Shudder Settle the Score - Rolling Stone
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Shudder Settle the Score

Now that studios have discovered the commercial potential of
moviesoundtracks, scores that actually complement films have become
a rarity. It’seasier, after all, to slap together a couple of
surefire radio hits and a feworiginal tracks from hot mainstream
acts than to actually use the soundtrackto enhance a film’s
atmosphere or further its plot and thematic scope. Withmovie albums
virtually guaranteeing profits on even less-than-successfulfilms, a
director is taking a risk by assigning a score to a single band
orcomposer, regardless of the final quality. Especially when that
band is theradio-unfriendly Shudder To Think.

“It’s peculiar music that we make, even though the songs are very
mainstream,”opines Craig Wedren, the smooth-scalped frontman for
punk-rock-turned-avant-garde-composer-group Shudder To Think. “And
after 50,000 B.C. [their1997 Epic release], everything
went wrong. I had just recovered from cancer,our friend Tim Taylor
from Brainiac, who we had toured with, had died, therecord tanked.
So we said, ‘let’s take this somewhere else, let’s do amovie.'”

They were first commissioned to create — of all things — a slew
of Fiftiesand Sixties-inspired pop songs for director Jesse
Peretz’s First Love, LastRites, a tale of teen love set on
the bayou that comes out next week. “Wehad sort of icons that we
wanted to emulate,” explains Wedren. “Otis Reddingon ‘I Want
Someone Badly,’ the Zombies on ‘Automatic Soup,’ Johnny Cash
on’Lonesome Dove.’ And we just made lists of everybody we wanted to
work with,starting with people we knew.”

Listen to the album, and you’ll be surprised to hear Jeff Buckley
(whorecorded the song “I Want Someone Badly” just prior to his
death — his lasttruly-produced song), Billy Corgan, Cheap Trick’s
Robin Zander, the Cardigans’Nina Persson, Liz Phair, and John Doe
perfecting pop gems written by Shudder.”Somehow the drama and
things that people perceive as pretentious,melodramatic and
overwrought worked on the film,” comments Wedren. “There’sthis
synergy.”

That synergy was something that Wedren and bandmates Stuart Hill
(bass) andNathan Larsson (guitar) didn’t anticipate, though it
wasn’t entirelyunfamiliar. They had cut their mixed-media teeth on
the theme song to ComedyCentral’s Viva Variety, and had
perfomed numerous musical tasks onThe State, but STT had
always focused — stressed out, even — on theiralbums, which lost
and gained fans and threatened their security as a unit,each time
around. Their eclectic, theatric, textured songs were out of
reachto most alternative/punk-tuned ears, and their stage shows
were at times evenless accessible (Wedren has been known to perform
in his birthday suit). Butthe STT drama, sound and scope lent
itself perfectly to moving images on ascreen.

“With film, you’re encouraged to try as many different types of
music as ittakes, from jazz to classical to pop to experimental to
ambient toelectronic,” says Wedren. “You’ve just got to do it, to
crank it out, and youdon’t spend a year polishing it in the studio.
It’s ironic, but despite thefact that you’re anchored or limited by
what’s on the screen, it’s much freer.We get to play roles for two
months, and then it’s done. We don’t have to goout and peddle our
music, we can just make it.”

After First Love, STT stuck to the scoring, but in another
directionaltogether. The music for the Ally Sheedy lesbian flick
High Art is”strictly ambient,” and their contribution to
Todd Haynes’ much-anticipatedVelvet Goldmine is all
“Bowie-esque/Ziggy Stardust originals.” Now thatthey’ve explored,
branched out and discovered hidden talents, the band isready to go
back to the studio for another shot at polished popularity.

“We were obsessed for a long time with being popular and being huge
and beingembraced and accepted. But it comes with too much
heartbreak,” admits Wedren.”I love to perform, but I don’t like
touring. The grind — the spin cycle ofwrite, record, tour, write,
record, tour — doesn’t lend itself to thecreative process. And
there’s just less pressure now that we don’t have all ofour eggs in
one basket. We’re not going to live or die with the next record
wemake. We have other exciting things going on.”

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