Thursday, May 15, 2008

Peak: Fever in the funk house, Pt. 10 - The Devil's Rejects

Or: How I fill up 2 GB

(Being the continuing alphabetical series of the contents of my iPod)

Album: The Devil’s Rejects: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Artist: Various artists
Released: 2005

Track listing:
1. Midnight Rider – The Allman Bros. Band
2. Shambala – Three Dog Night
3. Brave Awakening – Terry Reid
4. It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels – Kitty Wells
5. Satan’s Got to Get Along Without Me – Buck Owens & His Buckaroos
6. Fooled Around and Fell in Love – Elvin Bishop
7. I Can’t Quit You Baby – Otis Rush
8. Funk #49 – James Gang
9. Rock On – David Essex
10. Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh
11. To Be Treated – Terry Reid
12. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
13. Seed of Memory – Terry Reid
14. I’m at Home Getting Hammered (While She’s Out Getting Nailed) – Banjo & Sullivan review:
"Have fun scrapin' all them brains off the road!" That's just one of the lively quotes peppering the between-song crevices on the soundtrack to Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's sequel to his 2003 horror genre throwback House of 1000 Corpses. The dialogue snippets add character to the set, just like the blood, shotguns, and verité mug shots of its artwork. (To say nothing of the entirely separate album released from Banjo & Sullivan, the film's fictional honky tonkers.) Yeah, you can say whatever you want about Zombie. Just don't ever call him unimaginative. Devil's Rejects adheres to its time period with a brace of rock from 1973 through around 1975, and blends the tracks from James Gang ("Funk #49"), Three Dog Night ("Shambala"), and the Allmans ("Midnight Rider") with classic honky tonk from Kitty Wells and Buck Owens. It's a great blend of album rock, air guitar faves, eccentric picks, and country ramble — it would be like the perfect radio road trip down I-65, if radio in America actually still sounded like this. Devil's Rejects also features three selections from '60s British rock dark horse Terry Reid, "Brave Awakening," "Seed of Memory," and "To Be Treated." All three stand up well. They suggest Led Zeppelin's folksier side — "Treated" sounds a lot like "Stairway to Heaven" — but could also be templates for 21st century troubadours like Ryan Adams or Damien Rice. Reid's also a creative, evocative choice next to workhorses from Skynyrd ("Freebird") and Joe Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way"). Devil's Rejects closes with some hokey "radio spots" and a bumpkin rustle called "I'm at Home Getting Hammered (While She's Out Getting Nailed)" from that fantasy Nashville duo Banjo & Sullivan. Overall it's a thoroughly entertaining soundtrack, as happily crass and drive-in proud as the film itself. "And if you don't like it you can kiss my grits," as one of the B&S spots concludes.

It seems to me that a really good soundtrack almost serves the same function as a mix-tape: a collection of songs, sometimes eclectic, sometimes connected, put together in such a manner as to create a feeling of moving from start-to-finish. When they are well-done, soundtracks should achieve the start-to-finish flow as they follow the pace of the film.

With that in mind, The Devil’s Rejects excels as a soundtrack. Not only are there great, great songs here, but the order flows from “Midnight Rider” all the way through to “Seed of Memory” (never mind “I’m at Home Getting Hammered,” by the fictional Banjo & Sullivan). I left the movie soundbites off my iPod, but those add more of the film’s atmosphere to the soundtrack.

Really, what’s not to like about the tunes on this soundtrack? It’s got everything a fan of 70’s music could ask for: great Southern rock; two, count ‘em, two Joe Walsh tunes; some of the best pop rock from the era; some high-quality honky tonk; and the incredible Terry Reid songs. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about Reid before this soundtrack; after hearing his tunes in the movie and on the soundtrack, I think he’s worth further investigation.

Truth be told, I’m just a huge fan of this movie. So much so that I am confident that it is one of my top 10 favorite movies of all-time. That’s a high pedestal, but I just can’t talk myself out of it, and it’s a shame that the stigmatized trio of the movie’s title, its director (Rob Zombie), and its predecessor (House of 1,000 Corpses) has dissuaded viewers from ever taking the time to watch it. Far from the over-the-top/music video-esque/uber-horror psychedelia of House, The Devil’s Rejects is an altogether more organic production, with none of the trippy graphics or cut-aways, none of the heavy metal tracks, and nothing even approaching that weird underground sequence near the end of House.

In a way, the soundtrack for The Devil’s Rejects reflects the film’s nature, with its 70’s rock atmosphere. The Devil’s Rejects is almost a buddy movie, following the family of psychos as they run from the law and toward their doom. It’s a testament to Rob Zombie’s development as a filmmaker that he’s able to take the despicable, stomach-turning band of freaks from House and turn them into a group of real human beings with real feelings and real emotions. By the end of The Devil’s Rejects, we see the humanity in the murderers, we sympathize with them, we almost cheer for them, and when they meet their eventual doom, we can’t help but feeling a little lost.

And that’s where the highlight of The Devil’s Rejects comes in. Really, the highlight that I’m including in this post is more the highlight of the movie. To tell the truth, I’ve watched this scene probably 20 or 30 times, and it gets me every single time. There are moments when you get chills, moments when your heart starts racing, and moments when you feel genuine human emotion resulting from the combination of what’s happening on the screen and the music coming out of the speakers.

This is where I think Zombie has pulled off his biggest accomplishment with The Devil’s Rejects. I think the surest sign of effective use of music in a film is when you can’t separate the film from the music. When I hear the end section of “Layla,” I invariably think of the multiple-killings scene in Goodfellas. In The Devil’s Rejects, there are two instances of this music-film connection. The first is the opening credits and “Midnight Rider;” I haven’t heard “Midnight Rider” since and not thought of that sequence. The second occurrence of the inextricably-linked music-film connection in The Devil’s Rejects is in the scene shown below. It’s the film’s final scene, and if you haven’t seen the movie, I think you would be well-served to watch it before you watch this scene.

If you have seen the movie, then this is my gift to you on a May Thursday. I can’t watch this scene without getting all caught-up and wanting to watch the whole damn movie, and I imagine that most people who have seen the movie probably feel the same way. The look on Otis’ face…oh, man.

It’s just that good.

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