Friday, April 25, 2008

Quentin's Soundtracks

I saw Death Proof a couple of months ago and didn't like it at all. It didn't work as homage, it didn't work as trash, and it didn't work as entertainment.

(Though I was entertained when a student insisted to me that it was a "perfect homage to all of those great 1970s drive-in movies and car chase movies and ultra-low-budget New York gore movies" and then couldn't name or honestly claim to have seen a single one such film).

I at least expected entertaining dialogue and, while there was certainly a lot of talk talk talk, all of it read like juniors desperately trying to write what they think Tarantino movies sound like.

But, what it did have was a brilliant soundtrack. And, sure, that's to be expected, but this one had truly surprising things on it. Most prominently, and most brilliantly (with an honorable mention for "Chick Habit") are these two:

1. "Hold Tight" by the improbably named Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. How I had never heard this before is beyond me. It's the perfect blend of fuzzed-out guitars, melodic (but ever-evolving) simplicity, rhythmic complexity masquerading as simplicity, '60s harmonies, and the adherence to maxim that anything sayable in fewer than three minutes shouldn't be padded out to four. I picked up a collection by the group and much of it is just as good. There's no doubt that they're a bunch of Brits; the songs have got those little melodic quirks that you find in, for example, work by the Kinks, and that never seem to show up in otherwise-similar American songs (not after 1950, anyway).

2. "Staggolee" by Pacific Gas and Electric. A traditional song, and a badass one at that, and this group, whoever they are, take it and treat it like The Band had grown up not in Canada and Arkansas but in Watts instead -- and a Watts burning simultaneously with soul glory and psychedelic frustration. And while there are probably 38,000 versions of it in existence, at the moment, I'd be willing to argue that it's the best version of the song ever set down, easily eclipsing Dylan's version from World Gone Wrong, or that of RL Burnside, or (believe it or not) Neil Diamond, or Mississippi John Hurt, or even the Isley Brothers.

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