The relationship between films and their soundtracks has always been one of polar extremes. Often, a film with a bloated budget brings in an aging rocker to do a song or two, attempting to garner at least one Oscar, and recouping a bit of revenue on the soundtrack. Occasionally though, a soundtrack actually manages to outshine the film. Like Superfly before it, 1984’s Repo Man had a soundtrack for its generation, between the last gasp of old order punk and the emergence of hardcore. Though it’s nearly thirty years old, Repo Man is in many ways more relevant now than it was when it was made. In that spirit, A Tribute To Repo Man brings together a cast of artists who grew up listening to, and continued to create, music influenced by the original album.
Though it starts with a lackluster cover of the title track by Those Darlins, A Tribute To Repo Man features fresh takes on nearly all the original songs. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra’s cover of “Institutionalized” starts as what appears to be a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Patti Smith, before it crescendos into a furious frenzy of vocals, reverb, and feedback that viscerally recreates the song’s titular insanity. While there are regrettable moments, like Black Francis bleating his way through “El Clavo Y La Cruz,” they only serve to make the great moments, like the Tellers’ version of Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso,” shine that much stronger. At the end of it all, after Moses Coltrane serves up an evil sounding version of “Bad Man,” Weekend’s oppressive yet ambient take on the Pugz’s “Reel Ten” gives us a soundscape with all the vast weirdness of a fever dream.
With both this release and the renewed relevance of the original film, it certainly begs the question as to whether or not Repo Man might be due for a remake. If this tribute album is meant to presage that, then I’ll be interested to see how the new score informs a modern look at the old film. If not, then it’s certainly a fitting tribute to an album that was a strong indicator of the future of punk.