Arresting, slightly silly.
Though one would not immediately gravitate toward soundtracks as their go-to music, JG Thirlwell has given us a reason to change that instinct. Music of the Venture Bros, Vol 2 is the continuation of the soundtrack for the Adult Swim series The Venture Bros. The series documents the adventures of scientist Dr. Thaddeus Venture, his two sons, Hank and Dean, and their security guard. They get in all kinds of bizarre trouble, and this album reflects the sheer ridiculousness of their antics. The album itself is a whirl of electronic and traditional instruments, experimental and classic motifs and incredible hooks with melodic, earworm-y lines. The album is long; it is 16 tracks of pure, unadulterated joy, wonder, sadness and confusion.
For instance, the first song, “Ham and Cheese Hero,” evokes the image of a sandwich in a cape running, pursued, through the streets of Gotham. The track is honestly that exhausting and cartoonish; however, it is executed so masterfully that listeners can’t help but enjoy the music. A stark contrast comes in the form of the second track, called “Chickenhawk.” It’s a worrisome musical mash-up of every dangerous adventure scene ever, a confused symphonic horns section and zippy synths. It’s just cool.
Each track has a very distinct personality. Even if you disregard the ridiculous names (“Brock to the Rescue,” “Optimistic Space Travel,” etc), they are still stand-alone pieces. “Big Rooter,” the third song on the album, is such a departure that it’s almost jarring. The beginning is almost bubblegum electronica, showcasing poppy synths and a weird percussive line to match. “Pay the Piper,” the next track, begins with heavy, angry drumbeats reminiscent of a Civil War-era drum line. It even has vocals – a rare occurrence in The Venture Bros, Vol. 2– but they are violent as well, giving us the sense that “Pay the Piper” doesn’t really belong with its musical brothers.
Tracks five and six, “Optimistic Space Travel” and “Ready for Takeoff,” are relatively similar, but the names suggest that should be the case. They remind us of flight, anticipation and hope. In fact, all the space-related tracks (5-8) give us that impression. They really are a movement of their own within the album.
After the cosmic detour, the tracks are back to the detachment we witnessed earlier in the album, which is both thrilling and jarring. The album ends with a rousing, victorious number (“Ventronik!”), in which horns are showcased. The Venture Bros, Vol. 2 is a soundtrack without an identity. However it is still a must-listen, if only to get you in the mood to save the world.