Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?
And so starts the funniest, most gruesome and heart pounding cinematic heroin adventure of all time, Trainspotting.
Released in the United States 20 years ago today, I watched Trainspotting earlier this summer for an upcoming episode of Sloshed Cinema. At two decades old, the film still has a lot of guts and the signature take-no-prisoners style of 90’s independent filmmaking so sadly missing from movies of today. There are stylistic choices and plotting that read a tad dated in 2016 but make no mistake about it: Trainspotting captures the delusion of drug addiction while putting it on the run in crime caper-style movie which cements it as a classic. One of the things Trainspotting does so well that is definitely so 90’s is have an incredible soundtrack. So incredible is the Trainspotting soundtrack that it even it came on two CDs. Films like Romeo and Juliet, Stealing Beauty, Pulp Fiction, Singles, Reality Bites, Empire Records, Great Expectations all had these mind-blowing, very of the moment soundtracks that were often better than the movies themselves. And Trainspotting has the perfect soundtrack for the decade and for a film hell-bent on taking the audience on a terrifying hilarious ride.
From the opening montage to the closing credits and in dialogue throughout the movie, Iggy Pop and his iconic song are now synonymous with Trainspotting. It played in the trailers. The characters talk about seeing him concert. Pop himself is one of the more famous junkies on Earth. And “Lust for Life”, although it was released some 20 years earlier, perfectly sets up the tempo and action for everything Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie will do for the next 90 minutes.
New Order was a massive part of my growing up gay, terminally unique and addicted so it fits in the Trainspotting world like a glove. An underrated track stateside, “Temptation” has killer songwriting which captures the isolation and independence of the film’s lead Renton. “Temptation” is so spot on for Trainspotting that the character Diana even quotes it in a really trippy sequence. Another song called “Temptation”, by Heaven 17 also shows up in the film.
There are final hits and then there are final hits, Renton informs us. So fittingly, electronic duo Leftfield came up with a track for the film entitled “Final Hit” which illustrates the style of music dominating the times while helping to tell the film’s heroincentric story.
So much of the music of Trainspotting works overtime to create the mood of the movie. This song by Blur does that nicely, with its pounding piano and haunting vocals. The same goes for the songs by Lou Reed, Elastica, Fun Boy Three and the below song from Primal Scream.
By the time, you get to the end of Trainspotting you’re nearly out of breath. Director Danny Boyle did such a bang up job of catapulting us from heists to overdoses back to heists again that by the time we reach the last scene, featuring this excellent Underworld track, we feel like we’ve just stepped off a thrill ride. As an electronic music listener and drug doer myself(albeit not heroin, thank goddess) this song still gives me goosebumps. My 43-year-old self sat on the edge of my couch while it played right before the final credits rolled. That’s sign of a film that held up well and a soundtrack really kicking ass. While putting this together, there were so many songs that were post-worthy but I found myself out of breath, once again. Did I miss your favorite? Post it in the comments section below. And choose Sloshed Cinema for your next podcast listen and of course, choose life.