West of Memphis
West of Memphis
The soundtrack album for West of Memphis—a film that documents the 18-year struggle to free three innocent men convicted of murder when they were teenagers—is a flawed album. A combination of old and new tracks, the record spans a wide range of styles that leaves it sounding disconnected as Dixie Chick Natalie Maines teams up with Ben Harper for a slick, overblown take of Pink Floyd's "Mother," while just a few tracks later Marilyn Manson tackles Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" with surprising ease. Elsewhere, Johnny Depp leads Tonto's Giant Nuts through a version of Mumford and Sons' "Little Lion Man," besting the original by roughing the song up a bit, while the LA rock supergroup Camp Freddy turns in a fairly dull version of David Bowie's "The Jean Genie" and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder contributes "Satellite," a song from his solo album Ukulele Songs. In contrast, the White Buffalo wrings all the hairspray out of Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain" and turns it on its folky side, and Lucinda Williams offers up a satisfying new recording of her 1998 song "Joy."
Still, despite the ups and downs of the tracklist, the record is ultimately held together by bookending, spoken-word performances by Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp of death-row letters from one of the wrongly convicted men. The swelling instrumentation is on the melodramatic side, but the impact of the words is difficult to deny.
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