Celebrating the music of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

A film packed with plenty of solid tunes as well as pop culture references, we celebrate the eclectic soundtrack of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World...

The recipient of two excellent four star reviews on this very site, courtesy of Michael and James, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is, without doubt, the geekiest film of the year. And while it’s not a film without faults, it’s as close to a perfect an adaptation of the source as I could have hoped for.

I had a lot of fun with the film and it blended everything I’m geeky about in a 110 minute film. Given the nature of my weekly column, it’s no surprise that music, and specifically movie music, is something I’m quite passionate about and, as more news about the soundtrack surfaced, I got more and more excited.

The wait for the UK release of the soundtrack was rather excruciating, but it was worth it. I attempted, at a stage, to hold off listening to the soundtracks until I had seen the film, but temptation got the better of me. Listening to material without the context of the picture it accompanies can be a little jarring, but that’s not the case here. The soundtrack plays out like a very strong, near perfect mix tape. This is hardly a surprise, since the books themselves featured suggested listening by O’Malley, some of which make their way on to the soundtrack.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World boasts some of the finest uses of music I’ve heard for a long time and below are my thoughts on the elements that make up the soundtrack and why I think it’s so successful. As a word of warning ,there’ll be some mild spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen the film or read the comic books, please don’t read any further ,as I would hate to ruin anything for you.

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Fictional Bands

The bands that feature in Scott Pilgrim play such a huge part to the story it was essential that they were believable and, most importantly, good. I’m pleased that the bands featured here are the finest collection of fictional bands seen in a film since Du Jourand The Pussycatsfrom Josie And The Pussycats. The bands are as close to perfection, both in terms of aesthetic and music, as I could have hoped for. Perhaps what’s most impressive is the fact that the actors portraying the various band members performed and recorded the material and were coached by Sloane’s Chris Murphy.

Beck’s Sex Bob-Omb inclusions recall his early lo-fi roots and also remind me of bands such as The Hot Snakes and Times New Viking, the latter of which were reportedly in the running to bring the fictional bands music to life.

As much as I like TNV’smaterial, what Beckhas done here is really quite brilliant and I can’t imagine it being bettered. Apparently, Beck produced a whole load of material that wasn’t used in the film and I, for one, am hoping that it sees the light of day in the not too distant future, especially if the quality of the tracks included here are anything to go by. And what’s particularly impressive is the fact that the material was produced in 72 hours, including Ramona, which is more reminiscent of his output in his Sea Change era. It’s interesting to have Beck’s original recordings feature on the soundtrack alongside the actors’ versions, as a source of comparison.

Equally as impressive is Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene’scontributions for Crash and the Boys. Reading the comics, I kind of imagined them as a sort of a cross between the Ramonesand Minutemen on speed, with some Black Flag thrown in for good measure, and there’s certainly a sense of that here. Hilariously brief, but absolutely brilliant, their contributions for Crash and the Boys are almost unrecognisable from their epic pop sensibilities that typify their output.

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In terms of successfully bringing a band from page to screen, I think Metric’s Black Sheep is the closest to what I imagined any of the bands would sound. Metric’s front woman, Emily Haines, is reported to have been the basis for Envy Adam’s wardrobe in the film and, indeed, the band were O’Malley’s inspiration for Clash at Demonhead.

The lyrics to Black Sheep fit perfectly with the situation portrayed in the film and I would have loved to see it performed in its entirety, as Brie Larson’s version was very good, which is understandable, given her musical background.

It’s a shame that Larson’s version isn’t on the soundtrack. (If anyone knows a legal way which I can get my hands on a copy of this version of the track, I’d very much like to know.)

Sourced material

Not only are the sourced songs that feature in the film excellent, but all of them are absolutely appropriate for the scenes they accompany, both lyrically and musically. My favourite examples of these are T-Rex’s Teenage Dream accompanying the scene where Scott dumps Knives and Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones playing as Gideon drives away with Ramona.

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Another Broken Social Sceneaddition is the achingly beautiful Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl, which features Metric’s Emily Haines on vocals, and has been a favourite of mine since I got my hands on You Forgot It In People a few years ago. The snippet of Anthems that is heard is very brief, but the context in which it was used brought a tear to my eye. A beautiful song to accompany an equally beautiful moment in the film.

One of my favourite songs in the film, sadly, doesn’t appear on the soundtrack. Toronto natives Holy Fuck’s Latin is a tremendous song containing an interesting mix of rhythms and electronic tinged post rock that frequently flirts with insanity. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, I’d highly recommend you check them out, as they’re rather excellent.

Also, I think I noticed the Queen snippet. I’m not a huge Queen fan, so I could be wrong, but it sounded like a bit of music from Flash Gordon played when Gideon flashed his ring (steady!).

In addition to the highlights above, excellent additions from Frank Black, Beachwood Sparks, Black Lips, Plumtree, The Bluetones and Blood Red Shoes round off an excellent collection of music.

This is truly a collection of songs that serve the film and it’s a proper soundtrack album, not a collection of songs inspired by the film.

It really is a treat to have a collection of songs work as a standalone listen, with each song complimenting the next whilst appearing in mostly the same order as they do in the film. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention was paid to the chosing and, as such, none of the inclusions are superfluous to requirements.

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The Score

Godrich’s score is as strong and as varied as the soundtrack album to accompany the film. There’s chiptune present and correct with an 8-bit variation on Jerry Goldsmith’s Universal theme tune, which perfectly sets the tone for the film. After that, there’s a slow build with some beautiful tracks that sound like Sigur Rós’ Untitled pieces and elements of Broken Social Scene’s debut album, Feel Good Lost. Canning and Drew assisted on a number of the pieces on the score also.

The Beck composed Threshold features in a musical battle in the film and is also integrated into elements of the score and acts as an anthem for Scott getting his act together and getting shit done. It’s one of the finest and catchiest pieces on the soundtrack, so it’s great to hear variations on it appear a number of times across the soundtrack, including the chiptune 8-bit version by Brian LeBarton.

It’s a piece that wears its influences on its sleeve with elements of popular videogame music creeping its way in.

As a whole, the score is a work of genre-defying madness that utilises an assortment of musical styles to enhance the mood of the piece. From the aforementioned melancholic post rock to up-tempo dance pieces, this is a varied but highly effective debut score that’s an interesting break from the orchestral scores that have accompanied much of the year’s biggest pictures. A whole lot of credit should go Godrich’s way for his work here, as he was responsible for producing the original material on the soundtrack, as well as composing the score.

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Further Listening

If all of the above wasn’t enough for you to enjoy, I would recommend checking out the superb soundtrack Anamanaguchi composed for the Scott Pilgrim Vs The World PSN and XBLA game. It’s insanely catchy and is a must buy for fans of old school videogame music and the chiptune tracks that feature in the aforementioned soundtracks. It’s one of the greatest videogame soundtracks for some time and has encouraged me to check out more of Anamanaguchi’s material.

Also, albums from all of the bands that feature here are pretty much essential listening, particularly Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People.

I hope you all enjoyed the music of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World as much as I did. Feel free to add your own highlights below!