Fifteen pages into the first volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-part Scott Pilgrim series, the characters break into song -- or at least they rock out as much as one can in a black-and-white graphic novel. Electric bolts shoot from the singer's mouth, O'Malley provides a chord progression and a teenage girl watching the rehearsal falls in love.
As for the sound, the reader is informed it's "kind of crappy," but the rest is left to one's imagination. Such could have been the fate of Edgar Wright's big-screen adaption of O'Malley's tale of twentysomething hopeless romantics. After all, bringing rock 'n' roll to the big screen is not the easiest of feats, and with video game quirks and elaborate action sequences, it'd be easy to see how one could conclude that it would be best for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" to just to do away with the rock.
As star of the film Michael Cera put it to our sister blog Hero Complex, "Whenever you see a band in a movie, the music is barely passable. It's like when you see a film, and someone is writing a book. Whenever you hear excerpts of the writing, it's just terrible. You're like, 'That's what they're writing?' It's kind of the same theory."
Early versions of the script, which is credited to Wright and Michael Bacall, did in fact do away with the music -- completely. With Cera's Pilgrim forced to do battle with the seven evil exes of the object of his obsession, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" has plenty of ground to cover without the rock 'n' roll.
"In the first draft of the script, there was this running joke that you never heard the bands," Wright said during a Q&A following a recent Los Angeles screening. "You heard the intro, and then it would cut to the next scene, and somebody would be going, ‘Oh my God, that’s the best song ever.’ That was a joke for a long time."
At least until Nigel Godrich entered the picture.The famed producer, best known for his work with Radiohead, Beck and Paul McCartney, was entrusted to bring to life the sound of the punky Sex Bob-Omb, the fictional band in which Cera's Scott Pilgrim plays bass (poorly). Godrich made overtures to Atlanta punks the Black Lips, put ultimately persuaded close friend Beck to lay down sketches of a couple dozen garage rock songs.
"I completely understand why you might downplay the music in the script," Godrich said. "It’s one of those things where it might be better to just not hear any music and to leave it to your imagination. Then it will be as good as it will ever be. But once a few inquiries were made, and it was clear that we could maybe get those people to contribute, it was an exciting prospect."
In addition to Beck, the "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" soundtrack, released Tuesday via ABKCO (also available in a digital expanded edition), features original songs from Broken Social Scene -- in full thrash mode -- as well as a previously unreleased cut from electro-rockers Metric. The 19-track album is rounded out by songs from the Black Lips, T-Rex, the Rolling Stones, Frank Black and, of course, Plumtree. Some of the bands in the film are referenced in the comics or were suggested by O'Malley, and others were selections from Wright.
Pop & Hiss spoke to Wright, O'Malley, Godrich, Beck and Metric's Emily Haines, asking them to contribute to a track-by-track look at the songs in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." It's the second installment of this blog's look at the music in the rock 'n' romance picture, as earlier Godrich and Beck spoke in detail about the thoughts behind Sex Bob-Omb.
Track-by-track analysis is after the jump.