Original Soundtrack

Elizabethtown

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Being a former teenage rock journalist, Cameron Crowe has made no secret of his love of pop and rock music, or the inspiration he derives from it. He's one of the few film directors who places pop music at the center of his films, littering his pictures with references to rock & roll, even at times where it may not be necessary -- witness how Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz inexplicably morph into the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in Vanilla Sky. Such a conscientious eye for detail does usually result in cohesive, interesting soundtracks, and the soundtrack for his 2005 film Elizabethtown is indeed cohesive, but it's not all that interesting. Appropriate for a film set in Kentucky, the record is heavy on sincere, introspective Americana and alt-country, peppered by a few relatively obscure tracks from classic rockers like Tom Petty and Elton John, whose Tumbleweed Connection cut "My Father's Gone" is one of the two best things here. It's languid and atmospheric but effectively epic and melancholy, and even if Bernie Taupin's lyrics don't tell a straightforward narrative, they give the impression that they do, which makes it far more compelling than the rest of the record, which consists of songs that take the clearest, safest path to their end destination. Not that this makes for bad listening, since everything here is too tasteful to offend, but it does make for a record that is insufferably earnest, well intentioned, and, ultimately, really boring. By the time the Hombres' classic loose-limbed hippie jam "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)" comes along four songs before the conclusion, it sounds as lean and hard as the Sir Douglas Quintet. It's not only a breath of fresh air, it reveals how monotonous and bland the rest of the Elizabethtown soundtrack is. Nevertheless, it must be said that Crowe maintains a consistent mood for this record -- more so than he did on Jerry Maguire or Vanilla Sky, even -- but, for his sake, hopefully his film is livelier and more engaging than this dishwater-dull soundtrack.

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