Stranger Things 4 – Soundtrack From The Netflix Series 2LP
I usually steer clear of soundtracks because I’m not the greatest fan of compilations in general. When I throw on a record, I usually want to hear an artist’s idea seen through from start to finish as well as all of the developments included along the way. I want to see an album grow and develop and see the things which inspired that album completed – and that’s not terribly simple to experience when the music on that album is really just assembled into a composite which is intended to support the presentation of another medium – or otherwise be a group of songs which are unrelated.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that soundtracks do appeal to some people – I’m just not usually one of them. There are exceptions to every rule though, and the 2LP collection of music released to support the fourth season of Netflix’s Stranger Things is one of them.
Why do I like this soundtrack? Honestly, this compilation takes me back to a place in the Eighties where, like many of the slasher/horror movies I watched, the sound splits the difference between the gloss and the grime in the medium; in the Eighties, the music industry was pretty shameless in its inclusion of cover versions of famous songs that they didn’t feel like paying artists for the rights to use, lots and lots of glam metal often produced by bands who would never be seen or heard from again appeared on the soundtracks and, once in a while, a few punk acts would fill out the runtime. Soundtracks like the one which was produced for The Return of The Living Dead were like that (the soundtrack featured songs by The Cramps, T.S.O.L., Roky Erickson, The Damned and 45 Grave), and the soundtrack for Stranger Things 4 is very much like that as well.
After the soundtrack gets started with a remix of “Separate Ways” by Journey (which I didn’t even realize was Journey, at first, to be honest) and a fairly static rendition of “California Dreamin’” (which was originally released in 1986 – fitting the time period for the TV series, but miles from the song’s original composition by the Mamas and the Papas), it falls into gear as well as into form with more excellent selections from Talking Heads (“Psycho Killer”), Kate Bush (“Running Up That Hill”) and Dead Or Alive (with their greatest single, “You Spin Me Round”). It’s a solid enough progression but, in this case, the limitations of the chosen medium for the soundtrack force action from listeners before they’re really able to settle in and enjoy it. The B-side plays in a very similar way (a disposable opener from Extreme that some listeners from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure followed by an edit from KISS and excellent cuts by The Cramps, Musical Youth and The Safaris – and then closed by something useless) and offers about the same number of rewards as it does frustrations – but LP2 proves to offer appreciation which is more enduring. There, after a solid run throughone of the greatest pop songs the Eighties ever produced (Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus”), listeners are treated to a great Sixties anthem (“Traveling Man” by Ricky Nelson), one of the greatest and most awful blockbuster cuts produced by The Eighties (“Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora) and then easily shown their way through the rest of the side by classic selections by Ella Fitzgerald, Rick Derringer and James Taylor. Really, that progression is the most rewarding one on the compilation; while the songs jump around stylistically in a way which would normally be frustrating for anyone who prefers a consistent movement through a record, the movement here makes sense and is generally smooth enough to be rewarding – from a tempo standpoint.
…While it may seem unlikely, the D-side of Stranger Things 4 actually does manage to sew the movement of the soundtrack up pretty well. The side opens with “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and The Banshees (which, when you hear it, actually sounds and plays a lot like the best, briefest Rush song you’ve never heard) – which feeds into Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” brilliantly because it elevates the tension implied by its predecessor as well as peaking – before Moby’s “When It’s Cold I’d Like To Die”helps to bring the energy right down to nothing before “Separate Ways” seeks to serve the Stranger Things television series, bring energy levels back up a little and thus imply that while the season is over, the series is not.
In truth, the dramatic leveling and then slight increase again before the needle lifts from the D-side of Stranger Things 4 is a great indicator of the discipline which was used to create the soundtrack for this set, and also makes really easy to make repeated trips through the running of this set. Sure – after the first play, the temptation may be to pick one’s way through in a very “drop and lift” sort of way, but the truth is that the running of Stranger Things 4 is really well-paced and puts the gold in just the right places along the way to make it really easy for listeners to just begin at the beginning and play through to the end with minimal interruptions. That’s an impressive to be able to make regarding a soundtrack, but it’s a very easy one to make here. [Bill Adams]
The Stranger Things 4 – Soundtrack From The Netflix Series 2LP is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.