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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Freaks and Geeks - Original Soundtrack and Score

MUSIC REVIEWS

Various ArtistsFreaks and Geeks - Original Soundtrack and Score (Shout! Factory)

It doesn't happen often that a soundtrack album is released for a TV series that was cancelled after less than a full season four years ago.  However, Freaks and Geeks isn't your everyday average show.

After it lasted for only twenty low-rated episodes back in 1999-2000, the show has become legendary in a small, quiet way.  I hate to make comparisons about shows that are so fundamentally different, but a rabid cult of Freaks and Geeks has built up that is reminiscent of the early fans of the original Star Trek series.  Due to popular (or unpopular?) demand, earlier this year the entire series was released on DVD.  Now the second wave comes, which includes this companion CD and two books of scripts from the series.

Musically, this soundtrack highlights the good and bad qualities of the series.  It does have some really terrific music, mostly from the time period of the TV series (the turn of the decade into the 1980s.)  The instrumental score by Michael Andrews stands on its own surprisingly well on its own, unlike the normal orchestral scores we've grown accustomed to, it rocks like nobody's business.

My problem with Freaks and Geeks musically is that I was in high school at the same time as this show took place, and honestly, most of these songs are not what kids were listening to at the time.  These were songs that music critics were listening to.  With twenty-five years of hindsight, I love XTC too, but back then had you played me "No Language In Our Lungs" I would have asked what the hell that was.  Also, while we knew Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" back in the day, and the really on-top-of-it music geeks may have known "Sunday Papers," very few people really knew "Look Sharp."  "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was a great song, but was also a song that almost no one heard until a year or two after the show took place, when Jett finally hit it with "I Love Rock and Roll" and we all started looking into her back catalogue.  I'm rather shocked they never dusted off "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division, another brilliant critic's favorite of the day that no one else had heard of.

However, when they hit the mark, they do really nail it.  The broad faux-symphonic bombast of Styx's "Come Sail Away," the ironic moping of Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and the chugging dance vibe of Heatwave's "The Groove Line" are all musical time capsules to the days of Clearasil and feathered hair.  While the screeching prog rock of Rush's "Spirit of Radio" and the classic rock of the Who's "I'm One" was more the type of stuff that the smoking platform kids listened to than I did, it still gave me a nostalgic tingle. 

Five of the last songs are all performances by the cast from actual episodes of the show.  It is cool to have them, however it is only interesting for hardcore fans of the show.  The thing is, on the show, most of them were ironically bad, which is great and funny, but taken out of context they can be just bad.  For example, Jason Segel's "Lady L" is supposed to be a really awful acoustic power ballad that one of the characters writes for a girl he has a crush on.  So, listening to it on disk saps the tune of it's perspective, and makes it just seem like, well, a really pretty awful acoustic power ballad.  Dave (Gruber) Allen's version of Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen" is funnier when we realize that it is being performed by a high school guidance counselor trying desperately to be hip.  Same problem with Segel and Sarah Hagan's drunken piano duet of "Jesus Is Just Alright," since we don't know on disk it's being sung by an outcast who is trying to fit in the only way she knows how to at a party.

Still, I'd guess that this CD won't be picked up on by the casual listeners anyway.  This is for the Freaks and Geeks cult.  They would kill to have all this on one disk.  Now they don't have to.  (10/04)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted October 16, 2004.

 

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Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted October 16, 2004.