April 6, 2009

Soundtrack: Adventureland

Adventureland had me at hello. Or rather, at the introductory riff to the classic Replacements track "Bastards of Young."

Set in the summer of 1987, the film's landscape is colored by the trickle down effect of Reaganomics and plenty of cheesy rock (see Foreigner, Falco). But the focus is never on the era's silly chart-topping bands or ridiculous clothing; they are simply elements that help place the film's characters—poor, nerdy, and rebellious—in the margins.

Musically, Adventureland does what Dazed and Confused did for 70s rock acts like the Runaways and Alice Cooper. Adventureland gives the unruly greats of the 80s, specifically Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, a contemporary platform to be celebrated and heard. The two Minneapolis bands are not only featured on the soundtrack, they are also written into the screenplay: Kristen Stewart's character Em wears a Hüsker Dü t-shirt and love interest James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, finds a Replacements LP in her record collection. The song "Bastards of Young" almost serves as a sketch for James, who finds himself abandoned and lost after college:
God, what a mess, on the ladder of success,
/ Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung. /
Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled, /
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten.

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young.
/ We are the sons of no one, bastards of young. /
The daughters and the sons.

Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom. /
Elvis in the ground, we're waiting on beer tonight. /
Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function. /
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten.


Unwillingness to claim us, you got no word to name us.

The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest,
/ And visit their graves on holidays at best.
/ The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please.
/ If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them.

The soundtrack also features a dose of Lou Reed favorites, including "Satellite of Love" and the simultaneously haunting and soothing Velvet Underground treasure, "Pale Blue Eyes," which appears twice to emphasize James's devotion to Em.

It's not often a director so heavily invests, both thematically and contextually, in his soundtrack. And it's even more unusual for a director's taste to be this great. 

The Replacements - "Bastards of Young" (highly recommended)
The Velvet Underground - "Pale Blue Eyes" (closet mix) (highly recommended)

1 comment:

  1. fun movie, great soundtrack--both slightly awkward, but in the best way possible.