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Various Artists Whip It – Music from the Motion Picture Review

Soundtrack. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

An hour of great music that works independently of its parent picture.

Mike Diver 2010

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut has been a long time coming in the UK – but roughing it up down the roller derby isn’t that popular a leisure pursuit in the Home Counties. Released in the States last autumn, Whip It suffered against stiff opposition. And although greater success can’t be expected this side of The Pond, Barrymore’s enthusiasm for the project carries over into this soundtrack, a compilation presented as a mix-tape from the actress herself.

Barrymore’s one of the executive producers here – their names appear prominently beneath the album’s tracklisting. And those involved deserve a pat on the back for delivering an energetic, engaging assortment of tracks both widely well known and completely new to even experienced ears. It’s not quite the labour of love stickered copies claim it to be – “This is my mix-tape for you!” it screams, the words attributed to Barrymore – but it’s intelligently compiled, and could attract previously stay-away audiences to a film that, based on a lot of its promotional artwork, looks like just another story of teenage empowerment. Or, worse, a chick-flick.

Whip It’s a lot more than that, as it happens – and this set offers greater depth than many a comparable-on-paper release. How many soundtrack discs do you know that flow from the Ramones’ evergreen Sheena Is a Punk Rocker to Cut Chemist and Hymnal’s swaggering What’s the Attitude, and then on to The Breeders’ punchy and playful Bang On? It’s this bright contrast between tracks, highlighted by their sequencing, that plays to the album’s favour – knowing full well that coherence is impossible to establish without incorporating narrative (an all-too-hackneyed habit), it abandons the temptation to sew tracks into the fabric of the movie’s plot altogether. The result: an hour of great music that works independently of its parent picture.

Highlights include The Raveonettes’ Dead Sound, a charmingly understated fuzz-pop gem that belies its ominous title, and Peaches’ call-to-arms of Boys Wanna Be Her. The presence of Har Mar Superstar should set alarm bells ringing, but with Adam Green aboard his Never My Love delivers less hollow funk, more touching tenderness. And Jen Lekman’s Your Arms Around Me is absolutely sublime – a key track on the Swedish singer’s 2007 album Night Falls Over Kortedala, hopefully its inclusion here will send more listeners the way of his wonderfully romantic repertoire. It’s the cherry on a proverbial cake of unexpected excellence.

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