Soundtrack Greater Than (Quite Fine) Film: “American Graffiti”

Here’s the usual blah blah blah about what is, yes, Lucas’s only “first-person” film. And I don’t disagree with the general assessment, but what’s left out is that the soundtrack album was huge: not only is it one of the most immaculate sequences of “oldies” ever made but it kicked off an enormous wave of interest in pre-Beatles rock and pop, which, to a degree unimaginable now, had vanished from the airwaves and popular culture in general by 1973. Sadly, there was a floating absurdity that pre-Brit-Invasion rock (not to mention pre-Motown R&B) was more or less dimestore tripe. The American Graffiti soundtrack was a major force in kicking that nonsense to the curb.

R.I.P.: Tomasz Stanko

Here’s a strong recommendation you might not see much. Trumpeter Stanko not only covered Komeda’s soundtrack work, but played with him for this 1965 album. To further the Polish connection, Komeda also did the (I believe exquisite) soundtracks for peak Roman Polanski films. (Then of course there is Komeda’s haunting young death.) Anyway, nothing quite like this out there.

Sweat Soundtrack #2

  1. Lagbaja, WebeforeMe (PDSE, 2001) Nigerian oddball with admirable ideals and an ensemble that is almost too pure-percussion for me. Redeeming feature: recurrent sense of humor. Here’s some scoop.
  2. Various, Give Peace a Dance: A CND Compilation (CND, 1991) Enjoyable, but more dated than I hoped in that most unfamiliar names on it are not remembered for a reason.
  3. Various, True Spirit: Tresor Berlin (Tresor, 2002). Euro take on Detroit Techno. On the relentless side, but runs over your objections like an electronic tank.
  4. Richard Thompson, Grizzly Man (soundtrack) (Cooking Vinyl, 2005). I agree this is most effective in the context of the documentary (a side feature of the DVD shows Thompson improvising the themes as he watches the footage). But the wide-open-spaces feel mixed with melancholy and just that wisp of ominous is irresistible. The movie is a masterpiece about how nature is itself, not anyone’s dreams or fears.
  5. Various, Sugar and Poison (Virgin, 1996)
  6. Various, Guitars on Mars (Virgin, 1997)
  7. David Toop, Sound Body (Samadhisound, 2006) (As many visitors will know the last three feature Toop either as compiler or performer.) Seem more eccentric than I recalled, though his sequencing is his own and Sugar is the clear pick. Must add that a fascinating bonus is that I swear even the most familiar tunes — many of them, anyway — are in subtle remixes that pull them into the undulating smokewaves.

Princeton Record Exchange Scrounge, Part 3: Sonic Youth Edition

  1. Sonic Youth, Spinhead Sessions 1986 (Goo)
  2. (Not from Princeton Exchange) Sonic Youth, Made in USA (Soundtrack) (Rhino, 1995)

Some new SY from a prime period around EVOL for a film that barely exists. The Spinhead studio new release features warm-ups (or, really, just unused or refused instrumentals) for the final soundtrack material released by Rhino 10 years after the film sort/kinda came out (pretty much straight to video). These numbers were done at a different studio with supposedly not-too-sympatico producers.

As a certified pop pervert, I should claim I far prefer the Made in USA material (though little or none of it was used in the actual film). It is livelier and more varied – dig the Stones-knockoff finale, “Bachelors in Fur!” — but the ominous atmospherics of Spinhead are a fascinating step on the band’s journey toward beauty and structure. For just one, it’s your choice. Confirmed fans will need both.