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November 16, 2004

Shortcuts: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

Two unavoidable facts: Nickelodeon animation has achieved success far beyond the days of Ren and Stimpy with a talking yellow sponge, and his movie is reaching both the kiddies and the college students alike this coming Friday. Another fact to consider: it is possible that Nick is banking on us young intellectuals to flood the multiplexes just as much as the short pants brigade. Hence, this soundtrack album is geared toward the ironic hipsters who can appreciate some clever cartoon characters, in addition to, well, good music.

Combining (mostly) smart modern rock and pop with the serious pipes of obviously delirious animated personalities, the SpongeBob soundtrack works by combining like-minded musical and cartoon stars. In turn, we see what these musicians do when they're being more ironic than usual. When not making out with that guy from Sum 41, Avril Lavigne is cranking out a punky theme for the square-torsoed guy. When not writing songs about the exact same thing, the Flaming Lips are placing SpongeBob and Patrick face-to-face w ith a "psychic wall of energy." When not teetering on the edge of indie backlash by being deified on the Garden State soundtrack, the Shins make a song that could be an outtake from their latest album.

When the likes of Wilco get involved, you know that your soundtrack has class. The chorus of children in their song "Just a Kid" (rumor has it that they're the friends of Jeff Tweedy's son) helps place the band's effort among the solo numbers of SpongeBob and Patrick, who sport pretty good pipes for a sponge and a starfish, respectively. And when the songs are this fun, who's to decide who the real musicians are?