So Halloween's over and everyone, in one way or another, is hung over. Elderly women call the cops and
complain about smashed pumpkins. Middle-school teachers arise thirty minutes early to pull down the countless
strands of toilet paper draped over their thinning trees. And kids return to school with bellyaches-- not
from those Snickers bars the night before, but from those Snickers bars this morning.
I guess, then, that it's too late for Thomas Bangalter's soundtrack to the controversial French film
Irreversible. As half of French duo Daft Punk, Bangalter might have seemed a good candidate to
compose that perfect post-Halloween mix, with enough funky breaks to ease your pain and help you look ahead
to Friday night. Not so. Instead, this here is the perfect Fright Night soundtrack. Screw those silly
Hannibal masks; Irreversible can be downright scary.
And Bangalter doesn't even ease you into the darkness. The title track opens with that horror flick standard:
two kickdrum beats, then a single, echoed snare beat. Add to that a shrill pitch and deep organ chords, and
you've got yourself an ideal score to a late-70s slasher flick. This plodding pace continues for more than
six minutes with little variation. The masked killer just keeps stalking you, taking his sweet-ass time
walking down the shadowy hallway, and all you can do is look back, stumble, and fall flat on your face.
But what's even scarier about this and subsequent tracks is that Gaspar Nóe's Irreversible isn't a
horror movie-- at least not by genre. Told anachronistically, a la Memento, the film traces the
origins of a violent opening scene. When it was shown at this year's Cannes Film Festival, 250 people walked
out and 20 people needed oxygen after fainting, according to NME. The reason? Part of it, I would
imagine, had to do with the nine-minute rape scene. Not exactly the best inspiration for another celebration
like "One More Time", is it?
At least now you know. This isn't daft, and it sure as hell isn't punk. It's a downbeat soundtrack made
more frightening by the fact that, during one or more of these songs, someone is being brutally raped. Is
it during the swirling air-raid siren that drowns in and out of the warped "Rectum"? (Let's hope not!)
Perhaps during "Stress", with its drab bass thud, hyperactive electro-harpsichord and (more) ominous organ
chords. Or maybe it's as the beat picks up on "Outrage", and Bangalter swirls wavering electric fuzz around
But there are uplifting moments, too, even if Irreversible is largely devoid of the ecstatic rave-ups
for which Daft Punk is known. The hi-hat, thumping bass and ceaseless ringing in "Outrun" will sound familiar
to fans of the band's 1996 debut Homework. So, too, will the funky guitar toyed with on "Extra Dry",
or the distorted vocals on the house-driven "Ventura/Into the Tunnel", during which Bangalter regularly
submerges the sound 20 feet below water, then allows it to resurface.
Only with "Spinal Scratch" does Bangalter approach the better aspects of Daft Punk's sophomore effort, last
year's Discovery. The one truly fresh, inventive song here, it revolves around relentlessly tweaked
guitar notes (or so they seem) with the occasional all-out breakdown. Like the best of Daft Punk, it's hard
to summarize through its musical components; suffice to say, it grabs you and moves your every cell.
And yet, like every Bangalter number here-- there are also Beethoven and Mahler excerpts, plus an unbearable
French pop song-- "Spinal Scratch" is far too repetitive. Daft Punk has always been fond of looping, but they
also mix it up enough that most tracks are engaging from beginning to end. Here, you get what you'd expect
from a film score-- a lot of mood music with minimal song structure-- and as such, nothing on Irreversible
is too arm-raising, except for when it scares the shit out of you. It would have come in handy last night,
but I suppose there's always next year.
-Ryan Kearney, November 1st, 2002