Velvet Goldmine


London, 1998

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Glitter, glam rock and Oscar Wilde. It's got the potential to be a volatile mix, but Velvet Goldmine emerges as a cohesive soundtrack to movie that's nothing short of fabulous, just as the era it highlights would suggest it be.

Velvet Goldmine, named for the David Bowie song of the same moniker, is not so loosely based on the singer's rise to fame as Ziggy Stardust. Similarly, pop sensation Brian Slade, alias Maxwell Demon, whirls through the sex and drugs synonymous with rock n' roll, only with significantly more elaborate costuming. And it all unfolds amid a backdrop of some of the key names of glam -- Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, and T. Rex (though Bowie himself is notably absent, refusing to lend out his songs).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But some of the highlights of the album aren't from the old dogs of rock, but the original songs created for the film's bands Venus In Furs (yes, from the Velvet Underground song!) and Shudder To Think. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who plays Slade, steps in as vocalist on the lofty "Tumbling Down" and "Baby's On Fire," another one of Brian Eno's tracks. The latter, which features screeching guitars and dark lyrics like "Baby's on fire, better throw her in the water / Look at her laughing / Like a heifer to the slaughter," infused with the contrast of glam's glitz and its less appetizing actuality as Goldmine portrays.

Other contributions include Ewan McGregor, the Iggy Pop-inspired lead singer of Wylde Rattz, who covers The Stooge's bristling "T.V. Eye" and "Gimme Danger," which is inexplicably missing from the final compilation of the album. It's a shame, too, because it's a cover that does superb justice to the sultry slithering original. Thom Yorke of Radiohead also makes an appearance in Venus In Furs on "2HB," "Ladytron" and "Bitter-Sweet," proving he's absolutely made for the preening of glam if he ever finds himself wanting an outlet from Radiohead.

And then there's the glam rockers themselves, like T. Rex on the short but sweet "Diamond Meadows" and Lou Reed's "Satellite Of Love," oddly endearing and complete with snaps and lyrics like "I've been told that you've been bold with Harry, Mark and John / Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to Thursday with Harry, Mark and John."

Personally, I would have switched out Teenage Fanclub & Dona Matthews on "Personality Crisis," whose girl-power rock band sounds somewhat out of place, or "We Are The Boys" from Pulp for absent tracks like Gary Glitter's "Do You Want To Touch Me" or the aforementioned "Gimme Danger."

On the cover of the soundtrack, just as in the beginning of the movie, Velvet Goldmine warns listeners that it is "To be played at maximum volume" and that is entirely true. It's one of those albums that's impressive regardless, but fantastic when blasting your eardrums out. What's a little hearing loss as a trade-off for the spirit of glam rock, right?

Rating: B+

User Rating: A-



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