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Away We Go

(Nettwerk; US: 23 Jun 2009; UK: 23 Jun 2009)

There’s something a little bit funny in dealing with the soundtrack to Away We Go: We’ve heard most of it before. 


Back in 2006, semi-obscure singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch put out his debut album Time Without Consequence, resulting in his songs getting a couple of ad spots and even a nice feature in The O.C. during its fourth season. Murdoch wasn’t doing anything new: He was just writing big-hearted, plain-spoken numbers on his acoustic guitar, making them poppy enough to reach large audiences and personal enough to feel cathartic, somewhat recalling Nick Drake’s early material. For the soundtrack to Sam Mendes’ excellent Away We Go, however, six of Consequence‘s 11 songs are simply flown in to provide the backing. No radical revisions or alternate versions: They’re the exact same recordings. Of course, there’s the light peppering of tracks from other bands (George Harrison’s “What Is Life”, the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’”—which is used in what is arguably the film’s most heartbreaking scene), and three new tracks from Murdoch (all of which wouldn’t have sounded out of place at all on Consequence) just to sweeten the deal. Regardless, it’s hard not to feel like Away We Go is simply Time Without Consequence Redux.


Yet, interestingly, the songs wind up having a whole new context when married to the film. By sticking primarily with the same artist, Mendes’ romantic road trip movie winds up gaining a bit of thematic unity, and—especially after seeing it—lesser tracks from his debut like “Wait” wind up taking on a bit more emotional gravitas (that particular track backing the film’s final, serene moments). Hearing his old songs in a new context winds up giving them new life, though not necessarily making them better (tracks like “Breathe” and “Orange Sky” were already spectacular to begin with), but just making them fresh in a way they haven’t been for some time. Still, it’s a nice, easy-going collection to a fantastic, easy-going kind of film.

Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and many more. Evan has been a guest on HuffPost Live, RevotTV's "Revolt Live!", and WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album (available for free at GoodWithWordsAlbum.com), and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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