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The ‘Shortbus’ Soundtrack

James Mitchell’s Shortbus was the mark of controversy in 2009, what with its real sex scenes, the potential firing of its star Sook Yin Lee by the CBC and its classification by some as ‘pornographic’. What the movie is, is an intimate and lively portrayal of a women lost amongst the interconnectedness of people in a city as well as the unique and faceted sexual identities of individuals and how each choose to reveal themselves as person and partner. The main plot is about Sophie– a woman who is a couple counselor/sex therapist who has never had a successful orgasm and attempts to find it through a weekly social and sexual salon called Shortbus.

This film is honest and sincere and that is exactly what is reflected back within the soundtrack amongst its eclectic mix of artists. Scott Matthew is utterly charming and earnest with his contribution ‘Upside Down’. The song is wistful with its melodic mandolin strums and Matthew’s voice is unique in and of its own. With the additions of ‘Surgery’, ‘Language’, ‘Little Bird’ and an acoustic rendition of ‘In the End’ he adds a simplistic whimsy to the listing. Animal Collective’s Winters Love is simply beautiful. The subtle scratches of fingers sliding over guitar strings, gives a warmth and intimacy to the soundtrack, maximizing on the overall feeling and point to the listing. As it continues to grow, the indecipherable lyrics, building instrumental collective and lushness of the song render it stunning and a perfect match in concept. The additional of Swedish glam rock band the Ark with ‘Kolla Kolla’ and ‘This Piece of Poetry is mean to do Harm’ seems to be a nod to Mitchell’s previous film Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s tinged with disco, full on attitude and everything glamourous. However, by far the best feature on the track is the performance of ‘In the End’ by Justin Bond and the Hungry March Band, which closes out the end of the film. The song is at first melancholic and soft, highlighting each complex relationship within the story of Shortbus. When the Hungry March Band unexpectedly shows up, it is cabaret meets burlesque; Liza meets Christina, everything gone wild and everything tamed. As the song progresses, it heats up and unfurls as the accompaniment to the ending of the film.

Each song seems to grab hold of the listener and shroud them in a comfortable likeness but also has threads of unpredictability and newness. Everything seems familiar, but with a safeness to expand and grow, realizing what the cavernous pits inside ones soul can reveal. As always, Mitchell has written an excellent script detailing realities of human life, wrought with taboos, indecency, trust, friendship and humour, and once again it has been misunderstood by the masses, destined to sit among cult listings everywhere.

Track listing:

    Scott Matthew – “Upside Down”

    Azure Ray – “If You Fall”

    Yo La Tengo – “Wizard’s Sleeve”

    Animal Collective – “Winter’s Love”

    Scott Matthew – “Surgery”

    Lee & Leblanc (with Sook-Yin Lee) – “Beautiful”

    Gentleman Reg – “It’s Not Safe”

    John LaMonica – “Kids”

    Scott Matthew – “Language”

    Jay Brannan – “Soda Shop”

    Anita O’Day – “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”

    The Ark – “Kolla Kolla (Nationalteatern Tribute Version)”

    Jasper James and the Jetset – “This House”

    The Ark – “This Piece of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm”

    The Hidden Cameras – “Boys of Melody”

    Scott Matthew – “Little Bird”

    Justin Bond and the Hungry March Band – “In the End”

    Scott Matthew – “In the End”