Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind balances love and mental and emotional chaos skillfully, and its soundtrack is nearly as deft, mixing Jon Brion's score and some well-chosen pop songs. Chief among them is ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky"; despite the facts that it appears only in the commercials for the movie, and was also used recently in the ads for Spike Jonze's Adaptation (which, like Eternal Sunshine, was also written by brain-twisting scribe Charlie Kaufman), its quirky cheer fits, and its analog warmth and intricate layers of sounds resemble Brion's style. The Polyphonic Spree's guileless, twinkly "Light & Day" also works well, even though the song has been overexposed in TV commercials. However, their "It's the Sun (KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic Version)" is just a little too much Polyphonic Spree for the soundtrack's own good; the band's trippiness certainly reflects the way the film constantly rearranges and references itself, but the Spree's music is more naïve than the rather complex emotional story that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind tells. On the other hand, the Indian pop of Lata Mangeshkar's "Wada Na Tod" is subtly hypnotic, and Don Nelson's "Nola's Bounce" and "Some Kinda Shuffle" have a happy, nostalgic feel to them that complements the film's obsession with memories. The Willowz's "Something" is another highlight, although its brash garage rock is virtually the polar opposite of the rest of the soundtrack. Yet, as good as the pop music on the soundtrack is, at times it feels like a distraction from Brion's intimate score. Not surprisingly, the songs that work best with his music for the film are the ones that he worked on: Beck's cover of the Korgis' 1980 hit "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime" crosses his vulnerable Sea Change side with Brion's intricately layered, slightly retro style to moving effect, and Brion's own "Strings That Tie to You" is plaintively sweet. As for the score itself, his work here isn't as immediately attention-getting as it was on the excellent Punch-Drunk Love score, but it's just as evocative of love and memories, with warm pianos, strings, and guitars giving the music a worn-in feeling that is both nostalgic and timeless. While the brevity of pieces like "Bookstore," "Postcard," and "Sidewalk Flight" may frustrate Brion fans, these miniatures have nearly as much going on in them as the longer pieces do. "Showtime," which sounds like four or five pieces of music being played quietly at the same time, is an especially apt distillation of the film's feel, and "Elephant Parade" captures its essential optimism. On the longer cues, Brion really shines. "Theme" is bittersweetly humdrum, a quintessentially gentle, whimsical Brion piece; "Main Title," meanwhile, takes that whimsy in a mysterious, slightly spooky direction. The pianos that dominate the score work especially well on "Peer Pressure" and "Row," and scratchy acoustic guitar loops that sound like they were taken from old vinyl sound particularly wistful on "Collecting Things" and "Phone Call." Not all of the score is bittersweet, though -- "Drive In" is playful, prickly, and slightly dangerous. "A Dream Upon Waking" captures the nagging feeling of something being not quite right, and nearly reaches Punch-Drunk Love levels of disorientation. Indeed, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is so visually and emotionally involved that during some of its most disorienting moments, its music doesn't always get the attention it deserves, so having this soundtrack offers another opportunity to enjoy it.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares