"Is this a joke?" was a common reaction I witnessed to this morning's revelation of The Avengers Assemble: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture, a 2012 soundtrack album for the new Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios comic book film whose highly conspicuous tracklist constitutes a who's who of some the greatest perpetrators of nu metal and alt rock from the 1990s and early 2000s. Featuring songs by Bush, Papa Roach, Evanescence, Scott Weiland, Buckcherry and led by the first new Soundgarden recording in 15 years, the confounding, stylistically specific compilation is heaven sent for the tribal-tatted sickbros of a certain generation, and a source of shock and awe for just about everybody else.I confess I was not fond of these artists even when they were chart-toppers. In those grim early days of this new millennium, I was working behind the counter at what used to be called a record store somewhere in New England, and we sold music in the form of $19.99 to $24.99 pieces of plastic that you would use in conjunction with devices that had lasers and moving parts. People would come in every day and ask for "that one song by that one band I heard on WFNX?" and it was invariably Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" or a track by one of the other bands on the Avengers soundtrack. It was a dark time for me.

Of course I was listening to a lot of Robbie Williams back then, so I guess there's no accounting for taste. Nevertheless I was genuinely shocked by the Avengers musical roster:

1. "Live to Rise" - Soundgarden

2. "I'm Alive" - Shinedown

3. "Dirt and Roses" - Rise Against

4. "Even If I Could" - Papa Roach

5. "Unbroken" - Black Veil Brides

6. "Breath" - Scott Weiland

7. "Comeback" - Redlight King

8. "Into the Blue" - Bush

9. "A New Way to Bleed (Photek Remix)" - Evanescence

10. "Count Me Out" - PUSHERJONES

11. "Shoot to Thrill" - Theory of a Deadman

12. "Wherever I Go" - Buckcherry

13. "From Out of Nowhere" - Five Finger Death Punch

14. "Shake the Ground" - Cherri Bomb

Additional track on the international release:

15. "Pistols At Dawn" - Kasabian

This compilation is so rooted in such a super-distinct time and place for pop music that I was inspired to speculate on what might have been left over for b-sides:

- "Adagio for Ultron" by Nickelback

- "Odinsleep" by The Crystal Method featuring Tommy Lee

- "You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry" by Powerman 5000 featuring Ma$e and Paul Oakenfold

You can find more of that kind of thing by searching the #avengerssoundtrack on Twitter.

The films of Marvel's Cinematic Universe have been characterized by fairly traditional superhero movie scores by composers like Alan Silvestri and Craig Armstrong, and not a reliance on source music (although the Iron Man films made judicious use of songs by Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Daft Punk, for obvious reasons), so it's unlikely the Avengers soundtrack will intrude upon your moviegoing experience too much.

Then again, I suppose it's possible that Avengers director Joss Whedon is such a massive alt rock fan that he personally appealed to the members of Soundgarden to reform and record this:

The Avengers is much anticipated by superhero comics fans as well as the wide audience that the charming Marvel Studios productions have cultivated. However, some industry professionals like Golem's Mighty Swing cartoonist James Sturm have called for a boycott in protest of Marvel and its parent company Disney's treatment of the late Jack Kirby -- the legendary cartoonist who created many of the Avengers characters (and a great deal of others owned by the company) and his heirs, who recently lost a court battle to reclaim rights to the characters.

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is a first for nerd cinema in that it assembles the main players from a series of several Marvel films that began with 2008's Iron Man and continued with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of these films were mostly pretty good to even great, performed very well in their own rights, and served collectively as a prelude to The Avengers. The film opens May 4.

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