Various - subUrbia [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


subUrbia [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1997)


subUrbia, the film of the play by Eric Bogosian and directed by Richard Linklater, is an underrated '90s movie, but it could be about any period. It's about the dominating plague of the suburbs, its stifling of the young minds around it, and what the teenage burnouts who hang around the film mean for America's future, and what is really plaguing us: boredom. What's essentially a punk movie in its anger and discontent fits with the soundtrack, a collection of quasi-punk/indie artists who do give the movie a genuine feeling, one of both detachment and nihilistic rage.

It's an interesting comp, because you have a bunch of artists of this very specific period in alt-rock: after grunge, but before the quieter indie rock sets in, and a lot of these bands are experimenters at heart. The CD features Elastica (with Stephen Malkmus of Pavement), Sonic Youth, Superchunk, Beck, Boss Hogg (I had to look these guys up), the Flaming Lips, Skinny Puppy and other artists. Sonic Youth contribute the haunting, chiming "Sunday", the seamy "Tabla in Suburbia", "BeeBee's Theme", and lead singer Thurston Moore wrote "Psychic Hearts", a pissed-off little love song in nowhere. The best song may be Elastica and Malkmus' cover of "Unknown Music", but that's my own biases. It does have a genuine crunch in the guitars, a spooky, spidery feel that John Doe would approve.

Other great tracks are Superchunk's classic period piece "Does Your Hometown Care?", a question I've asked myself, and "Hot Day", maybe the shortest track ever by the Flaming Lips. I will say some of the songs sound the same, the sort of '90s art rock feel, but it nevertheless is a very good song all the way through. And it ends, beautifully, with the classic '50s pop song "Town Without Pity" by Gene Pitney, which begins: "When you're young and so in love as we / And bewildered by the world we see / Why do people hurt us so / Only those in love would know / What a town without pity can do." It kinda gets to any kid looking for a way out, as does this genuinely cool little movie.