skip to Main Content

Week 7 | Atomic Blonde (Soundtrack, 2017)

If the album I reviewed two weeks ago, “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” was hardly a Bowie album because he made minor contributions to only two of its songs, this soundtrack is in a way even less so. Bowie did not consciously contribute anything— there’s one Bowie song, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire), which was not originally recorded for this album. In fact it was originally recorded for an entirely different movie— the movie the song is named after, “Cat People,” and it was recorded in 1982. Still, a lengthy portion of the song is played prominently in the movie, and as the first song on the album, it sets the tone for what is mostly dark 1980s music with some sort of German connection.

“Cat People” doesn’t have much or anything to do with Germany, but in 1982 Bowie wasn’t far out of his “Berlin Trilogy” period (it wouldn’t have really worked for the movie to have a song from that period, since the movie was set in the 80s, not the 70s). The immediate next song is “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling. If ever there was a song influenced by Bowie, “Major Tom,” is it. Someone chose to place it on the album as the second song, right after Bowie’s opening— I think that was deliberate to establish a context in which what follows fits nicely.

Another included song, “The Politics of Dancing,” contains several lyrics evocative of Bowie— “DJ,” “under pressure,” and most explicitly, “station to station” (sung in a Bowie-like voice, just in case anyone wouldn’t have otherwise picked up the reference).

I downloaded the soundtrack after seeing the movie, which I liked very much. The rest of the songs remind me of something often said of Bowie’s contributions to 1970s music— the 70’s were not necessarily great for music, but Bowie’s music from that time was amongst the period’s best. Today I think that while Bowie’s 70s music has only gained in reputation, the idea that the decade was bad for music has shifted ten years forward— today, the 80s seem to have a worse reputation. Many of the songs on this soundtrack provide a counter-argument. Two German-langue version of “99 Luftballons,” “Der Kommissar,” “The Politics of Dancing,” “London Calling”— these all seem to belong together and with “Cat People”. This is also the only album I know of to contain a song by my favorite musician along with my second favorite— Aimee Mann: “Voices Carry,” which was the 1985 hit from her band, ‘Til Tuesday. Even here there is a remote Bowie connection — the year before “Voices Carry” was released, a Bowie album, which contained songs from an otherwise obscure 1969 film project was released in 1984. The album? “Love You till Tuesday.”

A further Bowie-inspired element of the album is the inclusion of several instrumental pieces that were created as background music for the movie.
As for “Cat People”— this is one of my favorite Bowie songs from the 1980s, and I like this version better than the fast version on “Let’s Dance” (which I also like). This version appears on various compilation albums, but is really one of several Bowie one-offs to be included on albums mostly of other peoples’ work. Here I don’t mean soundtracks like “Atomic Blonde,” which as far as I know Bowie had nothing personally to do with, but rather soundtracks like “The Falcon and the Snowman” (“This is Not America”), “When the Wind Blows,” “Real Cool World,” and other peoples’ albums featuring Bowie on one or two songs, like Mick Ronson’s “Heaven and Hull” (Bowie sings on “Like a Rolling Stone”), Queen’s “Hot Space” (“Under Pressure),” Rustic Overtones’ Vive Nueva (“Sector Z” ) many others. “Cat People” on an album of complementary 80s music like “Atomic Blonde,” is good, but I’m holding out for a two-disc set of all those songs that Bowie did for projects other than his own studio albums. That will make quite a collection.

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top