[27 March 2012]
PopMatters Associate Events Editor
There was something intriguing about the soundtrack to The Inbetweeners Movie, even before being familiar with the basis for the film itself. With new music from Mike Skinner (the sole member of the now retired moniker the Streets), it was exciting – to say the least. As the Streets, Skinner made himself known for honest and sincere glimpses into his everyday life. He didn’t try to cover up his fame by constantly flaunting his hard upbringing, instead he embraced his celebrity status in the UK and rhymed about the perks and hardships of a changed life. His words, like his music, progressed fluidly as his everyday. And, after retiring his most famed pen name, there was a big question about the direction he would follow as an artist. Perhaps comically, The Inbetweeners Movie soundtrack was an opportunity for him to give his audience a glimpse of the future, while of course placing his name alongside some big names in music, including Ke$ha, the Vines, and Deer Tick.
The soundtrack alone gives away the movie. The music and the random clips of dialogue sprinkled throughout the disc reveal that it’s basically a British Road Trip or American Pie. Well, maybe not exactly, but since when did the actual plot matter in these kinds of films? Four losers want to get laid and drink some beer when their parents aren’t around. Honestly, whether it’s your cup of tea or not, it’s a formula bound for success in many respects, despite its perceived lack of artistic merit. With tracks like Mike Skinner’s “Pussay Patrol”, and short tracks of dialogue like “To the Pussay” and “You’re a Virgin”, the soundtrack plays like one long party, with a couple of tender moments sprinkled in here and there for a little, shall we call it, diversity.
Those bits of diversity are brought to you courtesy of Deer Tick with “Twenty Miles”, off of their debut album The Black Dirt Sessions, and Mike Skinner’s “Waving not Drowning” – two songs that show quite a bit of tenderness. As the only acoustic track on the record, “Twenty Miles” is especially off the beaten path for this soundtrack with John McCauley’s scratchy vocals providing the only tinge of off kilter musicianship.
If you’re interested to know what Skinner will do next, his huge contribution to the soundtrack (nearly half of the musical selections were original Skinner compositions) will only tell you that he could go in many different directions, all of them with the potential to be interesting. Even with his use of synthesizers and electronically based melodies, Skinner proves his ability to create organic music. The difficulty to classify him beyond the broad title of “electronic” is what makes him so appealing even outside the genre. Within one single song he could jump from an ‘80s horn-based funk tune to a house beat (“No Problemo”), and a few songs later lay into a dub Reggae rhythm (“Clunge in a Barrel”). Aside from a general celebratory demeanor in his music, the sole common thread I could find was a strong rhythmic sense that made it practically impossible not to bounce around a little in my seat. At a party, it could be a different story altogether.
Meanwhile, there are some real standout gems on the disc aside from nearly every groove laid down by Skinner. “We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool & DCup and “Gimme Love” by the Vines are two of those. Both tracks, though completely different from each other, are perfect mood setters for hilarious party montages. Perhaps the only misstep on the soundtrack itself was the Cirkut Remix of Ke$ha’s “Blow”. Admittedly, it has its energy-inducing drop-ins and now formulaic Auto-Tune that for some reason still has the kids eating out of its robotic hands, but listening to this track for more than thirty seconds could easily send any sane person into nervous thrashing convulsions. There is no doubt it can serve its purpose to the film, but as for its musical stewardship, this one should be left at the gate.
As a film, The Inbetweeners Movie and its soundtrack are the kind of pair that a certain generation will remember for a few more years. And, though it’s unlikely the disc itself will pass the test of time – a rare feat for soundtracks of any type – what The Inbetweeners Movie soundtrack will do is serve as somewhat of a launching point for the already successful career of a musician. A “back to the drawing board” type of thing, so to speak. So though the Streets are, unfortunately, a thing of the past, it is very clear that Mike Skinner will keep pushing forward until his ideas are exhausted and he is, too. Neither seem terribly likely.