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Judgement Night vs The Crow - Round 2
The Cure vs Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. & Faith No More
Brandon Lee was 28 years old when he died in 1993. The accident that took his life was horrific, tragic, and frustratingly avoidable. He was the son of Bruce and Linda Lee. Bruce is of course, to this day, the most famous martial arts superstar of all time. Bruce Lee dragged kung-fu from a weird esoteric Chinese form of self-defence and self-improvement into the default Martial Art of cinema. Bruce had super-human reflexes, strength, self-confidence, and truckloads of charisma. He was only 32 when he died after completing filming Enter the Dragon.
By all accounts Brandon was a skilled Martial Artist in his own right, had inherited both his parents good looks and refused to be intimidated by his fathers legacy. Like his father he only made a handful of movies, and died during the filming of his breakout role.
Brandon was engaged to Eliza Hutton and they were due to be married a week after The Crow had concluded filming. In interviews Brandon comes across as a really nice man. Actress Rochelle Davis was twelve years old when she appeared in The Crow and spent a lot of time hanging out with Brandon and Eliza. She has had nothing but nice things to say about the couple. Actor Michael Massee who fired the improperly prepared prop gun that killed Brandon never really recovered from the accident, though he became a great character actor in tv and cinema. He refused to view the movie and had never watched it before he died of cancer in 2016.
The entire story is really, tragically, dreadfully sad.
The movie was very nearly shelved and not finished. Brandon’s mother Linda and his fiancé Eliza insisted that the film be released as a tribute to his life and work. It would have been terrible if the film was shit. Imagine the pressure on the crew and production team.
This blog isn’t about cinema though, so I’ll leave it to you to read up about the production elsewhere, and I hope you’ll watch it or re-visit it if you have already seen the movie.
The brief summary of The Crow’s plot is that the night before halloween, musician Eric Draven and his fiancé Shelly Webster are brutally murdered. A year later a supernatural Crow resurrects Eric in order to set “the wrong things right”. It’s a revenge movie with a revenant ghost angle. It’s adapted from the graphic novel by James O’ Barr.
Movie scores can make or break a movie. Imagine Star Wars without John Williams. Imagine The Good, The Bad and The Ugly without Ennio Morricone’s score. Graeme Revell produced a stunning score for The Crow. I sought it out for years with little success before the advent of the internet (every record shop kept handing me the soundtrack which was obviously more in demand). On its own it helped elevate the movie to something else. It’s otherworldly, and emotive. And it’s based almost entirely around one song from the Soundtrack.
I got into The Cure purely on the basis of ‘Burn’. The first ever single by The Cure I heard was ‘Catch’ on Top of the Pops. I was 11 years old and I had no frame of reference for them. I didn’t know any of their other tracks, and I genuinely didn't know what to do with this song. This was the same year I discovered brunette Madonna (hawt!) and Jon Bon Jovi flying around a stage (cool!). The second single I heard by The Cure was ‘Friday I’m in Love’ which is delightful, but doesn’t show their Punk Goth side.
Hearing ‘Burn’ made me try and investigate The Cure’s back catalogue. They had nine studio albums released by that point, which was extremely intimidating. But dipping into their music made me realise at least one thing. They are brilliant. Just in case you are unfamiliar with The Cure, your friendly Aquanaut has compiled a playlist for some of their more popular tunes.
My friend Bernard (author of the excellent This Week in the 90s), rates ‘Burn’ as a top five track by The Cure. This is about right and all things considered it is probably the best track on The Crow soundtrack (there is stiff competition from Nine Inch Nails cover of ‘Dead Souls’ by Joy Division).
Rochelle Davis (she was only 12 years old remember?) delivers the poignant Voice Over that sets the premise of the movie in the opening scene. There is more ‘Goth’ infused pain and regret in this opening minute than in the entirety of the Emo music scene that arrived whining and snivelling a decade later. But the entire movie pivots on the scene where ‘Burn’ plays in the background. The scene is transformative, both figuratively and literally in the scope of the plot. It is one of the most effective transformation scenes in a comic book movie.
