Album Reviews

Various – RocknRolla OST

(Universal) UK release date: 1 September 2008

“People ask the question, ‘What’s a RocknRolla?’ and I tell ’em, ‘We all like a bit of the good life; some of the money or the fame, but a real Rock’n’Rolla wants the lot.'” So begins the trailer for Mr Madon… sorry, Guy Ritchie’s new movie.

As usual there’s many a cockney nutjob to be observed. Ah, there’s the Russian mafia. Here comes the references to The Old School, The New School and a lack of “Respect” – looks like this could well be the usual fare from Ritchie with dialogue straight from the Eastenders cutting room floor and a public school take on those nasty Lahndahn Slaaagggss.

Whatever you say about Ritchie’s movie skills, he still has a habit of sticking a few nifty tunes into his flicks. He’s not quite Scorsese yet (and lets face it he’s not likely to be) but there are times, like the introduction of Fools Gold or Walk This Land in Lock Stock…, when his choice of music is perfect.

Seeing as we’ve yet to see the movie, we’ve got no way of telling whether his marriage of film and music is as inspired this time. Still when a quick look down the tracklist shows the likes of The Clash, Lou Reed, and The Sonics, you know it’s a pretty solid set of songs Ritchie’s cobbled together.

Whether any of them will become synonymous with the movie, is hard to say. Ritchie will have to pull off something pretty special to incorporate his music into RocknRolla as well as Danny Boyle did with Trainspotting. It’s pretty hard to hear Born Slippy, Perfect Day or Lust For Life without getting flashes of that particular movie. If Ritchie can do something similar, it’ll be some feat.

Things start off pretty strongly. Black Strobes‘s take on Bo Diddley‘s I’m a Man skulks away like a blues jam by Ministry. Overdriven bass to the fore and a threatening vocal makes the whole thing strangely dancey. If it veers too close to Doctor And The Medics doing Spirit In The Sky, then we’re only too happy to look the other way.

The Sonics‘ Have Love Will Travel is a total classic, and is worth the price of admission alone. If lo-fi garage got any better than this, then we haven’t heard it. Likewise Kim Fowley‘s The Trip is a perfect exercise in filthy dripping soul and to not love it is probably the long sought after 11th sin.

Most of the songs hark back to a different age, so if it’s punk your after there’s the aforementioned Bankrobber (if you don’t own this already you should probably give up), and Lou Reed‘s The Gun can be found on 1982’s The Blue Mask – and although a classic Reed track, it’s hardly an immediate tune. Still it is about guns and stuff, so it probably warranted inclusion for that reason alone. Perversely if you give The Gun enough time, you start to appreciate that Reed is a far more effective storyteller than Ritchie. Funny, that.

Ska gets a look in thanks to The Beat, and there’s a bit of funk and soul covered by War and Flash And The Pan. It’s almost as if today’s music doesn’t have enough edge or attitude to cut it in a gangster movie, either that or today’s gangster is a sucker for nostalgia and school discos. God help today’s gangster if it’s school discos he’s interested in – you know what they do to nonces.

So RocknRolla is a pretty nifty, if safe, soundtrack. You probably own most of the good tunes, and the rest (The Subways, Ex Sektor Gaza) you can live without. And at least Ritchie didn’t decide to try to foist his missus on us this time.

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