Not surprisingly, the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes is every bit as cool and eclectic as the film itself. His collection of vignettes about drinking, smoking, and all the communication -- spoken and otherwise -- that goes on in between these two social rituals is set to rock, ska, funk, R&B, classical, and jazz that, fittingly enough, can either fade into the background of a conversation or fill up a silence. While both the album and the movie that inspired it are eclectic, that doesn't mean that they're formless. The soundtrack is tied together not only by its impeccable taste and sequencing -- moving from the sinuous chug of the Stooges' "Down on the Street" to the similarly dark but softer "Nimblefoot Ska" by the Skatalites is just one of the album's subtly clever segues -- but by other connections as well. Iggy Pop (who also appears in the film) pops up again on "Louie Louie," one of two versions of the song. Richard Berry & the Pharoahs' original version -- on which all the lyrics are clearly audible -- opens the album, while Pop's rendition, which comes from his 1993 album American Caesar and features plenty of guitar riffs as well as riffs on politics, is the album's penultimate track. Funkadelic contributes two songs: the slinky "Nappy Dugout" and the playful, celebratory, ready for a night out on the town "A Joyful Process," both of which heighten the album's distinctly urban feel. Coffee and Cigarettes isn't all gritty, though: the glorious long version of Tommy James & the Shondells' psych pop classic "Crimson & Clover," the Modern Jazz Quartet's "Baden Baden," Jerry Byrd's languid "Hanalei Moon," and Fretwork's version of Purcell's "Fantazia 3 in G Minor" add light and depth to the collection. Tom Waits, who appears in the film as well, contributes one of the soundtrack's most distinctive songs, the frenetic, kinetic "Saw Sage," a collaboration with C-SIDE, the California Sonic Instrument Designer Ensemble. Along with Janet Baker's performance of Mahler's "Ich Bin der Weit Abhanden Gekommen (I Have Lost Track of the World)," the track marks yet another departure on this wide-ranging album. Arty and genuine at the same time, Coffee and Cigarettes is filled with music that would make any time spent talking, drinking, or smoking that much richer.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares