VINYL (Music from the HBO Original Series, Vol. 1)
Atlantic Recording Corporation & Warner Bros. Records, Inc/WEA International Inc.
The much-hyped Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger-executive produced VINYL has debuted – bringing with it a first volume of soundtrack recordings. The plan – for a show called VINYL – is to have digital-only releases popping out after each week’s episode with series bookending soundtrack albums. So there’ll be a bunch of EPs between and two full-length soundtrack albums. You will be able to own some of the soundtrack material on vinyl…perhaps they’re just giving you a chance to rush out and buy Your First Record Player (I suggest the show’s watchers check out the latest Fisher-Price catalogue).
So far, and we’re only episode into the show so far admittedly, the complaints seem to point to the fact that music isn’t that much of a focus, in a music-themed show.
I hold no real hope for the show – and I’m not rushing to see it. But Scorsese knows how to use music, and the soundtracks to his films often play out as wonderful compilations in and of their own right. So how does Volume One of VINYL play out?
A mixed bag that seems to arrive, by fluke as much as anything, in offering up a few trinkets. Most of the nostalgia-nods here are on any worthy playlist you care to make and in so many chuck-out bin $2 LP comps.
I’m talking about Chris Kenner singing I Like It Like That and inclusions of The Jimmy Castor Bunch (one of Marty’s favourites I’m sure) and Ruth Brown and Otis Redding.
But Ty Taylor stepping up to add a contemporary spin on songs of old – for a show set in the early/mid-70s – feels a bit too clean and polished for me.
Better work was done by Sturgill Simpson with the show’s theme, Sugar Daddy. Not quite Alabama 3 and The Sopranos, but some way towards it I should think – and if people, as a result, discover (or discover more about) the brilliant Sturgill Simpson as a result then that’s one good thing this show and soundtrack series will have done.
But we don’t really need David Johansen and Mott The Hoople in with this lot. Nor The Meters or The Edgar Winter Group. You can decide if you need those things at all ever – and I mostly have no issue with them – but it feels like a hodgepodge; one lacking the focus I perhaps expected.
It tells me – even in these earliest of days – that the show is probably a giant mess of phoned-in-style over lacklustre-content.
And as a standalone compilation this is music that people put on in the background when they want to create the façade that they always had diverse – and therefore interesting – musical taste. (“Let’s save that one for the next dinner party honey…it’ll work nicely as a lead in to my discussion of latest TV boxsets rented and favourite Netflix binge-watches…”)
For that reason alone I can’t stand the idea of this as a collection even though one or two songs got my toes tapping and one or two of them are from favourite artists. It’s still cynical and safe and duplicitous. So fuck that shit.
Postcript: As almost always I’ll take Richard Hell’s word on the matter.