Loudon Wainwright III, Strange Weirdos: Music From And Inspired By The Film Knocked Up

Keith Harris

By Keith Harris

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Strange Weirdos: Music From And Inspired By The Film Knocked Up

Loudon Wainwright III

Strange Weirdos isn't quite a soundtrack to Knocked Up, sporting the evasive “music from and inspired by the film” tag we've come to expect from flick-affiliated song collections. In fact, Loudon Wainwright had begun work on this material with Joe Henry before director Judd Apatow approached him, and in many ways, it's yet another episode in the continuing saga of one man's reluctant (and, yes, belated) acceptance of maturity. This time it's framed as a love/hate letter from Wainwright to his newish home in California and flavored with a suitably east-coast sourness. “Grey in L.A.,” finds relief in a respite from lovely weather, gradually panning back from an out-of-work actor stuck in traffic, to reveal a Pacific purgatory of refugees who “came out here to dump all our dreams” and culminating in intimations of ecological disaster.

An accidental soundtrack to one of the most popular films of 2007.

But though this is a Loudon Wainwright record before it's a movie soundtrack, the mood of Strange Weirdos parallels Knocked Up, perhaps even coincidentally. It's not so much the infantocentric titles of “X or Y,” which offers the helpful reminder, so often omitted from pop music, that sex makes babies, or “Lullaby” (“Shut up and go to bed.”) More generally, Wainwright's career jibes with Apatow's message — that life is a fumbled series of corrected mistakes that you respond to as best you can. If John Lennon thought that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, for Wainwright, life is something that you make other plans to avoid but eventually are forced to face up to.

One of the few tunes that's actually “from” Knocked Up, rather than merely “inspired by” it is “Daughter,” which plays over the closing credits, along with a series of baby pictures of the cast. Wainwright didn't write it — Peter Blegvad, formerly of the avant-rockers Henry Cow, claims credit. But it's the singer — his delivery no less than his backstory — who makes a potentially cloying moment oddly poignant and open-ended. Babies, the song suggests, grow up to be actual humans, who try, who fail, who talk back, and commit countless other acts of unruly humanity. Wainwright lingers over the song's two most resonant rhymes: “Every time she fell I caught her,” and “I lost every time I fought her.” One of those is probably truer than the other, and each sounds equally heartfelt regardless.