It’s a shame John Hughes didn’t live to hear the New Moon soundtrack — it’s a Pretty in Pink for our vampire-crazed times. Indeed, if Hughes were making aBreakfast Club 2010, Molly Ringwald’s detention buddies would have to include a vampire, a zombie, a werewolf and whatever Judd Nelson was. As any goth girl can tell you, undead dudes are way cooler than the flesh-and-blood kind.
The genius of the Twilight saga is the way it celebrates the passion of the all-American fang hag, with Robert Pattinson as the perfect plasma-slurping pinup boy: He’s hot, he’s sexy, and he’s undead. So New Moon is a movie soundtrack, but it’s also a concept album about the bond between teenage girls and their imaginary bloodsucker boyfriends.
As a movie, New Moon isn’t too far from Pretty in Pink— except now Duckie’s a werewolf. So it’s fitting that the soundtrack is up to that same standard of excellence, piling on the New Wave melodrama. Where the original Twilight soundtrack went for rock bombast, as in Paramore’s hit “Decode,” this year’s model is hushed and atmospheric. New Moon rounds up a crew of indie-rock heavyweights — Thom Yorke, Death Cab for Cutie, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver — and you can bet your Team Jacob T-shirt they all rise to the occasion. Death Cab set the pace with their excellent “Meet Me on the Equinox,” an Edward-and-Bella makeout song where Ben Gibbard broods, “Let our bodies intertwine/ But always understand that everything ends.”Nosferatu-tastic!
It all flows together, since most of the music follows the same basic emplate — acoustic guitar, ravish-me-by-moonlight vocals and ominous synth strings. Practically every singer on the album tries to sound English and tremble-lipped, whether they’re from L.A. (Sea Wolf), Vegas (the Killers) or Stockholm (Lykke Li). Maybe they were partly inspired by the knowledge that this would be a blockbuster — but it sure sounds like they were also inspired by the chance to sing about vampire lust, exposing their sappy sides more nakedly than they’d dare on their own albums.
Either way, the highlights keep coming: Lykke Li’s piano-based “Possibility,” Anya Marina’s stark “Satellite Heart,” the Killers’ over-the-tippity-top “A White Demon Love Song.” Yorke’s “Hearing Damage” is the unquestionable standout. It’s a bang-up electronic ballad that doesn’t much resemble his previous solo work but expands on the style of In Rainbows — over droning synths, Yorke moans, “You can do no wrong in my eyes.”
Every era gets its own vampire fantasies. The Sixties had the Swinging London mod vampires of Hammer flicks like Dracula: Prince of Darkness. The Eighties hadThe Lost Boys, with Kiefer Sutherland’s undead biker gang. In our time, we get everything from True Bloodto Let the Right One In. But the Twilight saga tops them all by being so everyday: All these ghouls are battling it out over a totally ordinary girl in a drab Pacific Northwest town. The music on New Moon lives up to the story because it captures the day-to-day bleakness, along with the sexual obsessions seething under the surface. John Hughes would be proud — and so would Bram Stoker.