Songs that combat 'Garden State syndrome'

Skip the Shins, listen to the Carpenters and the Stooges

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The Velvet Underground

If you dig under the entertainment news stories detailing every rumour swirling around Heath Ledger’s death, you might discover that Juno was nominated for four Oscars the other day, including Best Picture.

Before you start clapping, pause and think: when was the last time a movie like this tried so hard to be cool? Was it Garden State? Was it Little Miss Sunshine?

Just like these films, Juno has been touted as an “indie” flick appealing to a youthful audience. It’s been slobbered all over by every critic teetering towards middle age desperately trying to stay abreast of “trends.”

Besides the smarmy dialogue, obnoxious lead character and pointless namedropping, the film’s biggest sin arrives in the form of its soundtrack. Filled with admittedly strong songs and way too much Kimya Dawson, Juno’s soundtrack, combined with the film’s popularity, may create the unwanted “Garden State syndrome.”

Instead of the Shins this time around though, it will be two or three Stooges songs your friends think qualify them for coolness. Here are a few ways to combat this syndrome and broaden the musical scope:

The Velvet Underground - “Sister Ray”
There’s one Velvet Underground song on the soundtrack, but your iTunes should always have more. It doesn’t matter if you hate Lou Reed or you think John Cale is crazy, you have to admit these old men knew how to write a song.

“Sister Ray” stretches the use of the term “good song” to its limits, however. In contrast to “I’m Sticking Around” on the soundtrack, “Sister Ray” puts you through 17 minutes of rock ‘n’ roll, filled with static, feedback and a little wailing for your listening pleasure. It’s a song like this that makes you question your sanity or why you listen to music in the first place.

Iggy Pop

Cat Power - “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
“Isn’t this a Rolling Stones song? Oh, man I love the Stones.” Loving the Stones is like saying you love The Godfather, or that Dan Brown is a horrible author. It’s just too obvious to bother restating.

Cat Power strips down this ancient stomper (which is beginning to sound like the soundtrack to a KY commercial) into an acoustic take that remains with you far after the first listen. Haunting, eerie, beautiful " it’s much better than whatever she’s delivering to the Starbucks/Juno crowd this week.

The Carpenters " “Song For You”
There’s one Sonic Youth track featured in Juno and it’s a Carpenters cover. A good cover " good enough for you to download some more Carpenters and start hanging out with your mom again. Good enough to start drinking Long Island Iced Teas and not feel embarrassed about it. Good enough to go out like your idol by suffering through years of abuse and an eating disorder? Probably not.

Still, compared to those Kurt Cobain copycats it isn’t a bad way to go. Just make sure you leave behind a solid body of work for bands to cover in the future.

The Stooges " “Not Right”
For a band that is consistently, frustratingly and laughably name-dropped throughout the film, there isn’t a single Stooges song on the soundtrack. Strange. Maybe Iggy realized he’d already sold his soul to whichever car company pimping him this week. This doesn’t excuse a lack of the Stooges on your iPod, though.

“Not Right” isn’t balls to the wall punk rock. It’s creepy, shambling, mumbling proto-punk with a man on the mic who sounds like he just stumbled out of the psych ward and into your nearest radio station. Turn it up to 11 to block out your roommate playing “Anyone Else but You” on repeat.

Belle & Sebastian - “Like Dylan in the Movies”
This band has gotten a bad rap ever since Jack Black called their material “sad bastard music” in High Fidelity. He’s not wrong, but everyone needs sad bastard music sometimes.

Juno follows suit with “Expectations,” but “Like Dylan in the Movies” is a little more cheerful. You might realize this whole soundtrack business is doing the same thing that Juno did. It’s true. Track down the entire album itself then “If You’re Feeling Sinister” to combat the “Pick and Choose” nature of this whole enterprise.

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