Various Artists: Away We Go

[16 August 2009]

By Evan Sawdey

PopMatters Interviews Editor

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.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/109207-various-artists-away-we-go/