It seems that Jon Brion has a knack for composing some remarkable soundtracks. The movies Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia benefited from his expertise, and Michel Gondry’s latest quirky effort Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind would appear to have also hit the jackpot in Brion.
As far as I can gather, Eternal Sunshine is a strange and provoking comedy, dealing with heartache and memory erasure, with Gondry apparently teasing a stellar performance from Jim Carrey. What would we expect of such a story’s soundtrack? In short, it’s Vanilla Sky with a greater sense of humour, blending ambient orchestration with a number of contributions from the likes of The Polyphonic Spree and E.L.O..
Brion opens proceedings with a sublime and wistful track, fed simply through subdued piano and double bass, with just a hint of violins hovering in the background. The evocative mood soon makes way for track two, the brilliant Mr Blue Sky from the equally brilliant E.L.O. It’s not in the actual feature, granted, but it is the pounding, sunshine anthem that grabbed your attention in the trailers (it also scored the preview for Adaptation, also written by Eternal Sunshine’s eccentric Charlie Kaufman). Mr Blue Sky certainly stands out, and that’s certainly saying something here.
This is no Me, Myself & Irene, however, and the soundtrack is not so bold as to paint itself entirely with this foot-tapping tone. Brion’s compositions make up the bulk of the tracklisting, but, unlike other soundtracks, do not overstay their welcome. In fact most are around the one-minute mark, serving as brief but provocative interludes between the likes of robed funsters The Polyphonic Spree (who contribute two typically zealous songs), Indian superstar Lata Mangeshkar, Don Nelson (ragtime instrumentals) and Beck (whose reworking of The Korgis‘ Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime is simply outstanding, crossing Sea Change-esque rawness with Brion’s subtlety).
The only real concern here is the inclusion of a couple of tracks by The Willowz. Their unpolished, no-frills approach is by no means bad, of course, but their songs here only serve to break up Brion’s carefully crafted mood. There’s a time and a place for The Willowz, and to be frank, they only manage to sound irritating when coarsely shoved into the tracklisting. Skip them and you have a whimsical and emotional collection worthy of your undivided attention – just like the movie.