Various Artists – Bill & Ted Face the Music: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

4 out of 5

Label: 10K Projects, Mondo

Produced by: Various

Soundtracks – not scores – are weird beasts. I have very few in my collection, and they’re all purchased for very specific bands who’ve had exclusive tracks on whichever soundtrack. It’s why I bought the Bill & Ted Face the Music soundtrack, for songs by Big Black Delta and Mastodon, as well as being an appreciator of some of the other artists here – Lamb of God, Weezer.

But I know there are people who buy soundtracks because they loved the music featured in a movie in a more general sense – I sold enough Dazed and Confused and Pulp Fiction soundtracks in my music store years to attest to that. Listening to a soundtrack from that perspective can be akin to an expertly crafted mixtape, so I can appreciate that as well, even if the contents may not appeal.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is, I believe, all exclusive tracks, and it’s also a very music-centric flick, giving it likelihood for crossing over into both of these categories for any given listener. But there’re also a couple different agendas going on here: giving us a tour of era-appropriate sounds from the 80s to the modern era, lending itself to a track-by-track count-off of particular styles; and then acting as tribute to the guitar-shredding of Bill and Ted’s in-flick group, Wild Stalyns. For as accessible as all of these tracks are – they’re all very much singles – this approach lends itself to some criticisms at first blush: that the presumed guidance to stick to a particular style prevents the groups from going off the beaten path too much, making for few tracks that stick past their runtime; and that there’s a definite, jarring split between pop and riffy-metal – Cold War Kids do not blend into Mastodon all that well.

However, that accessibility ends up smoothing over both of these things immensely: the entire album is so digestible that it’s very easy to listen to on repeat, which lends the ephemeral more memorability and allows you to expect that changeups in style. The sequencing actually reveals itself to be pretty smart – shifting us up through the decades until about the midway point when the Mastodon track is just, like, fuck it, and we start bouncing around thereafter; it’s a smooth lead-in to later messiness, and by that point, the variation is perhaps a plus for keeping the tone very mixed – every song that ends makes you wonder what’s next. Furthermore, the “controlled” nature of the music could be seen as a way of narrowing down these very familiar groups to their most familiar sounds. Maybe that means, for example, that this isn’t my favorite Mastodon track, neither being the most unique or having an all-time riff or anything, but it does mean it’s a damn good song worth hearing again.

Even the Wild Stalyns tracks are pretty good, with Animals as Leaders players turning in a surprisingly moving classic rock-styled instrumental for one, and the latter a weird, but not uninteresting collage of horns and guitars and keys.

The Mondo version of this has, of course, fun packaging: a Wild Stalyns cover, and the interior sleeve has two fake album covers for Bill & Ted in-universe characters. The sound quality is clean, but I did feel like the A-side was mastered at a lower volume than B. Didn’t affect the depth / clarity of the sound at all, just had to turn up A to hear it at the same level as B. As always, could be a “just my copy” issue – the other comment on Discogs mentioned surface noise I didn’t experience.