An idiosyncratic HBO comedy-drama, created by "American Beauty" writer Alan Ball, regarding a family that runs a funeral home was bound to spawn a soundtrack of quirky, left-of-the-middle songs. What was not counted on however was the prevalence of gloomy songs from "OC"-style "it", indie bands, which is the main downfall of the soundtrack to "Six Feet Under."
The CD starts promisingly with Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good", which is light years ahead of Michael Buble's recent take on the standard. The first verse is sung a-cappella in Simone's distinctively husky voice and sets a quirky, darkly comedic tone, which the rest of the soundtrack (bar certain notable exceptions) fails to develop and cement further. Songs such as Jem's "Amazing Life", "Breathe Me" by Sia and "Direction" by Interpol all blur into a relatively inoffensive though hardly distinguishable mash of indie depression. However, Radiohead as the pioneers of this genre, demonstrate how good this music can be through their mid-90s tune "Lucky." Coldplay, while arguably overrated, do represent why they are the heirs to Radiohead's throne with the highly appropriate inclusion of their "Rush of Blood to the Head." With all that being said though, "Cold Wind" by The Arcade Fire borders on brilliance, allowing the listener an escape from the somewhat derivative music being offered by today's biggest indie stars, and offers a paranoid ("And if they ever find me/Tell the papers/Cold wind, cold wind, cold wind blowin'"), desperate and dark view which sits well with the themes of the show itself.
The best part of the soundtrack is the addition of Irma Thomas' "Time Is On My Side", which was popularized by the Rolling Stones in the mid 60s, although the original in this case is undoubtedly superior. The soulful, bluesy, gospel and rock n roll amalgamation offers a welcome departure from the sound that dominates most of the CD, and really embodies that darkly comedic spirit "Six Feet Under" is so famous for. Caesars' version of the Blue Oyster Cult's bouncy, jangly "Don't Fear the Reaper" exists on the soundtrack in the same capacity as "Time Is On My Side", yet doesn't deliver in quite the same way. "Don't Fear the Reaper", although inherently a sincere song with a solemn subject matter is generally hard to take seriously, with this perception being exploited quite well on the soundtrack, allowing the quirkiness to be evident.
Overall, the "Six Feet Under" soundtrack is a collection of good songs that suffers from a strong sense of direction, as the sincere, depressing songs from indie music's troubled stars doesn't sit particularly well with the more quirky, darkly comedic tunes.