Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Revisiting The Crow Original Soundtrack

After reading about The Crow remake running into a (hopefully lethal) speed-bump last week, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the soundtrack to the original film.

The Crow came out at a perfect time for me — 1994, the summer after my freshman year of high school. The themes therein of tragic love, tortured existentialism, and righteous-as-fuck vengeance were easily relatable for any awkward 15 year-old like myself.

Plus, the face paint on Brandon Lee's face was totally boss — an instant Halloween classic.

The soundtrack was the cherry on top, for it contained some of my favorite artists at the time. It was a perfect mixture of exclusive tracks, choice b-sides, and obscure covers; the prototypical soundtrack compilation.  

Let's listen to it while breaking it down, shall we?

1. The Cure - "Burn" - To this day, the Cure have never performed this song live, and it's a shame because it's one of their best songs from the 90s. Fittingly, the song's intro is a slow burn, which builds up quite nicely to some instrument-generated bird sounds (à la "Free Bird,") which gets me thinking, if "onomatopoeia" defines words that mimic sounds, what's the term for when instruments do the mimicking? I only ask this because Adrian Belew does a great rhino with guitar, and I think that kind of shit deserves a cool multisyllabic term.

2. Machines of Loving Grace - "Golgotha Tenement Blues" - Machines of Loving Grace should have been a bigger deal, instead, bands like Filter, Stabbing Westward and Gravity Kills ripped off their sound and ended up selling millions. Meanwhile, MOLG remains virtually unknown, in no small part due to their acronym being "MOLG." Anyway, this song ain't no "Suicide King" or "Richest Junkie Still Alive," but it's definitely the third-best MOLG song, and that's nothing to sneer at, so quit your sneering, or you'll end up looking like Billy Idol.

3. Stone Temple Pilots - "Big Empty" - As I recall, this song was released on the soundtrack before it even appeared on Stone Temple Pilots' second album, Purple. It's definitely "the hit" on The Crow OST, as it instantly earned heavy rotation on radio and MTV. And like half of STP's songs, it fakes you out at some point, making you think the song is over, but then kicks back in. Those tricksters... it's annoying as hell, but goddam it if it doesn't work every time!

4. Nine Inch Nails - "Dead Souls" - The music of Joy Division played heavily into The Crow comic book, the source material for the film, so the least they could do is be on the soundtrack. Well, the folks at Atlantic apparently couldn't pull that off for some reason, so Trent Reznor stepped in to the rescue with his cover of "Dead Souls." And this was at a time, mind you, that Joy Division wasn't exactly a band everyone was hip to liking. Only art school fags and sad ex-goths copped to owning Unknown Pleasures, so kudos to Reznor for throwing a bone to those two groups of sad misfits. And, of course, for doing the track justice. And yes, I just used the word "fag." I'm edgy.
For reference: Joy Division - "Dead Souls"

5. Rage Against The Machine - "Darkness" - This was a rerecorded version of a B-side called "Darkness of Greed" which originally appeared on the "Killing In The Name" single. In it, Zach de la Rocha somehow posits that rich people gave Africans AIDS because they wanted to kill them off and go there for vacation, which in hindsight, is totally true. Also, during the first part of his solo, Tom Morello makes his guitar sound like R2-D2 being blown by Pac-Man, a feat which also deserves its own onomatopoeia-like term.

6. Violent Femmes - "Color Me Once" - Much like the Cure's "Burn," the Violent Femmes' exclusive track for the soundtrack is probably their best work of the 90s (and beyond.) This is an absolutely killer fucking song. It's nonchalantly sexy. It sashays over to you all slow and sauntering and shit, and then sways its stuff all sexy-like ALL UP in your face. And then you come. You come HARD. Or at least, I do — metaphorically speaking, of course — every time I hear it. In fact, I might need a change of metaphorical skivvies right now. And since you're wondering: they're metaphorical boxer-briefs.     

7. Rollins Band - "Ghost Rider" - This song about Marvel's flame-headed motorcycle hero was originally done by NY electro proto-punk pioneers Suicide. Keep in mind once again, this is years before Pitchfork devoted itself to judging all music by how it compares to 1977's Suicide, so it wasn't like they were a household name or anything (and sure, they still aren't, but certainly moreso.) Naturally, the Rollins treatment transforms it into a more muscular number, and it fits that mold quite nicely. As righteous as it is ridiculous.
For reference: Suicide - "Ghostrider"

8. Helmet - "Milktoast" (also known as "Milquetoast") - The first two seconds of this song are the best part, which is risky for a band that might want to keep your attention for another four minutes. But Helmet doesn't need that kind of validation. In fact, they could give a shit if you hang around for the rest of the song. That's why they gave you the best part up front; they don't bury the lead, ever. How do I know all this? I don't, but what else am I gonna write about in this space when this song is completely self-explanatory. It's Helmet, it sounds like a Helmet song.

9. Pantera - "The Badge" - The last cover on The Crow OST is that of hardcore band Poison Idea's anti-cop anthem, "The Badge." Pantera covers it faithfully, even replicating the opening and closing Taxi Driver dialogue and the siren sounds throughout. This song is helpful because I hate cops but sometimes I forget just how much, so listening to it is a great service. "Oh yeah," I usually say while it plays, "I hate pigs! How could I forget? Good thing this song is around to remind me. But still, THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!" And that's how I came up with my PigAlert® idea, a text messaging service that promptly reminds you on the hour, every hour, to fuck tha police coming straight from the underground.
For reference: Poison Idea - "The Badge"

10. For Love Not Lisa - "Slip Slide Melting" - I may be wrong on this, but wasn't For Love Not Lisa a Christian Rock band? How did they get on a movie soundtrack about Pagan symbolism? They must've had a good connection with a higher up... at Atlantic Records. And what's the deal with Christian music? All the best songs about God have already been written, you effing idiots. Give it up already. Oratorios? Cantatas?! All them shits were way better than any dumb Jesus-y love song that you can muster up. What the hell's the point? Oh, avoiding hell IS the point? My bad. But seriously, quit it, you suck.

11. My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - "After the Flesh" - My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult actually makes a cameo in The Crow, playing themselves and this song in a club scene. The song is a standard Ministry-influenced industrial jaunt, complete with B-movie audio clips. I'm not sure why that's a staple of industrial music, but the exposure's gotta be good for B-movies, right? I mean, I once rented "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" just because it's heavily sampled in White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss '65." Speaking of which, why aren't they on this soundtrack?

12. The Jesus And Mary Chain - "Snakedriver" - The Jesus and Mary Chain contributed a track off their own comp EP, "The Sound Of Speed," probably because they were too busy starting a drawn-out process to break up. Either that, or William Reid was just too busy boning Hope Sandoval. Speaking of which, why isn't Mazzy Star on this soundtrack? Oh, right, because they got Medicine instead.

13. Medicine - "Time Baby III" - Medicine also appeared in the film, playing themselves playing this song in a club scene. Their willingness to act is probably how they beat out Mazzy Star for this spot on the soundtrack. Either that, or Hope Sandoval was just too busy boning William Reid.

14. Jane Siberry - "It Can't Rain All the Time" - Jane Siberry is Canadian. That's pretty much the extent of my knowledge of her. But this song is very Kate Bush-like as far as the dramatic intensity and her idiosyncratic vocal stylings. The title is taken from a key line in the film, and it probably inspired the song. But again, I don't know for sure. What am I, a goddam researcher? Am I supposed to call Jane up and ask her? I don't get paid for this shit, you should feel so lucky I know as much as I do about this goddam soundtrack that came out 17 motherfucking years ago. You were probably still busy shitting yourself back then. Now, get off my lawn...

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