Harmony Korine is the sort of director that most people either really love or really dislike. His films to date have moved with a sort of awkward fever-dream intensity that teeters between amateur and auteur while also mixing together occasional stomach-churning ugliness with otherworldly beauty. Given all of the above, it seems fitting that the music for his newest film comes courtesy of one J. Spaceman (Jason Pierce of Spiritualized) and Sun City Girls.
Mister Lonely tells the story of a young Michael Jackson impersonator who eventually stumbles upon a community of like-minded souls (who mimic other famous entertainers like Marylin Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Madonna, and others), and mixes these characters into expected surreal settings. Musically, the work from the two contributors follows suit, with passages of almost atonal eeriness bumping up against sparkling instrumentals and ragged-edged moments.
It's soundtrack work in the sense that there aren't real 'songs' here, but there are fragments and fleeting periods of real warmth and loveliness here. "3D Girls" by Sun City Girls mixes some humming, wordless vocals with some great acoustic guitar picking and twanging electric while their "Steppe Spiritual" feels more spiritual, with chanted vocals mingling with some impressionistic piano curls. "Mr. Lonely Viola" takes the French setting of the film and weaves just a touch of that country's music into what might be one of the best pieces on the release.
In many places, the work of Pierce sounds sort of like what you'd get if you took a Spiritualized song and broke it down into short fragments. "Blues 1" takes a stuttering guitar note and mixes it with some soft piano and slide guitar while "Garden Walk" is a lovely little mini orchestra piece with lilting woodwinds and strings. Unfortunately, there are also a slew of short tracks that feel a lot more like toss-offs than much of anything else, and amongst it all are spoken-word bits from Diego Luna (who plays the title role in the film) and Werner Herzog (who would sound great reading a phonebook). Somewhat inconsistent, yet charming in places, Mister Lonely is summarily the perfect backing for a Korine film.