There are lots of films out there. Literally over a hundred different ones, from comedy to horror to comedy-horror. They all have soundtracks but usually they’re rubbish. Film directors should not be allowed to choose the music for their own projects. When they do you end up with a collection of songs that includes Zach Galifianakis singing Who Let The Dogs Out without apparent irony.
This piece isn’t about about film scores though. John Williams, Danny Elfman, Michael Kamen and Hank Zimmerframe have those nailed. This is about soundtrack albums; the selections of drab love songs, thuggishly mysoginistic hip-hop anthems and brain-meltingly dumb nu-metal dollops that we get a cheeky snippet of during the doe-eyed kiss/car chase/bit where Jason Statham jumps sideways firing two guns. As much as I love dark tales of horror and cheesy action extravanganzas, and I could name you a dozen of each with suitably punchy metal-by-numbers records that would fit neatly alongside, and so can you. So you can do that yourself in your own head.
What with all the films that have had crappy soundtracks, and all the albums that were really really dead good, but weren’t soundtracks, it got me thinking. I came up with an idea that almost two people liked, which was to re-purpose existing albums as soundtracks for existing films. Try to bear with it—it’s not quite as tortuous as it sounds.
Prometheus is a terrible movie. It was never going to live up to the expectations of those of us who grew up adoring the Alien franchise. Alien was a tense sci-fi masterpiece and Aliens: The New Batch was a tasty blend of action and horror. Sadly, no further sequels were ever made. No other Alien films exist. Definitely not.
The casting is great, the dramatic set pieces are perfectly adequate and the look of it is suitably Gigery, but then someone forgot to write a plot. Well, there was a plot but it had more holes in it than that type of Swiss cheese that has lots of holes in it. Flaws in logic, ridiculous leaps from one idea to the next and daft inconsistencies left this viewer rather depressed and underwhelmed.
But imagine if it had all been underlined with the aural misery of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist. Tom G Warrior punches you repeatedly in the soul and transfers his gloom into your naked mind with every jarring atonal riff. The visual disappointment of Prometheus marries perfectly with the mortal despair buzzing within A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh or Drown In Ashes. Try watching this with sound muted, whilst listening to this.
No? Okay.Well, maybe try this one then.
Paris, Texas, by stark contrast to Piddley Scort’s rubbish, is a cinematic gem. Wim Wenders’ subtle, wistful study of a distant family relationship and the essence of love, loss and broken dreams is worthy of a more thoughtful and emotional soundtrack than it was afforded. Harry Dean Stanton epitomises the minimalistic approach to acting, saying more with a silent stare than he could with a thousand words. The dusty, angry and ultimately hopeful feel of the film always seems to me like it would gel perfectly with Peter Dolving’s 2003 solo outing Bad Blood. Taking a break from yelling over thrash metal in The Haunted, he creeps through your speakers and lays his soul bare in a joyously uncontrived heap of noises. Too obscure for the mainstream acoustic rock crowd and not metal enough for the headbangers, it sold poorly and never reached as many pairs of ears as it deserved to. Brake Or Bust and the title track would nestle in and amongst the barren scenery of Paris, Texas comfortably and the final moments of the story would resonate perfectly to the strains of When You Leave Me.
Next up, from out of my head, the wonderful Wes Anderson’s third feature length production, Rushmore, is a unique and fascinating essay on boyish obsession and being an outsider in the conformist world of high school. The almost autistic nature of the protagonist drags you along on a journey into his pseudo-intellectual world of unrequited love and arrogant pontification. Enter the shimmering genius of Keith (Mina) Caputo. Having come to prominence fronting hardcore underdogs Life Of Agony, he sheared off into the world of electro-indie-rock and jazzey-pop with the remarkable and catchy Die Laughing. A multiplicitous collection of wistful ballads, upbeat singalongs and mournful dirges, it bears repeated listens and could have accompanied so many of the pivotal scenes from Anderson’s characteristically quaint movie.
And so to the obvious and almost necessary part of this ramble through Hollywood’s musical errors—The Wizard Of Oz. It was well established lore for many years that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon synchronised perfectly with the Judy Garland silver screen classic. Many a mushroom-chomping hippie would swear blind it was a deliberate and carefully crafted effort by messrs Gilmour and Waters. It wasn’t. Many have further said that even though it may not have been intentional, the whole thing fits so neatly alongside every scene of the movie, that the effect is dazzling. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t.
One might wonder how I would know that unless I had been stupid and immature enough during my student years to try the experiment myself one evening after too much Benylin, skunkweed and whiskey, hoping for a total trip, man. Well, my only thought was how much better suited Music From The Elder by Kiss would be to the flying monkeys, yellow brick road and wicked witch montage. Pedants amongst you might point out that this record was technically a soundtrack anyway, crafted by the facepainted ones as a supposed accompaniment to an imagined book/film. It was a concept album of fantastically pretentious preposterousness, brought to us by a band famed for blaring out cock rock anthems, with a frontman waggling his tongue whilst not really playing the bass and then spitting fake blood whilst staring at the teenaged girls in the front row he was intending to bed later. I bet he regrets every moment of his life.
Kiss overstretched themselves without a doubt, trying to tell a detailed sci-fi story throughout the course of ten relatively short songs that were not catchy enough to please their fans and would inevitably be laughed at or merely ignored by aficionados of prog rock or serious concept pieces. Did they want to be Bowie? Rush? Who knows. However, if you cast aside your pre-conceptions of Kiss and forgive or at least overlook the arrogance of their ambition, then what you have is a half-decent collection of background dad-rock.
Imagine that bubbling under the munchkins’ freakish and unnerving cavorting and you’ll realise that I am typing this out way past my bedtime, that I have lost the thread entirely and that I am clearly hammering one of the final nails into Demon Pigeon’s coffin.