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Silver Screams

Photo by Barry Feinstein

“Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why . . . I feel lethal — on the verge of frenzy,” the serial killer Patrick Bateman calmly intones above M.J. Mynarski’s 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, that’s as much as you’re 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 male’s mind seems best cinematically illustrated by loud, ham-fisted goth-rock.

There’s been some hoopla surrounding the violent nature of American Psycho, but the soundtrack is not without its own drama. Just before the disc’s release, Huey Lewis demanded that his “Hip To Be Square” be pulled from the album — he was offended by the film’s 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” won’t be missed, but it probably would’ve served as an okay filler track in this collection of cold ’80s cuts and remakes, which range from a smooth touchup on David Bowie’s “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.A’s “Fuck Tha Police,” score even better with their sharp guitar cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.” Likewise, Massive Attack’s Underdog does a superb reworking of the Cure’s “Watching Me Fall,” and there’s a very nice remix job on Eric B. & Rakim’s hip-hop classic “Paid in Full.” The Tom Tom Club provides the beat-savvy groove “Who Feelin’ It,” while New Order’s “True Faith” holds up as fresh as anything out today.

What’s 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 Houston’s debut album and the significance of “The Greatest Love of All”’s lyrics. Prior to Titanic, Houston’s 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 Don’t Wanna,” the R&B ingénue (who’s also the film’s star) pillow-talks her way through the new-jack ballad as if she’s 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 daddy’s-girl naiveté and the throaty vibrato of a grown woman’s heartache. You know she speaks for legions of girlz in the ’hood; the only barrier keeping some of them from their beloved is Daddy’s shotgun, or the thought of Mama uncorking her ever-handy bottle of homemade hundred-proof whoop-ass. Yet it’s this unspoken aspect of the song, made all the more poignant by Aaliyah’s coquettish delivery, that makes it stand out among the 18 cuts on this album.

The disc has much of what you’d expect from a hip-hop-driven movie soundtrack — fairly good production, with a beats-du-jour tunesmith like Missy Elliott’s 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 Mosley’s 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 Aaliyah’s “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 music’s ability to maintain the thread of a film’s themes and play less the role of an MC-studded ticket-pusher. That’s not to say the big guns featured on the album, like Raekwon, Prodigy, the late Big Pun and Xzibit, don’t 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.

There’s nothing pretty here, folks. On “It’s Not a Game,” the American Cream Team is fronted by the album’s 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/it’s a very thin line between the boss and the muscle/we foot soldiers, face-first in the trenches/the only time I’m on my back is when I’m fuckin’ these ho’s ’n’ white bitches.” Meanwhile, disgusted with the white man’s 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 it’s the player-haters and fakers that get the brunt of this 13-track beating. Queen Pen’s “You’ll Never Be Better Than Me” combines fierce rock-tinged guitar riffs with harsh words for those who’d 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 “Don’t Be a Follower,” along with other more temperate tracks such as the sampled harpsichords and sweet beats of Black and White co-star Raekwon’s “Wake Up” and Big Pun’s “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 ex–club 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, there’s a method to the compilers’ elitist rock-geek madness. Even co-star Jack Black’s schlocky blue-eyed cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” doesn’t seem out of place.

The inspired screeches of acid-fried ’60s singer-songwriter Roky Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me” set the pace for the musing, hangdog tone of the album. Besides the joyous licks of the Kinks’ “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy” and Royal Trux’s hybrid of hip-hip, techno and aggressive rock on “Inside Game,” the bulk of the set is composed of moody folk-rock tunes like Dylan’s exquisite “Most of the Time” and the Velvets’ “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.” Other noteworthy tracks include Love’s “Always See Your Face,” the Beta Band’s “Dry the Rain,” Elvis Costello’s wistful “Shipbuilding,” the stinging irony of Smog’s “Cold Blooded Old Times” and Stevie Wonder’s soulful optimism on “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).” It’s a fine, complementary batch of tunes that not only enhances the film’s mood but is integral to its theme, and, as High Fidelity’s Rob Gordon would agree, it’ll go down as one of the top five soundtracks released this year.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

HIGH FIDELITY (Hollywood)

BLACK AND WHITE (Loud/Columbia)

ROMEO MUST DIE (Blackground/Virgin)

AMERICAN PSYCHO (Koch)


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