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Sex & Blood & Rock ‘n’ Roll: Suck (Soundtrack Sundays)

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Suck (2009)

I picked up a copy of Suck yesterday in a local charity shop. It’s one of these films that I’ve been afraid to watch up until now – not because vampire movies ever scare me but because I’m an Iggy Pop fan and when critics bothered to review Suck they tended to put the boot in. In short, most of them thought the film sucked. Hopefully, Iggy wasn’t part of a cringeworthy failure.

Time to pour myself a glass of Eldorado and stick the disc in my blu-ray player. Or, to put it another way, it’s time to suck it and see.

First seen at the 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival, Suck is a Canadian music comedy/vampire/road movie/love story with a little stop motion animation thrown into the mix too. It was written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk, who also stars as Joey, the leader of The Winners, a band who in the ten years or so of their existence have failed to make much of an impact in the world of rock. Yes, their name is ironic.

Now they’re on the verge of splitting up and even their manager advises them to fire him in their best interests. He reckons they’re getting too long in the tooth, geddit?

That same night, bassist Jennifer (Jessica Paré), falls prey to Queeny, a mysterious vampire who looks like a cross between Marilyn Manson and the Mad Hatter. She becomes one of the undead, and acquires an icy and alluring charisma that immediately attracts attention whenever she’s onstage. And not only from newfound fans but also Eddie Van Helsing, a hopeless vampire hunter who’s afraid of the dark, played by Malcolm McDowell.

Could the band be about to finally achieve their dream of stardom?

Jessica Pare - Suck

Suck is maybe most notable for the famous musicians in the cast. In addition to Iggy, there’s roles for Alice Cooper (hooray), Moby (boo), and Henry Rollins (meh).

And if by any chance you’ve been wondering who America’s most gnarled rocker is, after seeing this you’ll likely agree that Iggy just edges it over Alice – and he proves how indestructible he is when, even after he’s had his throat slashed, his veins can still be seen visibly pulsing as he lies on the ground dead. Okay, that is probably just a production gaff.

Iggy_Pop_in_Suck

So, what of the music on the soundtrack?

Well, there’s snippets of David Bowie’s cover of Here Comes the Night, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ by The Velvet Underground and Iggy’s Success, none of them used very imaginatively. And then there’s plenty of music from The Winners. Most of this is generic fictional movie indie rock band tracks which didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but then something strange happened. I kinda fell in love with one of their songs.

So Close It Hurts is entirely atypical of the kind of thing The Winners generally play and if I’d came across this without knowing anything about it, I’d maybe have imagined some obscure Power Pop act from some place like Providence, Rhode Island, who once supported The Cars in 1978. They would be called something like The Harmonies. Or The Pleasures. Well, Power Pop acts did tend to give themselves the most bog standard of names, didn’t they? Actually The Winners might have been an ideal name.

Written by Rob Stefaniuk and John Kastner and performed by Rob Stefaniuk, John Kastner, Chris Phillips, Mathias Schneeberger, Tomas D’Arcy, this is So Close It Hurts (with added lyrics and other distractions by the uploader):

You may have picked up on the hommage to the cover of Electric Warrior at the end of that video, which is maybe a reference to Marc Bolan who on that album’s best track Jeepster, sang: ‘I’m just a vampire for your love / And I’m gonna suck you.’ It’s not the only hommage to a classic album cover, so if you decide to watch Suck, look out for the others.

The verdict?

Suck doesn’t take itself remotely seriously and doesn’t overstay its welcome either. It’s better than I expected, albeit I obviously had fairly low expectations beforehand and more than one glass of Eldorado during its runtime. Iggy and Alice both give creditable enough performances and I did laugh a couple of times, although some of the comedy fell flat.

A fun watch for a Friday night when you’ve got nothing else on.

Trivia: If you’re wondering how such a low-budget movie managed to de-age Malcolm McDowell so convincingly, then here’s yer answer. Footage of him from Lindsay Anderson’s 1973 film O Lucky Man! was spliced in through the use of CGI.

