5 out of 5
Label: Death Waltz
Produced by: Michael Perilstein
The good thing about living in a culture that’s obsessed with celebrating every facet of its tastes as the coolest or the best via any justifiable method – e.g. it’s so bad it’s good!, etc. – is that we do luck into real discoveries here and there, those gems that some smart person recognized at the time but that the rest of us would likely assume would never, say, come from the soundtrack of a Fred Olen Ray film.
The movie’s called Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers; Ray has directed many, many flicks with names like The Brain Leeches and Bikini Airways. You presumbaly can figure that this is B-movie exploitation fare, and you’d be absolutely correct. And if you have a chance to catch that classic, you’ll probably titter over the cheesy music. It’s not far from the standard 80s chintz you find in these things that signals that you are watching exactly the kind of movie you think you’re watching. But again: some smart person heard something more. Because isolated, Perilstein’s score is a ridiculously good time, and offers such compositional smarts that it seems weird to limit it to other flicks of the same quality on which Mr. Perilstein has worked. However, we can argue there’s artistry to B-movie camp as well, and regardless, the scene resulted in this talented dude and this awesome soundtrack, so that should be worth some Oscars.
The Death Waltz pressing is standard for them, meaning not stellar, but HCH’s jazzy / boppy cheese works well with that level of fidelity. The better news is that the B-side of material (though I’m not clear if it’s completely new to this edition or not) is just as worth the dosh as the A-side, with alternate takes of some tracks that are truly alternates and a surprisingly entertaining 8 minute track of sort of samples (“An Overture Of Various Delightful Thematic Material”) that toy with the film’s themes. And of course it goes without saying that the packaging is super cool.
The actual score is a blend of humorously upbeat schmaltz with Monster-a-Go-Go keys and occasional ska backbeats, Dreamscapey synthy washes, and jazzy keyboard tinkles. The opening theme – The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face – sets the pace, maneuvering its bop between creepier moments back to head-bobby ones, but Perilstein doesn’t always go for direct cheek, as (excusing the titles…) Whore Today, Gone Tomorrow and Sex Minutes To Death are both pretty powerful, the former a Lynchian lovey theme, the latter going more for a horror build-up. Hollywood and Bust starts jazzy, goes funky, gets boppy; Honkytonk Hooker Blues is just that – the freakin’ legitimate blues. And then, duh, Chainsaw Out Of Gas is like a riff on Hunt the Wumpus and it’s glorious.
So, no, I’m not rewriting the vibe of the movie based on the score – HCH is absolutely supported by the chintzy vibe of this LP – but Perilstein’s genius in wrangling what could’ve been a limited musical concept into a full record of rewarding tracks cannot be denied. It’s catchy as hell; it’s fun; it actually gets, y’know, sorta’ deep at points. My taste is the coolest and the best!