Wednesday, April 18, 2001

My favourite albums of the 90s

8. "Until The End Of The World" Original Soundtrack

To anyone who suggests that my doing a 'favourite albums' list - and a wilfully obscure one at that - was a ploy to get New York London Paris Munich to link to me, I say "how perspicacious of you". It worked, too. Thanks Tom. However, the fact that today's album contains many search-engine favourites is not another ploy, honest.

By the early 90s, the soundtrack album had been devalued after a decade of big-haired rockers belting out power ballads which had nothing to do with the film. "Until The End Of The World", however, is a case of the soundtrack being far better than the film. Wenders personally selected the acts - Depeche Mode, U2, REM, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Can, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Neneh Cherry, Jane Siberry and kd lang - and gave them a mission: to make the type of music they thought they would be making in the year 1999.

1999, remember, was Nostradmus year, the year the world was supposed to end. And the year the nuclear-powered satellite in Wenders' film is due to fall to the earth. Most of the acts Wenders approached reacted appropriately, producing an amazingly cohesive album of downbeat, bleak music.

I listened to this album compulsively during the Gulf War, and hearing it now brings back that sense of coming dread. REM's most beautiful song "Fretless" recalls the CNN footage of the conflict. I can see my black-and-white portable, the sound down, the deadly beauty of tracer trails by night accompanying Elvis Costello's harrowing cover of the Kinks' "Days".

The album works best in the background, as you're reading the paper, picking up random snatches of mumbled lyric and whispered litany: "Sometimes you can't tell whether you're waking up, or going to sleep, spiralling, un-numbered streets". "What good's a war without killing? What good's a disease that won't hurt you?" "Don't talk to me about being alone." "Santa Maria, Santa Theresa, Santa Cecilia, Santa Dominica".

It's ironic that the soundtrack - the product of so many creative minds - is a focused cohesive whole, while the film - the vision of one man - is a rambling, confusing three-hour mess (and, God forbid, there is a five-hour director's cut in existence). If you haven't seen the film, don't bother, but if you haven't got the soundtrack, buy it.

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