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The 'Wendell & Wild' Soundtrack Is A Crash Course For Getting Into Black Rock And Punk Music
The 'Wendell & Wild' Soundtrack Is A Crash Course For Getting Into Black Rock And Punk Music
Image courtesy of Netflix

The 'Wendell & Wild' Soundtrack Is A Crash Course For Getting Into Black Rock And Punk Music

In using Black rock and punk music, Wendell & Wild celebrates genres of music Black people have long been disregarded and erased from, resulting in one of the best film soundtracks not just of the year, but in recent history.

Wendell & Wild, Henry Selick's long-awaited directorial return that he wrote and produced with Jordan Peele, centers around Katherine "Kat" Koniqua Elliot, a young Black girl suffering from survivor's guilt and grief after witnessing her parents die. The film is a dark tale that not only explores themes like trauma, but capitalism, gentrification, and how the justice system often sets up people of color (and in the case of this movie, children of color) to fail.

Of course, there are moments of levity throughout to pierce the overall dark tone of Wendell & Wild, primarily thanks to a reunited Keegan-Michael Key and Peele as the titular characters. But what also helps the film in this regard is its soundtrack, which is primarily made up of music from all-Black or Black-fronted rock and punk groups.

From the moment Kat walks through the hallways of Rust Bank's all-girls Catholic school blaring X-Ray Spex's "I Am a Poseur" to the climactic showdown between Rust Bank locals (both alive and dead) and private prison company Klaxon Korp soundtracked by TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me," it's evident how integral Black rock and punk music is to the film.

The music not only helps energize the colorful world of Wendell & Wild, but helps to inform Kat's identity and her bond with her parents, particularly her father. When we're first introduced to Delroy Elliott, he's seen wearing a Fishbone t-shirt underneath his vibrant blazer (Kat is also wearing the same shirt), with the band's song "Ma and Pa" playing throughout. As he turns on their car to head home from their root beer factory, X-Ray Spex's "Germ Free Adolescence" starts to play, the same band Kat uses to soundtrack her debut at the Catholic school (courtesy of her father's old boombox).

What's great about the attention to detail in music curation is that the soundtrack really does a good job of highlighting both well-known and obscure gems from Black rock and punk music of both the past and present. Death, the all-Black Detroit trio credited as "punk before punk was punk" by the New York Times, and their lively "Freakin Out"; Living Colour's Grammy Award-winning, hit single "Cult of Personality"; Big Joanie's dancey and upbeat "Fall Asleep"; and Tamar-Kali's anthemic "Boot." The film even acknowledges other bands like Pure Hell, another pioneering all-Black punk band, through a sticker on Kat's boombox and a poster in the Elliot family's basement.

In using Black rock and punk music, Wendell & Wild celebrates genres of music Black people have long been disregarded and erased from, resulting in one of the best film soundtracks not just of the year, but in recent history. For those that want to listen to some of the songs featured in the film in their entirety, an official Wendell & Wild playlist curated TV on the Radio's very own Tunde Adebimpe is on Spotify. The playlist is an extension of the soundtrack, featuring other Black rock and punk bands like The 1865 (which features Sacha Jenkins), Bad Brains, and Soul Glo.