BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Though poorly received when it came out in 1998, director Todd Haynes’ glam rock fantasy Velvet Goldmine has, over time, become a beloved cult classic. Whatever one thinks of the film’s reimagining of the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop, though, the soundtrack is where it’s at. A mix of period cuts and glam rock covers performed by a pair of all-star bands made up of nineties alt.rock luminaries, the songlist is damn near impeccable, even with the absence of any Bowie cuts.
While the original compact disc version has been the perfect companion on many a road trip, MVD’s first-time vinyl reissue couldn’t be any more appropriate. Given the film’s time period and its musical metiere, letting the songs spin on wax (especially when as garishly colored as this half-blue/half-orange version) just fits. Needle in groove lets Teenage Fanclub & Elastica’s Donna Mathews’ version of the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis,” the Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” by the Wylde Rattz (AKA co-star Ewan McGregor fronting Ron Asheton, Thurston Moore, Don Fleming and others), and Placebo’s take on T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” leap out of the speakers, teeth bared and power chords aflame. The less raging tracks fare just as well, especially the majestic interpretation of Steve Harley’s “Tumbling Down” from star Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the plethora of Roxy Music tunes (“2HB,” “Ladytron,” “Bitter’s End,” “Bitter-Sweet”) performed by the Venus in Furs, AKA Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Bernard Butler, Andy MacKay, and producer Paul Kimble. (For some reason Meyers’ take on Harley’s bizarre but affecting “Sebastian” didn’t make the cut on album.)
Speaking of Kimble, Grant Lee Buffalo, the band for whom Kimble played bass at the time, appears with an original: the pitch-perfect “The Whole Shebang,” which manages to sound period and just like its parent’s work at the same time. Ditto the two originals contributed by Shudder to Think, who ease back on their usual avant-garde weirdness to explore the diva-esque glam rock heart of their music with “Hot One” and “Ballad of Maxwell Demon.” Some actual vintage tunes appear as well: the real Roxy Music’s classic “Virginia Plain,” Lou Reed’s gorgeous “Satellite of Love,” T. Rex’s quirky “Diamond Meadows,” Brian Eno’s romping “Needle in the Camel’s Eye” (which runs over the opening credits in the movie) and, closing the LP, Harley’s breezy “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” – quite possibly a lot of American glam fans’ introduction to this quirky British artist.
As both a sampler and a celebration of the seventies glam rock era, the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack is a gem. That it’s now out in the format that seems most natural to its era makes it gleam all the brighter.
DOWNLOAD: “Hot One,” “The Whole Shebang,” “Tumbling Down”