The soundtrack to "The Kids Are All Right," like the movie itself, is about two stages of life: the teenage years, in which life is a constant trombone slide of emotion, and the middle-aged married years, in which there's a fine line between stable contentment and distant complacency.
It's a soundtrack about growing up, with all the hope, nostalgia and disillusionment that entails. And it's a soundtrack about midlife crises. Maybe the two aren't so dissimilar after all.
Many of the songs convey a raw, primitive loneliness, transporting the listener to a world in which he is the only human resident, surrounded by overgrown lianas or the sweeping vista of red desert rocks at dawn. It's a not-so-subtle map of the range of human feeling.
Perhaps the signature song of the album is MGMT's "The Youth," which is an anthem to adolescent optimism: "We could flood the streets with love or light or heat, whatever."
David Bowie's "Black Country Rock" is a blues-rock call to exploration – sort of a modern "Go west, young man."
Leon Russell's "Out in the Woods" is another great blues-rock number, with a jazzy swamp sound featuring some Zulu lyrics near the end. It falls neatly into the man-against-the-wilderness theme, with its lyrics about being "out in the wood" and "lost inside this jungle."
"Sundown Syndrome" by Tame Impala should be played while speeding toward the sunset on an open road. If a singer plugged his microphone into the top of an open mesa and serenaded the bleached skulls and cacti beneath him, it might produce the same echo.
"When I Grow Up" by Fever Ray, features vocalist Karin Dreijer Andersson's diphthongs and distorted vocals layered over synthesized drum beats and wood instruments, using futuristic techniques to depict a primitive sound.
All this soundtrack needs is an Animal Collective track for its paean to simple life and teenage desires to be complete. And where's The Who? It would have been good to hear "Teenage Wasteland" on the soundtrack to a movie that derives its name from one of the English rock band's own songs.
Except for a couple of songs that are better as background tracks, the soundtrack to "The Kids Are All Right" both complements the movie and stands on its own as a thematically coherent album. This week, take a road trip and put this album on repeat. Grade: B
01. MGMT - The Youth (03:47)
02. David Bowie - Black Country Rock (03:33)
03. Tame Impala - Sundown Syndrome (05:50)
04. Fever Ray - When I Grow Up (04:30)
05. Leon Russell - Out In The Woods (03:37)
06. Deerhoof - Milk Man (04:23)
07. X - The New World (03:24)
08. Uh Huh Her - Same High (04:02)
09. David Bowie - Win (04:44)
10. Quadron - Slippin' (04:12)
11. Joni Mitchell - All I Want (03:34)
12. CSS - Knife (03:14)
13. Ge-Ology - Blues Alley (feat. Yukimi Nagano) (05:22)
14. Gabor Szabo - Galatea's Guitar (05:39)
15. Betty Wright - Good Lovin' (02:44)
16. Deerhoof - Blue Cash (02:39)
17. Little Dragon - Fortune (03:13)