In the most recent installment of the College Countdown feature, I continued to let the writing be colored by personal disgruntlement over my alma mater station’s embrace of mediocre (to be kind) soundtracks in the mid-nineties. Realistically, though, those student programmers were properly, albeit somewhat painfully, reflecting the state of the music scene at the time. Just as blockbuster, mass appeal soundtrack albums were the norm about a decade earlier, round about 1996, filmmakers and labels were actively pursuing the alternative music fan with soundtrack efforts, maybe in part because the likes of Hole, while big in their own way, came cheaper than three-time Academy Award-nominee Bryan Adams. So pious as I may be, I joined many of my fellow music fans in adding several soundtracks to my collection during this span.
One of those that still remains on my CD shelf is the soundtrack to the Richard Linklater film SubUrbia. I can’t overstate the appeal the film had on paper: an adaptation of a Eric Bogosian play back when Talk Radio still reverberated in my psyche, featuring indie hero actors like Parker Posey and Steve Zahn, and the latest offering from a young director on a career kick-off winning streak that included Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Before Sunrise. The actual film left only the weakest of impressions, but the soundtrack could still be bought with pride. Populated by Sonic Youth, Beck, Superchunk, and the Flaming Lips (and including the requisite oldie bestowed with quasi-ironic retro-cool, Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity”), it actually produced the desired effect of the best soundtrack albums of being a suitable stand-in for a great radio station or a well-constructed mix tape.
And of course it featured at least one top-notch cover song. In 1996, Boss Hog was probably the closest the ever came to breaking through. Interest in anything guitarist Jon Spencer was up to was at or near its peak, and the group’s fine major label debut had been released one year earlier. Spencer might have been the impetus for some to check out the band, but it was lead vocalist Cristina Martinez, Spencer’s wife, who was the real star of the group. With a splendid punk wail and a charisma to burn (and, it should be noted, a propensity to appear in various states of undress on the covers to early Boss Hog albums, which surely held appeal for a sizable portion of the target audience), Martinez was the kind of fierce, fearless star alternative radio needed at the time, even if the bulk of the corporatized programmers didn’t know it. And if she and the band were going to cover one of the coolest offerings in the mighty Kinks’ songbook–and a relatively obscurity at that, as it was originally a B-side– then it was all the better. The cover ain’t pretty, but it’s damn well beautiful.
Listen or download –> Boss Hog, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”
(Disclaimer: As far as I can discern, the SubUrbia soundtrack is long out of print, and it doesn’t appear that this particular track ever landed anywhere else. Thusly, it is shared here with the understanding, hope, and belief that it is not available for purchase in a manner that will duly compensate the artist, the original songwriter, and the proprietor of your favorite local, independently-owned record store with equal accuracy. Even though I feel this is well within the well-established American copyright principle of fair use, no matter what current law may say otherwise, I recognize that I have no inherent legal right to post such material and will gladly remove it if asked to do so by someone with due authority to make such a request.)