Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Karen O And The Kids, Where The Wild Things Are OST

Karen O And The Kids
Where The Wild Things Are Motion Picture Soundtrack
DGC Records

If your ex-girlfriend was the inimitable Karen Orzolek – besequined screechbag and noted friend to children (see also, Tiny Masters of Today, her pre-teen punk protégés) – you’d know who to call when it came to soundtracking your blockbuster kiddie monster movie. With some inevitability, director Spike Jonze turned to Karen O and The Kids to add music to his forthcoming film Where The Wild Things Are, an adaptation of the classic US children’s book.

The kids in question turn out not be the spaghetti hoops and Sesame Street kind (probably for the best) but a selection of Karen O’s musical compadres, most of whom are well-known enough to have been credited more explicitly: her YYYs bandmates Nick Zinner and Brian Chase; long-limbed Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox; Dean Fertita of QOTSA and The Dead Weather; his bandmate Jack Lawrence, also of The Raconteurs; and multi-instrumentalist songwriter Imaad Wasif.

Often recalling Show Your Bones-era YYYs, the troupe of kidults contribute organ, marimba, bells and acoustic fingerpicking on gentle campfire songs and the occasional moment of Arcade Fire-style marching joyousness. A few bursts of kiddy chorus and a tinge of Americana almost tip proceedings into ‘wholesome’ territory, but the musicians’ punk credentials and Karen O’s yelped nursery rhyme lyrics serve as a balancing oddball factor.

The heartbreaking cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘Worried Shoes’ is easily the standout track and should be bought by anyone with an interest in keeping their heart beating. Karen O’s voice – cracked and vulnerable, sweet but steadfast with that strong twang on her R’s – captures perfectly the childlike nature of both the film and Johnston’s songwriting.

Across the 14 tracks there are only a handful of proper songs, with some tracks barely making it past the minute mark and often reprising previous sounds and ideas – a typical soundtrack approach, but as an album it could do with turning those snippets into coherent songs like the tubthumping single ‘All Is Love’ or the wistful ‘Hide Away’. Still, like the film itself, the record has the difficult task of trying to appeal to everyone who loves the book, from adults to teenagers to toddlers. For that reason alone, Karen O and The Kids did good, making a record that goes beyond the call of duty and stands as a pretty ace album all by itself. A must-buy for fans of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Daniel Johnston, wistful indie-rock and huge shaggy monsters.

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