When Friends Again, the second soundtrack to Friends, was released in November 1999, the show was sailing at a creative peak, but it wasn't as hip to like the show as it was in 1995, when the first soundtrack appeared. Consequently, there aren't as many heavy-hitters this time around -- no REM, Lou Reed, k.d. lang, Joni Mitchell, Hootie & the Blowfish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Grant Lee Buffalo, or Paul Westerberg, although the Pretenders make another appearance, duetting with Phoebe on "Smelly Cat." The very fact that Chrissie Hynde singing "Smelly Cat" is the superstar attraction on Friends Again should signal that this wasn't really designed to be a blockbuster, and that's fine, because what's here isn't half-bad. True, only a handful of songs truly stand out, but the second-runs -- including the Smashing Pumpkins soundalike Deckard, a solid SemiSonic cut, 8stops7, the Waltons, and Duncan Sheik's "View From the Other Side" -- are all pleasant. The highlights are all really fun too: Smash Mouth tears up Let's Active's "Every Word Means No," proving that they really do deeply love that new wave after all; Lisa Loeb's "Summer," a glistening little pop tune, is her best in a while; Billie Joe Armstrong & Penelope Houston's "Angel & the Jerk" is more energetic than this soundtrack deserves; and Robbie Williams' take on the Pet Shop Boys' "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" is every bit as enjoyable as you'd expect. In fact, the only thing that doesn't really work is Thor-El's bizarre dance-cum-dancehall reworking of the Friends theme "I'll Be There for You," plus the endless dialogue bridges (they may be funny on the show, but isolated snippets on a record just aren't that entertaining). Yes, it's a collection blatantly designed to appeal to the show's late twentysomething/thirtysomething audience, but the key is that it works. Much of this music may not be on Friends, but it makes for an entertaining record that complements the show as well as, if not more than, the original soundtrack. And that means it's worth a listen for fans.
Friends Again Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
|8||Billie Joe Armstrong / Penelope Houston||01:49||Amazon|
|10||Phoebe Buffay / Hairballs / Pretenders||02:26||Amazon|