The song soundtracks that accompany youth-oriented films are almost always throwaway items, but National Lampoon's Van Wilder is a surprising and pleasant exception to this rule. Instead of loading up on the usual outtakes and uninspired cover versions that often dominate these soundtracks, this album focuses on strong tracks from a number of new bands on the verge of breaking through. The result is a soundtrack album that is as boisterous and dynamic as the film that inspired it. National Lampoon's Van Wilder devotes a lot of its running time to energetic power pop. Top 40 fans will already be familiar with the likes of American Hi-Fi and Sum 41, but the true gems come from the lesser-known bands: Sugarcult's "Bouncing off the Walls" welds a catchy, almost bubblegum-ish melody to a punky arrangement full of fuzzy guitars and crashing drums while the Living End's "Roll On" marries a rousing singalong melody to a surging guitar rock arrangement full of nifty hooks. Another winner in this vein is David Mead's "Girl on the Roof," a sweetly romantic yet fast-paced tune that highlights soaring candy-sweet vocal harmonies over a tight arrangement driven by some frenetic drumming. National Lampoon's Van Wilder also includes the occasional nod to the R&B scene: one of the best is N.E.R.D.'s "Things Are Getting Better," a percolating hip-hop track that layers a rap full of amorous braggadocio over a bells-and-whistles arrangement bursting with electric piano riffs, thick synth bass, and crisp percussion. Another memorable track in this soulful vein is "Little Man," a sultry slow jam with torchy vocals from Sia (star vocalist for English electronica outfit Zero 7). Elsewhere, the "soundtrack ballad" category is covered by Swirl 360 with "Okay," an atmospheric dazzler that piles lovely vocal harmonies atop a stately acoustic arrangement, and Abandoned Pools with "Start Over," a wistful track built on a silky chorus layered with dreamy synthesizer hooks. In short, National Lampoon's Van Wilder is likely to appeal to both fans of the film and anyone interested in up-and-coming performers on the current pop music scene.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco