Mark Mothersbaugh, Seu Jorge & various artists,
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
(Hollywood, 2004)

Sir Wes Anderson, writer/director/producer of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, it must be asked: Where was your mind when you decided to combine the classic David Bowie with ... Portuguese? That's right, and enlisting Brazilian musician Seu Jorge to acoustically cover them? Well, I admit your decision was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And I wish I had just a sliver of the creative juices, Wes, that influence your eccentric choices.

Even better was casting Jorge in the film itself, where he'd periodically appear, guitar in hand, overlapping his smooth vocals over the natural sounds of birds and sea. Jorge's reproductions, performed a bit slower than Bowie but still sounding enough like the real thing, were always a welcomed interlude between the kooky antics of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his band of boat mates. The soundtrack includes five Bowie covers in all, including "Starman," "Rebel Rebel" and "Life on Mars?" And each of them is a delight, time and time again.

For those in the dark, The Life Aquatic is the brainchild of 38-year-old visionary Anderson, whose films evoke tiny, colorful worlds that enable his audiences to escape every day reality like no other filmmaker today. In this one, the plot is rather thin, but its peculiar characters and experimentation run fairly deep: It concerns Zissou's quest to kill a mythical jaguar shark that consumed his boating partner. I know, I know. But I swear it's great.

And who better to facilitate audiences into this zany revenge story than Mark Mothersbaugh, founding member of new wave music group Devo? Mothersbaugh, who has previously provided original music content in Anderson's flicks, again works his electronic, synthesized and even wind family magic in five total tracks.

The favorite would be "Ping Island/Lighting Strike Rescue Op," which in the film ignites Zissou into a fit of dance fever before he and his crew run off and battle a team of pirates. That alone was worth the price of admission. But the track is highly stylized, mixing electronic beats with a full-blown orchestra of brass, wind and percussion instruments. It's offbeat, wacky and, if anything, simply Mothersbaugh.

His other tracks, including "We Call Them Pirates Out Here," are equally creative, albeit less enthralling. And "Loquasto International Film Festival," the only track to ditch his pop electronica/orchestra mix, successfully creates that event exactly: a pompous film fest filled to the brim with the highly important and successfully rich.

The remainder of the overloaded, 20-song soundtrack is a diverse mix of odds and ends, including content from Joan Baez, Sven Libaek and -- you guessed it -- David Bowie. Nothing brand new from him here, just "Queen Bitch" and the classic "Life on Mars?" But believe me, they sound better than ever amongst the beautiful Portuguese knock-offs and cute Mothersbaugh products.

review by
Eric Hughes

14 June 2008

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