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J. Spaceman / Sun City Girls - Mister Lonely: Music From a Film by Harmony Korine

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Artist: J. Spaceman / Sun City Girls

Album: Mister Lonely: Music From a Film by Harmony Korine

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jul. 1, 2008

Just as certain rappers structure their albums like semi-autobiographical films, certain filmmakers structure their films like albums, and often bear heavily on their soundtracks. Aside from the right-wing scare flick Kids, most of Harmony Korine’s work has favored “atmosphere” over linear storytelling or ideological perspective, and he’s always had an acute ear for music that emphasizes his aesthetic without stealing the show. (Consider the sludge-metal score for Gummo. Even Kids got most of its dramatic heft from the oily angst of Lou Barlow’s soundtrack.) For Mr. Lonely, a mood piece that follows a cult of celebrity impersonators until it gets distracted by skydiving nuns and Werner Herzog, he commissions the musique-concrete-ish tone poems of Jason “J. Spaceman” Pierce (of Spiritualized) and the ramshackle impressionism of Sun City Girls. (Apparently, this was some of the last music that SCG drummer/prankster Charles Gocher recorded before his death.) The film has received limited release and mixed reviews. The uneven soundtrack can be quite polarizing and evocative in its own right.

Pierce and SCG don’t collaborate at all here, which, as several critics have already noted, is too bad. But their music is woven together in such a way that the overall mood (an eerily detached meditation on loss, loneliness and sublimation) eclipses the individual bars and movements. Pierce’s pieces, by themselves, are relatively insubstantial, even as OST mood music. SCG contributes enough self-contained highlights (the earthy “3D Girls,” the Antarctic “Spook” and the diminutive cover of Bobby Vinton’s self-pitying title cut) to tie the rest together – not just the Spaceman cuts, but the self-consciously creepy recitations of Herzog, Diego Luna, Britta Gartner and Rachel Korine. Wildly inconsistent in their own recorded output, SCG puts the seitan in this scramble.

The film’s self-loathing characters reduce star-quality soulfulness to a shtick, thereby removing themselves, to a degree, from their (still totally obvious) suffering. Likewise, the soundtrack hides its sadness behind a thin but pretty front, exposing its pain through the fissures, often perceptible but always out of reach. Only on SCG’s closer “Farewell” does all of that regret gush to the surface. Such a pure expression circumvents any questions about what Korine’s movie “means,” which works out well enough for everyone.

By Emerson Dameron

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