Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lights, Camera... Audio?

The Rant seems to be diving into a few uncharted territories as of late, ie. video clips, irregularity, a lack of comments (oh wait...). So to bolster the freshness i thought i'd offer up another crazy interesting list. This time dealing with soundtracks in a little list I like to call...


Shazam! I would like to say that the idea for this post was my own but all due credit must go to my friend and fellow Ugly, Sam. It's all about movies - some bad, some good - in which the sound is superior to the visuals. There's a very simple test for this, would you rather listen to the soundtrack - generally in half the time - or watch the movie?

1. The Boat That Rocked

The film that started the discussion that led to this list I believe. Also a great example in that the film is not especially bad (though some will strongly disagree with me), but when you've got a two disc compilation of sure-fire classics as this, the film simply can't compete. It's only fair, after all, the film is all about peoples' passion for music and once again it shows writer/director Richard Curtis' great (if slightly schmaltzy) music taste.

The Turtles - Elenore
Procol Harum - Whiter Shade Of Pale
The Easybeats - Friday On My Mind

2. Garden State

I never really got Garden State, for a directorial debut (by star Zach Braff) it's fairly impressive. Overall though, despite starting well, it's ideas just didn't seem to gel for me. Not so the soundtrack, beginning with Coldplay's Don't Panic it goes from strength to strength with a consistent mood and tone that gravitates around acoustic instropection. From Indie darlings The Shins to some classics (Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkl) and winding things down with an excellent cover of The Postal Service's Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine. And as much as I love Natalie Portman, it's hard to go past Sam Beam's dulcet tones.

The Shins - New Slang
Nick Drake - One Of These Things First
Iron & Wine - Such Great Heights (Postal Service Cover)

3. Vanilla Sky
Cameron Crowe is another director with impeccable musical taste, his years spent as a teenager submitting to Rolling Stone magazine certainly helped. As such his soundtracks are usually of a very high quality. Whether it was his youth captured in Almost Famous, almost single handedly turning Elton John's Tiny Dancer into a revival hit; or his earlier film Singles with it's tie-in with the Seattle grunge movement feautring cornerstone acts such as Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam & Soundgarden. But Vanilla Sky, his misunderstood Tom Cruise fronted remake of 2001, trumps them both. Featuring the biggest and most respected names in music (Radiohead, R.E.M., Dylan) alongside some personal choices of Crowe's (Red House Painters, Jeff Buckley). All this and he even managed to convince an ex-Beatle to record the title track as well as including an unreleased (at the time) Sigur Ros track in the ending sequence.

Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place
Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
Julianna Gianni (Cameron Diaz) - I Fall Apart

4. I Am Sam

Speaking of The Beatles...
I Am Sam is all about a mentally handicapped father and his battle to keep his daughter, the link being he's obsessed with the fab four and the film is peppered with references. Or was it all an excuse for this cleverly marketed and executed soundtrack?
Even though The Beatles have been covered to death and even though there'll never better the originals, there's still some good takes on here and still better than the highly manipulative film.

The Vines - I'm Only Sleeping
Ben Folds - Golden Slumbers
Eddie Vedder - You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

5. Stigmata

The movie was a rubbishy thriller shot in the style of 90's slasher flicks with quasi-religious overtones. The soundtrack is automatically superior to the film in every way as it contains one of the greatest songs ever written: the remix of Björk's All Is Full Of Love - that eventually trumped her original album version by its inclusion on her Greatest Hits set. That epic aside, the soundtrack is still noteworthy with a selection of moody numbers by the likes of Massive Attack, Afro Celt Sound System and even David Bowie. The latter half of the CD is dedicated to the film's evocative score composed by none other than virtuoso rock pianist Mike Garson & Billy Corgan (back when Smashing Pumpkins weren't synonomous with 'desperate attempt to reclaim formy glory').

Björk - All Is Full Of Love
Natalie Imbruglia - Identify
Mike Garson & Billy Corgan - 1,000,000 Voices

6. The Darjeeling Limited

Just slightly predating Slumdog Millionaire's popularisation of Bollywood came Wes Anderson's quirky comedy (now that's a tautology) and it's compilation soundtrack of Bollywood pieces, predominantly from Indian auteur Satyajit Ray. Included also is Peter Sarstedt's Where Do You Go To (My Lovely), the key song from Hotel Chevalier, the short that precedes the film proper. It's meditative acoustic guitar chords and Sarstedt's swooping, circular melody seem to fit snugly alongside the majority of masala on offer here. Also included are some curios from The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and even some Debussey.

Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)
Shankar Jaikishan - Bombay Talkie
Vilayat Khan - Arrival In Benaras (from The Guru)

7. Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola had already set a trend for fashionable as well as enjoyable soundtracks with her previous films thanks to her musical buddies Air and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), for The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation respectively. But for her rock n roll portrait of the French monarch, Coppola went all-out with a two disc set. Though the film was criticised as a matter of style over substance, it was hard to fault the smorgasboard on offer in the audio department. It takes in 80's cult acts such as Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure and New Order as well as a healthy does of modern groups such as The Strokes, Aphex Twin and a return appearance from Air. When it came to the soundtrack Marie Antoinette let Coppola have her cake and eat it too.

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Hong Kong Garden
The Strokes - What Ever Happened?
Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy

8. Easy Rider

Bit of a controversial one, this. It's hard to argue against the importance of Easy Rider in ushering in a new wave of American cinema, nor it's influence - mirrored in the soundtrack. For better or worse, without Easy Rider we wouldn't have all those albums entiteld "music from and inspired by" or "music from the motion picture."It was one of the first to promote a compilation of contemporary tunes instead of an accompanying score, it's rock and garage sounds perfectly complemented the free spirit and controversy of the film too. It's soundtrack has become a part of popular culture, few can disassociate Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild without images of revving Harleys hitting the wide open desert road.

Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild
The Band - The Weight
Roger McGuinn- Ballad of Easy Rider

9. Purple Rain
It may be taken for granted now, and even laughably melodramatic on a revisited viewing, but back in 1984 Purple Rain was the coolest thing going around. Capitalising on Prince's rising success, it becomes clear the script and film are clearly shoehorned around the songs, some of the biggest of his career, even today. Conveniently presenting a sort of mythological back story to Prince's near-arrogant ambition and beguiling sexuality via a love story with protege Appolonia. That makes the film sound far more interesting than it is, save yourself the time and give the record a spin instead. Unlike the film, the album is wildly inventive, eventful and the display of a unique artist in full control of his artistic abilities and ambition.

Prince & The Revolution - Let's Go Crazy
Prince & The Revoltuion - When Doves Cry
Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain

10. Godzilla

There can be no greater disparity between the quality of a film and it's soundtrack than Roland Emmerich's trainwreck remake of Godzilla. Perhaps in fear of the impending stinker to be, TriStar pictures went on an elaborate, multi-pronged advertising campaign that included roping in Sony Records to do the soundtrack. The resulting soundtrack (Godzilla: The Album) pooled deep and wide from Sony's excellent stable of labelmates featuring excellent original recordings from some killer bands, including a much touted re-tool of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir from Puff Daddy that managed to enlist Jimmy Page (Come With Me). Most ironically though, none of the tracks appeared in the film, though the record is annoyingly laced with samples of Godzilla's shriek. If you can put up with that though, it's a great collection that vastly outstrips the feces that was the cinematic equivalent.

Jamiroquai - Deeper Underground
Rage Against The Machine - No Shelter
Ben Folds Five - Air
Foo Fighters - A320
Silverchair - Untitled

And there you have it.
Got any suggestions or grievances? Feel free to comment below

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