In Soundtracks Of Our Lives, The A.V. Club looks at the dying art of the movie companion album, those “various artists” compilations made to complement films on screen but that often end up taking on lives of their own.
In 1986, on any given week, you could likely find me at this juice bar called Medusa’s, located on Sheffield Avenue in Chicago, where DJ Bud Sweet introduced patrons to bands like Bronski Beat and Tones On Tail. Hearing a song from that era sends me back to that dance floor in a heartbeat. As far as soundtracks go, Grosse Pointe Blank is practically a time machine to my own adolescence.
John Cusack set a high bar for soundtrack selection (and music snobbery) with 2000’s High Fidelity, which has already been carefully deconstructed in this space. But he had a test run in 1997, when he took his first turn as producer on the hit-man comedy Grosse Pointe Blank, alongside his frequent collaborators—and high school friends—Steve Pink and D.V. DeVincentis. Although that trio hand-picked all of High Fidelity’s music themselves, drawing on years of scouring the bins of Chicago record stores, on Grosse Pointe Blank they had the guiding hand of music supervisor Kathy Nelson, who started out selecting songs for the 1984 punk classic Repo Man and has conjured hundreds of soundtracks since. Still, the influence of Cusack and his pals is felt throughout—particularly given how much Clash there is.
Even if you know very little about John Cusack, you probably know he’s a Clash fan. In Say Anything…, Lloyd Dobler famously wears a Clash shirt; here, a Clash poster turns up in a character’s bedroom. And of course, The Clash is all over Grosse Pointe’s soundtrack—including a score composed by Joe Strummer, whose distinctly angular guitar adds punch to the executions carried out by Cusack’s hired killer, Martin Q. Blank. For middle-class Midwestern kids like Cusack and myself, The Clash was our gateway to…