Various Artists - Nicolas Winding Refn Presents The Wicked Die Young - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - Nicolas Winding Refn Presents The Wicked Die Young

by Jon Burke Rating:5 Release Date:2017-04-14

Director Nicolas Winding Refn has been releasing his “Refn Presents” record series since 2015. The series gives famous film soundtracks (Robocop, The Terminator, etc.) the multi-disc deluxe vinyl treatment they so deserve. His most recent release, The Wicked Die Young, is the soundtrack/sonic inspiration for Refn’s film, The Neon Demon. Much like his films, The Wicked Die Young, is sonically lush and visually evocative but ultimately empty and fleeting. For every review of Refn’s oeuvre showering him with praise for his sumptuous visuals there are a dozen more using descriptors like self-indulgent and pretentious. The Wicked Die Young is a collection of pure sugary pop paired with intensely grimy punk/electronica. While in some cases this might succeed, on The Wicked Die Young the transitions are jarring to the point of annoying and ultimately reductive. You’ve never heard the doped-out, switchblade edginess of Johnny Thunders sound quite as flaccid and lifeless as when it precedes Dionne Warwick’s Valley of the Dolls theme song.

It would be ridiculous to review several of these tracks. Suicide’s “Cheree”, for example, is a classic and needs no introduction if only because it’s been included on other, better soundtracks. The same goes for the Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers’ “Pirate Love” – though to a lesser extent. I would assume disco aficionados equally familiar with Giorgio Moroder’s “Knights In White Satin” and Amanda Lear’s “Follow Me”. One track, Pino Donaggio’s “The Shower” from Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill, is inexplicably included here especially considering some of the other gems from that same soundtrack. Julian Winding’s “When You Want to Hurt Someone” is such a throwback to 90s electronica that many listeners will require a bump of methamphetamine to properly enjoy it. The remaining songs mostly originate from frequent Refn collaborators like Electric Youth and Cliff Martinez – both of whom turn-in fine performances here but, when compared to their work on the Drive soundtrack, come up lacking. The Drive soundtrack really haunts The Wicked Die Young if only because this all feels like a warmed-over rehash of that milestone in recent film soundtracks.

If The Wicked Die Young accomplishes anything, it’s the inclusion and celebration of 999’s “Homicide”. The Brit punk gem contains so much sneering swagger and strut as to make Jagger jealous. I found myself playing it over and over as I reviewed this album and wishing other similar tracks had been thrown into the mix. Inclusion of a track or two by Magazine, The Stranglers or The Vibrators, for example, would enliven and elevate The Wicked Die Young from its current, uninspiring state to something meaningful… something with teeth. Right now all you’re gonna get from The Wicked Die Young is a good gumming.     

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