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Various Artists, ‘Six Feet Under: Everything Ends’ (Astralwerks)

Six Feet Under is a hard show to watch. Just when things seem to be going well for any of the consistently harried characters, some act of God prevents them from experiencing anything resembling happiness: a car crash, a tumor, bipolar disorder. I expected the new Astralwerks-released Six Feet Under soundtrack, subtitled Everything Ends, to be a similar exercise in sadism. But Everything Ends is by no means maudlin and disturbed. If anything it’s vaguely sad, but mostly it’s just blandly benign.

At least it’s eclectic. Everything Ends covers several genres and decades, from the modern indie rock of the Arcade Fire and Interpol to the Civil Rights Era soul of Nina Simone and the big early-’60s sound of Irma Thomas. I don’t expect a CD soundtrack to have a cohesive sound in terms of artists, but I do expect it to have some sort of consistent theme that jibes with the art it’s backing.

The mood of the songs on Everything Ends is as bipolar as Brenda’s brother Billy on the show. There are dance-y international pop songs like “Everything is Everything” by Phoenix and “Aganju” by Bebel Gilberto that sound like they’re bumping in the back of a gay disco. The exclusives from Interpol and Arcade Fire (“Directions” and “Cold Wind,” respectively) are complaint rock classics, the kinds of songs you cuddle up with on the brink of tears.

Then there is Caesars’ cover of the Blue Oyster Cult campy classic, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Since the Cult sendup by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, I don’t know how anyone can take this song seriously. It adds a humorous, yet dissonant edge to a complete mishmash of a compilation.

The eight-minute long Death Cab for Cutie song “Transatlanticism” is the only song on Everything Ends that elicits the same feelings that an episode of Six Feet Under brings out: melancholy mixed with longing and claustrophobia. The show is often uncomfortable to watch because the characters are so awkward in their own sad sack skins, and “Transatlanticism” is enjoyable in that same cringeworthy way. You just want the goddamn mopefest to end.

My idea soundtrack for a show like Six Feet Under would include the kind of melodic dissonance of bands like Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo, the kind that’s hard to hear, but ultimately satisfying in the way that only difficult art can be. I’d take that sort of harshness over the ordinary ease of Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, any day.

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Tags: Albums