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Various Artists - The Rick and Morty Soundtrack Music Album Reviews

The acerbic, self-deprecating magic of the show barely translates to its soundtrack. Taken on their own, most of the original music is decent comedy rap, which is to say, imminently disposable.

Let’s get this out of the way: “Rick & Morty” is about 20% too far up its own ass but it’s still very funny. And a big part of why its funny comes from its musical moments. The marquee Adult Swim cartoon, which aired its third season last year, has evolved from a Back to the Future parody about ball-licking into a gross, existential science fiction comedy that deftly integrates music into its episodes: a teenaged Rick using an acoustic guitar to express his literal decay, an alien’s schmaltzy ballad wondering why we can’t all just, like, get along, man, and an original school special rap about how the flu is bad. So “Rick & Morty” definitely has enough music to fill out the The Rick & Morty Soundtrack—but is it really worth listening to on its own?

Part of the magic of “Rick & Morty” is the way the show’s animation exists to add credibility to what is, essentially, the controlled rambling of co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, exemplified by the series’ “Interdimensional Cable” episodes, in which Roiland essentially ad libs alien television shows only for the animators to try to decide what to put behind them. Most of the music on The Rick & Morty Soundtrack has heavily improvised lyrics in this vein: Harmon made up the lyrics to “The Flu Hatin’ Rap” and “Alien Jazz Rap,” while most of Rick’s lyrics are ad-libbed by Roiland, as in the series’ musical episode “Get Schwifty,” where the Earth is conscripted into a life-or-death intergalactic singing competition.

That episode, written around some goofy beats made by series composer Ryan Elder and improvised by Roiland, is very funny, and “Get Schwifty,” in particular, is a highlight of the soundtrack. (“Get Schwifty” was on two Pazz & Jop ballots as one of the best singles of 2015.) When “Rick & Morty” is firing on all cylinders, it’s a sort of delirious, highly produced drunk riffing that manages to induce giggling fits even though you haven’t thought about the show in months. Then there’s the rest of it. Though there are a few moments where this degree of intentional sloppiness works on the soundtrack (in particular, the extended version of “The Flu Hatin’ Rap”), for the most part audio-only doesn’t work as a medium for “Rick & Morty”.

Taken on their own, most of the original music is decent comedy rap, which is to say, imminently disposable except to the people for whom comedy rap is an absolutely fundamental, Ten Commandments-level genre. And though the original score is fun enough, like the deliriously over-the-top theme song riffing on the “Doctor Who”music, most of it doesn’t work divorced from the episodes themselves. Tracks like “Jerry’s Rick,” a lilting sad guitar riff, wouldn’t be out of place on a treacly hospital drama—even though it’s used on the show to create humor. Does that make these songs effective parody, or out of place songs on a record that includes a track called “Terryfold”?

Like the show itself, a decent chunk of the music of “Rick & Morty” is incredibly catchy, if slightly irritating. Mostly, these are cheesy parodies of genres designed to infect your ears like “The Rick Dance,” an ’80s rap takeoff featuring a beat drop from Slow Mobius, or “Goodbye Moonmen,” a chintzy David Bowie parody sung by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement. Some tracks are previously existing songs that acquired an almost meme-level quality from their placement in the show, like Blonde Redhead’s “For the Damaged Coda” or Mazzy Star’s “Looking on Down from the Bridge.” (Unfortunately, ”X Gon Give It To Ya” didn’t make the cut.)

It feels telling that the most effective “Rick & Morty” songs are loud and goofy, working in equally loud and goofy genres. (One thing that doesn’t work in this context: clipping.’s “Stab Him in the Throat,” which is definitely a clipping. song with vocal samples of a screeching character named Mr. Poopybutthole.) Much of “Rick & Morty”—the show, not the broader hologram of “Rick & Morty” as a cultural phenomenon—feels like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle of genres that aren’t supposed to fit together, and making them work largely through sheer force of will. While many of the individual songs are minor triumphs of this process, The Rick & Morty Soundtrack isn’t one of them.

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