Toward the end of Brad Pitt’s latest movie, World War Z, his character Gerry Lane smashes in the head of a zombie and the crowbar becomes stuck. Another zombie attacks and Pitt’s Lane jerks it out of the zombie’s skull just in time to kill the second one. With excellent editing, the fact that I didn’t actually see the gore and violence made me realize why I was enjoying the film. It’s what WWZ doesn’t show you that makes it a good watch. As per my usual music-obsessed mind, I started thinking about a soundtrack. The new Pitt flick would have been even better with a soundtrack of early 1980s genres because of what they represented, a different way to make music and tell stories. As Gerry Lane finishes off those zombies, hearing Talking Heads Psycho Killer or The Fixx’s Saved by Zero or even Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf would have been cool.
I read Max Brook’s genre redefining book, World War Z in early 2007. It comes off like a gory, intense, chilling United Nations report on the zombie apocalypse highlighting American isolationism, ingenious World Health Organization doctors, and undying spirit of human beings battling being taken over by the undead. World War Z the movie is nothing like the book, but it’s well done and changes the zombie game and creates a more realistic (yes, I typed that word) approach to what could happen in a pandemic. There are very sly political touches in the film. There are slight nods to American arrogance, Israeli ingenuity and hero making of global government agencies, the U.N. and WHO.
The first part of the movie shows retired U.N. hot spot hot shot, Gerry Lane (Pitt), with his family of a wife and two daughters. I related to that. When the zombie crap hits the fan, he’s blackmailed into helping the martial law government of the United States. The movie turns into a globe trotting action movie, and it’s a good one. By the time Gerry Lane figures out the zombies’ weakness, you’re invested in his conflicted anti-hero and understand why, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together, despite what our accents or politics are.
For my friend, Jen aka http://www.jenkehl.com ‘s Twisted Tuesday Mixtape, The 1980s, part 1, I went to a playlist of pre 1984 (I’ll explain why in part 2, next week) post punk, new wave, and Britpop.
Go see World War Z. I did a 10:35 am matinee, no popcorn, no drink, and didn’t look at my phone once. That says a lot. This is Pitt’s best film since the club we can’t talk about but reps the front page of this blog. His weird oral fixation that appears in almost all of his movies only makes an appearance at the very end, where he drinks a Welsh cola.
1) London Calling – The Clash. Technically, London doesn’t appear in World War Z and this song was released in December 1979. But the majority of it’s worldwide chart run happened in January and February of 1980. The bass line and guitar riff are amazing and often copied. When Joe Strummer’s squall comes forth, you know this is their double album’s awesome title track, and you’re hearing something new, important, and lasting. The unforgettable line: “to the zombies of death quit holding out and draw another breath” applies to the playlist theme and Cardiff, Wales, which hosts the final act of the film is close enough. This is my favorite song from my favorite band. Play it loud.
2) Message of Love – The Pretenders. I asked for help with this one. Brass in Pocket was really a 1979 tune, and Back on the Chain Gang, while superior lyrically and gorgeously produced just doesn’t fit. Message of Love is sardonic, ironic, and it rocks. The guitar licks are so representative of where rock was in 1981. Plus, it’s the greatest rock chick of all-time, Chrissie Hynde, becoming famous and appreciated after failing to catch on the 1970s through a series of FIFTEEN bands, including an early incarnation of The Sex Pistols. Also, the early MTV logo at the start of this video is major.
3) Never Say Never – Romeo Void. If you aren’t a Patti Smith fan because you’re either deaf, dumb or emotionally blind, then you won’t understand why this pick is important and fits the theme. Music industry zombies killed Romeo Void and lead singer Debora Iyall’s career. Watch the video. Like Patti Smith (who never sold records or became “famous”, either), Debora Iyall didn’t look or care to look, like a star. But she could write and sing her non-traditional rock star ass, off. The memorable lyric “I might like you better if we slept together” is ironic. Listen to the song like, maybe, fifty times, and you’ll understand why. This is a terrific song that influenced guitar players and female artists for years to come.
4) Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran. Cheesy? check. Video based band more than music based? check. More pop than rock? check. But it’s a really well done Britpop song that belongs on any playlist. The opening set of lyrics fit a couple of early WWZ scenes, especially when the Lane family are on the run for a helicopter while zombies catch up to them. This is at the top of my guilty pleasure list for all the right reasons…I may even be panting as I type this.
5) Saved By Zero – The Fixx. This band and album the song comes from, Reach The Beach, should be legendary enough to be Rock n Roll Hall of Fame worthy. I can’t tell you why this song fits WWZ, because then it gives away stuff. But it works. The song meaning is also similar to the movie’s theme about small things becoming big things and we should always be paying attention. If you have Fixx records, especially Reach The Beach, then you own some of the best Britpop and new wave songs done in the early 1980s.