Acevalone, Calling All Destroyers, Cheap Trick, Eric Carmen, Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn, Lo Def Dollz, Moneybrother, Rainn Wilson, Super, Terra Naomi, The Ark, The Nomads, The Raspberries, Tsar, Tyler Bates
James Gunn’s soundtrack for Marvel’s Guardians of Galaxy got almost as much commentary as the film itself. The hooky selection of tunes probably had a lot of powerpop connoisseurs attributing the choices to some nameless musical supervisor. But a scan of Gunn’s movie resume suggests he doesn’t leave such decisions to just anybody. In fact, you get a feel for Gunn’s powerpop instincts with the choice of Tsar’s “Calling All Destroyers,” which he featured prominently in an earlier vehicle, his 2010 black comedy Super. While the movie got mixed reviews the soundtrack deserves a definite thumbs up, at least when it comes to hitting the powerpop marks. I’m not saying every song in the film fits the genre but with tracks from Tsar, Eric Carmen, Cheap Trick and The Nomads there’s clearly some kind of theme to the whole thing. I mean, just check out how Gunn uses “Calling All Destroyers” to open the movie with its animated title sequence. Talk about setting the scene – this is pure fun!
Another nod to the powerpop canon on the Super soundtrack is the inclusion of Eric Carmen. You don’t get much closer to the genre’s royalty than his early 1970s band The Raspberries, even if his solo career is largely defined by easy listening and power ballads. “It Hurts Too Much” is an exception, a welcome throwback to The Raspberries big hooks and Spector-ish production. Seeing Cheap Trick here also set off the powerpop alarms big time. “If You Want My Love” is from the band’s 1982 album One On One and it’s dripping with a late period Beatles vibe. Another track fitting the genre is the pop punky “I Do” from the mysterious Lo Def Dollz.
From there the soundtrack goes in a number of mostly complimentary directions. A surprising number of Swedish artists make the cut. Moneybrother offer up some pop reggae on “God Knows My Name ‘11” and “Born Under a Bad Sign” in a style reminiscent of The Specials. The Ark offer a more 1980s pop dance number with “Let Your Body Decide.” Last on the Nordic front is The Nomads doing punk honour to The Standells “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White.” Then Gunn adds in back-to-back country and hip hop selections with cuts from Terra Naomi and Acevalone, just to throw in some grit. Tyler Bates provides seven of the seventeen tracks on the soundtrack, mostly incidental music, except for the striking “Two Perfect Moments” which is a song proper.
The music on the Super soundtrack really works with the movie, effectively framing Rainn Wilson and his girl sidekick’s wonderfully demented performances as heroes/anti-heroes. The critics may have been divided but I thought the movie rocked, blowing up the superhero genre and defying easy identification with its themes or characters. Of course, the inspired soundtrack just made it that much better. To my eyes and ears, Super really is super.