Sucker Punch: Bringing the soundtrack back

We were disheartened to learn that Warner Bros. would not be screening “Sucker Punch,” Zack Snyder’s “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns” fantasy adventure flick, in our market. Warners is usually very good about showing us their wares, and the last two times they passed us by, it was because they had something to hide (“Cop Out,” “The Rite”). Which of course has us concerned that “Sucker Punch” is going to be a dud, even though it has the best title since “Hot Tub Time Machine” (or “Hobo with a Shotgun”) and the trailers make it look, at the very least, like a total blast.

sucker punch

Further adding to our disappointment is the recent acquisition of the movie’s (spectacular) soundtrack, which sports cover versions of modern rock classics (as well as two psychedelic standards) remodeled as widescreen epics. Actually, calling these tracks cover versions is patently unfair, given the work that went into their arrangents. These are mini-operas, where even the most straightforward of songs will bend, and swoop, or change speeds, until they ultimately explode. Check the positively chilling version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” that opens the album, or the heartbreaking, string-kissed version of the Smiths’ “Asleep.” The two ’60s nuggets lend themselves the best to the style, though, and they chose two doozies in “White Rabbit” (yes, it’s overdone, but it works wonderfully here) and the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which is stretched out to a full seven-and-a-half-minute freakout. If there is a misstep, it’s the Queen mash-up. Yes, we get it, hip-hoppers love Queen beats, but the pitch shift they applied to “I Want It All” just sounds wrong.

Simply put, “Sucker Punch” is the ballsiest, most ambitious soundtrack since “Moulin Rouge.” It’s nice to see someone think of pop songs in a broader, grander sense than “Let’s come up with the most hipster-y compilation ever assembled.” We can’t wait to see how these songs work as the backdrop to Snyder’s visuals.

Click to buy Sucker Punch soundtrack from Amazon

  

Solomon’s Seal: The Sea, The Sea

U.S. based British band Minibar has been a fixture on the Los Angeles indie pop scene for the last decade, but yet Minibar has managed to stay under most everyone’s radar. Those who know the band know the slightly smoky and brooding vocals of front man Simon Petty, who is also one heck of a songwriter, and now he gets to prove that point with his debut solo effort, The Sea, The Sea under the moniker Solomon’s Seal. Petty’s obsession with the Smiths is documented in the press materials, and he’s also said to be influenced by the late, great Nick Drake. One thing going for Petty right off the bat is that he doesn’t feel compelled to fake a British accent like other alt-popsters. His vocals bring the songs effortlessly to life – and the songs themselves, with their beautifully sparse production and arrangements, are simply wonderful. The haunting instrumental “Solomon’s Suite” is an odd opener, but then right from the soothing piano and smooth vocals of “A Trick of the Light,” Petty’s artistry just shines. Other standouts are “Sleeping in the Car,” which sounds like a Glen Phillips-Joseph Arthur hybrid, the pretty guitar/vocal of “I Built a Fire,” and the romping, Peter Gabriel-esque “A Part of the River.” (Unshackled 2009)

Solomon’s Seal MySpace Page

  

Deep Cuts: Morrissey & The Smiths

They doth call him the Pope of Mope, and it’s a title he’s earned a hundred times over…and then some. Whilst fronting the Smiths in the mid-1980s, Morrissey quickly became known as the poster child for all those lonely teenagers who craved love and acceptance but were finding it hard to come by, and when the Manchester four-piece broke up in 1987, the majority of those morose music fans followed Mozzer to his solo career, where he further trumpeted his woe-is-me mentality. (C’mon, now: it’s such a hallmark of his work that even he makes fun of it sometimes!) Morrissey’s recording career has spanned almost 25 years, and although he’s been a staple of the UK charts – and of US college radio – for the majority of that time, there are plenty of his songs, both solo and with the Smiths, that can be readily classified as Deep Cuts.

A few samples…

“Work is a Four Letter Word,” The Smiths – Just Say Yes: Sire’s Winter CD Music Sampler

Does anyone else remember these great compilations that Sire Records used to release? They were awesome, particularly this first volume, which is as good a one-stop lesson on modern rock circa 1987 as you’re likely to find. In addition to tracks by Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Ramones, and the Replacements, you’ll find the Smiths covering Cilla Black. Johnny Marr declared the recording of the song to be “the last straw” — and given that it was recorded during what would prove to be the Smiths’ final session, that’s apparently exactly what it was.

“Get Off the Stage,” Morrissey – Piccadilly Palare single

While it’s not exactly the albatross about Morrissey’s neck that the line “hope I die before I get old” is for the Who, you can understand why this goofy but fun diatribe aimed at aging rockers with limited musical palates isn’t pulled out more often. It’s a little risky for a man which such a recognizable sound to be crooning, “And the song that you just sang / It sounds exactly like the last one / And the next one / I bet you it will sound / Like this one.”

