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Various Artists

Music from Malcolm in the Middle

(Restless)

Great TV produces great themes, no?


Why not? After all, creative teams that are able to produce quality shows surely have the acumen to select the appropriate music to complement video images and dialogue. Malcolm in the Middle has been a hit (in my family home anyway) since the opening lines of They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me” (“Yes . . . No . . . Maybe . . . I don’t know—can you repeat the question?”) declared its rambunctious arrival.


With its hyperactive shift in styles (from ska to punk to easy listening to powerpop), “Boss of Me” wallows in the essence of the show’s appeal—i.e. lovable, adorable dysfunction and entertaining to boot!


Truth be told, apart from this sublime track, it’s pretty much slim pickings on this soundtrack album. And since we’re on this honesty kick, I have to say that I basically abhor these kinds of albums—you know, tacked together to exploit the name recognition of its “host” as much as possible, on the pretext that if you enjoyed the show, you’d no doubt find the music on this related product satisfying.


All right, folks, now that I’ve fully apprised you of the serious risks you take continuing to read this review, all bets are off…


Apart from the two TMBG tracks (the other ones a quirky paean to growing up, appropriately entitled “Older”) the better material include Stroke 9’s rather powerpop flourish—“Washin’ + Wonderin’”, Getaway People’s funky “Good Life”, Eagle-Eye Cherry’s shiny AOR “Been Here Once Before”, the Barenaked Ladies’ vibrant “Falling for the First Time”, Travis’ jaunty reggae-fied “We Are Monkeys” (try not to think of Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, okay) and Hanson’s fun Rundgrenesque pop-soul gem, “Smile”.


As for the rest—from Baha Men’s Caribbean junkanoo (don’t ask) to the aimless alternative pop/rock of Push Stars, Citizen King, Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, OPM and Gordon to the tired dance pop of Rednex, Flak and the Dust Brothers—it’s a pointless exercise in filling in the gaps in genre, style and content. Ho hum.


A mixed bag, I’m afraid, but believe me, “Boss of Me” is worth the price of admission. “Life is unfair…”

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