The Retrospective Soundtrack Players are less of a band and more of an art project. Taking their favourite books and films, the sextet interprets the plots into a twee amalgamation of folk and pop. To make the project even more implausible, for the band’s second full-length record they have chosen to tackle the infamously inadaptable J.D. Salinger novel ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
The narrative of the novel is neatly and succinctly reconstructed through the lyrics on the fourteen tracks. Taking the major events and characters from the book, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ moulds these into three minute explanations of the plot. Although the music is engaging, this interpretation of the story becomes the predominant feature of the record.
Unfortunately the overarching nature of the shallow commentary serves to oversimplify the themes of the book. Many modern playwrights have chosen to avoid the Salinger novel to negate the danger of disrespecting a novel that has become synonymous with adolescent life, yet The Retrospective Soundtrack Players have in essence removed the complicated undertones of the plot and amped up the superficially whimsical surface. It may seem unfair to judge a record against the influencing material, however when said record acts as a direct interpretation of the material the artists openly invite such criticism. All in all, the retelling of the story occurs at too fast a pace and far too indelicately to correctly represent the source material.
Not forgetting that this is in fact a piece of music – and running the danger of becoming a literary biopsy rather than a music review – it is probably important to mention the sound generated by the artists. This sound in fact provides a difficult contradiction to the aforementioned superficiality. Whereas the lyrical content of the record suffers due to the twee nature of the material, the music itself is actually completely endearing largely because of this twee nature. Tracks such as ‘Percey Prep’ are reminiscent of early The Academy Is…, while ‘The Wicker Bar’ pushes in more substance to sit somewhere between Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem. When disregarding the themes behind the record it emerges as an excitingly grassroots endeavour.
If anything can be said about The Retrospective Soundtrack Players it is that their concept is deeply intriguing. By turning critically acclaimed movies and novels into commercial records they are at least not only attempting to reinvigorate past classics, but also opening them up to a wider market. Whether their choice of source material in this case proves insensitive is largely dependent on the audience, but what is clear at the end is that the sound remains thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is a definite bittersweet experience.