Much has been written about Quentin Tarantino when it comes to his films. With 20 years in the business, it is clear that Tarantino has always been a film fan himself. He ably reveals in the role of the Willy Wonka of Cinema, delving greedily into different eras and styles to put together a “pic and mix” of cinematic goodness which leaves most viewers treated in some shape or form. The same can be said of the soundtracks that accompany his movies; they splice together tracks from different artists, styles and even other movies to accompany the delights on-screen.
The Soundtrack to “Kill Bill Vol. 1” contains perhaps the most diverse array of music of any Tarantino Soundtrack and is the reason for its inclusion on Soundtrack Sunday. We are treated to Japanese Surf Punk, Mexican Flamenco, 70’s Funk and Soul and the Southern twang of Country. Yet surprisingly for a Quentin production there is no Ennio Morricone here. Much has been made of the use of Morricone in Tarantino’s movies and even more of the reported spat and fall out between the two after “Django Unchained”; however, “Kill Bill Vol. 1” certainly does not suffer for the lack of it.
Just like the film, the soundtrack opens to the gentle words of Nancy Sinatra, “Bang Bang – My Baby Shot Me Down” perhaps the perfect track for the tale of The Bride and her revenge on a certain Bill. Sinatra’s music has graced many films, yet the echoing twang of a slightly distorted guitar gives something timeless here. The pace switches instantly with the western swagger of the Charlie Feathers on “That Certain Female” and instantly the toes start to tap.
Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of this Soundtrack is that you are never quite sure where you are going to be taken next, yet you know that everything that appears has been meticulously picked. Seminal soundtrack composers such as Luis Bacalov, Charles Bernstein and Bernard Herrmann are used but they are accompanied with tracks that you’d find on an early 70’s Blaxploitation film or an episode of Shaft. So we shift from the frenetic trumpets of “Green Hornet” by Al Hirt delivering urgency and pace, to the soft and slow ear worm whistle of “Twisted Nerve” by the afore-mentioned Bernard Herrmann.
Yet all of this is to be expected given that Kill Bill is, after all, a spaghetti western tale of revenge draped in the kung fu styling’s of Bruce Lee. This is perhaps why the clash between west and east are the strongest elements of this Soundtrack. Santa Esmeralda’s 10 minute epic “Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood” is an absolute gem capturing the duelling guitars and stamping feet of a pair of matadors yet used on film to signify the clash of two samurai sword wielding women. Then we have the eastern sounds. The beautiful Japanese lilt of Meiko Kaji set to the violins you’d expect in the closing credits of a western and of course the event that is “The 5,6,7,8’s” surf Americana.
Yet it’s not all roses. The brooding oriental feel of “Ode to Oren Ishii” is ruined by the lisping blunder that is The RZA. Equally misplaced are the series of music shorts included at the end of the album which resolve with a couple of pointless sound effects taken directly from the film.
However, the album remains a rich tapestry of world music and cinema classics. This diversity is best showcased in the power and force that is “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”. Surely the greatest piece of music to hype yourself up to? While finally the album is concluded with the piercing oriental flute of Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd” set to the melancholy guitars and soaring trumpets of the American Mid-West.