Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That's the Attack the Block score that you're hearing on A Fistful of Soundtracks, bruv, believe it

Brother's gonna give this gorilla wolf motherfucker the teeth brushing to end all teeth brushings.
(Photo source: Alex Pardee)
Back in March, I said, "Add The Chemical Brothers' richly written and often dance floor-friendly original score from the teenage assassin thriller Hanna to the list of awesome scores by electronica or rock musicians who never scored for film before." It's time to add another one.

Set in a rough South London neighborhood attacked by "gorilla wolf muthafuckas" from outer space, the British cult favorite Attack the Block is the best popcorn movie this summer. Beleedat. (Most American moviegoers still haven't heard of Attack the Block, but Screen Gems has been hoping to change that by expanding Attack the Block's release to six more cities last week.) One of the movie's most enjoyable elements is the original score, the first ever written by the British dance act Basement Jaxx, whose tunes have often popped up in advertising (my first exposure to Basement Jaxx was an early '00s Coke ad that featured a group of svelte campfire partiers and an isolated and not-as-svelte nerd dancing in the woods to the catchy "Red Alert," while "Do Your Thing" was all over Disney's ads for Ratatouille).

Basement Jaxx (a.k.a. Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe) co-composed the score with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World music editor Steven Price, and their score accomplishes well what it set out to do, which, according to Attack the Block writer/director Joe Cornish in the score album's liner notes, was "to do the things that film scores used to do. To be as exciting and escapist as a John Williams adventure, and as gritty and percussive as the great John Carpenter's electronic scores."

Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 theme is so beloved by beatmakers that its influence can be felt in many of their instrumentals, including Buxton, Ratcliffe and Price's cues in Attack the Block. Starting this week, my favorite Attack the Block cues attack three blocks on A Fistful of Soundtracks: "Assorted Fistful," "New Cue Revue" and "The Street." One of these selections that I've added to rotation is the bagpipes-filled, dubstep-style cue "The Ends."

Attack the Block is inventive sci-fi with a youth of color as the lead for a change, as well as an inspired critique of the demonization of the working class in the U.K. A one-time mugging victim who wanted to better understand his muggers and their lives instead of being resentful and fearful of them, Cornish takes working-class kids like Moses (John Boyega) and the bespectacled and brainy Jerome (Leeon Jones) (their mugging of Jodie Whittaker's nurse/neighbor character Sam at the start of the film was based on the incident Cornish experienced) and fleshes out those characters to prove the irrationality of demonizing the underclass.

"At the beginning of the film these kids are masked, they're hooded, you don't know how old they are, you have no sense of their humanity or identity and indeed, with their language, you're confused, you're alienated from them," said Cornish to RopeofSilicon. "Then the purpose of the story is to strip away all those barriers and to make you understand they're human beings. Not perfectly good, squeaky clean human beings, flawed human beings like all of us."

On Twitter, I've seen people say they refuse to give Attack the Block the time of day because its ads' imagery of South London "hoodies" violently defending their council estate from alien invaders either reminds them too much of the U.K. riots (which erupted a few weeks after the movie hit American theaters) or appears to condone those riots. They're inanely passing judgment on a movie they haven't seen. Attack the Block is hardly as one-dimensional as they think. It's a story about the consequences of thuggish behavior, whether it's the hoodies' mugging of Sam and Moses' killing of the alien at the start of the film or the looting that went down in the U.K. riots.

"People really suggested the riots in my home town were linked to the movie? Unbelievable," tweeted BBC journalist Ben Fell to an Attack the Block fan after he saw Twitterers denounce the movie before watching it.

To borrow the title and chorus of one of Basement Jaxx's biggest hits, I'd like to say to the haters, "Where's your head at?!"

Related links:
"Too Much Madness to Explain in One Text: On the U.K. Riots and Attack the Block" [The Playlist]
"'We're Not All Vile Thugs'" (an Attack the Block cast member blasts both the looters and the London police) [Daily Star]
"Rap responds to the riots: 'They have to take us seriously'" [Guardian]

In Attack the Block, the white preteen hoodie named Pest tells Sam, the film's nurse heroine, that she's 'fit.' That's U.K. slang for 'Take my virginity now.'
(Photo source: RopeofSilicon)

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