TRANSPORTER, THE: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
Here’s another one of those “music from and inspired by” compilations, with emphasis on the latter. Inspired by?! Oh, puhleeese! Rossini was inspired by the legendary heroics of William Tell; Verdi was inspired by Othello and other Shakespeare; and I’ll even cop that Andrew Lloyd Webber was genuinely inspired by T.S. Eliot’s lines about felines. But the only thing this mob are inspired by is the notion that mindless action flick plus hip-hop equals CD sales.
It’s a cynical exercising of a formula. Which inspires, and I do mean inspires, a cynical exercising of a critic’s sardonic side. As far as these things go, there are some rather good grooves on this record, and if it served as a simple up-tempo soundtrack, or was packaged as a smooth if vacuous hip-hop compilation, then it would provide no impetus for an arched eyebrow. To invest it with some conceptual clout, however, is like suggesting there’s a philosophical paradigm underlying the Britney Spears oeuvre.
So, now that we’ve cleared that up, I can get down to giving the album a couple of ticks. Most of these tracks are at the soul end rather than the rap end of hip-hop; and while the melodies are thin, the vocal performances are spot on. There’s also a predilection for using succinct, rhythmic bursts of vocal harmony – not only to colour, but to propel the tunes. It’s a venerable technique of old funk-soul-meisters from Sly And The Family Stone through to Prince; and it’s terrific to hear come back into vogue.
On the other hand, while the production is as slick as a James Bond-cum-Bruce Lee action character’s suit, the song structures are as predictable as a James Bond-cum-Bruce Lee action film’s plot. Perhaps there is an underlying link to the movie after all. There’s a strict tripartite creed here: Never use a snare that’s big enough to yell “rock ‘n’ roll”; never end a vocal phrase without at least a ripple and preferably a tsunami of vibrato; and never let the rhythms cross over from busy to complex – at least not to any extent that risks flummoxing the targeted audience of intoxicated bootie wagglers.
Hip-hop and mod action glam do make a neat fit; but you can pretty much mix and match any examples of the genre. For a party mix record, there’s a lot more musicality here than just about anything you’d care to pick out from the techno-dance beat factories. Although that really isn’t saying much. The limitation comes of course from too much formula and not enough character. Perhaps they could have taken some inspiration from the film after all – things begin to get a lot more interesting if you break your own code.
Published December 5, 2002
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TITLE: The Transporter (music from and inspired by the motion picture)
ARTISTS: Tweet; Angie Martinez; Fat Joe; Lil’ Mo; Sacario; Lola Troy; Lade Bac