Review : Various Artists - Drive OST
PitchforkA few weeks ago, the film Drive opened to wide release. Nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, it's a pulpy story about a stoic wheelman (Ryan Gosling) who digs himself even deeper into the Los Angeles criminal underworld on behalf of a woman and her son. Drive is a genre film, heavy on style and short on dialog, complete with finger-shuttering spurts of violence and, despite being set in the present, a pointed focus on retro-cool and classic car films. The Monday morning after Drive's opening weekend, the soundtrack-- anchored by a few unknown but choice 1980s-indebted synth-pop songs and a score by Cliff Martinez (Steven Soderbergh's go-to guy)-- went to number four on the iTunes music charts, its success credited to good word-of-mouth thanks to Twitter. If you've seen the film, it makes sense: The Drive soundtrack pops with just as much neon camp and sex as the lipstick-scrawled opening credits.
Effective and memorable soundtracks need to either introduce you to new music that works on its own or transport into the world of the film. Drive manages to do both, mostly thanks to the five songs that come early in the album album, preceding Martinez's score. Director Nicolas Winding Refn (known for ambitious indies Bronson and Valhalla Rising) pre-selected these tunes before the score was written. Most of them catalog key moments in the film and are-- for the sake of getting this thing on folks' radars-- the real draw.
These songs follow such a similar format, you could almost mistake them for the work of a single band. All have hyper-literal lyrics, dry-pulsing beats, and subdued, comely female vocals. Sounding like a more sinister second coming of the Human League is opener "Nightcall" from French electronic artist Kavinsky, featuring vocals from CSS's Lovefoxxx. "I want to drive you through the night down the hills/ I will tell you something you don't want to hear," purrs an almost demoniacally mechanized voice, and it's hard not to imagine yourself double-clutching it down Mulholland. Lovefoxxx's tender counter, "There's something inside you, it's hard to explain," feels like a perfect encapsulation of the film's juxtaposing moments of benevolence and brutality....full text
CokemachineglowIf, like me, you regard terms like “retro-themed” and “‘80s throwback” with a healthy degree of skepticism, you’d be forgiven for approaching this soundtrack pretty cautiously. But if, like me, you’ve already seen and totally adore Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn’s much-praised genre pastiche, your skepticism was declared dead right around the fifth time you caught yourself singing College’s improbably addictive “A Real Hero” in the shower. Because this is that rare breed of soundtrack: these songs suit the tone of the film as much as they help establish it, and they’re married to the images they accompany so effectively that it becomes nearly impossible to separate the two later. An addiction to at least a couple of these songs has become something of an inevitable byproduct of seeing and admiring the film, and so in a sense the task of reviewing this soundtrack is simple: how much you’ll enjoy this as a stand-alone record is entirely contingent on whether you’ve seen and how much you liked Drive, but if you have and if you really did then you probably already know how great this is.
But then you probably already know, too, how poorly structured this thing sort of had to be. In essence, Drive features two complete soundtracks, each distinct from the other in both tone and style: first there’s the moody, Badalamenti-like ambient score provided by film composer (and ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer) Cliff Martinez, which injects the film’s quieter moments with a palpable sense of tension and unease. More memorably, however, is the film’s tasteful selection of gleaming electro-pop jams, most of which are very obscure and all of which are excellent. The aforementioned “A Real Hero,” Drive‘s unofficial theme song and so sort of the star of the show here, comes to us from a synthpop group named College, who could plausibly launch a career on the strength of this single alone. (Last.fm shows that “A Real Hero” rose from close to zero plays in August to about 1300 in the first half of September, right around the time Drive hit theaters; tellingly, almost every conversation I’ve had about Drive since its release has involved this song in some way.) A stylized, self-consciously saccharine pop song that should sound ridiculous but somehow doesn’t, “A Real Hero” sounds like the song Stars always wanted to write but never could, one as endearing and ethereal as the best of their work but with way better synths.
Desire’s “Under Your Spell” and Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” hit a similar aesthetic sweet-spot—a very narrow zone somewhere between wistful ’80s nostalgia and ultra-modern laptop wizardry; it’s one degree sleeker than chillwave and two degrees less terrible—but are just different enough that they don’t feel egregiously samey in succession. It’s a great run of pop songs and a nearly ideal way to kick off the soundtrack, even if the Chromatics’ tone-setting “Tick of the Clock” might have worked as well as an opener here as it did in the film. The problem is that Drive only features three pop songs of this kind, and when the soundtrack necessarily transitions from that very distinctive style to Riz Ortolani’s sweeping ballad “Oh My Love”—on loan, somewhat incongruously, from Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)—the effect is a little jarring. In a film setting that’s fine, because the transition is made emotionally coherent by the movement of the narrative. But removed from its source and cobbled together as an album, it doesn’t really work; the effect feels like Shuffle when it should be like Genius....full text
RyersonfreepressLet me begin this review with a disclaimer: I have yet to see Drive in theatres. The film, which stars the impossibly good-looking Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, was one of the biggest draws at this year’s TIFF. I would by no means consider myself a cinephile, but I have talked to some friends who caught a screening and they all gave it rave reviews. I’ve only watched the trailer on YouTube, so I’m reviewing the soundtrack, rather than how the music fits the movie. The soundtrack consists of an original score by Cliff Martinez (who, according to Google, was once the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) with a few other songs by artists including The Chromatics, Desire and Electric Youth. Martinez’s compositions are both atmospheric and dark, drawing inspiration from Italo-disco, slightly trashy synth-pop and 80s sci-fi soundtracks (think Blade Runner). The soundtrack’s pièce de résistance is Kavinsky’s “Nightcall,” which is synth-heavy French electro-house at its finest. Of course, the fact that the song was produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, mixed by Ed Banger Records’ SebastiAn and has Lovefoxxx from Brazilian band CSS contributing vocals, doesn’t hurt its chances of being successful either. In fact, listening to this, I can’t help but think this is what the Tron: Legacy soundtrack should’ve sounded like (sorry Daft Punk, I love you, but those compositions were phoned in). Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a movie to catch....full text
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