LAWLESS Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Review

Soundtracks can be a risky proposition.  Play your cards right and you get Less Than Zero or Natural Born Killers.  Misfire and you could end up with Spider-Man.  So how do you navigate the minefield of horseshit and diamonds?  Here’s how:

  • If the Powers-That-Be use the words ‘blockbuster’, ‘sequel’, or ‘Michael Cera’, you have my permission to shoot them.  Tell them I sent you:   “Michael Franklin sends his regards”.  Then kill them.
  • For God’s sake, don’t get Blake Shelton to record a song for your movie.  America has suffered enough.
  • Hire John Hillcoat to direct and Nick Cave to write the screenplay.  Even if your film stars Katherine Heigl and centers around babysitting disasters, you should attempt to hire them.  They probably won’t take the job, but you can say you tried.  Billboard will breathlessly cover it, so…you know, mission accomplished.  Image is everything.  Reality is scripted.  This is Hollywood.  BOW DOWN.
  • Assuming you have a stellar screenplay (don’t laugh), cast (I said don’t laugh), and director (STOP LAUGHING), get Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to score and/or arrange a soundtrack to die for.  It’s the only kind of soundtrack they do.  They are incapable of anything else.  I hate them both for forcing me to buy everything they’ve ever done, damn them.


So what hath Nick Cave and Warren Ellis wrought?  May I present to you, blind pig, your acorn:

1. Fire And Brimstone – The Bootleggers featuring Mark Lanegan
2. Burnin’ Hell – The Bootleggers featuring Nick Cave
3. Sure ‘Nuff Yes I Do – Ralph Stanley
4. Fire In The Blood – The Bootleggers featuring Emmylou Harris
5. White Light / White Heat – The Bootleggers featuring Mark Lanegan
6. Cosmonaut – The Bootleggers featuring Emmylou Harris
7. Fire In The Blood / Snake Song – Nick Cave / Warren Ellis / Emmylou Harris / Ralph Stanley
8. Aim Towards The Sky – The Bootleggers featuring Liela Moss and Emmylou Harris
9. Fire In The Blood – The Bootleggers featuring Emmylou Harris
10. Fire And Brimstone – Ralph Stanley
11. Sure ‘Nuff Yes I Do – The Bootleggers featuring Mark Lanegan
12. White Light / White Heat – Ralph Stanley
13. End Crawl – Nick Cave / Warren Ellis
14.  Midnight Run – Willie Nelson

My friends, therein lies an unparalleled collection of outlaws, misfits, and ne’er-do-wells.  I get an ear boner just looking at it.  The only thing missing is GG Allin doing ‘If We Never Meet Again (This Side Of Heaven)’.

So gather ‘round, children.  This is how soundtracks should be done:   Dr. Ralph Stanley does Captain Beefheart and Velvet Underground songs like he just delivered them fresh from Mount Sinai.  Mark Lanegan (both God and Satan’s favorite singer) stomps and drags his bloody knuckles through the very same songs.   Emmylou Harris opens her mouth and immediately makes the rest of the human race sound like howling dogs.  (Memo to God:  putting that much talent in one body is just greedy.  Seriously, spread that shit out.)  Nick Cave himself throws his cryptic swagger all over John Lee Hooker’s ‘Burnin’ Hell’.   The whole thing reeks of brimstone and bootleg liquor.  It’s just beautiful.

So how do you top off such a masterpiece?  Well, you let Warren Ellis play a truly gorgeous fiddle solo (‘End Crawl’), then tack on a previously unreleased Willie Nelson song (‘Midnight Run’) that could shame most musicians into giving up.  The kind of performance that makes you throw up your hands and bemoan the fate of your wasted life.  True to fashion, Cave and Ellis had the good sense to put Willie at the end.  No one could top it anyway, so why try?  When Willie speaks, the Words Have Been Spoken.  Sincerely, the Buddha of West Texas. You Are Dismissed.

I haven’t even seen Lawless yet.  I’m not sure I have to.  Most soundtracks lean on the movie for life support.  Without the cinematic context, they sink like a dead body weighted down with concrete blocks.  This one lives and breathes on its own, no respirator required.  It doesn’t even need a film.  It just happens to have one written by the red right hand of Nick Cave.

But I’m pretty sure there’s a greasy movie executive somewhere in L.A. wondering why they didn’t get the guy who wrote Mission Impossible III:   “HEADS WILL ROLL. ”  They could have gotten Hoobastank to do the theme song.  Where are the gritty urban stylings of  Polluting the cinematic atmosphere with the likes of The Proposition and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford wasn’t good enough.   No, they had to add insult to injury by releasing yet another heinous collection of breathtaking artistry.  IS THERE NO END TO THIS DISRESPECTFUL BEAUTY?  How is Hollywood supposed to survive with this level of talent and artistic genius?   At least it won’t be my fault if it gets an Oscar.   Amateurs.  KNEEL BEFORE ME.  I AM KING SHIT OF FUCK MOUNTAIN.  BRING ME MY HASENPFEFFER.”

As for me, I’m just glad Nick Cave and Warren Ellis keep poking the bloated carcass of Hollywood.  Ah, the smell of sulfur and the sound of squealing pigs.

Trust me on this:  Lawless is the best record you’ll hear this year.  It’s the music Jesus Himself listens to on Sunday mornings.

~Michael Franklin

Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.

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