In Soundtracks Of Our Lives, The A.V. Membership seems to be on the dying artwork of the film companion album, these “numerous artists” compilations made to enrich movies on display screen however that usually find yourself taking up lives of their very own.
In 1986, on any given week, you can probably discover me at this juice bar known as Medusa’s, situated on Sheffield Avenue in Chicago, the place DJ Bud Candy launched patrons to bands like Bronski Beat and Tones On Tail. Listening to a track from that period sends me again to that dance flooring in a heartbeat. So far as soundtracks go, Grosse Pointe Clean is virtually a time machine to my very own adolescence.
John Cusack set a excessive bar for soundtrack choice (and music snobbery) with 2000’s Excessive Constancy, which has already been rigorously deconstructed on this area. However he had a check run in 1997, when he took his first flip as producer on the hit-man comedy Grosse Pointe Clean, alongside his frequent collaborators—and highschool buddies—Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis. Though that trio hand-picked all of Excessive Constancy’s music themselves, drawing on years of scouring the bins of Chicago report shops, on Grosse Pointe Clean they’d the guiding hand of music supervisor Kathy Nelson, who began out deciding on songs for the 1984 punk traditional Repo Man and has conjured a whole bunch of soundtracks since. Nonetheless, the affect of Cusack and his friends is felt all through—significantly given how a lot Conflict there’s.
Even when you already know little or no about John Cusack, you most likely know he’s a Conflict fan. In Say Something…, Lloyd Dobler famously wears a Conflict shirt; right here, a Conflict poster turns up in a personality’s bed room. And naturally, The Conflict is throughout Grosse Pointe’s soundtrack—together with a rating composed by Joe Strummer, whose distinctly angular guitar provides punch to the executions carried out by Cusack’s employed killer, Martin Q. Clean. For middle-class Midwestern youngsters like Cusack and myself, The Conflict was our gateway to the broader, scarier world of English punk; in Excessive Constancy, Cusack’s Rob even rightly provides “Janie Jones” from the band’s eponymous first album to his checklist of “High 5 Aspect One, Observe Ones.” Amongst my very own high 5 notable live shows—which incorporates the 1990 Public Enemy/Sonic Youth present that was a riot, which Cusack additionally attended—being at The Conflict’s 1982 present on the Aragon in Chicago most impresses sure individuals (although teenage me spent most of that live performance frightened of the moshing crowd). The Conflict was a key band for me, because it was for Cusack, and its sensibility informs the entire of Grosse Pointe Clean.
That it additionally displays Cusack personally speaks to simply how a lot of himself was invested within the movie, a violent comedy that apparently had a tough time getting made, even within the wake of Pulp Fiction. Cusack’s distinctive charms went a great distance towards promoting executives and audiences on the story of successful man who loses his style for the job at his 10th highschool reunion, the place he reconnects together with his ex-girlfriend, performed by Minnie Driver, whose job as a neighborhood DJ provides Grosse Pointe ample alternative to wedge in songs. However charming as he’s, Cusack’s Martin can be one thing of an enigma, outlined by his jaded stoicism. Thankfully, the soundtrack is there to supply plenty of the emotional weight. What Martin can’t inform us, the songs do.
Opening with Johnny Nash’s optimistic “I Can See Clearly Now” over minimalist black credit, the soundtrack immediately clues us in to Martin’s sluggish path towards enlightenment. Once we first spy his hometown of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, we hear the cheerful guitar bursts of the Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Solar.” Cusack and I had been born per week aside—in the identical county, even. The songs of Cusack’s and Martin’s adolescence had been my very own, and I didn’t know anybody who hadn’t worn out the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut, who couldn’t determine these chords the nanosecond they heard them. As it’s for Clean reentering Gross Pointe, listening to it’s an prompt blast of nostalgia—however as the attitude shifts to Martin’s view from contained in the automobile, he abruptly adjustments it to The Conflict’s brutal, bleak “Armagideon Time.” The message is clear: To see clearly, Martin is first going to should get by way of all these obstacles in his means, get again to his roots, and blow up all the pieces else in his life.
Martin’s first cease is to go to Driver’s Debi on the radio station, the place, as luck would have it, she’s internet hosting an all-vinyl, ’80s music weekend. Debi additionally has glorious musical style, as instantly confirmed by her number of The Specials’ “Strain Drop” for her first Martin encounter. The track, kicking off with a gospel-reverent organ, culminates in a fervent, stunned “It’s you”—the proper musical response to the man who ditched you on promenade night time abruptly displaying up once more in your doorstep.
