'Juno' Soundtrack More Goo-Goo Than Gaga

Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing "Anyone Else but You" in the movie.
Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing "Anyone Else but You" in the movie. (By Doane Gregory -- Fox Searchlight Via Associated Press)
By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Juno" is evil. Honest to blog!

The downside to the "Juno" juggernaut isn't necessarily that so many people are quoting so much of the dialogue from the big little indie film about a caustic and glib 16-year-old girl with a baby on board.

It's that I've had to spend so much time listening to the horribly precious hit soundtrack birthed by the film. Because if the album is the cheese to the movie's macaroni, then I'm lactose-intolerant.

The "Juno" soundtrack -- which narrowly missed being the No. 1 album on the latest Billboard Top 200 chart -- is totally boss . . . so long as you have an affinity for the sort of insufferably twee music proffered by Kimya Dawson.

The Olympia, Wash.-based singer-songwriter dominates the collection with solo songs and music by her bands Antsy Pants and the Moldy Peaches -- most notably "Anyone Else but You," an adolescent love song that appears twice on the album. There's the unbearably drippy 2002 original by the sorta-disbanded-but-not-really Moldy Peaches, plus the awwww-so-adorable version from "Juno's" closing scene, in which stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera make like Dawson and her fellow Peach Adam Green. Only Page (as Juno) and Cera (as Juno's babydaddy) do it better and somehow more believably than Dawson and Green. Call it method singing. (Call it infectious, too: More than a few moviegoers have left "Juno" screenings humming the song. )

Dawson's music was never supposed to receive this kind of a mass hearing. She was, with the Moldy Peaches, a polarizing star on the underground anti-folk scene, which was all, like, 10,000 leagues under the mainstream sea. Her art is an acquired taste, with its flatly intoned vocals, raggedy guitar lines and cutesy-funny observations, which tend to be shot through with a childlike innocence. It's joyous, juvenile noise -- rudimentary low-fi songs that are at once silly and sincere (and sometimes sad and angry), with awkward, sophomoric lyrics.

"Here is the church and here is the steeple/We sure are cute for two ugly people," goes one line from "Anyone Else but You." In "So Nice So Smart," also included on the "Juno" soundtrack, Dawson warbles: "I like boys with strong convictions/And convicts with perfect diction/Underdogs with good intentions/Amputees with stamp collections."

In "Tire Swing," she sings that "Joey never met a bike that he didn't wanna ride/And I never met a Toby that I didn't like." And: "Scotty liked all of the books that I recommended/Even if he didn't, I wouldn't be offended." There are also songs about roller coasters and vampires.

It all suggests that Dawson is 35 going on 16. Which is why Page, who plays Juno MacGuff, told "Juno" director Jason Reitman that her character would most likely be a Moldy Peaches fan. Which is how eight different Dawson tunes wound up on the "Juno" soundtrack and laced throughout the movie. Which is too much, given that she's best digested in small doses.

There are other artists on the album, as well -- from the Kinks ("A Well Respected Man") and Mott the Hoople (the Bowie classic "All the Young Dudes") to Belle & Sebastian (two songs) and the Velvet Underground ("I'm Sticking With You," one of the indie idols' weakest songs). There's also a blast of Sonic Youth, whose cover of the Carpenters' hit "Superstar" has a bit part in the movie's plot, and songs by Buddy Holly ("Dearest") and the soporific Cat Power ("Sea of Love").

It's a curious collection of songs, given Juno's assertion in the film that 1977 was music's greatest year and, also, those old punk posters on her wall. Yet the lone circa-1977 song here is "All I Want Is You," by the children's music singer Barry Louis Polisar.

Wonder what sort of zippy, snarky observation Juno would make about that. Maybe she'd paraphrase her father: Hey there, big, grating soundtrack version of "Junebug."

And spare me your creative outrage, Kimya/Moldy Peaches fans. I already know what you're going to say when you pick up your "hamburger phones" and call me to complain. Shut my freakin' gob. Silencio, old man. Etc.

Too late. This ain't no Etch A Sketch. This is one published doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillets.

Singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson is scheduled to perform at the Crooked Beat record store in Adams Morgan tonight at 7.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company