It's odd to consider that, for the first few years when Jack Black was a noticeable name, he was a sidekick. He's become such an iconic leading comedy actor that the idea of him being comic relief seems a little silly, but such was the case for a good half decade. 2002's Orange County was essentially the last gasp of that, as the following year would see the actor rocketed to leading man status with the success of Richard Linklater's School of Rock.
Considering that soundtrack's success, as well as that of High Fidelity, the only really glaring omission from the soundtrack to Orange County is a Jack Black musical performance. Granted, he doesn't perform in the film, but it's such a part of the actor's schtick that one kind of assumes that it would be part of the package.
The music is pretty much all Orange County or southern California bands, mostly contemporaneous with the time period of when the movie was filmed. Some, like the Offspring and Foo Fighters, have aged better than the likes of Lit or Crazytown, whose “Butterfly” sounds just as irritatingly ear-wormy as it did when it was released 20 years ago.
The classic cuts - “Story of My Life” by punks Social Distortion and Brian Wilson's “Love and Mercy” - only make the weaker alternative rock tracks sound all the weaker by comparison, but putting Wilson's cut right before Phantom Planet's “California” really does a solid job of demonstrating the summery sounds of the region, and showing the sound's evolution over the course of a couple decades. It's also strange that the version of “Story of My Life” is a live one, rather than the album version used in the film.
Much like the film itself, Orange County's soundtrack has its moments, but doesn't necessarily stand the test of time after nearly two decades. For those who were fans of the film and this music at the time, it's definitely got an appeal. Honestly, there's something utterly timeless about the deadpan delivery of Cake's frontman John McCrea, regardless of the disposable nature of an also-ran like “Shadow Stabbing”.
The artwork on this release is not the best. It's pretty fuzzy, looking as though it was scanned from another source and blown up for the jacket. The less-than-crisp artwork is somewhat understandable on the front and rear cover, but one wonders if they couldn't have sourced better stills for the gatefold layout. The lack of resolution becomes all the more obvious when laid side by side with the typography, which is sharp and clear.
Thankfully, the pressing is well done, and the big rock guitars and booming choruses which dominate most of the two LPs over which the music is spread sound strong, while not affecting the more subtle sounds of Brian Wilson. Orange County's soundtrack might not be necessary, but it's not bad.
ORANGE COUNTY / LABEL: REAL GONE MUSIC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW