Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

The Iron Law of sound tracks is "Buy the single." Fabricated from odd songs out and specially commissioned mood setters and mood suiters, with the occasional dance or background number thrown in, sound tracks inevitably lack the consistency that makes LPs playable and the inspiration that makes them worthy of attention. They're designed for consumers, not listeners; the marketing rogues love them for their cross-promotional clout: Radio lures nonfans into the theaters and box-office smashes do the same for record stores. Resist this con.

So you think Patti LaBelle outdoes herself on New Attitude? Me, too, and you know what? There's a remix of the Harold Faltermeyer sleeper "Axel F" on the B side of the 12-inch EP, so buy that. Add the four-version 12-inch of Shalamar's jumpy "Don't Get Stopped in Beverly Hills," report Glenn Frey to the proper authorities and scratch Beverly Hills Cop (MCA).

Vision Quest (Geffen): Even if you get off on Madonna's "Gambler," you poor horny thing, I'll bet you a popcorn with extra butter/oil that you can do without Dio's "Hungry for Heaven" and Red Rider's "Lunatic Fringe." Nona Hendryx' "I Sweat" is now tops on two albums (her own The Art of Defense (RCA) and the Perfect sound track (Arista).

The Breakfast Club (A&M)? Come on--it's got four instrumentals, and even Simple Minds disavowed that Simple Minds thing, which they didn't write. Ugh.

So how do I explain The Goonies (Epic)? Luck, partly, and partly the smartest dumb broad in rock 'n' roll, Cyndi Lauper, who served as music consultant on the Steven Spielberg kiddie pic so as not to disappear while her follow-up album percolated. With help from her old buddy Lennie Petze, Cyndi has put together your basic artistic whole. Only two tracks go against the poppish new-funk groove, and almost all the singing soars, with major contributions from falsetto kings Luther Vandross and Philip Bailey. And I'm pleased to report that Cyndi's theme song, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough," doesn't actually utilize the stupid word goonies.

For that matter, most of these terrific songs appear in the film only for barely audible snatches--a not-uncommon paradox of the current sound-track boom.

Playboy, Oct. 1985


Sept. 1985 Nov. 1985