Looking at the tracklist for Avengers Assemble offers an odd mix of excitement and trepidation. Scott Weiland is here! Bush is here! Papa Roach is here! Heck, even Soundgarden showed up with a brand new track. It’s amazing who comes out of the woodwork for a piece of a movie that pretty much everybody everywhere is going to see. The problem is, it’s been years since almost every single one of these bands — at least, the ones with top billing — have been relevant. What are the chances they can get their shit together long enough to put together a pile of songs we’ll want to hear more than once?
Not very good, as it turns out.
Of the old guard, Soundgarden’s album opener actually makes the best impression; it’s the best comeback song about writing a comeback song that’s been out there in a while, and it offers hope that the upcoming album finds them figuring out how to work together again and create something compelling. “Live to Rise” is a shockingly melodic song whose only downfall is its relative restraint. Cornell’s singing voice is in good form, but his wailing is pinched and, strangely, constantly doubled an octave down, as if we wouldn’t be able to hear the melody otherwise. The instrumental sounds oddly like an Audioslave song, with the bass doubling the rhythm guitar for almost the whole track, and an admittedly ridiculous late-song guitar solo gets shoved way, way down in the mix, in favor of more repetitions of that restrained chorus. It’s catchy enough, but as a statement of “we’re back”, it doesn’t work much better than “Bleed Together” did on last year’s Telephantasm retrospective.
Elsewhere, Scott Weiland sings a song that starts as the logical inverse of “Interstate Love Song” and finishes as the sort of thing Diane Warren would write if she were trying to write a song that sounds like a Stone Temple Pilots song. Bush contributes an utterly generic rock song with lyrics that are so Gavin Rossdale it’s painful (“Your flowers are hand grenades / Your words are weapons of the mind”, for example).
Perhaps most disappointing of all, Photek can’t coax anything interesting out of an Evanescence song, saving all the interesting beats for himself and augmenting the song with silly phaser noises and slightly more electronic percussion than the original.
There is some life to be found. “Shake the Ground”, a preview of a track that’ll be released again in a couple of weeks on Cherri Bomb’s debut full-length album, finds the ridiculously talented teenagers in fine form, offering the sort of energy that the old men just can’t seem to muster. Shinedown turns in an energetic performance on “I’m Alive”, and Five Finger Death Punch offers a passable facsimile of Faith No More on “From Out of Nowhere”, presumably since Mike Patton declined his invitation to this particular party.
While it’s never a stretch or a surprise to deride a soundtrack’s quality or the effort put into it, there’s always hope when this many bands and artists who have actually put out quality music in the past (albeit the relatively distant past) end up in the same place at the same time. Unfortunately, what we have is another collection of B-sides and toss-offs that have little to nothing to do with each other or the movie they are claiming to represent. It is merely a collection of songs cynically aimed at a very specific demographic. If you’re part of that demographic, well, rock on, I guess. Those hoping that the biggest of these bands would be reclaiming their past glory, though, will have to wait a little bit longer.