Review Summary: Like going to Hell and back.
It's hard to find a truly great movie soundtrack these days - these days, most of them come off as compilations of tracks that are far from the artists' best material. One can wonder if their appearance is only for publicity, as people who see these blockbuster films may be interested in checking out the accompanying soundtrack. Target audience is also key: movie executives aren’t going to slap on a dozen country songs on a horror flick and call it a day, nor will they make black metal the sound of an animated children's film. Dallas Buyers Club
itself was a breathtaking motion picture driven by the extraordinary performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Its accompanying soundtrack, however, is less than satisfying. Filled to the brim with lifeless, stale indie-rock tracks, the supporting album to one of the year’s most gripping films is a complete waste of talent and potential.
Judging by the bands on the soundtrack, Dallas Buyers Club
mostly wants to appeal to the indie crowd, while throwing in a few artists of other genres. However, it’s unsure which part of the spectrum that the album wants to cater to. There are groups like Capital Cities and Fitz and the Tantrums, who carry more of a poppy sound, mixed in with bands like T. Rex and My Morning Jacket. One could say that the soundtrack is trying to the widest possible audience; however, it just comes off as lazy and unfocused. Hearing The Naked and Famous right after Shuggie Otis is pretty awkward, and kills any mood that the latter song would have resonated.
Expecting bands like the aforementioned Capital Cities or The Airborne Toxic Event to actually make quality material is pretty hard, and it’s no surprise that their contributions to the Dallas Buyers Club
soundtrack are subpar. The former’s synthpop-influenced take on the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” is just as lifeless and sterile as their other works, as vocalist Ryan Merchant has never sounded this bored before. Even the soundtrack’s lead single, “Hell and Back”, suffers from a lack of energy and memorability. Beneath all the “la la la”s and “stomp-clap-stomp”s are layers of unoriginality and triteness, a problem that has been plaguing The Airborne Toxic Event ever since their début.
It seems like so many bands just lent their B-sides to the soundtrack, as evidenced by the mediocre contributions by The Naked and Famous and Portugal. The Man. Had these tracks been on their last album, they would be amongst its weakest songs. “Following Morning” feels like a dabble in atmospheric dream pop with some mild shoegaze influences, but falls short mainly because of its lengthiness and lack of a memorable hook. Harmonically, both singers’ voices mesh together pretty well – it’s a shame they couldn’t make it more memorable. Meanwhile, Portugal’s cover of T. Rex’s “Main Man” manages to take away everything that made the original so great (even masking the crunching guitar riff behind layers of slick production).
Luckily, Dallas Buyers Club
is saved by a few excellent songs from a few excellent artists. Both My Morning Jacket and Cold War Kids continue to demonstrate their talent with high-energy, heartfelt tracks that are filled to the brim with soaring vocals and gritty riffs. "Ready to Be Called On" has all the elements of a perfect MMJ song, including the wailing guitar solos and jazzy saxophone outro. Even the acoustic version of Jared Leto’s own “City of Angels” isn’t too bad; the stripped-down arrangement removes some of the pretentiousness that plagued the studio version. The soundtrack’s true highlight, however, comes from Manchester Orchestra’s “After the Scripture”, a dark, brooding tune featuring nothing but Andy Hull and the occasional guitar strum from Robert McDowell. Reminiscent of a Keaton Henson track, the song utilizes its incredibly emotional and morose vocals to flawlessly express the feelings of despondence and melancholy.
Overall, the Dallas Buyers Club
soundtrack is one that really isn’t worth your time or money. Aside from three superb songs, the whole album is a collection of drab indie pop/rock that ultimately falls flat due to its lack of memorability. Manchester Orchestra, Cold War Kids and My Morning Jacket make the compilation at least somewhat interesting; however, it isn’t enough to overcome its blemishes. More times than not, it feels like the soundtrack was given The movie may have been interesting and enthralling, but its accompanying soundtrack is anything but.