Film soundtracks existed long before the 90’s but I really think the filmmakers of that era were really good at embracing the idea. I’m sure film companies loved it to a certain extent because if you made a solid soundtrack, it was a potential other revenue stream. Hell, there are a ton of soundtracks that I can name from that period that are better than the movies that they came from.
Empire Records, I’m looking in your general direction.
My friends and I were big fans of film. Since a good chunk of us were also big fans of music, if a movie had a good soundtrack, it wasn’t unusual for a few of us to have a copy of the same soundtrack. That being said, there were only a few that felt like everyone had a copy: Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction and possibly my favorite soundtrack of all time, The Crow.
For my corner of the alternative and heavy music landscape, it’s still a treasure trove of great songs, interesting covers and B-sides and bands that took a really good kick at the can but were never to be seen again.
For those of you who may have never heard of seen the film, it follows Eric Draven, a musician who is killed by a group of thugs who then proceed to rape and murder (off-screen) his girlfriend. One year later, Draven returns from the grave to avenge both of their murders as a dark superhero in goth attire. Based on the comic by James O’Barr, the film was always set to have a following but it was the onset death of Brandon Lee that brought the movie to the forefront and ultimately, help make the film a hit.
If you wanted a snapshot of the alternative music scene of the 90’s, this album is a pretty good one. You had the older bands that are suddenly labeled as alternative like The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Violent Femmes and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. You have bands that were starting their first big runs like Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine and Stone Temple Pilots. And you have Canadian songstress Jane Siberry… for some reason.
And there are very, very few duds in the bunch and a couple of interesting anecdotes.
The album starts with “Burn” by The Cure. As the legend goes, it was supposed to be “The Hanging Garden” but the band was taken enough with the original comic that Robert Smith wrote a new song specifically for the soundtrack. I have no idea if this is true or not but “Burn” does very much fit the tone of both the film and graphic novel to a tee so I’d like to think the story is true.
Stone Temple Pilots were originally supposed to contribute a redone version of a song from their Mighty Joe Young days called “Only Dying”. After the death of Brandon Lee, this song was pulled and replaced by Big Empty which would reappear a little later that year on their album Purple.
Nine Inch Nails contributed a cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” which most of my generation probably knows better than the original version. Pantera and Rollins Band also delved into their record collections for covers. Pantera went with punk band Poison Idea’s “The Badge.” Rollins Band interestingly covered Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” which is based on another comic book character of the same name.
Rage Against the Machine and Helmet tossed over some B-sides. Rage re-recorded a B-side called “Darkness of Greed” and renamed it “Darkness” while the Helmet track, “Milktoast” is a remix of “Milquetoast” from the Beatty album.
Which brings us to the end song. Jane Siberry seems very much out of place when your look at the song listings. She was quirky, Canadian based singer/songwriter. But yet, her beautiful voice provides a nice quiet end cap to both the film and the soundtrack.
As soon as we got it, The Crow soundtrack went into heavy rotation. It was used as the soundtrack to many RPG sessions (it was incredibly fitting material for games like Vampire The Masquerade), tons of game nights, and parties. It was one of the few albums that didn’t get traded around a lot as there were at least three or four copies floating around of the album.
Weirdly, this is an album that I also associate with hot tubs.
I lived in a very small town in my teen years. But something fortuitous happened in grade 10. My best friend, Gavin began dating a girl named Cheri who also lived in the same small town as us. Cheri would tend to host most of our teenage parties/get togethers and her folks had a hot tub. Needless to say, for a group of teenagers, filled with hormones, this was a bit of a good thing. Some of my favorite conversations and events of my teenage years occurred at her house and there are a few albums that still bring up memories of that time period and specific things. For whatever reason, the soundtrack to The Crow just reminds me of sitting in her hot tub… probably way to long for the good of my health but that was future Brent’s problem… wait… I’m now future Brent… Damn it!
Luckily, The Crow soundtrack sill hold up very well. “Burn” is still a very good track from The Cure and I would argue, one of their best songs from that period. Nine Inch Nails’ “Dead Souls” is probably one of the best covers of a Joy Division song out there. If I were to have to sum up the best music of the 90’s in one CD, The Crow would definitely be on the short list due to the line-up and the quality of the songs on the album.
Next week, we head from the 90’s to one of the best albums by Pink Floyd. No, not that one… or that one… the other one.