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Review by Brad Green:
I’m glad the film is getting good reviews because if you believed its own blurb, director Jonathan Teplitzky has gone from Better Than Sex to Not Quite As Good As The Bloke Madonna’s Bonking. “In the same genre as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” proclaims the press release, with the apparent assumption that imitation Guy Ritchie sounds more impressive than original Aussie. 

The soundtrack, unfortunately, really is full of ersatz efforts. Nick Cave’s so-called classic love song Into My Arms for instance. In a gloomy room full of low rent Leonard Cohens, Cave would be the cheapest of the lot. The comparisons with the Canadian poet are obvious enough: deep rich voice, no great singing ability and a reputation for sophisticated lyrics. The difference is twofold. Firstly, Cohen, notwithstanding his lack of vocal dexterity, has always managed to cough out a limited range melody more or less in tune, whereas Cave pitches like a rocky boat even when guided by a unison piano line. Secondly, Cohen’s eminence as a lyricist is well deserved -- take as an example the exquisite allusions and ambiguities of A Thousand Kisses Deep, currently featured in The Good Thief -- whereas Cave tends to either churn out pretentious, mythic sounding narrative that means very little, or, as in this case, blatant drivel: “I don't believe in the existence of angels/But looking at you I wonder if that's true”. 

This mediocre ballad joins a series of old and new and gritty guitar numbers to fill out a punchy score by Machine Gun Fellatio and a couple of Groove Armada raps. If Cave is a poor man’s Leonard Cohen then the vocalist from Rocket Science, as featured here on a track called Being Followed (which seems the wrong way round), is a veritable beggar’s Bryan Ferry. He has all the phrasing but none of the flair. I could continue in this vein and say that The Saints were a bogus punk outfit, but in fact their problem was that they were the genuine article. There’s not much point in counterfeiting dreck, and as demonstrated here by the stiff and tuneless I’m Stranded, the entire genre was simply a trash can with an open lid pointed in the direction of the talentless. 

The one genuine classic on offer is Ian Dury And The Blockheads’ Wake Up And Make Love With Me. Dury was the shining example of gimmickery, novelty, rock ‘n’ roll outrageousness and cult culture married to high standards of performance and creativity. His broad Irish brogue, broader sense of showmanship and broader still sense of lewd absurdity were bolstered with stringent musicianship. The Blockheads were quite a band, mastering everything from the rollicking piano of this track to the intricately funky bass patterns of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Like Dury, not in sound but in principle, Machine Gun Fellatio are a talented bunch. They seem intent on using a colourful image for popular appeal, while indulging in a variety of musical excursions. Their diverse abilities come to the fore on the score tracks here, but like most of the filler songs they suffer from a lack of personality. MFG do a pseuodo-mambo that sounds like Lou Bega meets James Bond; build instrumentation around spiffy guitar riffs, classy drum breaks and neat production tweaking; and round off the record with Barry’s Theme, an ambitious weave of modern dance beat, disco strings and female soul raves. They know what they’re doing and the sundry tonal shadings no doubt provide fine support for the screen images. On their own, the tracks are superficially entertaining until you realise that they’re all sugar and no original statement. There are some stylish moments on this album, but very little in the way of authentic character. 

Published October 16, 2003

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ARTISTS: Groove Armada; Machine Gun Fellatio; Rocket Science; Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds; The Vines; The Saints; Ian Dury And The Blockheads; Faithless

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