Archive for August 10th, 2009


Enjoy the Violence

August 10, 2009

Music and violence go way back. Back past the latest GNR riot. Past random shootings on the Jay-Z tour. Past Woodstock ’99. Past Altamont. Historians point to a 1783 riot in Salzburg, when a young Mozart left the stage after only two sonatas, citing “ruling class dabbling” and a general artistic malaise. 

Some music is dying to be identified with violence. Loud, angry men playing loud, angry guitars, making aggressive noises like cornered animals. Other hide it behind 808 beats and posturing, spitting out rhythmic chants of misogyny and brutality.

Some subvert the expectations entirely. The Happy Mondays hid lazy threats under shuffling club beats. Magazine dripped menace over some angular guitar and icy keyboard work. And god help you if you run into Momus. Severely fucked in the head and hides his mean streak under a harpsichord of all things.

This quick tribute is to those great movie scenes which subvert the expected with their juxtaposition of music and flatout violence. We’re all familiar with the techno-tracked club scene or car chase, the intrusion of a lusty saxophone during the love scene or the vicious beatdown featuring the latest thug anthem or Linkin Park-esque howling.

Here are some of my favorite music/violence scenes which turn the tables on these tired cliches:

Layer Cake
A simple request to borrow some money turns horribly wrong, as old memories come to the surface and unleash themselves as a vicious beating using available restaurant furniture and a coffee pot. Some backstory leads up to this point (which you won’t see in this clip) but the scene is still amazingly jarring in context.

Soundtracked by Duran Duran’s comeback hit Ordinary World, which slants, tumbles and breaks off sporadically as if synched to beating victim’s consciousness.

In a spectacularly violent movie with a spectacularly great soundtrack, how do you pick just one? (Ed. – Arbitrarily.) Should it be the haunting strains of the Stranglers’ Golden Brown, hovering over Tommy like the angel of death after Gorgeous George goes down in the middle of the pikey camp?

Or Massive Attack’s Angel presiding over the torched pikey camp?

Or will it be Oasis’ Fucking in the Bushes playing backup to super slo-mo camerawork and audacious sound editing, bringing to life one of the best fight scenes ever captured on film?

Fight Club
Why not? As a lifelong Pixies fan, seeing this scene unfold for the first time was the simultaneous feeling of everything being both right and wrong in the world. Another one of those movies that you started dragging people out to see, just for the vicarious thrill of seeing it again for the first time. The acoustic guitar, the drums, Black Francis casually discussing his own sanity while onscreen a man with a gunshot wound in his face embraces the girlfriend he had all along as the world collapses around them.

Pulp Fiction
The unexpected anal rape scene (aren’t the all? I mean, unless you’re watching Oz or Deliverance) brought to you in full saxophoned glory by the Revels with Commanche.

This isn’t about that particular insane juxtaposition of violation and jubilation. This is about what it could have been.

Quentin “Fucking” Tarantino originally wanted to use the Knack’s My Sharona for this scene, because it had a “great butt-fucking beat.” However, the rights holders apparently felt it would be better if it soundtracked “someone dancing around a convenience store with a can of Pringles.” Hence, Revels for Quentin; the Knack for Reality Bites.

That movie pissed me off so much. The only sympathetic character (Ben Stiller) was shit on constantly by slacker lifetime award nominee Ethan Hawke and every other character in the film simply because he has a job. Sure, he’s misguided in his whole monorail scheme, but Jesus Christ, it’s fucking public transportation. It don’t get more PC than that.

As a budding fiscal conservative, I found the slackers’ general listlessness to be a complete turnoff and granting them some sort of “sticking it to the man by doing absolutely fucking nothing” wisdom is as disingenuous as granting every native person in every movie since 1980 “pious martyr” status.

Honorable mentions:
Scorsese’s work on Goodfellas, with nearly every piece of music significant, including some choice Rolling Stones cuts and Donovan providing the soundtrack to one (of several) brutal beatings.

I also would hate to leave out another Tarantino flick, Reservoir Dogs, with Stealer’s Wheel providing some earcutting and rugcutting music for Mr. Blond and his less-fortunate acquaintance. However, this remixed ending scene does it one better: