Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Various Artists - River's Edge

Various Artists
River's Edge

Released 1987 on Enigma Records
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 28/12/2007ce

1. Lethal Tendencies by Hallows Eve (6:35)
2. Die by the Sword by Slayer (3:35)
3. Kyrie Eleison by Fates Warning (5:27)
4. Captor of Sin by Slayer (3:27)
5. Evil Has No Boundaries by Slayer (3:09)
6. Fire in the Rain by Agent Orange (3:19)
7. Tormenter by Slayer (3:44)
8. Let Me Know by Wipers (3:00)
9. Happy Day by Burning Spear (3:51)

The soundtrack to Tim Hunter's 1986 film River's Edge was released on Enigma Records and is one of those great soundtrack albums lost in deletion, sometimes popping up in second-hand places at a cheap price. Subtitled 'The Soundtrack Album to the Most Controversial Film of the Year,' the River's Edge soundtrack is something of a historical artefact. It might be one of the key records of the 1980s...or something.

River's Edge was a sort of companion to 1986's strange and wonderful Blue Velvet and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Tim Hunter's film the definitive Generation X movie and the place where you could forget about John Hughes kids. Based on actual events in 1981, it is the tale of a gang of nihilistic smalltown kids reared on punk and metal. The kids of Reagan, and the kids who said "Nevermind" like American Music Club & were "Unsatisfied" like The Replacements. One of the gang murders his girlfriend, for vague reasons, and shows her naked corpse to his friends, who pretty much do nothing (apart from touch base with a disturbed Dennis Hopper, still in a Frank Booth-place with his rubber doll companion). Starring the timless Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, Hopper, & Ione Skye River's Edge was dark Gen-X stuff that displayed the skewed nihilism of the 80s generation, taking its place alongside other films of the age: Hopper's Out of the Blue, Repo Man, both Decline of Western Civilisation documentaries (punk/hardcore and metal respectively), Permanent Record, Suburbia, and on to Heathers and Drugstore Cowboy and Twin Peaks (which Hunter and cinematographer Frederick Elmes worked on).

Both film and soundtrack also managed to tap into what was probably tagged Gen X or Grunge...what Nirvana were seen to epitomise was captured here. This is basically the kind of music that Layne (Glover) listens to as he drives around with his comic mullet saying stuff like "This is like some fuckin' movie...then one of us gets into potentially big trouble & now we've got to deal with it. We've got to test our loyalty against all odds. It's kind of ...exciting. I feel like...Chuck Norris, y'know? "

Metal largely dominates, with four early Slayer tracks, 1986's Lethal Tendencies by Hallow's Eve, & 1985's Kyrie Eleison by Fates Warning. It's post hardcore, post Sabbath, post skatepunk, post-post punk stuff...Strangely Californian punk act Agent Orange sound like Night Time-Killing Joke and this could have featured in a movie like Weird Science (as Eighties by Killing Joke did, kind of college rock level hit). The soundtrack released on Enigma Records was just a stock selection of stuff teens would listen to in the 80s, selected by California's Metal Blade Records...thinking of Bleach-Nirvana, Jane's Addiction, Melvins, the less psych elements of Meat Puppets, Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard, Tad, My War-Black Flag and othes, this all makes perfect sense, the world of Greg Sage's Wipers aligned with Slayer...metal riffs and some indie stuff. Let Me Know by Wipers advances on that great trio of albums collected in their box-set, though here Sage & co sound like the Cramps working over Over the Edge. The soundtrack concludes with the ironically used (in the film) Happy Day by Burning Spear - an unexpected dubby conclusion to the metal/alternative stuff.

River's Edge, 'the soundtrack album to the most controversial film of the year,' is a classic and seems to capture the roots of what to come. It makes you want to use the ze*tge*st word! It was later that I managed to listen to stuff I'd have considered metal without an in-built loathing gained by school people who listened to Iron Maiden and masturbated over Kerrang. This soundtrack is a key part of that and in some ways predicted the early 1990s, quite Unsung and forgotten, this deleted soundtrack LP was the record of its age...& the soundtrack to Hunter's hilarious black comedy. A classic cult movie and a key soundtrack with many a choice quote e.g. "Aw, fuck off Kevin - wasting pigs is radical man!!" One to scour the bargain bins for...

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