Who would have thought that the filmmaking Farrelly Brothers, creators
of "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary," were big Steely
Dan fans? Not me. On one hand, you have Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's
darkly suave and often cryptic music; on the other, the Farrellys'
adolescent, decidedly callow (albeit undeniably clever) gross-out humor.
It's hard to see where the two sensibilities intersect. And yet, eight
of the 15 cuts on the soundtrack CD to the Farrellys' latest celluloid
bad-taste envelope-pusher, "Me, Myself & Irene," are Steely Dan covers.
Whatever their reason for being here, the Steely covers do give the CD a
bit more cohesion than your average soundtrack grab bag, even as they
demonstrate how the distinct eccentricities of Becker/Fagen resist
effective interpretation. There isn't a cover here that has the impact
of the original, or one that has a voice more interesting than Fagen's
strange mix of alienation and urgency, or that doesn't sound like it's
smoothing over the chordal non sequiturs that give the Steely songs
their strange and unique shape.
Not that the covers are bad, mind you just kind of blah. The best
approach seems to be the most direct one, as on Wilco's reading of "Any
Major Dude Will Tell You" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Wilco/Any_Major_Dude_Will_Tell_You.r am">RealAudio excerpt
am">RealAudio excerpt) or Member 3's "Reelin' in the Years"
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Marvelous_3,_The/Reelin_In_The_Years.ram">RealAudio excerpt), on both of which the music is basic
and the vocalist up-front and expressive, allowing that kernel of
complicated irritation that lies at the heart of so many Steely songs to
come through clearly. The more stylized approaches, such as Smash
Mouth's "Do It Again" or Ivy's "Only a Fool Would Say That" (which is
all style), sound emotionally blurry, distant and dull.
As for the non-Steely stuff, it's a mix of the usual "alternative"-rock
suspects (Foo Fighters, Third Eye Blind), the egregiously mainstream and
justly maligned Hootie & the Blowfish (one hopes, not having seen the
film, that the Farrellys' will have an ironic use for the Hootie cover
of the old Orpheus soft-rock hit, "Can't Find the Time to Tell You") and
obscure balladeers (Pete Yorn). And while it all seems rather random,
one does get the feeling, listening to the gratifying tantrum of the
Offspring's "Totalimmortal" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Offspring,_The/Totalimmortal.ram">RealAudio excerpt), followed by the upbeat sentimentality of
folkie Ellis Paul's "The World Ain't Slowing Down," that it accurately
reflects the Farrellys' favored combination of liberating naughtiness
and just a touch of sappy romance. But, as with Jonathan Richman's odd
presence in "Something About Mary," just where Steely Dan fits in all
this, I couldn't say.