Objectively ‘Burn’ is the best track track on The Crow soundtrack. It’s haunting, it’s emotional, it hints at the esoteric and the supernatural. It’s perfect for the movie and perhaps a fitting tribute to the short life of Brandon Lee and a dirge for what could have been. Arguably The Cure are the best band on the soundtrack. I’d go as far as to say that they are arguably the best band out of both soundtracks.
So The Crow wins round two of the battle of the soundtracks right? Wait…
In the last post I spoke about this rap-metal thing that the music industry was trying to make work. The Helmet & House of Pain track worked really well, but is a bit forgettable in the grand scheme of 90s music. Judgement Night needed a big track. Dice were rolled. Slayer were paired with Ice-T for a track, which is pretty hardcore, but they produced a cover. But there was one track on the soundtrack that just worked. Sometimes a pairing works, sometimes it doesn’t. KLF and Tammy Wynette had wowed us a few years previously, pairing hardcore techno with classic country and western. There are too many bad pairings to mention and you used to find them in the CD bargain bin in record shops (when CD singles were a thing). Weezer and Lil Wayne have an excellent effort in this category where they just wind up sounding like The Black-Eyed Peas.
Folks, if you’ve never heard the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E, you’re in for a treat. The Aquanaut’s Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. playlist is here. Founded by brothers Paul & Ted Devoux (aka Gangxta R.I.D. & The Godfather), they initially found success in Japan of all places before returning to their hometown of Carson, California. Of Samoan background, they became an integral part of the L.A. rap and hip-hop scene in the early 90s. They were already halfway to being classified as a rap-rock group as they played live instruments instead of relying on samples and DJs. They were a wild and talented band and possibly would have had more success if they weren’t so closely associated with the gang scene in L.A. What I mean is, they were literally (reformed) gangsters. They were asked to offer protection to Eminem when he was threatened by the Crips. Yes, that Eminem and those Crips. The Crips were apparently scared of them! Then they all wrote a banging track about it with B-Real from Cypress Hill.
Faith No More are a legendary alt-rock band, also from California, that have been active in one fashion or another from 1979. They have had multiple line-ups over the years and prior to their collaboration on the Judgement Night soundtrack, had scored a few big hits (notably Epic). Like the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. they were halfway to being a rap-rock group also. They have had numerous vocalists over the years, including Courtney Love. Mike Patton is their current and longest standing vocalist and is a remarkable frontman. He can rap, he can croon, and he can do… other* things with his vocals.
The two bands met for the first time at the studio to record their entry for the Judgement Night soundtrack, and immediately clicked. Apparently Faith No More requested the Boo-Yaa Tribe specifically after becoming interested in Samoan music. FNM’s keyboard player was suffering from heroin addiction during the recording of the song and attended rehab afterwards. This all sounds insane, but it produced the hardest sounding tune off of either The Crow or Judgement Night soundtrack. This took some doing considering Slayer, Pantera, and other ‘proper’ metal bands were featured on both albums.
Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. bring their unique brand of rock infused Samoan gangsta hip-hop to the tune and they provide the rapping. They look and sound like Samoan war gods. FNM add the Metal with Mike Patton crooning, wailing and screaming (* the other things) over the top. It’s all terrifying.
If you continued living under the same rock where you never heard The Cure, then you probably haven’t heard Faith No More either. I’ll do a future post about them. Please subscribe so you don’t miss it.
So who wins in this head to head? I see this as a penalty shoot out in a Soccer World Cup Semi-final. Stepping up first, we have the most famous Goth Punk band of all time.
‘Burn’ is a cool, calm, step and shuffle, before a delicately executed panenka that leaves the crowd breathless. Even the stranded goalkeeper watches agape at the beauty of its execution, as the ball lands in the net. A lonesome Crow observes from its vantage point on the crossbar. Goth kids dry their tears with scarves of silk.
The pressure is on the two Californian bands. ‘Another Body Murdered’ is what soccer pundits classify as a thunder-bastard that rockets towards the goal, past a bewildered keeper, bursting the back of the net.
Seeing as last week Helmet were literally better than themselves (sans House of Pain) overall we now have 2 for The Crow and 1 for Judgement Night. Game on.
Next Week: Ice-T, Slayer, and Pantera all go Punk!