New Line refused to screen Snakes on a Plane for critics, so when it came time to write the reviews they had a hard time talking about anything else, except maybe how they actually loved camp and were entitled to a press screening. Following this logic, maybe New Line Records should have withheld review copies of Snakes on a Plane: The Album. The studio heads argued they made Snakes on a Plane for the fans, not for critics, and the same could — probably should — be said for the soundtrack. With contributions from Panic! At the Disco, the Academy Is…, and other equally juvenile bands that refrain from abusing punctuation, this soundtrack is meant for the Hot Topic set.
Which is probably why Snakes on a Plane: The Album is so delightful. Free from pretense, it was crafted only with fans in mind. If you happen to be one, or if this soundtrack makes one of you, the bands featured here couldn’t care less, a fact that’s addressed in the third track, “Black Mamba.” William Beckett of the Academy Is… asks, “When they review the debut, what if the critics hate you?/ Don’t worry ’cause you might just catch them bloody/off their feet.”
And it’s true. I avoided the track list because I knew little about most of these bands except for my wanton presumptions. The gambit worked, creating a listening experience that can’t exactly be called likable but is certainly enjoyable — like the distinction between good and sweet or eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s: It’s delicious, but afterward, everyone always feels a little guilty and maybe even nauseous. Gym Class Heroes’ contribution, “New Friend Request,” addresses what else but an unrequited MySpace crush. And yet the concept and content of the song are somehow brilliantly executed, notwithstanding lyrics such as these: “If I had two horses and I beat them with authority/ I’d gallop all the way to Canada to see your face/ But all I got is this PowerBook and iChat.”
The drollery of most emo lyrics is too easy a target, though even Fall Out Boy conjures smiles on The Album, but what to make of “New Friend Request”? Somehow, the answer is to remove the proverbial tongue from the cheek, if only because of how many flexing-in-the-mirror-default-pictured middle schoolers have fallen into the trap the song describes. “New Friend Request” highlights a major point of confusion on The Album, which is that few, if any, of its songs have anything to do with snakes or planes. “Black Mamba” touches upon the venom of critics and nothing more, while Coheed and Cambria’s “Wake Up” opens with the declaration, “I’m gonna ride this plane/ out of your life again,” though that’s about it. This would be delicious emo at its height if not for the chorus: “I’ll do anything for you/ kill anyone for you.”
What makes this line even better is that the depressive neo-Crimson progsters utter it over a lone, mesmerizing acoustic guitar, another fact of The Album. In addition to having little to do with the movie’s subject, the songs have little to do with themselves, so to speak, considering all but five are remixes of previously released tracks. This makes bands with which I have little prior familiarity harder to gauge, but as I listen to Coheed & Cambria’s “Blood Red Summer,” I can confirm it is better than expected.
The one song I did know coming in was the Sounds’ “Queen of Apology.” Remixed here by Patrick Stump, he skitters up the beat and subdues the guitars until they transform into mandolins. This new version still captures the band’s energy, making Maja Ivarsson and company sound faster without actually speeding up. Though part of the joy of this album is not knowing how close these songs are to the originals, I checked out Panic! at the Disco’s “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” (phew!). Their remix congeals and thickens yet retains its fist-pumping dance step, indicating that the album’s producers were able to shake the songs up without losing the source material. And not surprisingly, maracas, cymbals, and synths mock hissing rattlers throughout the record, the one constant that ties things together.
And then there’s Cee-lo. After Cobra Starship, he contributes the only other original track — excluding the far too kitschy score that closes the Album, perhaps the only track that casts a willful wink and nudge — wherein he admits, “Actually, I’m having the time of my life.” And why not? Riding on the success of Gnarls Barkley, Green gets to spin out Sam Jackson’s famous quote into a great hook while pretending to be on the flight, witnessing all the mayhem.
As for that quote, it opens the mix of “(Bring It),” which opens The Album, but it is the only Pulp Fiction-style snippet that works, thanks in large part to its mythos. The others are too lewd (one involves a metaphor to the tune of going down “faster than a Thai hooker”) and too brief to amuse anyone over the age of fifteen. Oh. Right.
Snakes on a Plane site: http://www.snakesonaplane.com/