Karen O - Where the Wild Things Are [Motion Picture Soundtrack] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Karen O

Where the Wild Things Are [Motion Picture Soundtrack] (2009)


I've been told that the better the trailer, the worse the movie must be. Comedies include the best jokes. Action flicks show the best explosions. And if a drama can completely boil down its essence to 90 seconds, there's a good chance it's really not that involved. The same seems to hold true for the Where the Wild Things motion picture soundtrack. Featuring original compositions by Karen O and the Kids (or, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Friends from Other Bands and Kids), the album scores the upcoming film adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children's book by director (and former O flame) Spike Jonze.

The trailer for the film features the song "Wake Up," from the Arcade Fire's full-length debut Funeral. It's bold and polychromatic and emotionally evocative all on its own. And Jonze, a music video maestro, expertly grafts that song's resonance to images from his movie. Even if the theatrical cut is a complete failure and bastardization, this short film will still be beautiful. But nothing Karen O presents on the official soundtrack matches "Wake Up." In fact, for the most part, she runs away from that song's power.

Where the Wild Things Are presents itself as a subdued acoustic indie album with children on backup vocals. It's like if Show Your Bones met Kidz Bop and they decided to chill out. And while the disc is not without its intriguing indie quirks -- lead single "All Is Love" is pretty catchy; opener "Igloo" seamlessly blends dialogue from the film with a soft, cooing song; "Rumpus" and "Capsize" are just straight-up great -- there's this lingering doubt that these are all the second-best choices for the film when compared to the Arcade Fire.

At the same time, though, the soundtrack is by no means a failure. Indeed, the record has charm. Karen O's boundless energy makes for a perfect match with the cherubic voices of children. Fans of O's solo single "Hello Tomorrow" will note the similarities between the two. More coos, more chimes, more piano, more acoustic guitar. This is a deliberate break from her dance-punk day job with Yeah Yeah Yeahs (but then again, so was It's Blitz!). The album is pleasant-sounding, but a little too understated, and underwhelming, to stand on its own. Perhaps once the music is shown with the film Oct. 16, the soundtrack will make sense. As is, it's a little too formless. Nice enough, but it's no Funeral.