|Photo by Barry Feinstein|
Something horrible is happening inside of me and I dont know why . . . I feel lethal on the verge of frenzy, the serial killer Patrick Bateman calmly intones above M.J. Mynarskis gentle piano on the soundtrack from the movie American Psycho. Unfortunately, besides three short monologues from Bateman (played by Christian Bale) interspersed throughout the album, thats as much as youre going to get of the beautiful compositions co-written by Mynarski and John Cale. Instead, the record leans toward the tradition of recent horror flicks like Scream 3 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, where, owing to some undisclosed agreement by the filmmakers, the fucked-up straight white males mind seems best cinematically illustrated by loud, ham-fisted goth-rock.
Theres been some hoopla surrounding the violent nature of American Psycho, but the soundtrack is not without its own drama. Just before the discs release, Huey Lewis demanded that his Hip To Be Square be pulled from the album he was offended by the films subject matter. (Well, thank God for small miracles how the hell do so many Huey Lewis songs find a place on movie soundtracks, anyway?) Hip To Be Square wont be missed, but it probably wouldve served as an okay filler track in this collection of cold 80s cuts and remakes, which range from a smooth touchup on David Bowies Something in the Air to the funktified beats of Pump Up the Volume by M/A/R/R/S. The industrial-metal band Dope, who did a surprisingly good job on their last album with N.W.As Fuck Tha Police, score even better with their sharp guitar cover of Dead or Alives You Spin Me Round. Likewise, Massive Attacks Underdog does a superb reworking of the Cures Watching Me Fall, and theres a very nice remix job on Eric B. & Rakims hip-hop classic Paid in Full. The Tom Tom Club provides the beat-savvy groove Who Feelin It, while New Orders True Faith holds up as fresh as anything out today.
Whats conspicuously absent is a Whitney Houston track. In a bonus monologue at the end of the disc, the killer goes on at great length to describe to a prostitute the importance of Houstons debut album and the significance of The Greatest Love of Alls lyrics. Prior to Titanic, Houstons yodel-drenched The Bodyguard album held the title of best-selling soundtrack of all time.
Given the success of Bodyguard, it would have been a smart move if Aaliyah, like Houston, had gone solo with the Romeo Must Die soundtrack. On I Dont Wanna, the R&B ingénue (whos also the films star) pillow-talks her way through the new-jack ballad as if shes snuggled in the soothing splendors of a hot bubble bath. Declaring her unwillingness to live without her man, she croons the words of the song, alternating between a breathless daddys-girl naiveté and the throaty vibrato of a grown womans heartache. You know she speaks for legions of girlz in the hood; the only barrier keeping some of them from their beloved is Daddys shotgun, or the thought of Mama uncorking her ever-handy bottle of homemade hundred-proof whoop-ass. Yet its this unspoken aspect of the song, made all the more poignant by Aaliyahs coquettish delivery, that makes it stand out among the 18 cuts on this album.
The disc has much of what youd expect from a hip-hop-driven movie soundtrack fairly good production, with a beats-du-jour tunesmith like Missy Elliotts Tim Timbaland Mosley at the helm and a crew of hit-hungry young rappers for him to play with, such as Mack 10, BG from Cash Money, Dave Hollister, Confidential and Blade. Problem is, paired up with Mosleys hip-hop-as-pop recipe of bouncy arrangements, halting beats and quirky synth effects, most of these C+ rhyme-droppers come off uninspired, lacking the alpha-dog charisma of DMX, who takes control of things in his duet with Aaliyah on Come Back in One Piece. Mosley does manage to do himself a decent turn, trading words with partner Magoo on We at It Again. But the rest of the tracks, with the exception of Aaliyahs Try Again and Are You Feelin Me, could easily be mistaken for anything currently found on urban- music radio.
Black and White makes a good argument for rap musics ability to maintain the thread of a films themes and play less the role of an MC-studded ticket-pusher. Thats not to say the big guns featured on the album, like Raekwon, Prodigy, the late Big Pun and Xzibit, dont command your attention. The record cleverly opens with the hum of a movie projector followed by the deadpan delivery of the line Black and White? So, we movie-settin?, which sets the pace for a fangs-bared montage of politically charged manifestoes aimed at jersey-wearin wannabes.
Theres nothing pretty here, folks. On Its Not a Game, the American Cream Team is fronted by the albums exec producer, Oli Power Grant, who also plays a role in the film as a gangsta trying to escape the hood as an MC. The track outlines the down-and-dirty aspects of the hip-hop bizness amid classic Wu beats and strings. The whiskey-voiced Xzibit follows up in Year 2000, slamming MC survival tactics on the table with I wanna speak to you mothafuckas for a minute, before spewing lyrics like Everybody here was born to hustle/its a very thin line between the boss and the muscle/we foot soldiers, face-first in the trenches/the only time Im on my back is when Im fuckin these hos n white bitches. Meanwhile, disgusted with the white mans pillaging ways, Dead Prez gets candid along with Stephen Marley and the Ghetto Youths on the mellow yet lyrically charged Dem Crazy (Everywhere the white man go he bring misery/All throughout history/Look it up/Everything the ball has touched/they fuck it up).
But its the player-haters and fakers that get the brunt of this 13-track beating. Queen Pens Youll Never Be Better Than Me combines fierce rock-tinged guitar riffs with harsh words for those whod try to accessorize the toughest elements of African-American culture, while the American Cream Team gives the Middle Finger Attitude, recalling a confrontation in the movie between Italian mobsters moving in on the niteclubbin turf of rap gangsters. Prodigy of Mobb Deep keeps the peace with the laid-back tempo and swooping violins of Dont Be a Follower, along with other more temperate tracks such as the sampled harpsichords and sweet beats of Black and White co-star Raekwons Wake Up and Big Puns Dramacide with Kool G Rap and turntablists the X-ecutioners.
While rap ponders the ills n thrills of race relations on Black and White, Gen-X rock buffs can revel in nostalgia with the High Fidelity soundtrack. The film centers on the romantic escapades of record-store owner and exclub DJ Rob Gordon (John Cusack) and his full-time obsession with music. Since High Fidelity has as much to do with vinyl addiction as it does with the difficulties of love, great care has been taken with its selection of tracks, a solidly eccentric collection of heartache-heavy pop gems ranging from obscure 60s bands and groundbreaking artists like the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder and Stereolab. As in the film, theres a method to the compilers elitist rock-geek madness. Even co-star Jack Blacks schlocky blue-eyed cover of Marvin Gayes Lets Get It On doesnt seem out of place.
The inspired screeches of acid-fried 60s singer-songwriter Roky Ericksons Youre Gonna Miss Me set the pace for the musing, hangdog tone of the album. Besides the joyous licks of the Kinks Everybodys Gonna Be Happy and Royal Truxs hybrid of hip-hip, techno and aggressive rock on Inside Game, the bulk of the set is composed of moody folk-rock tunes like Dylans exquisite Most of the Time and the Velvets Oh! Sweet Nuthin. Other noteworthy tracks include Loves Always See Your Face, the Beta Bands Dry the Rain, Elvis Costellos wistful Shipbuilding, the stinging irony of Smogs Cold Blooded Old Times and Stevie Wonders soulful optimism on I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever). Its a fine, complementary batch of tunes that not only enhances the films mood but is integral to its theme, and, as High Fidelitys Rob Gordon would agree, itll go down as one of the top five soundtracks released this year.
HIGH FIDELITY (Hollywood)
BLACK AND WHITE (Loud/Columbia)
ROMEO MUST DIE (Blackground/Virgin)
AMERICAN PSYCHO (Koch)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.