Artists / REM - Man on the Moon
albums come in all shapes and sizes; all variations and varieties.
Only a select few serve as perfect sonic complements to their
celluloid sources (The Big Chill; Dazed and Confused;
Trainspotting). Fewer still transcend those sources
(Lost Highway; Velvet Goldmine). Alas, the vast
majority simply spin their wheels, desperately lacking the
traction that accrues from an inspired commingling of visual
image and incidental music.
the soundtrack to Man on the Moon falls face-first
and firmly into this last category. Named for (and, in many
ways, inspired by) R.E.M.'s 1993 semi-hit single (of the same
title), Milos Foreman's courageously off-kilter Andy Kaufman
biopic also taps the band from Athens for its orchestral score
and closing credits-accompanying single. "The Great Beyond"
is a sort of sister-song to the title track that, on repeated
listenings, slowly-but-surely succeeds in insinuating itself
into the subconscious - the litmus test for any pop song with
designs on transcending the disposable.
"The Beyond", the pickings here are, sadly, slim. R.E.M.'s
six short orchestral interludes are typically tasteful and
tuneful (if a bit Ferrante and Teicher/"Theme from 'Exodus'"
familiar); Exile's gloriously giddy disco-pop confection "Kiss
You All Over" gets rescued from '70s obscurity (though Gary
Wright's "Dream Weaver" was rescued to even better effect
in Foreman's The People vs. Larry Flynt).
(channeling both Kaufman and Kaufman's constipatedly cranky
alter-ego Tony Clifton) talks and sings along with Stipe on
the Fabian-fluffy "This Friendly World." For any and all who
have spent long hours agonizing over the absence of the Sandpipers'
"'Mighty Mouse' Theme" and Bob James' "Theme from 'Taxi'"
from their CD assortments, you will find them both here -
clocking in at 1:22 and 1:06, respectively. Indeed,
only the most fanatically forgiving of R.E.M. followers is
likely to overlook the disc's inexcusably skimpy 37-minute
Andy Kaufman is afforded two opportunities to crash his own
posthumous party. But without the benefit of the man's wide-eyed,
deceptively sweet deadpan delivery - and without the lightning-strike
electricity that often accompanied the tightrope-traipsing
prankster's live-and-in-the-moment assaults upon befuddled,
unsuspecting audiences - these brief, disembodied ditties
have all the musical significance of a Weird Al Yankovic accordion
solo and all the comedic impact of a Richard Nixon-delivered
a bit of advice from a fanatically forgiving R.E.M. follower:
skip the disc and see the flick. Only then will you hear how
the music was meant to be seen and see how the movie was meant
to be heard.