by Marty Demarest

Soundtracks are the ultimate mix tapes. You know, those tapes you'd make for yourself that featured all of your favorite songs by your favorite performers, in just the right order. Those tapes you'd make for a long drive that plotted the emotional highs and lows you wanted to experience, synchronized with the passing landscape. Occasionally, to break the monotony, you'd insert weird shit (that's the technical term); but mostly it was stuff you wanted to hear over and over again. The tapes were comforting, fun, and served as a record of where you were in your life at the time.

Well, whether you liked Quentin Tarantino's new movie Kill Bill, or even if you haven't seen it -- trust me, you can skip it -- do yourself a favor and pick up the movie's soundtrack. It's like a mix tape from your most pop-culturally literate friend at a heavy pot-smoking, successful stage of life. In fact, it could be argued that the film is nothing but an over-budget music video for the soundtrack. And that's fine, because compilations like this are rare. Why not make a movie around music like this?

Everything starts with Nancy Sinatra's quaaludicrous "Bang Bang" -- never one of her finest works. But here its trippy vibe sets things up for the mayhem that follows. The 5,6,7,8's (a Japanese group) sing an all-girls Buddy Holly-sounding number called "Woo Hoo." And the great guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei delivers a tongue-in-cheek rock guitar anthem with "Battle Without Honor or Humanity." (That's the song that's played during the movie's trailer.) There are also a few American gems, like Charlie Feathers' rangy rockabilly "That Certain Female," and Isaac "Shaft" Hayes's funky, overdone instrumental "Run Fay Run." And somehow, in Tarantino's overheated imagination, Zamfir, (yes, "Master of the Pan Flute!") winds up with some old music by Alfred Hitchcock's favorite composer, Bernard Hermann -- and they both get to share space with rapper The RZA. It rules.

Unlike the movie, the soundtrack moves along at a brisk pace. You even wish it would go on longer. Fortunately, Tarantino and his album producer Lawrence Bender made the smart move of including a few tracks of random "Kung Fu Stings and SFX" at the end of the album. This means that listeners who want to play DJ can now do a Kill Bill remix of their favorite tunes. Too bad the movie couldn't be this good.

Publication date: 10/23/03

Black History Celebration @ Central Library

Sat., Feb. 11, 4-6 p.m.
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