Soundtrack Double Feature: Pineapple Express! … Tropic Thunder!

Of the summer’s two comedy juggernauts, Pineapple Express was clearly going to be the one with the bitchin’ soundtrack. Judd Apatow’s films aren’t necessarily known for their soundtrack awesomeness in the way that, say, a Tarantino film would be, but he and his people have good taste and usually throw in some surprises (I’ll always remember the giddy feeling I first got at hearing “Solid” by The Dandy Warhols as the theme song for Undeclared).

Pineapple Express Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Lakeshore Records (8/5/08)
Soundtrack (Various genres)

Express works a lot of tracks into the movie that are clearly legion with stoners. Reggae is ubiquitous in pothead films, but usually it’s just a lazy Bob Marley track from Legend. In this case, we’re treated with just enough hipster coolness by a repping of Peter Tosh’s “Wanted Dread and Alive” and the killer proto-dancehall groove of Brother Nolan’s “Coconut Girl”. Street-jazz, classic pop (“Electric Avenue”!), classic rock (Mountain! Robert Palmer!), and a few original scored tracks give this album a lot of eclectic highlights.

Stoner movies also tend to overload on songs that are about smoking weed and not much more, and Express avoids this by and large. The major exception is “Dr. Greenthumb”, an underrated Cypress Hill track that brings the heat with a steady head-nod beat and doesn’t get too aggro the way a lot of B-Real & Co.’s tracks do. In the movie it’s also played for a minor laugh, as Dale’s ringtone. Aggro is the name of the game for Public Enemy’s “Lost at Birth”, a killer track that lacks in Chuck D’s lyrical fire until a hard blaze at the end, but is highlighted by the underrated Terminator X. If mainstream classic hip-hop and new jack swing is your taste, see Bell Biv Devoe’s excellent “Poison” and the (unfairly) much-maligned Bone Thugs N Harmony with “Tha Crossroads”. I’d be remiss without mentioning “Pineapple Express”, the theme to the movie recorded by Huey Lewis & The News and sounding like it came right out of a time machine from the “I Want a New Drug” sessions.

The major downside to the Pineapple Express soundtrack? Yknow that song from the trailer? The one that is so catchy and unavoidable that it feels like it’s equally as tied to the movie as “Danger Zone” was to Top Gun? Yeah, it’s not here. I’m talking, of course, about “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. I was double-stoked to rip open this CD and blast that track at top volume and it’s a straight-up mistake for it not to be on the soundtrack. Also, one person’s eclecticism is another’s schizophrenia and I get the feeling I’m one of a vast minority that is gonna enjoy hearing Peter Tosh, Bel Biv Devoe, and Eddy Grant on the same soundtrack. This soundtrack is a lot like the movie: it isn’t a complete letdown but it doesn’t quite meet the expectations.

This review has been rated for copious reggae and classic hip-hop, and just enough cheese-rock.

Let’s all go to the laaaaah-by! Let’s all go to the laaaaaah-by!…

Tropic Thunder Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Lakeshore Records (8/5/08)
Soundtrack (Various genres)

The soundtrack to Tropic Thunder, (which I haven’t seen, if that colors this review one way or another), hits the same pitfalls as too many comedy soundtracks: songs that might be used ironically for comedic value in the film are replicated on the soundtrack in all of their obnoxious, cheesy glory. The set is almost completely comprised of tracks like this. “Sometimes When We Touch”? “Movin’ On Up” (as in, the theme song from The Jeffersons)? “U Can’t Touch This”? And of course, what would a war movie be without “War” by Edwin Starr? Good God y’all, what is this track good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It’s hackneyed to the point of saturation. And I’m not sure what kind of Vietnam vibe “I Just Want to Celebrate” is supposed to capture, but the cover version as done by The Mooney Suzuki is custom-created for movie soundtracks and car commercials. It’s nice to see that a nominally talented garage-rock band can at least keep their pockets lined and don’t even need to write a song to do it; take what ain’t nailed down, Mooney Suzuki.

This soundtrack isn’t all a letdown, though. The Temptations’ excellent anti-war rant “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” is a perfect choice in terms of turgid-jungle wartime vibe, although it might lead someone to think this picture is more political than (I assume) it is. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through the Jungle” is welcome anywhere that I’m listening, and it’s another Vietnam protest track that fits as well in a war-movie parody as it would in a real one. The Crystal Method provide the film’s theme song laced with dialogue lines, and Ben Gidsjoy’s “Ready Set Go” is an energetic E-tard rave-up, if techno is your drug of choice.

Capping off the soundtrack is Brandon T. Jackson in character as Alpa Chino, with his hit single “I Love Tha P***y”, which I think is code for “I love the pussy”. You’d think a faux rap track parodying the likes of Ying Yang Twins or Lil Jon would fall flat, but it’s just as much a shuck on oversexualized hip-pop as, well, the Ying Yang Twins or Lil Jon. I’ve heard the movie is funnier than Pineapple Express, but don’t waste your ticket money on the soundtrack.

This feature has been rated for excessive joke-tracks, paint-by-numbers classic-rock, and not enough clips from the movie.

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