Radiate Review: “Drive” soundtrack

By: Michael Hernandez/Columnist

The lyric from Kavinsky & Lovefoxxxs’ “Nightcall” says, “There’s something inside you / It’s hard to explain.” These sentiments can be expressed of the film “Drive” itself, its titular star (played by a collected Ryan Gosling) and of the soundtrack.

As “Nightcall” mechanically hums about driving through the night and calling someone to express how it feels (“it” being a machine with emotions), one can make the direct correlation between music and movie.

They go hand in hand, with the music almost working like narration of this neo-noir genre film wherein Driver is a mechanic/stuntman by day and getaway driver by night.

It is profound craftsmanship in which each song brings you into the world of “Drive,” whether it is through the first five tracks that could be stand-alone album singles, or the tense and ambient score from Cliff Martinez.

Four of the aforementioned five tracks have overarching themes dealing with a character that is the center of their love. In this case, we can surmise these are the songs playing through Driver’s head as he prowls the streets of a fictional Los Angeles. “Under Your Spell” from Desire contains an ‘80s cache of airy female vocals, synth-driven rhythm and lyrics of oblivious wonderment about being under someone’s spell.

The vibes continue with “A Real Hero” from College, with a poppy ebb that discloses the notion that being a real human equates a real hero. This is played during a scene in which Driver is courting his neighbor (played by Carey Mulligan) on an impromptu drive with a setting sun in the back. It is an instant romantic connection, and the song more than pushes this plot device home, with angel-like vocals serenading the couple on-screen.

As a perfect accompaniment to everything on-screen, it is able to set this precarious romance that does not last long. Its gears shift to unexpected moments of violence, and composer Cliff Martinez is able to construct a background of ticky reverb and pianos that are as unsettling as the altercations in the film.

This follows throughout the whole soundtrack that feels like a whole track and not different disjointed cuts pasted together. It flows smoothly through the rough ride of “Drive” with its dips of tension and tenderness.  The Chromatics have a song featured early in the film during a methodical robbery/chase scene that pulsates in and out like a fleeting heartbeat.

Imitation is the best form of flattery, so you will be tempted to play this track the next time you are cruising in your car at night, with cars fading by and stoplights hazing above. I can say I did this, and I never felt so rebellious waiting at a stoplight before.

This is what the album does so well in both forms: as a soundtrack about this seedy city that has its share of moments as it does heartbreaks and as a stand-alone album that is as interesting to listen to in your car down a dimly-lit road as it is through your headphones.

Just be weary next time you play the soundtrack in your car, as you might envision yourself wearing leather gloves and losing yourself in the music and the moment.

Radiate Reviews is a weekly music review column. Look for it every Wednesday this fall. 

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