If you've been anywhere near Radio 1 in the past week, you'll have heard about Zane Lowe's ambitious plot to re-score 2011 movie 'Drive' with a whole raft of original music. Last night (Thursday October 30) the re-worked version of the film was broadcast on BBC Three.
The whole thing is admirable in its ambition. It took them 18 months to put it all together - a huge undertaking for the Radio 1 DJ (with his peerless contacts book) and his team; a process almost certainly littered with clearance issues and logistical barriers.
Zowe's theory behind re-scoring the soundtrack for 2011’s salivating, cooler-than-thou Ryan Gosling movie was explained by him at a preview screening in London on Tuesday night. The DJ says it's his tribute to sample, mash-up culture. A bootleg-style celebration of the original. He's also photoshoped himself into the movie poster to promote it (you would too, to be fair). To allay any fears that this might be offensive to the creators, he also received ‘Drive’ director Nicolas Winding Refn’s blessing to tamper with the original (sound and) vision.
The cast of Radio 1 favourites he's roped in is impressive. The likes of Bastille, Foals, Baauer, Laura Mvula, Bring Me The Horizon, Chvrches, Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil and The 1975 have all been tasked with writing original music for pre-decided portions of the action.
The music created for the venture ranges from fantastic (Chvrches’ ‘Get Away’ is an awesome hook-laden gift to the world before the band disappear for ages to record their next album) to OK (The 1975’s bleary-eyed, slow-dancing ‘Medicine’; The Neighbourhood’s damp synth meanderer ‘Pretty Boy’) to missed opportunity (Foals’ blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ‘Howl (Supermoon)’ is a thankless Twi-lite-esque strummed instrumental) to, well, downright dreadful (BANKS’ warbling ‘Meditation Song’ competes with Laura Mvula’s ‘Mellow Man’ for narcolepsy-inducer of the evening). Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil (appearing here as ZZC) delivers a somber and atmospheric, piano-led ode in ‘To The Bone’. And, the less said about Bring Me The Horizon's contribution, a crime of Pendulum-aping drum’n’bass and rap-meets-screamo tune, the better.
That's the music, but how does it work scoring a what is a beautiful modern, classic movie?
Unfortunately, given the tools they've been delivered to work with by the artists, it doesn't really work. The re-scoring feels like a poor imitation of the original. BANKS, Jon Hopkins and the rest of the contributors weren’t told to directly draw inspiration from original soundtrackers College, Electric Youth and Desire, but they’ve wound up sounding as though they were attempting to out-do them.
Laura Mvula’s clawing alternative to the frankly perfect use of ‘A Real Hero’ by College during the love motifs between RyGo and Carey Mulligan is an insult. You’ll pine for the original throughout. Particularly when Eric Prydz’ cheap Eurotrash alternative to Kavinsky’s iconic introductory theme for Gosling’s nameless ‘driver’ plays over the hot pink movie titles.
'Drive', the original, hung quite dangerously in the balance. It was just the right measure of effeminate cool to masculine rage for it to not come across as a cheesy homage to naff – often camp - 80s flicks. The problem with Zane's re-tool is that it now exposes the film's weak-spots, because fundamental to the initial movie was the way the expertly chosen music knitted the whole thing together and made sense of it all.
There's no edginess to to the rescored 'Drive'. Some parodies, covers, are better than the original. Others an innovative twist, an interesting take. This winds up being neither. The scale of the idea should be applauded, but the execution is pale. While the road was paved with good intention, in the end, ‘Radio 1 Rescores Drive’ veers sharply off-piste.