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SONIC DEATH MONKEY SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS - Kill Bill: Volume 1 & The Singing Detective

Sonic Death Monkey is seen every Saturday
by Michael Collins

Sonic Death Monkey does it retro style with two soundtracks that look back in time at past glories in music. Quentin Tarantinoís Kill Bill Volume 1 fixes it sights and samurai swords on the 60s and 70s while with The Singing Detective we have our attention on the music of the 50s.

If there is anything that can match the anticipation of a Quentin Tarantino film, itís the anticipation of the release of the soundtrack. Heís use of iconic music from the 60s and 70s adds a reverential edge to go with all the other reverential edges that are present in a Tarantino film.

This time we have Kill Bill, and the features of old school cool and dialogue snippets once again make their welcomed appearance.

While -inspired by the movie soundtrack launch suspicions of cynical cash-in, with a Tarantino film you get the impression that itís the other way round and that the songs help inspire the film. The collection of tracks fit so well the themes and mood of the film, that you are really left wondering if the music came first and he wrote a move to fit it. The music from a wide variety of sources, places and times collected together give a wonderful sense of mood that perfectly sums up the vibe of the film.

The sense of tragedy and loss in Nancy Sinatraís Bang Bang perfectly matches the opening scenes of the film. And the drama of Battle Without Honour or Humanity gives you fair warning of the intensity of the film.

Now I may run the risk of Death By A Thousand Drive-By Shootings, but Iím not that big a fan of The Rza. I like the Wu attitude and the eastern philosophy they like to use, but it just doesnít win me over when it comes to laying down those tracks.

With Rzaís interest in Samurai philosophy, it comes as no surprise that he is involved with Kill Bill - just a little disappointing that he doesnít provide anything that this reviewer likes. Indeed from where Iím standing he provides the low points of the soundtrack. His music may work well when viewing the film, but as a stand-alone soundtrack he has me reaching for the Next Button.

Still flying the flag for Asia is Tomoyasu Hoteiís fantastic, Battle Without Honour or Humanity. This is the track you heard in the trailer of the film. Thankfully itís made the soundtrack. Hey that often doesnít happen, but we can trust Tarantino to deliver on this often sticking point of not including the best music on the soundtrack. Hoteiís Battle is slightly more hi-fi sounding that his fans might be used to, but itís still fantastic.

Apart from Samurai another strong influence on Kill Bill is the western and so some western style themes turn up on the soundtrack. The Grand Duel and oddly The Lonely Shepherd are here. You wouldnít think the latter would work, but Tarantino makes the right call.

Tarantinoís love of 70s music again makes its presence felt Hoteiís Battle has a 70s feel (a number of the tracks cross over to more than one of the themes of the film), but thereís also contributions from Isaac Hayes, Santa Esmerelda and Quincy Jones. Itís all cool - in that 70s kind of way - of course.

These are substantial tracks that will hold up to repeat listens. Not that the album is without kitsch value. Santa Esmereldaís track is actually a ten-minute flamenco version of Donít Let Me Be Misunderstood. Let me say that again:

A ten-minute flamenco version of the Elvis Costello hit.

Then thereís The 5.6.7.8s (band name of the year right there) - a Japanese all-girl punkabilly trio with there contribution Woo Hoo. Itís damn brilliant.

And all this is complemented by Tarantinoís dialogue from the film. Another great soundtrack from the compilation soundtrack master,

Tarantinoís fellow scriptwriter Dennis Potter was also famous for his use of popular music of a by-gone era. Potterís use of music, however, was far more extensive, to the point that his works were more or less musicals - One of those musicals being The Singing Detective. Made as a TV mini-series, it was set in the 40s with great swing music providing the backbone of the story.

Set in the fevered imagination of a bed ridden patient well on the way to madness, the songs were crucial in the story.

In this remake the setting has shifted to the 50s and so the song selection corresponds with that time shift with a few old swing tunes to remind us when the original was set.

What I like about 50s rock ní roll songs is that they are just as crass as todayís shock music, but the 50s stuff was a little more subtle about it - Well kind of.

Flip Flop Fly fitís the bill here with itís reference to having, ďSo many women, that I just donít know which way to jump.Ē If someone had told you that those lines were from the latest Dr Dre protťgť you would have no trouble believing it, but no, itĎs a 50-year-old song.

The Singing Detective soundtrack fixation of 50s rock ní roll will have no trouble winning me over. I like the sounds, the look and the attitude. Itís fun to dance to as well.

Two big names from the era make major contributions. Eddie Cochran gives us his version of Three Steps To Heaven while Gene Vincent contributes no less than three tracks - none of which are Be Bop A Lula.

In contrast to the raw power style of 50s rock ní roll, the soundtrack also shows the more romantic side of that era. So we have Just Walking In The Rain, Be My Angel, The Kalin Twins (very Happy Days this one).

As with the Kill Bill soundtrack thereís a novelty track or two. This time itís Patti Page with How Much Is That Doggie In the Window. Yeah, well youíll listen to that once - maybe even laugh - but youíll find no need to listen to it again.

Yet that doesnít spoil another excellent soundtrack.

For fans of that retro chic these are two albums definitely worth picking up. Singing Detective for the 50s fans and Kill Bill for the 60s/70s fans. Either one or indeed get them both, these are good additions to the collection.

Kill Bill Volume 1

1. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) - Nancy Sinatra
2. That Certain Female - Charlie Feathers
3. Grand Duel (Parte Prima), The - Luis Bacalov
4. Twisted Nerve - Bernard Herrmann
5. Queen Of The Crime Council - Lucy Liu/Julie Dreyfus (dialogue)
6. Ode To Oren Ishii - The RZA
7. Run Fay Run - Isaac Hayes
8. Green Hornet - Al Hirt
9. Battle Without Honor Or Humaity - Tomoyasu Hotei
10. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Santa Esmeralda
11. Woo Hoo - The 5.6.7.8's
12. Crane/White Lightning - The RZA/Charles Bernstein
13. Flower Of Carnage, The - Meiko Kaji
14. Lonely Shepherd, The - Zamfir
15. You're My Wicked Life - Uma Thurman/Julie Dreyfus/David Carradine (dialogue)
16. Ironside - Quincy Jones
17. Super 16 - NEU!
18. (untitled) - (hidden track)
19. (untitled) - (hidden track)
20. (untitled) - (hidden track)
21. (untitled) - (hidden track)
22. (untitled) - (hidden track)

The Singing Detective

1. In My Dreams - Gene Vincent
2. Just Walking In The Rain - Johnny Ray
3. Mr. Sandman - The Chordettes
4. It's All In The Game - Tony Edwards
5. Poison Ivy - The Coasters
6. Important Words - Gene Vincent
7. Harlem Nocturne - The Viscounts
8. At The Hop - Danny & The Juniors
9. Woman Love - Gene Vincent
10. When - The Kalin Twins
11. Flip, Flop & Fly - Big Joe Turner
12. Three Steps To Heaven - Eddie Cochran
13. It's Only Make Believe - Conway Twitty
14. In My Dreams - Robert Downey Jr.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=831
originally posted: 10/26/03 01:02:20
last updated: 02/01/04 08:43:53
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