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Essential Listening: Trainspotting Soundtrack

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Published by The Strathclyde Telegraph.

While the majority of motion picture soundtracks are too often composed of mere instrumentals and album fillers used to bridge the gaps and silences in a film, the Trainspotting soundtrack, however, is a sequence of landmarks in time through the music scene and tracks the trends and sub-cultures of the late 1980s to mid-1990s. The soundtrack’s evolution also signifies the developing character of Mark Renton and his journey through addiction with his group of friends in Edinburgh. From the synth-pop, New Romantics, and rock of the ‘80s, to the grunge, Britpop, and dance eruption of the 90s, the Trainspotting soundtrack is a cherry-picked collective of anthemic tracks that disorientate, unnerve, thrill, and electrify the viewer.

As the iconic opening sequence bursts onto the screen with Renton and Spud chased down Princes Street, the punchy beat of ‘Lust for Life’ by Iggy Pop bounces, matching the pace of the heroin addicts’ Converse trainers springing on and off the pavement with seemingly superhuman speed. The use of ‘Lust for Life’ in the opening seconds of Trainspotting immediately lets the viewer know that this isn’t going to be a warm, fuzzy, or relaxing film to watch, but that it is a film which is going to grip, shock, entertain and disturb them; essentially, it is a film that isn’t going to give you a minute’s peace.

 

The next track provides another telling detail of Trainspotting: it is a pretty trippy film. As Renton enters ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’ for a scene that makes just about everyone dry heave, a seemingly surprising choice of song is used: ‘Suite No. 2’ from the opera ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet. Throwing a beautiful piece of classical music in with a hallucinogenic underwater toilet sequence amongst an otherwise punk dominated soundtrack, at first, seems a little disorientating. But this choice of track, which builds to a theatrical crescendo, only adds to the indie, black humour and kitschy irony of Trainspotting as Renton finally finds those precious lost suppositories.

Other classic hits are included such as ‘Temptation’ by Heaven 17, featuring during the club scene, which hypnotically melds into ‘Atomic’ by Sleeper, as Renton spots Diane for the first time and falls in love, to ‘Sing’ by Blur and ‘Perfect Day’ by Lou Reed. Whilst these all flawlessly set the tone for the film’s gritty first act, the soundtrack – much like Renton’s character – has a turning point. As Renton realises he had to ‘find something new’, ‘Think About the Way’ by Ice MC signifies Renton’s move to the Big Smoke with a fast-paced montage of buzzing 1996 London; this illustrates Renton’s fresh start as well as the changing nature of Britain and the move from the depraved, Thatcherite ‘80s to the new Labour of the ‘90s.

Saving, perhaps, the best for last is ‘Born Slippy’ by Underworld, the sound that arguably defines Trainspotting. Accompanied by Renton’s closing monologue about really ‘choosing life’ this time, the euphoric techno anthem provides the perfect drug-infused final hit for an astounding soundtrack that will pound in your ears for days afterwards.

What do you think of the Trainspotting soundtrack? Are you looking forward to the sequal? Let me know in the comment section below.

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