song that doesn’t care how cheesy it is.

Rise Against are a little more offbeat, as they bring a certain sense of grim awareness to everything they touch. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it does mean the song sounds a little out of place next to the others. It’s concerted and enthralling, and does a fine job of getting under your skin and adding a heady, earthy solemnity to proceedings. “Even If I Could” by Papa Roach heightens this sense of self-awareness, with a conflicted and heavily melodic opening rally. It’s a potent and exhilarating brace that injects plenty of adrenaline and urgency. The chorus is confrontational and momentous, underscored with climactic whirls of effects that would play well for battle scenes – if you could hear it over the explosions.

Further along, Bush’s “Into the Blue” does a commendable job of beaming some depth into a rather lazy selection of songs. “A New Way to Bleed” by Evanescence pours ice on the whole affair. Evanescence are usually selected as a commercially-friendly ‘goth’-lite band but their tracks do tend to add a darkness and romanticised texture to the film or show in question. This Photek remix undermines the intensity of the original song, but Amy Lee (like her or loath her) is a talented and insightful writer and her band add a genuinely arresting, chilling air of trembling conviction to the mix.

Otherwise, there are so-so offerings from Scott Weiland, Redlight King, Pusherjones and Buckcherry, amongst others. These vary from competent to nasal to fatigued, adding a lot more velocity but precious little flair to the album. Nonetheless, they pad things out, and given the real spectacle is the sparkling bedlam of the movie I doubt anyone will mind too much.

So, ultimately, The Avengers soundtrack is something of a missed opportunity. It is a willing but inessential companion. If you really want to pay tribute to your heroes, just make your own playlist. Mine shall include “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” and maybe a bit of “Break Stuff” for the Hulk.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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