Thursday, April 12, 2007

Death Proof: The Soundtrack

Since the opening iconic credit sequence in RESERVOIR DOGS Quentin Tarantino has been an absolute master at using music in his films. His soundtracks have always played a hugely important role in his canon in not only fitting his films stylistically but in paying tribute to past films he has loved. DEATH PROOF is no different, it is a smashing cd filled with some really unexpected and exciting surprises. I thought I would go through track by track with some quick thoughts.
I have held off actually reviewing GRINDHOUSE, I will say that I haven't had as much fun at a film since seeing Fulci's THE BEYOND at a midnight movie several years ago. GRINDHOUSE is a rocking reference filled powerhouse tribute to seventies exploitation films with Tarantino's DEATH PROOF coming out as a major work, and a major addition to his already astonishingly impressive 15 year filmography.

The Soundtrack:

1. THE LAST RACE: Jack Nitzsche.
The DEATH PROOF cd opens up fittingly with the sound of a revving car engine and then we are launched into Nitzche's incredibly cool VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS theme. The song was originally an early single for Nitzsche that was copped for the VILLAGE soundtrack and it is perfect for DEATH PROOF. Tarantino even gives it special mention in the opening credits of his film and it sets the tone perfectly for the movie and cd.

2. BABY IT'S YOU: Smith.
Smith is one of those bands whose lps that I used to see beaten up copies of every time I went record hunting. Their roaring 1969 cover of this Burt Bacharach song was the major highlight of the one album I have by them, A GROUP CALLED SMITH. Gayle McCormick's vocal is particularly impressive here as is the thunderous bass line that carries the song. This was, I believe, their biggest hit for them and I was glad to see Tarantino using it in his film.

3. PARANOIA PRIMA: Ennio Morricone
Okay, we know we are in the right theater when a track from Morricone's soundtrack to Dario Argento's CAT O NINE TAILS starts playing. I must admit I got a little teary when I first heard this in the film. Argento gets a special thanks in the DEATH PROOF credits, as well on the soundtrack. Tarantino uses this track very well in the film and in a recent Fangoria interview he also mentions copying some SUSPIRIA'S lighting scheme for a shot in DEATH PROOF. I've always loved this slinky, seductive and scary Morricone track and it is a pleasure to have it on here.

4. planning and scheming dialogue. I must admit to being baffled why, in a film filled with some truly incredible lines, Tarantino decided to use this passage with Eli Roth to put on the soundtrack.

What can I say about one of ELECTRIC WARRIORS best tracks? Bolan's classic felt like it was shaking the theater walls opening night of GRINDHOUSE. Essential stuff and it makes me happy to think the great Marc Bolan might be slipping into a few new homes with this cd.

6. stuntman mike dialogue.
A much wiser choice of dialogue is chosen here featuring Rose Mcgowan and Kurt Russell.

7. STAGGERLEE: Pacific Gas and Electric
I don't know too much about this group. A quick Internet search shows that this song comes from a 1970 album called ARE YOU READY. It's a fine southern soul and blues filled track that works particularly well in Tarantino's universe.

Really lovely track by the Texas born Joe Tex. Tex's emotional vocal and gospel tinged sound really shine on this 1966 track. I had heard this track years ago and I am glad to have gotten re-acquainted with it on this soundtrack.

9. GOOD LOVE, BAD LOVE: Eddie Floyd
The Tennessee born Tarantino obviously knows his music and the great Memphis Stax label would obviously play a part in that. One of my favorite shots in DEATH PROOF was a close up of a spinning vintage Stax 45 in a jukebox .

10. DOWN IN MEXICO: The Coasters
The Coasters are of course one of the great vocal acts of the rock era and this incredible track is one of DEATH PROOF's highlights. This 1956 Lieber and Stoller song features some of the duo's sharpest lyrics and The Coasters performance is exceptional.

11. HOLD TIGHT: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mike and Tich
Wow, speaking of shaking the theater walls. I can forgive Tarantino's swipe at The Who in the film as the use of this song during the first car crash sequence was one of the most thrilling things I have seen in a long time.

12. SALLY AND JACK: Pino Donaggio
My favorite moment on the DEATH PROOF soundtrack. This is of course the beautiful love theme from Brian De Palma's masterful BLOW-OUT. I remember a decade or so being thrilled to see Tarantino naming this De Palma classic as one of his ten favorite films. His use of this in DEATH PROOF provides the film with one of it's most calm and emotional moments.

13. IT'S SO EASY: Willy Deville
Hell yea!!! Fans of Friedkin's CRUISING, all three of us, will immediately recognize this intense Jack Nitzshe produced track as its closing credits song. I am pretty sure the underrated Deville wrote this specifically for CRUISING and it was one of the main reasons I spent years searching that elusive soundtrack down. I don't think I have ever heard Tarantino mention CRUISING before but perhaps the soon to be re-released film has at least one other fan.

14. whatever-however dialogue
Not a moment I would have chosen but it works well enough here.

Rollicking percussive track from a early sixties film called THUNDER ALLEY which I have not seen. The short track works wonderfully well in DEATH PROOF and it makes me want to search THUNDER ALLEY down.

16. CHICK HABIT: April March
March's Serge Gainsbourg cover had people hanging out for the closing credits which is a rare thing these days. This, frankly awesome track, was originally recorded by the great France Gall in the mid sixties. March does the song wonderfully well and taps into Serge's subversive silliness splendidly. It's a great closing number for the film as well as the cd.

I am sure that I have missed a lot of references here but this was just a quick run down of what promises to be one of the best cd releases of the year. Tarantino continues his tradition of producing some of the best modern soundtracks around. While not as strong as his JACKIE BROWN disc DEATH PROOF remains an invaluable companion to his newest chapter in his thrilling cinematic journey.
Way to go Q.T.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

This was a exceptional soundtrack, the only disappointment is that the song: 'Chick Habit' on the CD is a shorter inferior version to that used during the credits.