The 2002 expanded reissued version of soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums is an album that features lots of music from the film including its score by then-longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. Along with cuts by John Lennon, Bob Dylan, the Ramones, Nico, Elliot Smith, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, Emitt Rhodes, the Clash, and Paul Simon. It is a soundtrack that is truly eclectic as well as enriching to the whimsical tone of Anderson’s acclaimed film.
Opening the album is a 38-second score piece 111 Archer Avenue by Mark Mothersbaugh that opens with sound of an orchestra tuning up that is followed by a melodic-chiming sound with an orchestra playing briefly. Nico’s evocative These Days is a somber ballad led by a soothing guitar melody, a soft string arrangement, and Nico’s haunting vocals to complement Richie Tenenbaum’s feelings for his adopted sister Margot. The Ysaye Quartet’s performance of Marcel Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major (Second Movement) is an upbeat track filled with string plucking and soothing arrangements performed by the quartet. Paul Simon’s upbeat, acoustic-driven Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard is a wonderful cut that plays to Royal Tenenbaum’s growing relationship with his grandsons Uzi and Ari as they delve into various forms of mischief.
Mark Mothersbaugh and the Mutato Muzika Orchestra’s performance of George Enescu’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Minor is an instrumental piece that delves into various instrumental breaks that includes a sturdy cello, various percussion performances, a somber piano, and a flourishing harpsichord that plays to Chas Tenenbaums’ paranoia. Bob Dylan’s Wigwam, from the much-maligned 1970 album Self-Portrait, is a track that includes mariachi-horns, a slow piano, and a country-style presentation with Dylan singing along to the melodies. Motherbaugh’s Look at that Old Grizzly Bear is a short score piece that is played to a smooth jazz rhythm that is led by a chiming keyboard to play up an object Royal finds. John Lennon’s Look at Me is a haunting acoustic guitar track filled with Lennon’s entrancing lyrics about love as it reflects on the sense of longing between its characters. Emitt Rhodes’ Lullaby is a soft, acoustic guitar track that plays like a lullaby to play up some of the film’s melancholia.
Mark Motherbaugh’s Motherbaugh’s Canon is a plaintive score piece led by a calm harpsichord and a soothing string arrangement as it plays up to Royal’s departure from the family home as he comes to the realization that these brief moments with his family were the best moments of his life. The Clash’s Police & Thieves is a mid-tempo punk track that is quite calm and playful as it’s one of the many Clash songs that often accompanies the character of Eli Cash. Motherbaugh’s Scrapping and Yelling is a playful orchestral cut led by plucking strings, a harpsichord, and a flute to play up some of the film’s whimsical elements. The Ramones’ Judy is a Punk is a short yet fast-paced song with driving guitars and Joey Ramone’s intense vocals as it plays to the scenes of Margot Tenenbaum’s secretive life and numerous affairs. The short score piece Pagoda’s Theme is led by flourishes of sitars and vibrant Indian percussions that plays up to the character of Pagoda.
Elliot Smith’s Needle in the Hay is a dark, folk-track filled with cryptic lyrics and a fast-paced acoustic guitar strum as it plays to one of the most chilling moments of the film. Nick Drake’s Fly is another folk-inspired track that features a soothing cello accompaniment and flourishing harpsichords as Drake sings in a soaring vocal to evocative imagery as it plays to Richie and Margot’s feelings for each other. Mothersbaugh’s I Always Wanted to Be a Tenenbaum is a smooth yet rhythmic piece led by a melodic piano and harp to play up Eli’s own issues including his lack of being in a family. Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Christmas Time is Here is a calm piano-piece that features a children’s choir as it plays to the melancholia that surrounds Richie. The Velvet Underground’s Stephanie Says is a dream-laden track led by melodic guitar chimes, soft rhythms, and Lou Reed’s swooning vocals as it’s a song that accompanies Mordecai’s flight as he returns to Richie.
The next two tracks are score pieces by Mark Mothersbaugh with the first being the reflective Rachel Evans Tenenbaum (1965-2000) that is led by a soft organ that is accompanied by chiming organs and a somber string as Royal visits the grave of Chas’ wife wondering what he can do to help his son. Sparkplug Minuet is led by a tapping piano melody with a chiming vibraphone and soft, frenetic drum fills to play up the aftermath of Etheline Tenenbaum’s marriage to Henry Sherman as Royal watches with a sense of pride. Nico’s The Fairest of the Season is mid-tempo track led by a melodic guitar and a soothing string arrangement to accompany Nico’s vocals as it plays to Margot and Richie having a moment. The closing track is a soaring orchestral cover of the Beatles’ Hey Jude played by The Mutato Muzika Orchestra as it is filled with wonderful arrangements of harpsichords, strings, and all sorts of instruments to play up the early accomplishments of the Tenenbaum children.
The soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums is an extraordinary album from Mark Mothersbaugh and Wes Anderson. While it doesn’t feature other material from the film like music from the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Erik Satie, and more songs by the Clash. It is still a fantastic album that serves as an accompaniment to the film as well as being one of the best soundtracks to come from Wes Anderson. In the end, the soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums is a superb album from Mark Mothersbaugh and the artists that contributed to the album.
Wes Anderson Soundtracks: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Seu Jorge-The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - (Moonrise Kingdom)
Wes Anderson Films: Bottle Rocket - Rushmore - The Royal Tenenbaums - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Hotel Chevalier - The Darjeeling Limited - Fantastic Mr. Fox - Moonrise Kingdom - The Auteurs #8: Wes Anderson
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