This Movie’s Soundtrack Is So Good, You’ll Never See It on DVD
The '90s were a golden age for movie soundtracks. There was the peak of rap-rock in Judgment Night, Quentin Tarantino's diverse tastes in Pulp Fiction, the soft alt-rock jams of Cruel Intentions — the list is endless. But one of the most overlooked (and best) soundtracks comes from an unlikely place: director Gregg Araki's 1997 sleeper hit Nowhere.
Nowhere is one of the decade's weirdest teen movies, following a bisexual boy named Dark (played by Araki regular James Duval) as he navigates an apocalyptic day of relationship trauma en route to one of the year's biggest parties. Various scenes visualize whatever happens to be going on inside the characters' brains, often coming off as if tornadoes of feelings have swept up entire rooms. It's one of Araki's most colorful movies — not only does the language sound alien, but there are a bevy of strange appearances by Rose McGowan, Ryan Phillippe, Heather Graham, Rachel True, Mena Suvari and many more that make the film seem like an acid trip through an issue of J-14.
While many other films from the era boasted hefty soundtracks, Nowhere arguably had the most impressive indie-centric lineup. Araki's taste infected every inch of the film, including the soundtrack. He had the foresight to recognize the staying power of shoegaze, and managed to wrangle some pretty crazy exclusive tracks from the likes of Catherine Wheel and Curve, as well as other bangers from Slowdive, Lush and more. Beyond the shoegaze front, the soundtrack not only featured a murderers' row of musicians from the time (Marilyn Manson, Radiohead, Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Hole), but the movie itself spotlighted other classics from Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Blur and Cocteau Twins.
The soundtrack did have one drawback — namely, you probably won't ever see it on a DVD. Being an indie movie that grossed under $200,000, a wide release would require rights to all the songs found in the movie, and just one band's rights would probably cost as much as the whole movie made. Nowhere is still kicking around, occasionally screening on IFC, and if you're into illegally downloading films (which CLRVYNT TOTALLY DOES NOT ADVOCATE DON'T SUE), you might find it on some torrent sites. Until then, you can enjoy the highlights of the Nowhere soundtrack below.
CATHERINE WHEEL, "INTRAVENOUS"
The crown jewel comes in this exclusive track from the much-overlooked Catherine Wheel. The band turned away from their usual shoegaze approach, veering into driving alt-rock territory. It's a song that makes you wish the band went whole hog on the genre so more people would get into their excellent back catalog.
SONIC YOUTH, "HENDRIX NECRO"
Araki picked one of Sonic Youth's lesser-known tracks to help bolster some of the more spacey songs on the album, creating a cool dichotomy and showing off the seminal four-piece's more aggressive side.
MARILYN MANSON, "KIDDIE GRINDER"
Marilyn Manson's most overlooked release is the Smells Like Children EP. Mostly for good reason, but the remix-heavy effort did have some jams, including this take on his Portrait of an American Family cut "Organ Grinder."
311, "FREAK OUT"
"Freak Out" is a track you probably wouldn't expect out of 311 if you were unfamiliar with their older work, but the song's grit works out well with the movie's obtuse angles.
RADIOHEAD, "HOW CAN YOU BE SURE?"
The "Fake Plastic Trees" B-side is one of the band's most underrated tracks, and a strange reminder of what they could accomplish with minimal instrumentation.
ELASTICA, "IN THE CITY"
Much like the band themselves, "In the City" is a pretty killer jam for its brief existence. The song also was an exclusive for the soundtrack, and later collected in a couple of compilations, but it's a quick-and-to-the-point, punky reminder of the variety of burners the soundtrack had.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS "LIFE IS SWEET (DAFT PUNK REMIX)"
Two electronic titans coming together on one track, both in their formative prime? Sounds good.
MASSIVE ATTACK, "DAYDREAMING"
It's pretty wild how far-reaching in genre this soundtrack is, also bringing one of the band's best singles to the forefront.
COCO AND THE BEAN, "KILLING TIME"
You'd be forgiven for not being familiar with Coco and the Bean, as they only put out one record and a variety of singles, but this is a trip-hop smash that's completely decadent.
Another killer song from the alt-shoegazers. The duo brought some of their meanest material to the soundtrack, flaunting a guitar tone that's totally to die for and a driving chorus that makes "Nowhere" an underrated favorite.
LUSH, "I HAVE THE MOON"
One of Lush's more delicate tracks, the song appears in a strange bedroom where our main character comes to terms with his discomfort in his relationship. The melancholy of the track fit the scene perfectly, supplying a breezy beauty.
The long-running trip-hop duo saw one of their tracks make the cut for the soundtrack: the bass-heavy, dissonant "Ceasefire" mix of "Flipping the Bird."
The soundtrack wasn't without some hits of the time. The London Suede's "Trash" adds some zest and pop; it's the perfect song for a strange, obtuse and fucked-up party.