Paul Westerberg's place in the rock canon is safe, thanks to the his work in the 1980s with the Minneapolis band The Replacements. If you had placed a bet back then that he'd eventually score an animated movie replete with a bunny rabbit, chances are you'd received pretty good odds. But here we are in 2006, children's music is all the rage, and Paul Westerberg has scored an animated movie replete with a bunny rabbit -- Open Season, whose Original Soundtrack is being released today.
Setting the improbability aside, is it any good? It's a hard question to answer, because you're inevitably judging the album against Westerberg's previous work, much of which was recorded long before you were even thinking about parenthood. In any case, it's a mixed bag. Westerberg, who crafted a great soundtrack cut for the movie Singles ("Dyslexic Heart"), has another great song here in "Meet Me in the Meadow," a gorgeous pop tune with a soaring string-accompanied chorus, the sense of hope very reminiscent of Replacements' themes. It's definitely one of my favorite kids' music tracks of the year.
"Love You in the Fall," the lead single, sounds most like an actual Replacements song, and is a decent song to boot. "Right To Arm Bears" is a bit of silliness obviously crafted for a particular bit in the movie and shows off Westerberg's wordplay, as does "Any Better Than This" includes the amusing turn of phrase "knight in shining armchair."
Where I think the soundtrack fails, at least for kids, is the slower songs. "I Belong" and "Whisper Me Luck" move too slowly to grab most kids' attention (at least without a visual accompaniment), and I'm not sure the kids are going to respond to the lyrical concerns. In the context of the movie, they may be perfect, but as a set of standalone tracks, they bring the soundtrack to a halt.
There are four tracks not performed by Westerberg. Pete Yorn covers "I Belong" and he, too, doesn't make it particularly compelling. Sacramento's Deathray (including members from Cake) cover Westerberg's "Wild As I Wanna Be" and have a fun, poppy original, "I Wanna Lose Control." And the Talking Heads, whose place in the rock canon may be even more safe than Westerberg, contribute "Wild Wild Life," a song whose existence will continue long after the apocalypse happens and cockroaches roam the earth. Needless to say, I'd've rather heard another Westerberg track than that recycled cut.
I'm gonna peg the soundtrack as most appropriate for ages 6 and up. I mean, there's nothing inappropriate about the album -- I just don't think 3-year-olds will care much. Listen to four tracks at the soundtrack's Myspace page.
The Open Season soundtrack is a good Paul Westerberg album, with probably more good songs than a lot of his recent work. Whether you or your kids will listen to it in the long run probably depends more, however, on whether you (or your kids) care about what Westerberg and his bandmates recorded 20 years ago.