* = Poor
** = fair
*** = good
**** = excellent
The Album (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax 69338)
Like the movie ad says, Size Matters. And just as you can't have a summer blockbuster film without larger-than-life special effects, you can't have a summer blockbuster soundtrack without a generous serving of superstars.
Star power is not a problem for "Godzilla: The Album." Not only does it boast a raft of monster acts, including the Wallflowers, Foo Fighters, Jamiroquai and Rage Against the Machine, one track even pairs hip-hop auteur Puff Daddy with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page -- a match-up almost as awesome as when Godzilla squared off against Mothra.
But with so many giants aboard, why does this "Godzilla" seem so small-scale?
OK, so there's no big ballad on the album, nothing that soars like "I Believe I Can Fly" (R. Kelly's big hit from the movie "Space Jam") or that plays on the emotions like "My Heart Will Go On" (Celine Dion's love theme from "Titanic"). That's OK. Nobody expects a movie about a giant, city-destroying lizard to be long on sentimentality.
But c'mon -- shouldn't it be able to do at least a little better than the Wallflowers' pallid remake of "Heroes"? Although frontman Jakob Dylan does a passable job of evoking the stylish ennui of David Bowie's original, his singing has none of Bowie's ironic TTC grandeur. So instead of being about the romantic futility of heroism, the Wallflowers' "Heroes" is simply about being able to remake a great single. How inspiring.
At least "Come with Me" tries to put a different spin on its source material. Like most Puff Daddy raps, it's built around a pre-existing hit, in this case Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." But instead of simply looping a sample and then mixing in some extra drums and bass, the way "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" reconfigured the intro to Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out," "Come with Me" starts fresh, having Jimmy Page and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello lay down a wholly new rhythm track.
Instrumentally, it's an awesome piece of work, amplifying the monstrous stomp of the original while sneaking a sort of funky swagger into its cadences. Lock into the guitars and drums, and it's easy to envision Godzilla himself lumbering up Broadway. But Puffy's rap is beyond pointless, glancing off the groove as ineffectually as bullets off the monster's hide. Somebody get that man a writer!
That's not to say "Godzilla" is totally without teeth. Jamiroquai's "Deeper Underground" is everything a soundtrack single should be, with a thematically oriented lyric -- Jay Kay puts himself in Godzilla's shoes, and actually finds something sympathetic about its tortured rampage -- and a deeply funky rhythm track. And while Rage Against the Machine's "No Shelter" offers more politics than plot support, its squalling guitar, hectoring vocal and gutsy martial groove more than compensate.
Beyond that, "Godzilla: The Album" is background fare at best. Ben Folds Five serves up a dollop of tuneful melancholy with "Air," but apart from the lusciously harmonized chorus, the track is pleasantly forgettable.
Likewise, though there's much to admire about the craft that went into Michael Penn's "Macy Day Parade," there's little in the melody that would make the song memorable. And while Silverchair makes great use of instrumental texture in the sadly swinging "Untitled" -- the combination of mellotron and cello is particularly impressive -- the overall performance is of interest only if you've wondered what an R.E.M./Metallica collaboration might sound like.
In short, "Godzilla: The Album" may have its moments, but this soundtrack is hardly the monster pop fans expected. Fortunately, there is at least a lesson to be learned: Size isn't everything.
Pub Date: 5/21/98