Truly great soundtracks don’t come easy. This is what makes the companion to Trainspotting so unusual. Not only does it manage to nail the cultural moment the film portrays (and aurally recreate the film’s story in its running order), but it also escapes the film entirely becoming its own album. It plays out like a record sequenced by the world’s most versatile band. As a landmark of 90’s film and music culture, Trainspotting is an astounding document.

It helps that director Danny Boyle had his finger on the right pulse when it came to the zeitgeist of Cool Britannia. He harvested classic music that was finding itself echoed in the now. Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” was given a completely new lease on life through its positioning as the film’s de facto theme song. Pop himself would be the only artist to appear twice on the soundtrack, with the slinky and decadent “Nightclubbing” making an appearance near the half-way mark; fair since Pop is one of the artists specifically name-checked in the film. Boyle also pulled veterans Brian Eno, New Order and Lou Reed into the mix complementing the atmosphere of remainder of the soundtrack’s newer artists.

The newer music was mostly recorded either specifically for the film (Primal Scream’s insidiously grooving “Trainspotting“) or pulled from unreleased material. One of Britpop’s more overlooked and charming bands, Sleeper, takes an excellent run through a cover of Blondie’sAtomic,” while Blur contribute “Sing,” one of their hazy, turbulent and most gorgeous, early, works. Pulp of course make an appearance, chipping in one of its snarkiest and wittiest songs never to grace an album, the devastatingly truthful “Mile End.” The new songs weave in and out amongst the classic tracks in a way that reads like a mixtape by an imminently hipper older sibling.

I was 15 when I first picked the soundtrack up – a good six months before I would even see the film. I was drawn in by the bands, and I found myself inexplicably enjoying the electronica tracks as much as my favorite more traditional rock songs. Leftfield’sA Final Hit” goes along with what narrator Renton (Ewan McGregor) self-describes as his last hit of heroin in the film. Underworld’sBorn Slippy [Nuxx]” propels Renton through his final act of betrayal and ultimate moment of redemption at the film’s close. These songs were far from what I listened to at the time, but they still managed to grab me with their energy and seemingly obvious connection to the songs on the rest of the soundtrack. Don’t ask me to explain why I just knew the hypnotic trance of Underworld was linked to the ambient float of Brian Eno and the primal pound of Iggy Pop. It was obvious. It just was.

Though it is in many ways rooted to the very time in which it was created, Trainspotting‘s soundtrack is, somewhat contrarily, a timeless piece of culture mashing. Unlike other movies from the era that strove to be as relevant as possible with their music (and ended up being all the less, all the more quickly), Trainspotting tied itself into something larger than the sum of its parts. The results are a soundtrack that make me want to choose life every single time. words/ j neas

MP3: Blur :: Sing
MP3: Underworld :: Born Slippy [Nuxx]

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12 Responses to “A Soundtrack Enthusiast :: Trainspotting”

  1. Great choice, great insight in that list bit. And man, the front portion of that Underworld song really does hypnotize

  2. One of my first CDs. Nice mention. Love Lou’s track

  3. agreed…this sound track is spectacular. one of my favorite moments is when the “atomic” cover switches on at the club, just as renton’s VO is finishing up and he’s spotted the girl

  4. It was at the time, and remains, my favorite soundtrack to one of my favorite films. I distinctly remember walking out of the movie and walking back to the showtime schedule to check when I could see it again.

    It’s one of the few soundtracks where the music is as important as the visual…Trenton running through the streets while Iggy Pop is blaring (before “Lust for Life” started popping up in commercials), the title card coming in at the end during “Born Slippy,” “Perfect Day” and the overdose.

    Don’t forget New Order’s “Temptation” as well, which was never released on a proper album (I believe it was only a single in the UK)…which also figures prominently (Renton’s girl sings him a line or two during the detox).

  5. It’s probably, honestly, my favorite soundtrack to a film. I’ve never been a big soundtrack person, but this one just blew me away. I second thegoodbyeradio’s statement about the music being as important as the visuals. That’s what I appreciate so much about the soundtrack (more or less) following the songs’ appearance order in the film. (The exception being “Temptation” which appears in order if you count the cover version of it that is playing in the club where Renton tries to pull Diane.)

    The second Trainspotting soundtrack is, ironically, also a great piece to pick up. While not as essential as this one, it includes songs from the film that didn’t make this soundtrack – the cover of “Temptation” and Sleeper’s “Statuesque,” among others. I need to watch this again soon. Man.

  6. Great choice, great insight in that list bit.

  7. Yeah! I remember being riveted to the seat for the whole movie! Reservoir Dogs was another movie with a great soundtrack!

  8. Born Slippy is such an amazing song. Anyone who likes that track should really look further into Underworld. They have some pretty amazing stuff.

  9. I love this soundtrack. its been with me since i first saw trainspotting which is i have no clue how many years ago. especially love the Iggy Pop tracks and the Pulp one…but its such a great mix 🙂

  10. The songs and sequencing of this soundtrack are amazing, but what’s really shocking is that this edgy, risque, sorta outsider film (don’t think it was released/distributed by a major studio) was able to secure the rights for all this songs. Respect for Boyle’s vision I guess…

    Whenever soundtrack discussions come up, I also always feel compelled to mention the Sid and Nancy soundtrack. It’s amazing. I still listen to this record about once a week. Solid.

  11. this soundtrack is the reason New Order’s “Temptation” is my favorite song of all time. love it.

  12. Excellent points. I loved this s/t so much I picked it up twice, first as a cassette (that’s how I rolled in 1996). Then I went all high tech and had to get the CD too. I still play one of them plenty…

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