0 89 Music Review - Drive Soundtrack

The original soundtrack to Drive is a perfect example of great music elevating the quality of a film. In following the minimalist tones of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movie, composer Cliff Martinez and the handful of artists who also contributed to the album lay out tracks that achieve perfection through simplicity, almost distracting the viewer from what is also one of the year’s best movies.

There is a distinctly eighties vibe here, music heavily laced with synthesized sounds posessing an inescapably modern finish. The opening track, ‘Nightcall’ by Kavinsky and Lovefoxx, sets the tone for the entire album as it plays over the opening credits. Immediately the listener is transported to a laid back state of mind.

And those slow beats continue seamlessly into ‘Under Your Spell’, by a band called Desire. This is easily the best track on the album, in my opinion. It’s a mellowed out love song that will linger in your head well past the tracks that follow.

Nowhere does the eighties theme become more apparent than in ‘Real Hero’, which features a band called Electric Youth. If you grew up in the eighties, you’ll recognize the band name as a song by Debbie Gibson. While that reference may seem cheesy, that certainly isn’t the personality of the song, which is performed by a group called College. It’s a track that inspires an inexplicable nostalgia, but definitely without being cheesy. Not that there’s anything wrong with cheesy ( especially when you’re talking about the eighties).

‘Oh My Love’ is the one track that doesn’t fit into any era of popular music. It’s a hauntingly sad song, almost operatic in composition, replete with an orchestra and vocals which journey through a soft sound before peaking.

This is where the original artists end, and the compositions of Cliff Martinez begin. Martinez has a long history with movie soundtracks, which incidentally does date back to the eighties with Sex, Lies and Videotape. Other movies include The Limey, Pump Up the Volume, and Wonderland, not to mention the fact that Martinez drummed for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who’s album I’m With You I reviewed a couple of months back), along with other acts like Captain Beefheart.

So the resume is an impressive one, much like the original tracks he lays down for the Drive soundtrack. As mentioned before, Martinez sticks with the minimalist tones set by movie itself, yet somehow manages to be distracting at times. Personally, I don’t mind being a little distracted when the reason is a great soundtrack, and this is definitely such a case.

Like the artists which precede his scoring on the album, the composer borrows heavily from eighties sound, delivering music that runs the gamut of rocking, haunting, and grooving, with an arc that fits the film perfectly. Even without the visual accompaniment of the movie Martinez’s songs brilliantly deliver the emotional journey the viewer would take through the course of a viewing.

The names are straightforward, ‘I Drive’, ‘See You in Four’, ‘Hammer’; they correspond to the scene which each song has been composed for. While the movie definitely takes a sharp turn, going from minimalist to graphic, the music’s subtlety is never lost. The arc is consistent, and it’s truly impressive.

From hippy rock to funk rock, funk rock to minimalist movie scores, Martinez over the years has proven that not only is his range diverse and extensive, but in the attention to detail observed throughout the Drive soundtrack he has also proven himself to be a truly gifted composer, who must love what he does a great deal to produce such great music.

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