Ever since we heard Steven Wright’s deadpan tones announcing K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend at the start of Reservoir Dogs we’ve known that Quentin Tarantino has an eye for a good tune. In fact, if the enfant terrible of American cinema were ever to hang up his camera he’d make a pretty good living as one of those people whose job it is to make compilations.
Originally released in the States under the name of Grindhouse, Death Proof is part of a 3 hour double-bill homage to exploitation cinema. Ripped apart from its Siamese twin – Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, it’s been cynically re-cut for UK audiences and is due to be released as a movie in its own right.
You know the drill – This is your typical Tarantino soundtrack with obscurities and classic tracks, peppered with sequences from the movie.
The album kicks off with a thunderous instrumental by Jack Nitsche and you’ll also find instrumental work from soundtrack master Ennio Morricone. There’s a superb rarity in the form of Smith‘s cover of The Beatles‘ Baby It’s You as well as more familiar tracks such as T Rex‘s Jeepster. There’s a lot of Stax-style soul on here too, although it doesn’t come close to Jackie Brown’s levels of funky. Stagolee by Pacific Gas and Electric is an early version of the legend that made it’s way onto Nick Cave‘s Murder Ballards LP and we’ve also got (gulp) Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich popping up too with a bit of Mersey beat.
The dialogue is where the soundtrack falls down a little. Usually these are the most memorable and sparkling snatches of speech from the movies. Who can forget the Madonna/Like a Prayer section in Reservoir Dogs? Or Samuel L Jackson quoting the bible with ‘great vengeance and furious anger’ from Pulp Fiction?
With Death Proof it seems that that snippets are not as golden, in fact one has fellow director and Hostel’s torture-porn-meister Eli Roth debating the mechanics of using Jagermeister in date rape (or at least that’s how it sounds devoid of context). It’s probably one of those ‘you have to have seen the film moments’ but does leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth when listening at home.
And that’s the crux of the matter. Though good, Tarantino’s soundtracks only ever come alive when you’ve seen the accompanying film. Listening to them afterwards helps you relive those classic movie moments, whether it be ear slicing torture or forced sodomy performed in a basement by a gimp. This has every potential to fulfil the status that previous QT soundtracks have attained, but you really have to see the movie first.