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Why do people buy soundtracks? Last year the soundtrack to that stupid movie with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner stayed at number one for weeks, and some movies now seem like no more than extended videos for their soundtracks. You could sit back and listen to the tunes from "Singles" while the movie was still in production. There are only two possible motivations for owning a soundtrack: either it has something to do with the movie itself--you know, replicating that feeling of awe as you walk out of the theater, pretending that your life is as coherent and meaningful as Tom Hanks'--or they're just glorified mix tapes.
Which brings me to the matter at hand: the soundtrack to "In the Name of the Father," a pretty good movie about the Guildford Four ("Falsely Accused. Wrongly Imprisoned"-surely you know the story by now). Why would you want to buy this slickly packaged item? Good question. Despite a few strong new compositions and a handful of rock standards, there's no overarching logic to this collection, and there is too much filler.
The music on this disc, like ancient Gaul, is easily divided into three separate parts, although they have been craftily interwoven by those folks at Island Records. First, and beyond criticism, are four great songs roughly from the period when the movie is set: "Voodoo Child" by Jimi Hendrix, "A Dedicated Follower of Fashion" by the Kinks, "Is This Love" by Bob Marley, and "Whiskey In A Jar" by Thin Lizzy. These songs are just fantastic, though you probably don't need this disc to listen to them, and it doesn't particularly add to their brilliance to hear them together. They were great in the movie itself: a riot in Belfast set to "Voodoo Child" was amazing, and Daniel Day Lewis' visit to a bunch of dosed prison inmates listening to Marley was pretty cool too.
Then there are three new songs written and performed by three Irish musicians with silly names: Gavin Friday, "Man Seezer," and, get this, "Bono." Can you believe it? The biographical sketch says they're all natives of Dublin, and that "Bono" formed a band called U2 with some other people from Dublin back in the '70s. The write-up claims that they have a devoted local following and have put out nearly ten records. I can't believe I've never heard of them! Anyway these songs are pretty good; this guy Bono has a pretty good voice and the music is kind of spacy and movie--oriented, lots of percussion and reverb. A friend who has heard to this U2 says they sound a little like U2, especially the percussive guitar parts. One problem is their tendency to tell the story of the movie. I hate hearing people sing the plot to me. "In the name of the father and his wife the spirit/You said you did not they said you did it." Come on! Reminds me of that stupid Robin Williams movie where he plays a fireman who moves to Jamaica, and the theme song, a reggae cop, went "There a fireman, jah and he didn't like his job, jah, so he went to Jamaica, jah." Sinead O'Connor sings the last one, which reminds me of a Peter Gabriel song. You know how Peter Gabriel songs were always used to great effect on Miami Vice? It's the same thing here: these good mood pieces also have integrity as actual songs.
Which is much more than I can say for the remaining filler on the soundtrack, which is original score pieces by Trevor Jones. If you want to relive the horror of a forced confession, or feel the pain of the passage of fifteen long years in a British prison, and you find it necessary to have the boring electronic mood music featured in the movie to do so, then these songs are for you. Basically they take the spacey and percussive element I mentioned in the Friday/Seezer/Bono songs and push it way over the top. It doesn't make a good mix tape, either. You'll feel like an extra in "The Dark Crystal" (stuffed into a little gnomish costume), or a New Age convert rediscovering the magic of whale calls. Blech.
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