Okay so when I wrote about Inside Llweyn Davis two weeks ago, I was intending to continue my analysis of the music within the film and OST. However, as I tried to write new insights, I realised that I have covered everything musical about the film/OST, at least from my perspective and limited knowledge about folk music, and if I was to continue with what I originally started with, this would have been a simple film review. Which is not what this section is for! Another day I’m sure I’ll do my own write-up on the Coen’s latest offering, but this section is dedicated to the music of the movies.
Last fortnight I featured a truly unique film that almost transcends genre but features incredible live music performances. Today presents a drastic change-up; Inherent Vice obviously doesn’t possess this quality, but what it can boast of is an incredibly memorable OST, that much like the film, sends us hurtling into the early 70’s. The combination of originally recorded tracks and existing songs from the era works perfectly, as the music that this OST boasts is filled with variety. The pre-written songs used couldn’t be more diverse yet appropriate for the film, and the original score written and performed by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead is also diverse in its own unique way, by combining traditional classical score techniques with psychedelic ambience and some Pink Floyd-like atmosphere and peaceful guitar melodies. Through this unique combination of classical music and psychedelia, he successfully adds to the 70’s Gonzo-like atmosphere that is a constant presence throughout the entire film and its soundtrack. If this wasn’t enough, narration from the film ebbs and flows through the originally written score-tracks, making this another OST that much like the last I wrote about, is one that can be listened to on its lonesome over and over, as I have found myself recently doing.
After a peaceful, classical introduction to the OST and the movie, both really kick off with the song ‘Vitamin C‘ by the seminal Krautrock group Can, whose popularity has only risen they were releasing albums. Their unique blend of genres and experimental style has influenced countless new genres of music over the decades, from post-rock to other soundtracks themselves, not to mention Krautrock ‘revival’ groups such as Colour Haze. Here through, the track provides the perfect introduction into the psychedelic, weed-smoke haze of a film.
Following this we have a short classical track that ebbs and flows in volume, with giant crests and dips that really force you to take notice. It is extremely short – 1:26 – which heightens its impact, and when it abruptly finishes, the next pre-written song plays, and yet again it is a perfect pop song of the time that is one of those songs that everybody has heard. Somewhere, somehow, perhaps on radio 25 bloody years ago. It is a song that sounds instantly recognisable and from the period that this movie is set in. So far the soundtrack is gaining momentum, and this is not lost, especially due to the vibrant and colourful energy that permeates this track below.
Before the next pre-existing track, we are treated to a Greenwood double. The first track is the shorter of the two, using narration and more eclectic scoring, while the second, seven minute track is a complex piece of writing that is as intriguing as the movie; as far as classical music goes, many parts of this track are unique and out of character with the tone of most of the other classical music from this OST and soundtracks in general. This neat psychedelic, atmospheric nature of the two tracks is especially reminiscent of the OST work Pink Floyd themselves did, as well as the incredible albums Atom Heart Mother and Meddle. Following this is my second favourite track from the album, a French track that again sounds familiar enough to throw you into the film’s world, and again I have no idea if or where I heard this song before now. Much like the Can song sung in German, this song is sung in French and is perhaps better off for it as because of this, rather than focusing on lyrics, we have fantastic melodies and varied styles of singing that sound fantastic despite the fact we can’t understand a word of it!
The rest of the OST falls in line with this pattern; unique Greenwood penned scores with pre-written material from the period used as a sort of barrier in between the classical tracks, making for a very cohesive and fun listen. The rest of Greenwood’s composing sounds much like what I have already described, and his experience in the field means each track he has penned sounds incredible, with some memorable crests and massive dips and raises of volume used throughout to keep the listener on their toes. The pre-existing songs are placed perfectly, creating a flow to the album that matches the flow of the film it is based on. Sandwiched between Greenwood’s score further down the track list feature fantastic tracks from Neil Young (Journey Through the Past) and Chuck Jackson’s Any Day Now finishes the album. However, there are two other tracks that deserve mention here.
The first is Japanese Pop song Sukiyaki, performed by Kyu Sakamoto. Another absurdly melodic song that is catchy enough to drive a person mad, again the foreign lyrics are a treat to listen to as while they sound gibberish, this isn’t a problem as they are so well delivered. The final pre-existing song is by Les Baxter, and is titled Simba. A short track clocking in at under three minutes, it is yet another track that is from the period but is wildly different from any other song on the album. Again, I have no idea if the lyrics are sung in English, but the chanting, choir like way in which they are delivered is infectious. Behind this is a subtle instrumental section, as this song’s highlight is most certainly that hypnotic chanting, some of which sound almost from a Disney Film. Almost. 😉
IN A NUTSHELL THEN?
Wildly eclectic in both its score and the selection of pre-existing songs, this OST succeeds on multiple levels. The entire album start to finish sounds like the 1970’s with a permanent acid-hangover. The variety of all the tracks work to its advantage, and perhaps best is that the most memorable songs aren’t even in English! Yet they are so insanely catchy and well-written that one can’t help but think PTA and Johnny Greenwood picked their tracks very deliberately. The soundtrack is definitely a unique one and it ranks up their with that of Fear and Loathing as a soundtrack to the seventies.
written by jordan dodd
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