Stan Ridgway's Film Songs
TWA Records TWAE022 [7 Song EP; 31m 34s]
Film Songs is a valuable seven song CD EP from Australia's now defunct TWA Records that was released in conjunction with Ridgway's tour of that country in February 1997. It is now available as an import in the United States. The EP features two new songs ("Susie Before Sunrise" and "Deep Inside We're Blue") from the independent documentary short film Death Smokes a Big Cigar; a song heretofore unavailable on any album, "Talk Hard," from the 1990 film starring Christian Slater, Pump Up the Volume--not on that film's original soundtrack album; and three relatively obscure tracks: "Bing Can't Walk," from Wayne Wang's Slam Dance (1987); "End of the Line" from the 1987 French film Terminus; and "Floundering" from Peter McCarthy's critically praised but neglected indie film Floundering (1994). The collection is rounded out by a live version of "I Wanna Be a Boss" that originally appeared on Ridgway's 1991 album Partyball but is falsely attributed (with tongue firmly in cheek) on the CD's liner notes to the (non-existent) "industrial short" film Captains of Industry. (The phrase "captains of industry" comes from John Ruskin's Unto This Last (1862), and refers to the industrial magnates of Victorian England. Since no adequate legislation existed to make provisions for the urban worker's rights, Ruskin coined the phrase in an effort to persuade this new class of rich and powerful mogul to take responsibility for employees. Listen to the song and you'll understand the allusion.)
Film Songs, however, is not a complete collection of Ridgway's film music: perhaps most significantly, it omits "Don't Box Me In," from Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish (1983), nor does it include the superb "My Drug Buddy" from Floundering, or the "Love Theme" from Terminus, originally released as the B-side to the "End of the Line" single, released only in Europe. This list does not include all of the music written for the experimental short The Drywall Incident (1995), directed by Carlos Grasso. However, this music is available on the double-CD package The Drywall Project/The Drywall Incident (TWA Records TWAD114). Film Songs is a welcome addition to the growing body of work by Ridgway, yet also reveals an important aspect of all of his work, namely his interest in the cinema. Allusions to films abound in his work--The Big Heat, Double Indemnity ("Peg and Pete and Me"), Lost Weekend, the films Vanishing Point and Bad Day at Black Rock (in "Roadblock"), and so on.
I've included below a brief commentary on each of the songs:
- "Susie Before Sunrise" (4:01) [Death Smokes a Big Cigar, 1997]
"Deep Inside We're Blue" (4:32) [Death Smokes a Big Cigar, 1997]. These two songs were apparently written to accompany an independent documentary short film, dealing with cemeteries, directed by "Franco Riccardi". In any case, they are two fine songs. As Ridgway has more and more experimented with highly elliptical lyrics, exploring language and sound, the corresponding stark imagery has become more enigmatic and as a result more provocative. Both of these songs contain some of Ridgway's best imagery; in addition, "Susie Before Sunrise" is a solid hard-rock gem: it alone would make this EP simply a must-have for any serious Ridgway fan. "Deep Inside We're Blue" is an allusion to The Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears" (1965) but sounds like the title to a quintessential country/western song. The song is an example of "flanerie" (idle strolling or street walking) in Ridgway's work ("Walking Home Alone" for instance) and is deeply charged with pathos.
- "Bing Can't Walk" (5:09) [Slamdance, 1987] A song of urban violence, with allusions to organized crime, emerging from the same period as The Big Heat (1986). It is used during the opening credit sequence of Slam Dance.
- "End of the Line" (5:51) [Terminus, 1987] The music video of "End of the Line" is available on the compilation video Show Business Is My Life) and is from the French film Terminus starring Karen Allen and French actor Johnny Halliday. "End of the Line" most clearly reveals the influence of Ennio Morricone on Ridgway's music; strip away the industrial rhythms and you'd have a great theme song for a vengeance-filled spaghetti western
- "Floundering" (3:10) [Floundering, 1994] Leonard Maltin is on record as admiring this (little-seen) film very much. This song--which has a distant but noticeable similarity to "Don't Box Me In"--and another song of strong pathos, "My Drug Buddy," appear on the Floundering Original Soundtrack (Caroline CAR 1775-2).
- "Talk Hard" (3:38) [Pump Up the Volume, 1990] The title refers to the character played by Christian Slater in the film, "Hard Harry," a high school student who runs a pirate radio station at night. This song could be heard (briefly) only on the actual motion picture's soundtrack; for some reason, it did not appear on the film's original soundtrack album.
- "I Wanna Be A Boss" (4:57) [from the album Partyball, 1991] Despite the fact that the film Captains of Industry does not exist, except as a Ridgway satirical jape, the live version of this song reveals the vast contribution of Pietra Wexstun's keyboards to the "Ridgway sound." Incidentally, the music video to "I Wanna Be a Boss" is wonderfully inventive, perhaps my personal favorite of his music videos.
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