Review by Brad Green:
It was always going to take a super-hero to rescue the rock anthem. Buried beneath a pile of Grunge, the good old stadium shaker that could lift the roof of the rafters and raise fifty thousand air-punching fists in synchronicity, seemed destined to never again spring open our adrenalin taps and have us bathing in our own exhilaration.
Enter a sticky-fingered fellow in a red and blue bodysuit – who could have really given some cheek to the guards at Checkpoint Charlie – and suddenly mighty guitar riffs and singers with jet engines lodged in their larynxes are fashionable again.
A lengthy line-up of artists, whose names are mostly unfamiliar to me, have strung their guitars with spider silk (five times stronger than steel of the same diameter), souped up their sound with radioactive pick-ups, and let rip. The music is over-the-top, tasty and pungent. Like ripe Limburger. Most importantly the vocalists, unlike the grunge-grunters of recent memory, actually know how to sing; or at the very least rasp in the right key.
An acoustic outing from Corey Taylor also catches the ear, courtesy of a classy melody and no less power than its electrified neighbours. He does, however, really need to lose that first name; which summons up images of poseurs who wear their sunglasses at night, or teen heartthrobs who lure in even the Lisa Simpsons of this world to worship at the altar of pop idolatry.
Along with the songs, we get two samples from the orchestral score, composed by the usual suspect. The aptly named Danny Elfman has become synonymous with myth, comic book and fantasy movies from Batman to Edward Scissorhands and now Spider-Man. Most often composing for director Tim Burton, Elfman does exactly the same job for Sam Raimi, producing a score that is characteristic to the point of self-caricature. Which works because Elfman is in top form with his signature string runs and ethereal choral passages.
Meanwhile, back on the song front, the young rockers haven’t usurped the title throne; and it is regular soundtrack squatters, Aerosmith, who realise a roaring take on the Spider-Man theme. All the same, their version can’t quite compete with the charm of the original, featured in all its show tune-style glory at the head of the CD. This original theme also contains the soundtrack’s only female voices – aside from Macy Gray, who in the midst of all the testosterone provides some distaff dynamite of the type that leaves one wondering whether she’s rocking funkily, or funking rockingly, and ultimately not caring because it simply sounds so funkin’ fabulous. And the fact that her more sophisticated sound doesn’t overshadow the slew of power chord-driven anthems is testament to the fact that this record works.
Ultimately, stadium rock serves the same purpose as a comic book hero. It is a gloriously silly, mythic, romantic nod to a noble ideal; and therefore among the most cherished forms of pure escapism known to man, or Spider-man.
Published August 8, 2002
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ARTISTS: Chad Kroeger; Sum 41; Black Lab; Bleu; Alien Ant Farm; Default; Corey Taylor; Greenwheel; The Strokes; The Hives; Theory Of A Dead Man; Pete Yorn; Macy Gray; Injected; Jerry Cantrell; Aerosmith
SCORE: Danny Elfman