I Shot Andy Warhol – Review

I Shot Andy Warhol

by Joshua Brown

It seems these days that compiling film soundtracks is one of the most competitive aspects of the music business. Not that there isn’t a rich history in the collaboration between rock ‘n’ roll and Hollywood, from Grease and The Big Chill to Suburbia and River’s Edge, it just seems like more of a “thing” lately. The most successful soundtracks, artistically and/or commercially, of the last few years have either gone out on a limb in breaking lesser-known artists such as Folk Implosion (KIDS) and Tricky (Strange Days), or a great deal of care has gone into the mix, like Natural Born Killers, where the listener is escorted comfortably from L7’s “Shit List” to the Cowboy Junkies’ rendition of “Sweet Jane.” I Shot Andy Warhol, since it has neither of these qualities, will not enter “classic” soundtrack territory despite its good songs.

The first and foremost problem is the prevalence of useless cover versions of tunes from the same era, but with questionable relevance to Warhol’s Factory scene, veering this collection dangerously close to being one of those wretched “tribute” comps. The bad apples in the remake basket out-number the good ones four to two. The two decent cover songs are the Troggs’ “Love is All Around” as performed by R.E.M., a cover band by origin who I sometimes feel should have stayed that way, and Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” as performed by Luna. The throwaways are done by Wilco, Ben Lee, Jewel, and Bettie Serveert, who respectively slight Buffalo Springfield, Small Faces, Donovan, and Bob Dylan.

The second problem is original “oldies but goodies” that are fun to hear again, but the random selection of which eerily reminds me of a comp one would buy on a cassette for $3.99 in a fill-up station by the highway. MC5‘s “Kick Out the Jams” (live) is always a winner and an obvious choice for a soundtrack (also with the voice of Henry Rollins and the instruments of Bad Brains in Pump Up the Volume), not to mention the fact that everyone and their aunt has done a cover of it. Love and The Lovin’ Spoonful cheese their way to happiness, and the exotic Sergio Mendes track (“Mais Que Nada” with Brasil ’66) is the best one on the album, but has no apparent connection with the rest of the material. Two new original songs are included, Pavement‘s “Sensitive Euro Man” and Yo La Tengo‘s “Demons.” John Cale composed the “I Shot Andy Warhol Suite,” the last track and surprisingly the only one to include a Velvet Underground ex-member, or have any connection with the V.U.