Review Summary: Well that's like, your opinion, man
There’s a quintessential scene in the epic cult classic “The Big Lebowski” where the Dude asks Walter “what’s your point?” amid one of the latter’s many deliciously maniacal tirades. In a movie with almost a thousand memorable quotes, this one is hardly ever brandished by the legions of current and former frat boys (me included) that could legitimately make a living firing off quips from this masterwork of modern film. While “what the f*ck is your point Walter” is hardly a memorable part of the movie, it represents a perfect metaphor to the film itself. “The Big Lebowski” represents many themes, but it’s almost impossible to sum up what it’s really about in a sentence or less, a ridiculously easy task when categorizing most modern movies. Sure, at its core it’s a kidnapping caper, but it could just as easily encompass a treatise on the benefits of utter sloth, a sarcastic case study on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from going eyeball to eyeball with Charlie in Nam, a comparative analysis on the tenants of National Socialism as an ethos vs. the blissfully oblivious nature of Nihilism, to alcoholism and bowling acting as the crutch for millions of lonely-ass men, both rage-aholics and pacifist ex-hippies alike. In short, “The Big Lebowski” is all over the f*cking place, and perhaps fittingly, so is the music that accompanies it.
The Coen brothers have always struck me as the type of sarcastic assholes you meet at parties that snicker to themselves how much smarter they are they everyone else, and even more infuriating, they are usually right. One of the keys to producing a great soundtrack is aligning the central themes of each accompanying scene with music that perfectly fits its mood, to really drive home the point. The Coen brothers pulled this off perfectly in the film, and while the official soundtrack makes a criminal error in leaving off the “Tumbleweeds” song that Sam Elliot brilliantly accompanies in the films beginning and the absence of the f*cking Creedence that plays in instrumental part in the Dude’s character development is almost inexcusable, most of the high points are accounted for, leaving a listen that will instantaneously transform your mind into watching the film in your head.
As the Coen brothers get off on being smarter than us, predictably most haven’t heard of the majority of these artists or songs. Sure, there are obscure Elvis Costello and Captain Beefheart tunes that are both perfectly chill and prescribe an ambience of wandering around in the San Fernando Valley aimlessly, and an Espanol re-fire of probably the most famous rock song of all time (Hotel California), but the only time you will ever claim to having heard of Piero Picioni is when “Traffic Boom” provides the perfect soundtrack for the Jackie Treehorn masterwork “Logjammin.” If you’ve heard of Moondog's “Stamping Ground” outside of associating it with dropping a ringer of the dirty whites and doubling back to beat a confession out of Nihilists, then you are more of a master of obscure hippie rock than virtually anyone else. Yma Sumal’s “Ataypura” is incredibly annoying in its spelling and obscureness, but it was probably the perfect choice to accompany a buxom porn slut flopping her tits out on a trampoline outside of Jackie Treehorn’s stabbin’ cabin. Speaking of Treehorn, there is exactly one song in Kenny Roger’s discography which is not an anthem for adult contemporary leaning ***kickers, and “I Just Dropped In” is utterly the perfect choice for the Dude’s White Russian laced psychedelic trip through Saddam Hussein’s castration methods. Everything from Henry Mancini’s amazingly breezy “Lujon” to that one awful German techno pop number that accompanies Flea and the other God damn anti-Semite Nihilists holding swords outside a bowling alley just fits right, especially the true masterworks, Towne Van Zandt’s re-work of the Stones classic “Dead Flowers” and Dylan's "The Man In Me" are simply heart-wrenching numbers that provide an astonishing sense of inception and finalization to the film.
In the end, “The Big Lebowski” as a film is the antithesis of the idea of a great album; it is much more effective as individual pieces rather than the sum of its parts. You’ll never hear anyone juxtapose about the theme of the film and how it hits them hard, but you’ll undeniably join into shouting “Shomer F*cking Shabbos” and “You see what happens Larry? You see what happens when you f*ck a stranger in the ass?!” ironically with a total stranger, making instant friends in the process. The soundtrack is kind of that way too. As a final piece, it does not blow minds, but pick any song on here and be immediately transported into post Desert Storm Los Angeles, fighting marmits and Nihilists when all you really want to do is roll a J. Maybe the central theme is the Dude represents what we all wish we could be; taking it easy for all of us sinners and f*ck the rest. The only way to really know is to just keep watching and listening to it.
Shut the f*ck up Donnie.