Wednesday, June 10, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1375: Soundtrack

OK, let’s keep this thing going.

Disc 1375 is…. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album
Artist: Various Artists

Year of Release: 1999

What’s up with the Cover? Isn’t it all so romantic! Buffy the Vampire slayer glows in the light, as her tortured vampire boyfriend Angel broods in the shadows behind her. Get a room, already. Actually, don’t. We don’t want Angel experiencing that Moment of Perfect Happiness, losing his soul, and going on a murderous rampage through the streets of Sunnydale.

If none of that made sense to you, then you are not this album’s target audience.

How I Came To Know It: My coworker Anna and her partner were downsizing their CD collection and took a photo of what was available. I spied both this album and another Buffy soundtrack (“Radio Sunnydale”) and offered to purchase them for a cool $5. Instead, they gave them to me for free. Thanks, Anna!

How It Stacks Up: I now have 36 soundtrack albums, and I’m not about to list them all again (I just did this back at Disc 1352 if you want a recap of the first 33). Of those 36 albums, I put BVS: The Album in at #30, right between music from James Bond (Disc 103) and “One From the Heart” (Disc 935).

And now that I have three different Buffy soundtrack albums, I’ll rank it in that subset as well. I don’t have high hopes for “Radio Sunnydale” but since it has an Aimee Mann song and 12 instead of 18 tracks, I’m going to optimistically say it is better. That lands this one (“BVS: The Album”) in last place at #3. Good enough for a bronze however, which is coincidentally the name of the nightclub in the TV show where a bunch of these songs would have been played.

Ratings: 2 stars

How big of a Buffy, the Vampire Slayer fan would you have to be to enjoy this record? I’m going to say more than a big fan. Because I am a pretty big fan. I’ve watched the whole damned series (both series if you count Angel) three times. I’ve turned every character into Arkham Horror board game  characters – yes, even characters like Tara and (shudder) Riley. And yet, even I find my fandom insufficient to enjoy large portions of this extremely long record.

There are good songs. For starters, I’m a sucker for the visceral kick in the pants that is the show’s theme song by Nerfherder. This is one of TV’s great themes, falling just short of gems like Hawaii Five-0 and Stingray. Listen to it as you watch the Buffy Season Three intro and tell me you don’t get goosebumps at the end as the camera pans around a very dangerous Buffy Summers, ready to kick some serious ass with a war axe.

Track Two is also pretty killer. Guided by Voices’ “Teenage FBI” is easily the best song on the album, with a high-octane tune about how sometimes the people you love the most bring out the worst in you.

Another standout is Bif Naked’s “Lucky.” I remember the excitement of realizing it was Bif Naked in the background at the Bronze nightclub, belting out some Canadian rock and roll as our heroes and villains had their adventures centre stage.

And yet this album has a lot of problems.

First, it is painfully overwrought. These songs all have the depth of heartache and pain that only young and beautiful people on TV urban fantasy series seem to manage. Let’s call it CWangst, after the network that has perfected the experience. I don’t mind all the drama when I’m watching (except maybe the Buffy/Angel dynamic – that is dangerously close to a CWangst overdose) but the songs all on their own don’t have the emotional gravitas to carry the day.

Bands with painfully of-their-time names (“Hepburn”, “K’s Choice”, “Splendid”) pour their broken hearts out. Other bands (“Black Lab”, “Superfine”, “Four Star Mary”) feature bad boys that aren’t very bad at all, singing about being kinda tough, but also kinda sensitive. Frankly, there is a lot of pining.

Second, the horrible late nineties production I decried in my last Garbage review, is once again in full effect. Lots of loud, not a lot of separation. There is even a Garbage song that is off the one Garbage album I parted with long ago (“Temptation Waits” from Version 2.0).

And finally, the album is just too Goddamned long. 18 tracks and 65 minutes is a lot, and the songs I liked can’t hold up the ones I don’t over that time frame.

Fortunately, outside of this CD Odyssey I am under no obligation to listen to all 18 songs in a row with no skipping. I can just listen to the ones I like when I feel like listening to them.

Also, the physical copy comes with a lot of bonus features! Maybe one day I’ll mail in my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Club Application (conveniently included in the CD booklet and mine for only $29.95 US a year) and receive all of the following:
·         4 issues of the Buffy official magazine
·         Official ID membership card
·         Exclusive cast photos
·         Exclusive Buffy poster
·         Special Buffy bumper sticker.

Like I said, I’m a fan. Which is why I asked for this album in the first place. I regret nothing.

Best tracks: Buffy Theme – Nerfherder, Teenage FBI – Guided by Voices, Lucky – Bif Naked, It Doesn’t Matter – Alison Kraus & Union Station, Wild Horses – The Sundays

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