Monday, July 1, 2019

100 Albums: "The Transformers The Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Vince DiCola, et al
Title: The Transformer The Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Released: 1986
Genre: kid-friendly synth-metal


This is one of the first tapes I remember owning, although I don't know how I ended up with it. I suspect one of my parents saw it and picked it up because they knew how much I enjoyed the property. I had a birthday party where all six (!) of the Constructicons were used to decorate my cake. So this is one I listened to a lot. And, much like the movie it's attached to, it's way better than it has any right to be. The Transformers: The Movie was supposed to be a cynical cash-grab, in which the older lines of toys were wiped out an a new generation of toy characters were introduced. It never occurred to the muckety-mucks at Hasbro that grade-school kids would think of these robots as characters. Ergo, a huge number of the children in my cohort at the age of six or seven experienced this movie as their introduction to dramatic tragedy. This is a movie in which the most recognizable hero of the franchise dies in Act I. It's a war movie in which the generals are killed early and the boots-on-the-ground troops are suddenly rudderless and flailing. It's a cat-and-mouse movie where the good guys spend 90% of the run-time being chased. It pulls zero punches, and once we got over the initial trauma of it, my generation kind of fell in love with it.

In keeping with the movie's aesthetic of "kids stuff, but more grown up," the soundtrack goes for heavy metal textures, albeit in a very mid-80s kind of way. Stan Bush does the poppier stuff with The Touch, the opening track and the best remembered, and Dare, which is a much better song. Both of them hew fairly close to the sound of Vince DiCola's score, which is synth-driven but tinged with metal guitar work. There are four tracks that are more standard hair-metal: N.R.G.'s Instruments Of Destruction, Lion's cover of the Transformers Theme, and Spectre General's Hunger, and Nothin's Gonna Stand In Our Way. And to give you an idea of how sanitized this music is for children, Spectre General is actually the Canadian band Kick Axe, which was considered too racy for this soundtrack. The last track on the tape, and also one of the singles from the album, is "Weird Al" Yankovic's Devo tribute Dare To Be Stupid. So yes, this album was my introduction to Weird Al. And we all know how that worked out. That plays during and after the battle against the Junkions, who were all voiced by Eric Idle and only spoke in phrases they'd heard on TV.

I reiterate, it's bizarre how well this movie still holds up.

Three of Vince DiCola's music cues from the score appeared on the initial release of the soundtrack, and another three got tacked onto the end for more recent releases. Even as a child, I found those instrumental tracks highly listenable, which is saying something, and since he's the dominant artist, the album feels much more like it belongs to him than any of the other contributors. Stan Bush notwithstanding, I suppose.

Further Listening: Who can forget Mark Wahlberg's take on The Touch from Boogie Nights? I also highly recommend Movie Bob's Really That Good video essay for the film.

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