As Martin wavers between a number of makes an attempt to attempt to speak to Debi, we additionally hear The Conflict’s ska-flecked “Rudie Can’t Fail,” together with the brilliant—and once more, optimistic—horns of The Jam’s “Absolute Inexperienced persons,” which captures their relationship completely, particularly from Martin’s perspective: “I stared a century considering it will by no means change / As I hesitated, time rushed onwards with out me / Too scared to interrupt the spell, too small to take a fall / However the absolute luck is, love is in our hearts.”
Martin’s viewpoint, alongside together with his dark-side-of-James-Bond way of life, can be summed up by Weapons N’ Roses’ 1991 cowl of Wings’ Bond theme “Reside And Let Die,” which underscores the reveal that his childhood dwelling has been was a minimart. (“You possibly can by no means go dwelling once more,” Martin tells his reluctant therapist, in one of many film’s many nice strains. “However I assume you possibly can store there.”) “Reside And Let Die” is even mimicked in Muzak as Martin enters the shop.
As we shift to the highschool reunion itself—the movie’s focus, the place all of the warring segments of Martin’s life and relationships converge—it’s given an ominous power by the tribal percussion of Religion No Extra’s 1985 minimize “We Care A Lot.” The track’s sardonic lyrics (“We care rather a lot in regards to the Military, Navy, Air Drive, and Marines / We care rather a lot in regards to the NY, SF, and LAPD / We care rather a lot about you individuals / We care rather a lot about your weapons / We care rather a lot in regards to the wars you’re combating / Gee that appears like enjoyable”) underline Martin’s mercenary disinterest in who he’s killing for, tracing his journey from authorities work to impartial contractor. And its chorus—“It’s a grimy job however somebody’s gotta do it”—sums up Martin’s entire profession and angle towards it.
Contained in the reunion itself, the songs get a bit lighter, together with the Queen/Bowie duet “Below Strain” (one other indicator of Martin’s psychological state), and “Matador” by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. “Matador” additionally works as a metaphor for Martin as he dodges the myriad forces working towards him, together with authorities brokers, Dan Aykroyd’s rival hit man, and an unknown murderer. However the highlight reunion monitor is one other love track: An up to date, dreamlike model of Pete Townshend’s plaintive “Let My Love Open The Door” performs conspicuously over Martin and Debi’s intimate dialog within the bleachers. Martin could possibly get freed from his existential hell, however he wants Debi’s like to get him there.
As that aforementioned unknown murderer squares off with Martin in a kickboxing struggle (lending weight to the fan idea that Martin Clean is secretly Say Something…’s kickboxing Lloyd Dobler), it’s to the tune of The English Beat’s ska traditional “Mirror In The Rest room.” The symbolism is once more apparent: Martin might find yourself killing the ostensible unhealthy man, however he’s additionally Martin’s mirror picture, regardless of Martin’s occasional flashes of morality.
After Martin lastly achieves real redemption and he and Debi head out of city, the ultimate track we hear is a well-recognized one: “Blister In The Solar” heats up once more whereas Martin decisively abandons his violent way of life and embraces the particular person he was once, with the movie ending on a sunny word. As Johnny Nash predicted, the rain is gone.
So overstuffed with musical greatness is Grosse Pointe Clean that the soundtrack even begat a second quantity that features songs like Tones On Tail’s “Go!”, Grandmaster Flash’s “White Traces,” A-Ha’s ubiquitous “Take On Me,” Medusa’s staple “Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight,” The Pixies’ “Monkey Gone To Heaven”—all acquainted cuts to late ’80s music-minded youngsters like Cusack and myself. And there are much more standouts that didn’t make it to both album, The Treatment’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” amongst them. There may have simply been a 3rd quantity.
As is, Grosse Pointe Clean captured 1986 for the individuals of 1997 in a single eminently playable assortment, one which obtained plenty of time in my automobile that yr, and that—like Martin—immediately transports me again to who I used to be as an adolescent. In Excessive Constancy, Cusack’s character stresses over the fragile, probably life-altering penalties of constructing somebody a mixtape. With Grosse Pointe Clean, he made the perfect one for John Cusack—and for me.