One of the times I've felt most proud of the British public was Christmas 2003, when Gary Jules' "Mad World" reached the coveted Christmas number one spot. Not your typical festive favourite - hushed piano and vocals, breaking with sadness - it was nevertheless a moving, fantastic record, much better than the heaps of inane R'n'B/pop crossovers floating around the charts at the time.
Jules cover of the Tears For Fears song was made for Donnie Darko, and there are actually 3 copies of it here. And, it's almost worth it.
'Mad World' is only one of many moments of eighties heartbreak on this record. Soundtracks can be a fantastic way of discovering a forgotten era, and this was my introduction to the wonderful world of Eighties gloom - gothic, melodramatic and gorgeous, this soundtrack has led to me spending far too much money on Cure and XTC compilations.
The Eighties is a much maligned genre, but Richard Kelly has picked the cream of that decade for 'Donnie Darko'. All the songs on the first disc of this soundtrack convey the sadness and greatness of the film - Echo and the Bunnymen's epic, Arabian influenced 'The Killing Moon', one of my favourite songs. Tears For Fears juxtaposition of jaunty, catchy pop music with teen depression lyrics (for some similar eighties contrasts listen to The Smiths) 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' which has had essays written on it and needs nothing more to be said, and The Church's forgotten gem 'Under The Milky Way'.
At first I was slightly disappointed about the small-ish number of actual songs. However after a few listens I appreciate the instrumentals in the middle of the record much more. They add to the sense of high gothic melodrama and doomed romance that pervades this record (and the alternative music scene of much of the decace)
The second disc, of instrumentals from the film, is also very good. I known it's been given a few lukewarm reviews by critics, but I find it ethereal and eeriely beautiful. If you enjoyed the score for 'Donnie Darko', you'll find it works just as well outside of the movie - dark but beautiful.
This is a record to treasure and replay as many times as that 'Donnie Darko' DVD sitting next to your TV. It's a perfect introduction to everything that was great about eighties music. It's gothic, gloomy, sad, but also joyful, full of perfect pop moments, songwriters at the peak of their powers and some genuinely uplifting moments among the heartbreak. Hey - it's a mad world.