Tuesday, 20 July 2010



Repo Man is easily one of the greatest films ever made.  For a start it combines science fiction with hardcore punk.  And I cannot think of another movie that has accomplished such a feat.  That is the world’s loss.

Legend has it that the movie was partly funded by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees on the provision that it didn’t contain any punk music.  The executive producer did not get his wish.

“Wow! That was intense!”, “A repo man’s life is always intense!”

Not only is this a great soundtrack, it is also a great punk compilation.  The lineup is astonishing with Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop with Steve Jones, Suicidal Tendencies and Fear all dropping fantastic tracks.

Music plays a huge part introducing the personalities of many characters in the movie.  Early on it is established that Otto and his buddies (including the prototype for Napoleon Dynamite) are suburban punks with more attitude than prospect and a lousy sense of morals to match.  And these serve Otto well as he finds himself at home and equipped to fit the role of repo man.  As his aimless friends continue to “commit crimes” he uses his punk tools to grind out a shady living.  Now if that isn’t DIY, I don’t know what is.

Two classic songs play quite the pivotal part in the maturing and transcending of Otto.  First there is “Institutionalised” by Suicidal Tendencies that plays out in the background of a house party as he loses out in love, heinously backstabbed by one of his buddies.  Then later while he sits on his own drowning his sorrows he finds heart and strength in singing “TV Party” by Black Flag.  The force of the track helps pick him up and drive onwards and upwards.  This is how punk energises, a reality most people don’t appear to understand.  Unlike the pop charts, this is music that matters, that can turn a life around and empower the individual in a most magnificent manner.  Who can lose when your heart is racing?

By this stage both the movie and album have opened heroically with Iggy Pop and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar unleashing a thumping and driving title track that expertly runs in tandem with the credits and the theme/scheme of the moment.  Its trademark all over.  With the tone established, there is no way to recover.

The version of “TV Party” by Black Flag here is different to the one on Damaged.  Pleasingly it champions a new set of TV shows including the A-Team.  It’s a sign of moving with the times and of an enthusiasm for the process and the moment.  This was a movie that celebrates them and their like.

“Institutionalised” is the career track and moment of Suicidal Tendencies and its appearance in this film and compilation highlights just how ahead Alex Cox was in 1984.  This is an incredible song, one that has always flattened whenever I played it when DJing.  It has to be said that over the years Mike Muir’s band has been written off as some heavy metal headache/nightmare but early on they were a great hardcore act.  Sure this rant cum rave does hint at their rap rock leanings but it does it so effectively.  For anyone that has experienced teenage angst (which should be everyone) few works/pieces of art have ever captured the anger and aggression attached to it, towards meddling parents even if intentions are best.  Just three tracks in, the album is better than anything else around at the time.

From here the album maintains as the Circle Jerks and Fear suitably snotty contributions with “Coup D’Etat” and “Let’s Have A War”.  I think it has been the distinct lack of sensitivity attached to early eighties west coast punk that appealed to me.  The nasty, mean sense of humour exhibited is the kind that I pay, buy and subscribe.  The Circle Jerks in particular are favourites of mine not least for the distinct tone of Keith Morris’ voice.  This then returns as they deliver the sarcastic lounge of “When The Shit Hits The Fan” which saw them appearing in a bar scene performing said song in the style of Ween-like proposition before falling over.  “I can’t believe I used to like these guys”.

A dirty proposition exudes from the Burning Sensations cover of the Jonathan Richman track “Pablo Picasso”.  Suddenly a historically mild song is downright snotty, bitchy and the perfect soundtrack for cruising.  Imagine a horrifically condensed version of “Peter Gunn” fronted by a squished Iggy Pop turning tricks.  Gnarly.

There is a great punk and Mexican music tone attached to the score and this comes from the involvement of The Plugz who supply three tracks to the album in addition to having done the score to the film.  Having been raised on Love And Rockets comic, I can only attached my knowledge of that lifestyle to the origins of the quirky and blissful splurges onto the record that range from playful ska to a Spanish surf version of an Elvis song then onto post-rock that pre-dated post-rock.  Their closing theme music (“Reel Ten”) is particularly fantastic, all science fiction and gloriously futuristic despite being born of punk instruments.

“Managing a pop group’s no job for a man.”

Late on Juicy Bananas masterfully take on the repo code of Lite (Sy Richardson) and build a weird proto funk spoken word disco groove around his commands.  Live and learn but all costs do not mess with this man.

The movie also scores additional punk cred in housing a cameo by Stiff Records’ band The Untouchables who appear as the scooter gang.

What more can I say?  How much more should I fawn?  This was my youth, a period of my life I never want to grow out of even if it harms and pains my personal development.  Kids today, they don’t have such ground level rebellion.  Their heroes (and subsequent soundtrack albums) ain’t worth a shit.

I am home.

Thesaurus moment: perfection.

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