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Bandslam Soundtrack
Artist: Various
Label: Hollywood
Bandslam apparently suffered from mis-marketing, or at least mis-perception. A movie set in a high school, heavy on music and starring Vannessa Hudgens  needn't have anything to do with High School Musical.    

Looking at the track listing of its soundtrack should reveal it to be of significantly character than another HSM sequel. The inclusion of cult heroes of gender-bending glam, literate punk, downer folk and alt' country such as-respectively-David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake and Wilco already indicates a level of sophistication likely to be absent in whatever the next Zac Efron/Ashley Tisdale collaboration may be. 

At least as important for followers of Christian-made 'tween pop is the movie's inclusion of Aly Milchaka. Taking a respite from her duo with her sister, A.J., she exercises credible rocker chick muscle.

Her take on the semi-mystic aggro weirdness of "Amphetamine," written by Steve Wynn of '80s neo-psydedelic punks The Dream Syndicate (among other acts), makes for the arguable highlight of the album's new material. On that number and the slower "Someone To Fall Back On:" she fronts the band central to the movie, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On. 

She's also solo for a remake of "I Want You To Want Me." It's not likely to make you abandon your Cheap Trick collection, but her enthusiasm sells it. And her overall performance here demonstrates a way to mature out of 'tweendom more thoughtfully than a few of the unfortunate moves of her and A.J.'s one-time tour-mate. Hint:her name rhymes with Criley Myrus.

Alas, poor Hudgens. Give her the right dance-pop bauble, and gal can shine brightly enough. Fronting ICGO,IGO for a ska-inflected spin on Bread's '70s soft rock biggie, "Everything I Own," her limitations in vocal prowess and charisma become apparent. 

Director/co-screenwriter Todd Graff assigns the rest of the set's 15 tracks to up & comers from both sides of the Atlantic. The stylistic breadth covered by bands including Seventeen Evergreen, Exist, Shack, and Scott Porter And The Glory Dogs. Additionally, The Daze cover a cross-section of what could show up in recent months on College Music Journal's big album chart and Little Steven's Underground Garage's playlist.    

Honor Society stand as odd men out, supplying the kind of quality post-Backstreet Boys boy-band mid-tempo wistfulness that has given the set its only Radio Disney playlisting so far.  

Maybe Bandslam will become the hit on video that circumstances prevented it from becoming on the big screen? No matter. This John Hughes-ian piece-together soundtrack stands proudly apart from its cinematic reason to exist. And it may give indication as to how killer the 
Milchakas girls could be once they reunite as 78violet, too.

Jamie Lee Rake


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