Where the soundtrack to Rushmore captured that film's mix of brash and bittersweet through British Invasion obscurities and Mark Mothersbaugh's playfully poignant score, the music for The Royal Tenenbaums -- Wes Anderson's tale of a prodigal patriarch and the brood of child geniuses he left behind -- evokes the film's shabbily genteel New York through vintage folk-pop, classic punk, and a Mothersbaugh score that gives the delicacy of his earlier scores a newfound maturity. Two of the most affecting songs from Nico's Chelsea Girl, "These Days" and "The Fairest of the Seasons," bookend the soundtrack as beautifully concise meditations on, respectively, regret ("Please don't confront me with my failures/I had not forgotten them") and hope ("Do I stay or do I go?/And maybe try another time?"). In between, the music ranges from Elliott Smith's quietly devastating "Needle in the Hay" to the manic energy of the Ramones' "Judy is a Punk" and the Clash's "Police and Thieves" to the hazy glow of Bob Dylan's "Wigwam," each track adding to the album's strangely timeless but emotionally direct atmosphere. Mothersbaugh's score and the compiled music complement each other perfectly, with the velvety, Baroque feel of Nick Drake's "Fly" and the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says" mirrored in "Mothersbaugh's Canon" and the Vince Guaraldi Trio's sparkly "Christmas Time Is Here" echoed by "I Always Wanted to Be a Tenenbaum" and "Sparkplug Minuet." Ravel's "String Quartet in F Major (Second Movement)" and Mothersbaugh's "111 Arthur Avenue" and "Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite" complete this elegant yet slightly skewed soundtrack. Nearly as clever and nuanced as the film itself, The Royal Tenenbaums is also a moving, well-rounded album in its own right.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares