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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS, Music From and Inspired by the 'Batman & Robin' Motion Picture," Warner Bros.

June 08, 1997

For the most part, this soundtrack packs an appropriate amount of punch. A piquant array of summer-friendly pop tunes by stars du jour, these 15 newly recorded selections represent a variety of modern styles yet have a remarkably consistent dark tone--just right for the silver screen's Dark Knight.

Setting the mood for much of what follows, the Smashing Pumpkins kick things off with the thunderous "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" (which they drolly reprise at album's close, in slightly different form, as "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning"). Such subsequent tracks as Arkarna's "House on Fire" and Underworld's twisted, restless "Moaner" effectively build on the cinematic tension. But Meshell Ndegeocello out-dooms them all with her menacingly seductive take on the old Coasters hit "Poison Ivy."

Unfortunately, the tension is thinned by a couple of sappy ballads: R. Kelly's overblown ode "Gotham City" and alterna-folk diva Jewel's heartbroken plea "Foolish Games." Most jarring, however, is Elliot Goldenthal's "A Batman Overture," a Danny Elfman-esque piece of orchestral score music, the only such track included. It doesn't fit, and its placement (three songs from the end) creates a frustrating drag on the album's momentum.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

Hear the Music

* Excerpts from these albums and other recent pop music releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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