Here Comes Johnny Yen Again

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Iggy Pop: Lust For Life

British cinema wasn’t in a good place in the mid 1990s. D’you remember highly touted films like Sarah and Jack? Blue Juice? Shopping? Just imagine, a time of such utter mediocrity that some critics actually hailed Sadie Frost as the country’s most promising young actress.

Or what about The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? It was still officially a hill by the time I’d fled the Glasgow Film Theatre and hotfooted it to the nearest bar, believe me.

Then along came Trainspotting and, what’s more, not a dreary social realist version of what remains Irvine Welsh’s finest novel but an inventive, stylish, visceral and fantastically funny take on it.

You watched Ken Loach’s Ladybird, Ladybird feeling equally bored and depressed but you stepped out of Trainspotting, feeling, well, a lust for life.

Trainspotting is here

One of the best things about the movie was, of course, its soundtrack.

Like Tarantino and Scorcese, Danny Boyle is one of those directors that possess a near perfect knack of combining sound and visuals perfectly to lift a movie.

Just think of that frenetic opening of Trainspotting. Renton and Spud being chased down Edinburgh’s Princes Street by a couple of security guards while we hear the famous ‘Choose Life’ voice-over, accompanied by Iggy Pop’s searing uber-classic Lust For Life.

Renton and Spud on Princes Street

I’d read snippets of Welsh’s novel in several of the Scottish litzines that began springing up in the first half of the 1990s and Scream, If You Want To Go Faster, the ninth installment of the annual New Writing Scotland anthology series. I obviously read the novel too when it was first published and, later, went to see Welsh give a reading at the Paisley Arts Centre. I was also lucky enough to nab a ticket for Harry Gibson’s adaptation at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.

Guess what? I dearly wanted the movie to succeed and by the time Boyle freeze-framed on Renton as he a grins at the horrified man who has just run him over, I was confident that this would be the single most exciting Scottish film I had ever seen. And we were only thirty seconds into the action.

I still can’t hear Lust For Life without thinking of that scene, the combination of the two, in all likelihood, will always be indelibly linked in my head, although usually that hyperactive opening rather than the 5-a-side match, the cooking up and injecting the junk in Mother Superior’s or the friends and family decrying heroin while Iggy’s song surges on, still sounding sensational.

From the album Lust For Life, here it is, one of the very finest tracks ever recorded, with the single greatest drum intro ever, ever, ever – the equivalent of a pitbull on steroids straining at a particularly tight leash – and those pounding, primal drums brilliantly balanced by a stunning, stalking Motown bassline from Tony Sales and some itchy yet glistening guitar work from the genuis that is Carlos Alomar and Scotland’s very own Ricky Gardiner. Not forgetting James Newell Osterberg, Jr crooning his Burroughs inspired badass surrealism and his pal David Robert Jones helping out with the backing vocals:


Instead of putting out Lust For Life on 45, RCA in Britain decided to choose Success, another track from the album. With The Passenger somehow relegated to B-side status.

The reasoning behind this decision remains a mystery to me. Not as big a mystery as why around 100,000 folks thought it was a good idea to watch Chris Martin and his bed wetting brethren in Coldplay headline the main stage of Glastonbury on Sunday night, but a mystery all the same.

I obviously didn’t bother watching this myself but it sounds like it just might have been the cosiest ever moment in rock history, the polar opposite of the days when the Ig would goad biker gangs in his audience, snort angel dust and lacerate his bare chest with broken bottles.* I’m sure the numpty readers of Heat and OK! would have lapped up Martin’s antics though. OMG! Apple & Moses r up onstage @ Glasto 2 sing! Awesome!

~

Iggy has recently released another album, Post Pop Depression, which the New York Times has claimed: ‘picks up where Lust For Life left off.’ I wouldn’t go that far myself but it really is worth seeking out. From it, this is American Valhalla.


For more on Iggy: http://iggypop.com/

* Okay, none of these things are in reality very big or very clever but you’ll see where I’m coming from.