Tyler Bates

Watchmen [Original Soundtrack]

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As a comic book, Watchmen presented an alternate history of the 20th century, twisting the familiar into the surreal -- a proposition that is difficult, but not impossible, to replicate as a motion picture but very hard to pull off as a soundtrack, as the accompanying album to Zack Snyder's 2009 feature film illustrates. Snyder chooses to cherry-pick shop-worn chestnuts from every decade of the story's time line. There's a little Billie Holiday, a little Nat King Cole, a bit of Simon & Garfunkel and Janis Joplin, some ironic disco via KC & the Sunshine Band, some somber sobriety with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and a whole lot of Bob Dylan (whose "The Times They Are A-Changin'" opens the film, underscoring a montage telling the story's alternate history), who is then covered by Jimi Hendrix and My Chemical Romance, whose truncated cover of the epic "Desolation Row" is performed in the "style of the Sex Pistols," as requested of the band by Snyder. It's the only new song and it stands out in neon, as it's surrounded by songs that have been played to death and beyond. Perhaps in the context of the film "Unforgettable," "Me and Bobby McGee," "I'm Your Boogie Man," and "All Along the Watchtower" are re-contextualized -- that is part of the point of the project, after all -- but as a record, the whole thing plays as dreary and predictable, with the notable exception of MCR's "Desolation Row" placed here at the beginning, not the end as it is in the film -- all the better to get attention. And it does get attention with its buzzy guitars and Gerard Way's affected snarl, but it's a clever conceit that arrives at a dead end because it shows no great understanding of either the '60s song or the '70s sound -- it's mashed together for stylistic effect, not thematic substance, showing no real understanding of what made either work or relevant for the time. It's all style and flash, so perhaps it does fit Snyder's spin on Watchmen.

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