Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm Shipping Up to Boston

Various Artists,
The Departed,
Warner Brothers
[original soundtrack]

When punk group Dropkick Murphys composed music for Woody's lyric "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" for their 2005 al-
bum The Warrior's Code, they had no idea it would end up be-
ing featured in Martin Scorsese's...The Departed, featuring
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, and Mark Wahlberg.
-- From the
official Woody Guthrie website

I picked up this collection because I like the music, which works well with Scorsese's expressionistic visuals (though Lennon's "Well, Well, Well" is conspicuous by its absence). I don't buy ev-

ery soundtrack I like, though, so there's more to it that. Most of these songs are by artists I wouldn't want to listen to over the course of an album, so instead I get to enjoy them in small doses.

I'm referring to latter-period Beach Boys ("Sail On, Sailor"), Roy Buchanan ("Sweet Dreams"), the Allman Brothers ("One Way Out"), the Human Beinz ("Nobody But Me"), LaVern Baker ("Tweedle Dee"), and Dropkick Murphys ("I'm Shipping Up to Boston").

That said, I do own long-players by Van Morrison ("Comfortab-

ly Numb" with Roger Waters and the Band), the Rolling Stones ("Let It Loose"), and Badfinger ("Baby Blue"). I don't own any by Patsy Cline ("Sweet Dreams of You"), although I probably should (she's one of my mom's favorites). That leaves two pleasant, but innocuous instrumentals from composer Howard Shore, "Beacon Hill" and "The Departed Tango," featuring Marc Ribot on dobro.

There are some soundtracks that are essential, i.e. they're so

good that the movie becomes superfluous. Examples include
[the first] Casino Royale (Burt Bacharach with Dusty Springfield) and The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff, et al). I like those pictures, yet I bet plenty of people who own The Harder They Come have never seen the film. No matter. If you're looking for one of the best reggae compilations ever made, look no further.

The Departed doesn't fall into that category. You may like the music anyway, but I bet you'll like it even better after seeing the film—assuming you like it. Scorsese's inventive Irish-American take on 2002's great Tony Leung-Andy Lau original [right] is one of my favorites of the year,

and I've always liked the way he uses music in his movies. I also own Taxi Driver (for Bernard Herrmann's final haunting score)
and Goodfellas (for the combination of rock, blues, and soul).

Arguably, the Celtic hardcore of Dropkick Murphys makes
for an awkward fit with the album-oriented rock that predominates, but their boisterous track, a repeated motif in the film, is the highlight. The song is also expertly deployed in the trailer (as is "Comfortably Numb"). It's partly why I had to have this disc—although a little Murphys goes a long way. As with Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto, listening to The Departed is like tuning in-
to the director's conception of the ideal Irish radio station.

Dropkick Murphys - "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"

“We've heard our songs in movies before, so I didn't think I'd

be that excited. But, I got to tell ya, sitting in the audience at
the Boston premiere, when you hear your song in that movie...
it's pretty cool.” -- Ken Casey, Dropkick Murphys

Endnote: The Departed's companion release consists of
the original score. Casey interview from INsite Atlanta, which notes, "As a result of increased exposure for 'I'm Shipping Up To Boston,' sales for The Warrior's Code and the band's entire Hellcat Rec-
ords back catalog tripled when the movie came out in October."

Video from YouTube, Infernal Affairs and The Departed

stills from OutNow. As much as I love the latter, note that
Leung and Lau cut more iconic figures than DiCaprio and Dam-
on, i.e the dark hair, dark outfits, and more "artistic" framing.


Paul Martin said...

Taxi Driver is my partner's favourite film and one of my three Scorsese favourites (the others being Raging Bull and Bringing Out The Dead). I found The Departed disappointing, though better than Scorsese's two previous outings. Though the choice of music was nice in The Departed, I found it somewhat contrived (ie, designed to sell soundtrack CDs).

kathy fennessy said...

I agree that many soundtracks these days are designed to sell CDs, but "The Departed" is a slight exception. The best way to sell CDs these days is to skew young. For the most part, Scorsese has done the opposite. The bulk of these tracks aren't gonna interest the average twentysomething. I'll name a few examples. Roy Buchanan: A cult artist who never really "broke" in the US. The Allman Brothers Band: Sure, they have an enduring following, but they've never been considered "hip" or "cool." Etc., etc. Where's the hip-hop, where's the modern pop? This is the kind of soundtrack my dad would enjoy. Not a bad thing, really, but appealing to the boomers isn't the best way to "shift units" in the 2000s. Alas, I worked in radio & retail for almost 20 years. I try not to pay too much attention to sales charts, but it's a good idea for music writers to take a peek on occasion. That said, I think the movie is top-loaded with rock tunes. Only in the last act does Scorsese lay off the mixtape approach. "The Departed" is as over-crowded with music as "Casino." Despite its faults, I love the film, but also believe there's such a thing as overkill. The soundtrack for "Inland Empire," on the other hand is, for my money, sheer perfection. Would that I liked the movie as much.

kathy fennessy said...

Boy, do I like the phrase "these days"...

Paul Martin said...

Well, Inland Empire doesn't release in Australia until mid-year (no confirmed date yet) but am very keen to see it as Lynch is my favourite director. As you're no doubt aware, Lynch is very hands on with music and sound on his films. I consider Lost Highway one of the top ten soundtracks. I accept what you posted previously, though, that it works well with the film (and it's not necessarily music I would listen to otherwise).

Back to the subject of your post, the music may not have been specifically selected for CD sales, but I still felt it was overly self-conscious - a bit contrived.

Paul Martin said...

As far as crowded, I counted approximately 42 tracks in the credits of Happy Feet!

kathy fennessy said...

We'll have to agree to disagree. I felt the music worked for the story Scorsese was trying to tell. In real life, of course, it's not the kind of music these guys would probably listen to, but that's another story...