Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Epic, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Oh, how time flies. In two years, this will be the tenth anniversary soundtrack for a landmark time in rock. Indeed, Singles was just as powerful a statement in music as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The Seattle music scene literally changed the way some music executives thought of the music industry for a couple of years. Now, as Kim Deal of the Breeders says, "It's all about ass again."

True, and many of the fans who flocked to the flannel bandwagon immediately dove off when Hootie and the Blowfish offered its own "back to rock" movement. While the '60s counterculture had their 'Summer of Love," the hyper-rate of information of the '90s barely gave the Seattle music scene a chance to prosper. It was less than a year-and-a-half between the time Badmotorfinger hit the stores and a crowd-surfing commercial from Budweiser hit the air.

But enough about the "movement," lets focus on the music. Surprisingly, Singles ages pretty well. For all of the movie's faux-coffee house pompus bluster, the soundtrack did provide an excellent snapshot at what was going on musically at that time.

Chart-toppers Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all provide strong songs and show bands who were still in their hungry years. Alice in Chains' "Would" hooks you with a nimble bass line and powerful lyrics to boot. "State of Love and Trust" shows Pearl Jam at their most ideologic, still thinking they could take over the music world and hold on to their integrety.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Cult-favorites Mudhoney and the Screaming Trees also contribute to the soundtrack. Screaming Trees had a minor hit with "Nearly Lost You" and Mudhoney gave their opinion on the overexposure with the snotty, "Overblown." I remember sitting in the coffee house, playing chess and trying to talk philosophy as best as I could for an 18-year-old when I could literally see the unsettling looks of most of the patrons when this song came on. Typical line, "All of the bands from Seattle rock, except for Mudhoney." Oh well, that's what true punks do: agitate.

Perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the album comes from the epic ballad from Mother Love Bone. "Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns" may have been a tad over-dramatic, but it was a dream of a song to listen to in your car when you broke up with that special someone who you knew you would never get over after high school. Hearing Andy Wood's voice along with the other voices of Singles shows what might have happened if Wood would have survived his overdose. Pearl Jam and Soundgarden may not have even made it to the soundtrack.

To balance things out, Paul Westerberg, about 3/4 sober at the time in 1992, contributes some poppy tunes with "Dyslexic Heart" and "Waiting For Somebody." Though these are a far cry from his solo debut and his work with the Replacements, Westerberg's voice is inspiring to hear on this collection, especially since he had a profound impact on many of the bands in college rock.

And for real classic rock fans, Jimi Hendrix's "May This Be Love" and The Lovemongers's (read: Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart) almost too-perfect cover of Led Zeppelin's "Battle Of Evermore" are featured. Finally, the album closes with "Drown," by the Smashing Pumpkins. No, the band did not come from Seattle, but its inclusion showed that it didn't have to take a band from Seattle to make a splash in "alternative" music in the early 1990s.

So, fast forward to the 2000s. Soundgarden is no more, Smashing Pumpkins barely made a dent with their last album and lord only knows where Alice in Chains are. You would think that this would make the soundtrack horribly dated, but it remains surprisingly fresh, which is more than I can say about the movie. The exclusion of Nirvana doesn't need to be dwelled on terribly. Singles did well on the charts because the audience was there to hear something new.

And though some albums of the "grunge" movement haven't aged well at all, Singles still has that intangiable element that make it a great soundtrack: most of the bands on it had a youthful optimism and a hunger that they could in fact, make a difference. And for nearly two years, most of the bands on the soundtrack made a great deal of difference.

Rating: A-

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© 2000 Sean McCarthy 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 Epic, and is used for informational purposes only.