“Sorrow Will Come in the End,” Morrissey – Maladjusted

Yikes, dude! Bitter much? Essentially a spoken word piece, with Mozzer launching into a tirade against the results of a royalties battle with his former Smiths bandmate, Mike Joyce. “A man who slits throats has time on his hands,” sneers Moz, “and I’m gonna get you!” It’s so over the top that it’s a laugh — but not as funny as Joyce’s scoffing response to the lyrical threatening: “If Lemmy had written it, I might be concerned.” Ouch!

Check out the whole piece here, then stop back by and offer your opinions and / or alternate suggestions for the list!

  

Top 10 bands from the ‘80s that should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

(Love to the Mayor of Simpleton, for giving me the idea)

The news hit the AP wire today, announcing that four acts from ‘70s and Miles Davis, who died in the early ‘90s at the age of 375, were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. They’re technically the Class of 2006, but I call them the Class of ’81, since any band whose debut album was released in 1981 or earlier was eligible for inclusion. The very fact that only two of these bands were within sniffing distance of the ‘80s leads me to believe that a ton of also-ran ‘70s bands will get in before any of the truly worthy ‘80s bands will, and that, frankly, disturbs me.

And so, without further ado and in no particular order, I submit my top ten list of ‘80s bands that should be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame sooner rather than later. U2 is already in, so they’re obviously disqualified.

1) REM. Forget the Bill Berry-less train wreck that the band’s become of late, and remember when they and U2 ruled the rock world the way Darth Vader dreamed of ruling the galaxy with Luke Skywalker. Between 1987 and 1994, they were bulletproof, and there are thousands of bands and nerdy record store clerks who worshiped at their altar.
2) Madonna. If she doesn’t get inducted in the Class of 1983/2008, she will have Guy Ritchie and her children dropped off the Empire State Building. Which is really hard, because there are these tall metal bars on the rooftop deck with sharp points that curl inward. I’m guessing she uses a catapult.
3) The Smiths. Forever changed the face of modern rock, they did. Johnny’s done some good stuff with Electronic and The The, but he has to know that his best work rests within this band’s catalog, feuds with Steven Morrissey be damned.
4) New Order. Simply put, there is no electronic music scene without these guys. Kraftwerk may have gotten there first (something I’ll get to in a minute), but New Order was the band that fused a rock and roll sensibility into those machines, which in turn created a legion of knockoff bands by the late ‘80s. Even the Cure nicked half of their best licks from these guys. “In Between Days,” anyone?
5) Guns ‘n Roses. It may have ended in a haze of lawsuits and coke, but Goddamn, when Guns ‘n Roses was clicking, there wasn’t a band that could come within a thousand miles of them. And forget Appetite for Destruction: their best stuff was all over the Use Your Illusion albums, the greatest single album that never was.
6) Janet Jackson. Because you don’t make it to First Name Only status without earning it, bitches.
7) Public Enemy. Because their records from the ‘80s still scare white people.
8) Run DMC. The kings of rock. There is none higher.
9) Beastie Boys. It’s safe to say that not even Rick Rubin had any idea what kind of band the Beastie Boys would become. After all, find another band who went from the Juvenile But Massive Debut to Groundbreaking, Trendsetting Sophomore Album.
10) Motley Crüe. If only because they lived the life of rock and roll excess to a degree that would even make Bonzo and Keith Moon go, “Whoa, dudes, let’s not go nuts here.” Few bands embody the spirit of rock and roll more than Motley Crüe. Oh, and they also wrote some kickass tunes.

Bubbling Under: Bands and artists I would like to see inducted but will likely need some help
• Duran Duran
• Depeche Mode
• Stone Roses
• Talk Talk
• The The
• Ministry. The birth of industrial, people.
• English Beat/Madness/Specials. Someone from the ska era has to be represented, dammit.

I didn’t list Nirvana (whose first album Bleach came out in 1989 when none of us were looking) because they’re a no-brainer first ballot inductee. Ditto the Pixies (comment entered after Neil totally faced me on their omission).

Five holdovers from the ‘70s
1) Kraftwerk. Man, how on earth are these guys not in? They were and are light years ahead of their time. Hell, Coldplay’s stealing their songs and claiming them as their own, fer crissakes.
2) Van Halen. And so, a generation of shredders was born.
3) T. Rex. Yeah, okay, Bolan’s dead, so he’ll never know you didn’t induct him, but for crying out loud, bands are still ripping him off. That has to be worth something.
4) Cheap Trick. Few bands have meant so much to so many different genres of music. Cheap Trick is that band. Big Star gets all the love, but Cheap Trick was the better band, by a country mile.
5) Rush. Thrown under the progressive rock bus only because no one knew what to do with them. But they have amassed a body of work that today’s popular bands would be lucky to emulate.

Comments, suggestions, hate mail? Bring it, suckaz.

Post script: It just hit me that I left off the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom I meant to include, so you Fleabies out there, quit hatin’ right now.

  

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