Every so often a worthy soundtrack — one that feels like a cohesive work of art — slips through the cracks. One such example is High Fidelity, which features key music from the film version of the Nick Hornby novel. Since pop is practically a character unto itself in both the movie and the book, the album has a built-in resonance, especially for those who, like ”Fidelity”’s pop-obsessed protagonist, Rob, view songs as literal friends. And, like one of the mix tapes Rob is fond of making for people he likes, it’s a thoughtful, if idiosyncratic, collection.
Kicking off with the invigorating one-two jolt of the 13th Floor Elevators’ garage-psych classic ”You’re Gonna Miss Me” and the Kinks’ forgotten R&B raver ”Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy,” the album hopscotches among tunes from four decades, including tracks from Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Love, the Velvet Underground, Royal Trux, and the Beta Band. Record-collector dweebs will appreciate the perverse charm of the selections, which are seldom obvious: The two late-period VU tunes, ”Oh! Sweet Nuthin”’ and ”Who Loves the Sun,” are sung by Velvet-come-lately Doug Yule, not Lou Reed; Dylan’s depressive ”Most of the Time” was plucked from the great man’s transitional ”Oh Mercy” collection; Love’s ”Always See Your Face” is an obscurity recorded after the band’s creative peak.
In this context, the two songs that non-record-collector dweebs might recognize — Stevie Wonder’s ”I Believe (When I Fall in Love)” and actor-singer Jack Black’s take on Marvin Gaye’s ”Let’s Get It On” — might seem merely ironic. Yet their presence will make perfect sense to those who’ve seen the film — which, despite its change of venue from London to Chicago, is remarkably faithful to the book. Overall, the ”High Fidelity” soundtrack succeeds because it hews to the pre-CD era spirit of Hornby’s story, and includes music from — not ”inspired by” — the movie. One complaint: The omission of Stiff Little Fingers’ ”Suspect Device,” which leaps out at you in the film, is positively criminal.