EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: THE SOUND OF FILM

Film Threat’s forum section recently ran a thread on movie soundtracks. Ironically, I was actually working on this column when that first appeared, so here’s my two cents about soundtracks and scores. (What? You were expecting more porn rants?)

A movie’s soundtrack is essential business. Some films have soundtracks that are nothing more than background music, while others have ones that further the story and add atmosphere in ways dialogue and sets cannot. When I was younger, I used to buy soundtracks and scores almost as much as Misfits bootlegs. (These days I find good soundtracks to be few and far between.) These are a few of my favorites.

First and foremost on the list has to be the soundtrack to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.” I have long since lost my copy, but it had some incredible songs by Oingo Boingo, Concrete Blonde and Stewart Copeland. I listened to this thing nonstop on my way to school and while I was writing fiction, and it was creepy even if you didn’t see the film. I’ve made a vow to find a new copy of this, but have yet to come across it in my casual searches. Until I find it, my world is a little less complete.

The soundtrack to “The Crow” is also a nightmare of gloom and doom. Hell, it’s got The Cure on there. Mix that with a blistering version of “Ghost Rider” by the Rollins Band and a haunting Nine Inch Nails number, and you have a sound that can only be from “The Crow.” This soundtrack, unlike almost any other, fits the movie perfectly. I once read, however, that of the bands on it, only The Cure wrote a song specifically for the movie.

For soundtracks that bring back movie memories, there is nothing like the ones from Quentin Tarantino’s films. Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill Vol. 1 are my favorites for reliving Tarantino’s violent cinematic imagery, and they make it obvious that the director painstakingly selects the music for his movies and probably actually writes scenes around the songs.

Whenever I listen to one of Tarantino’s soundtracks, I immediately want to see the corresponding movie again. And since he uses such classic songs, the same happens whenever I catch one of the tunes on the radio. People always wonder why I’m laughing when I hear the opening to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” come over the speakers. If you don’t know why, see Reservoir Dogs. That scene ruined some people’s love of the song for life. Good.

There are other soundtracks out there that merit attention, but I’ve found few that are as well done as these audio masterpieces. The songs transport listeners back to when they first saw the films, and they add just the right amount of emotion to the scenes in which they are used. If you don’t understand the difference between soundtracks that work and those that don’t, watch Daredevil and Kill Bill Vol. 1 back to back. Don’t watch it for anything other than the soundtrack. The difference becomes obvious within about thirty minutes (if that).

A bad soundtrack may not kill a movie, but it can cut its throat. A good soundtrack or score, on the other hand, will create miracles. I just wish more directors understood this. If they did, we’d be spared from ever hearing another Yello song in a film, and Goblin would have an Oscar or two.

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Posted on March 1, 2004 in Features by

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