Glam rock was all about style as substance, finding truth through image. Todd Haynes realized this, constructing Velvet Goldmine, his ode to glam, as a hallucinatory experience where the surface means as much, if not more, than the underlying meanings. Which means, of course, that Haynes' view of glam was based on the artier inclinations of David Bowie and the sinister cabaret and full-blown dementia of Brian Eno-era Roxy Music. Bowie refused to have any of his songs in Velvet Goldmine, possibly due to the anti-Bowie slant of the script, and the filmmakers squeezed their way out of a potentially fatal situation by hiring Shudder To Think and Grant Lee Buffalo to write Ziggy soundalikes. They work smashingly, as Shudder To Think's "Ballad of Mawell Demon" captures the sweeping ballad feeling of "All the Young Dudes," while Grant Lee Buffalo's "The Whole Shebang" is an uncanny recreation of Hunky Dory's skipping vaudevillian pop. Their contributions stand out on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, which is primarily devoted to songs from the era, either in their original incarnations or in newly minted covers. It's actually a risky move to stand Roxy Music's classic first single "Virginia Plain" next to a wealth of Roxy interpretations by the Venus in Furs, yet their recreations are stunning, enhanced by Thom Yorke's remarkable imitation of Bryan Ferry's vocals. Similarly, the Iggy Poptribute band, Wylde Ratttz do an admirable job with "TV Eye." The other covers don't fare as well, yet the other new songs are first-rate (particularly Pulp's stomping, horn-driven Slade extravaganza "We Are the Boys") and all the original recordings are terrific, highlighted by cult items as Eno's fantastic "Needle in the Camel's Eye," T. Rex's "Diamond Meadows" and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel's British hit "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)." The soundtrack, like the film itself, may be more of a collection of moments than a coherent experience, but those moments are pretty spectacular.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine