The Crow was one of those films that I really liked when I was 13, but quickly realised was actually quite crap. It’s a bit like Baywatch aimed at teenage goth girls. Whereas Baywatch featured Yasmin Bleeth in flawless make-up running and jumping along sun-drenched sands in slow motion, The Crow featured Brandon Lee in flawless make-up running and jumping along rain-soaked rooftops in slow motion. Replace swimsuits with leathers, and life-buoys with electric guitars and you’re pretty much there.
The soundtrack to The Crow is probably one of the first film soundtracks that I ever spent money on. In its day it was a great mixture of gothic and metal tracks, including some recorded especially for the film and was a great springboard for me to look into other bands on the soundtrack such as Violent Femmes, The Cure and Nine Inch Nails.
The soundtrack opens with ‘Burn’ by The Cure. It’s The Cure at their gothiest, with dark driving bass guitars and Robert Smith’s vocals echoing creepily over the music. I used to love this song; but knowing about albums like Disintegration, it now sounds quite generic and unimaginative.
‘Golgotha Tenement Blues’ by Machines of Loving Grace really hasn’t aged well. It’s cheesy, and it sounds like something you might have heard on the soundtrack to SNES game Killer Instinct or the first Command and Conquer game: trudging guitars, synthesised strings and horrible-sounding drum machines make this an easy track to forget.
‘Big Empty’ by Stone Temple Pilots is one of those songs that starts off so well, but then quickly loses its footing and falls headlong into the void. The verse gives the impression of a subdued blues number with some really interesting jazz and country inspired guitar-work coupled with an introspective vocal. Then the chorus hits and it turns into every bad grunge song you could care to hear: processed throaty vocals, overdriven guitars, and far too many cymbal crashes. It’s dull and uninspired.
Nine Inch Nails’ rendition of Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls is essentially a note-for-note cover except with Reznor’s vocals, and the digital guitar distortion that was utilised quite heavily on Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine LP. As much as I love the original version of this song, and as much as I love Nine Inch Nails, the tempo of the song is slower than the original and removes the song’s pounding urgency.
‘Darkness’ by Rage Against the Machine echoes Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘Big Empty’ in terms of its structure, with Rage Against the Machine contrasting a subdued bluesy jazz-tinged verse with a rock chorus. Unlike Stone Temple Pilots however, they did not fall into the trap of a grunge-chorus-by-number exercise, but instead opted for a Rage Against the Machine-chorus-by-numbers instead.
‘Color me Once’ by Violent Femmes is very good, and reminds me of the dark clean grungy tones of bands like Slint or Shellac. The guitar work is incredibly cold and stilted, with sharp drums and pained vocals. The warm keyboard sounds that occasionally punctuate the track are an unwelcome distraction, as they sound incongruous against the chilly detachment of the rest of the song.
The Rollins Band’s cover of Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’ transforms a surreal early-synth classic into a sub-Black Sabbath dirge. I quite like some of the things that Henry Rollins has done over the years, but this isn’t one of them. It’s one of those covers that strip away everything that made the original so arresting and turn it into something unremarkable and clichéd.
Helmet’s ‘Milktoast’ sounds like an earlier recording of the version that appears on Betty (entitled ‘Milquetoast’): the drums aren’t quite as sharp, the guitars sound much screechier, and the production isn’t anywhere near as clean or dynamic. There are some strange guitar scratches and echoes in the background which distract from the usually forceful sounding bass of the verse. It’s an interesting version for fans of Helmet interested in hearing alternative takes, but it pales in comparison.
‘The Badge’ by Pantera is laughably bad: tuneless, boring, and very dated. The same can also be said for For Love not Lisa’s ‘Slip Slide Melting’ and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult’s ‘Life after Flesh’.
The soundtrack picks up again with the Jesus and Mary Chain’s excellent ‘Snakedriver’, a laid-back stomper with swathes of feedback-dripping fuzz and stoned vocals. It’s a song that becomes gradually louder and more intense as it draws close to the end: the guitars become more distorted; the vocals get lost in the mix as they become drowned out by layers of blistering noise.
‘Time Baby II’ by Medicine is another track that just sounds naff. Cheesy chorus-laden electric guitars phase in and out of dreamy vocals. It reminds me of one of those second-wave shoegazer bands that tried to copy Slowdive and Ride, but didn’t have the grounding in the ideas behind the music and so just sounded like bad jangle-pop with whispered, reverb-laden vocals.
The soundtrack closes with Kate Bush’s ‘It Can’t Rain All the Time’ – okay, I’ll admit I’m being facetious here – the song is actually by Jane Siberry. But it may as well be by Kate Bush, and could probably be used on one of those “send just £3 a month” adverts with sad-looking kids or sad-looking dogs in them. It’s a bad song that lacks any genuine feeling, or any desire to do something original or innovative.
I used to love this soundtrack, but today it sounds very tired and stale. Like the film, it lacks substance, and is superficially quite interesting on paper, but in execution it is severely lacking. I think it’s time to send the Crow soundtrack to the charity shop.