My Mom took me to see The Crow at a dollar show late night back in 1994. Before hitting the bar the local tweekers, goths, and various forms of alternative looking folk came to see Brandon Lee’s final film performance. I recall how much the room smelled of ciggs, patchouli, sweat, and stale popcorn.
We were stunned and frightened (just me only…) seeing the story unfold before us on that tiny screen in the dankest room at the Shields Plaza 8 theater (now gone completely). The atmospheric darkness and what seemed as an overabundance of physical pain and emotional torment being portrayed left a mark on my younger self.
Oh, and the soundtrack was incredible.
I think in regards a movie soundtrack complimenting the film itself, there are very few that standout not based on actual score, but instead on artists who allow their songs used. The Guardians of the Galaxy films have done tremendous jobs of filling in a space that taps into the past without knocking you over head with it (*see Suicide Squad ugh... Better yet, DO NOT SEE!*). As for the Crow, well, let us just say the soundtrack is pretty much someone’s playlist of darkness and it is friggin’ awesome.
This is 90’s Alternative in the purest sense. The tunes run gamut in genres such as Goth, Industrial, Grunge, Shoegaze, Metal, Punk, and to a small degree, Hip-Hop. The artists themselves, a smorgasbord of great acts, each present songs that hit hard and provide a vantablack backdrop to Alex Proyas’s film and James O'Barr’s comic.
The Cure start things off with “Burn”, which became the films main theme. It has a hard sound and takes its time, becoming a grower with plodding drums fading in and the sound of swirling birds in the background. The guitars bleed in and Robert Smith, ever the loneliest sounding human on the planet, brings forth his sadness-drenched vocals with aplomb and a tickle of the heart on sleeve feel surrounding the track. What makes this all seem perfect is how, lyrically, it relates entirely to Eric Draven’s, (films main character), struggle after death and his rebirth (spoilers?)
"Golgotha Tenement Blues" by Machines of Loving Grace is a slower song with an ugly feel reminiscent of Nick Cave being very sleazy and all wrapped up with an Industrial sound remixed through electronic means. Fitting really and laying some of the groundwork to come here.
Stone Temple Pilots originally re-recorded a song off their Mighty Joe Young demo, titled "Only Dying", but removed it when Brandon Lee passed and replaced it with “Big Empty” off their second album Purple. One of the highlight songs in the film, and in top five best songs by STP period, “Big Empty” carried long after I saw the film and I remember how much Dad and I would jam it on cassette. Hearing it now in the present is difficult since the passing of Scott Weiland. A cloud hangs over it, just like how the film felt at the time with Brandon Lee. Weiland was a great singer…
Unsurprisingly, Nine Inch Nails pop up on the perfect soundtrack to accompany their intense, confrontational music, but this one time is special because they do a spectacular cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls”. Covering Joy Division is not popular with hardcore fans unless done properly and without too much nuance. NIN give an honest, respectful rendition (*see their Woodstock 94’ performance*) that has become a staple in their live shows to this day.
Rage Against the Machine also appear and bring with them a re-recorded/retitled version of their demo song "Darkness of Greed” now simply “Darkness”. This is a unique track for RATM to perform and its history dates back to Zack de la Rocha’s Hardcore band Inside Out. At the time, the Hip-Hop/Metal combination was being ushered in with RATM and other acts like Cypress Hill and Beastie Boys as central figures. Knowing what came after in the later part of the 90’s might sour some off it, but back then it was a unique take on what was thought of as polar opposite genres. Lyrically it is dense and the topic of minority genocide and culture abuse hits home hard…
Violent Femmes come along with a moody one-off track called “Color Me Once”. A bit more psychedelic inspired and depressing, the song is not your typical upbeat VF release. Still, it fits the overall mood. Following that, we get Rollins band doing a cover of Suicide’s classic track “Ghost Rider”. The cover is 100% not a carbon copy, but instead a fleshed out metal infused oblong demon. Henry Rollins is awesome here and the slow, prodding groove of the band make this a heavy hitter right in the middle of the soundtrack. Oh, and besides Rollins Band being a heavy act, sneaking in next is “Milktoast” by Helmet. This came off their album Betty and had heavy rotation on MTV becoming their only charting single. Their off-kilter hardcore riffage and alternative take on Metal was great back then, while making some heads explode in the process.
The second half of the soundtrack follows suit with Pantera covering Poison Idea’s “The Badge" (Phil Aselmo was always a Harcore Punk at heart) and the frantic shredding of Dimebag Darrell leading to a thrashy ending that’s ssssoooooooollllll cool to hear. After that is Oklahoma locals (!!!) For Love Not Lisa and their song “Slip Slide Melting”. Funny note, members of this band also played in the Chainsaw Kittens, heh heh.
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, the crazy awesome Industrial Electronic band from Chicago, offer the song “After the Flesh”. They also make an appearance in the film playing in a nightclub scene. That blew my mind back then. I never heard anything like it at the time. If you dig KMFDM then this should sit nicely beside you. “Snakedriver” slides in from The Jesus and Mary Chain and comes from their 1993 ep, Sound of Speed. It’s a moody drug fueled track with sloth-like guitars and Jim Reid singing like he’s about to fall into the K-hole or perhaps a drunken blackout. Not that bad really and like everything else, fitting on here.
Medicine, an awesome Dream-Pop/Shoegaze band (first American act to sign with Creation records) also make an appearance in the film performing the track "Time Baby II". The song was re-worked, called "Time Baby III” and features guest vocals by Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins on the disc. That in-between brush of genres makes the song work and with the vocals of Fraser alongside Beth Thompson of Medicine giving a euphoric feel, it complements the film quite well.
Jane Siberry sings the fourteenth and final track called “It Can’t Rain All the Time”. The song, co-written by Siberry and the film's composer Graeme Revell, contains themes and dialogue from the film itself and used often as an instrumental in the background. It is a departure from the heaviness of the soundtrack for sure, but a nice send-off.
A track-by-track review seemed necessary here because this really was a great set of songs. In retrospect, I guess it still has its place in collections just like those worn copies of the comic and vhs of the film, but by now, the cd probably has disc rot and the vhs scratchy, so go pick up a bootleg vinyl, new dvd, and remember what it was like back in 1994 for a bit.Oh, and just one more little thing, do not dress as the Crow for Halloween please... Dig it.