Various Artists - Hung: Original Television Soundtrack
Record Label: Primary Wave Records/EMI
Release Date: June 22, 2010
One of 2009's TV surprises was the strength of Thomas Jane and Jane Adams in the HBO dramedy Hung. Gritty, honest and deeply poignant, it's a stark reflection of real lives unfurled. Sure enough, the TV show's soundtrack is much the same. The disc opens with the crackling grit of the show's theme song, The Black Keys "I'll Be Your Man."
From there it segues into Loretta Lynn's spunky "Have Mercy," a timeless and freewheeling ode to an ex-lover. Both of the songs are weighted in 1970s minimalism and their transcendence is more deeply felt when married with the TV show's bristling realism. Two of the disc's most inspired numbers are Joseph Arthur's hazy "Walk Away," an all-too-brief intoxicating affair; and Sharon Jones and the Dap King's near-perfect "How Long Do I Have to Wait For You?" The latter of the disc's first half is rounded out by Grant Lee Phillip's piano romp "Strangest Thing," and Craig Wedren's gorgeous "Play the Game."
At this point, it's worth noting that Hung is a contemporary TV show set in present day. Despite this, none of the tracks in the disc's first half reveal a contemporary landscape at all. Whether or not this was a conscious effort to evoke middle-class Michigan or just a matter of happenstance, the throwback nature of the disc's first half is worth noting and at least ruminating over.
The disc's second half begins with Mickey Avalon's fittingly titled "My Dick," a funky and off-kilter stab at both comedy and hip-hop. Lord knows why people write these kinds of songs, but given that the entire series is based on a man's member, the urge to include it was probably too good to pass up. Morcheeba's "Everybody Loves a Loser," is a brassy and sensual romp that partners with Sharon Jones' "How Long Do I Have to Wait For You?" as being the album's most memorable cuts.
While Jones is in a league all her own, Morcheeba's cut is actually surprising and the album's true champion. Everyone enjoys albums where songs take them by surprise and "Everybody Loves a Loser," is that song. As if cognizant of this, the soundtrack's producers offer up another Morcheeba track, the lo-fi California pop of "I Feel Just Like a Child."
It'd be remiss to discuss this soundtrack and not mention Ryan Bingham's flawless "Change Is," a rustling, gravelly bar-room foray that continues the argument that Bingham may just be Texas's best contemporary songwriter. Those that don't know his name, ought to revisit the Crazy Heart soundtrack and Bingham's sterling debut Mescalito. But enough digression.
The soundtrack's closing triumvirate includes Sunny and Share's autumnal acoustic offering "You Gotta Suffer a Lot To Be Happy," The Psychedelic Furs' twee and slightly disappointing "Love My Way," and the disastrous "This Land is Your Land," by L.A.R.P. That the album's last two songs are arguably the worst leaves a lot to be desired. Everyone wants a listening experience to end pleasantly, and after so many inspiring cuts, this unfortunate end is far too bitter.
In the end 11 tracks worth celebrating is nothing to frown about. More importantly, a soundtrack is supposed to represent an album and these downtrodden, throwback offerings do just that. Now if only all soundtracks could do this, we just might be onto something.