The ‘Matrix’ Soundtrack Got Me Into Music
For a 7-year-old, could there be any '90s movie cooler than The Matrix? It's stuck with me my entire life, as the deeper meanings the Wachowskis imbued into the film became more evident the older I got. But it's also the perfect kids movie. You've got a shitload of action, fighting that made me realize how wack Power Rangers were, guns firing everywhere, computers and technology run amok, the roots of disillusionment. It lit up every sense my 7-year-old brain had.
The first time I saw The Matrix was when my mom rented a VHS copy at our local Hollywood Video. At that age, I was deathly afraid of being by myself in my room, so I hopped into bed with her. She'd watch movies late at night, and when she played The Matrix, I woke up mid-Neo / Morpheus fight to witness the greatest last half of a movie I'd ever seen. Guns were being fired wildly, there were more explosions than I thought possible and Keanu Reeves looked like the coolest motherfucker that ever breathed. I cheered when Morpheus woke up from Agent Smith's conditioning, got totally freaked out by the sentinels and was completely hooked.
The next day, she let me watch the whole thing, figuring it would be OK since I saw most of the violence the night before, and sex was pretty much totally absent from the movie (of course, the first sex scene I'd see in a movie would be in Reloaded). Aside from all the gunplay and action, what caught my attention the most in this viewing was all the music. Before the movie even began, the VHS copy had a trailer for the soundtrack, which was a near-holy experience for my young ears. The metallic edge of Marilyn Manson's "Rock Is Dead" led to the deep, demonic voice of Rob Zombie on "Dragula." But what would implant itself most firmly in my ears was Deftones' "My Own Summer (Shove It)," which would cause me to rewind the tape over and over to hear its cool aggression and power. Combined with "Dragula"'s prominent presence later in the movie and Rage Against the Machine's poignant end cap, my brain had no idea that music could do that. After much begging, my mom relented and got me a copy of the soundtrack on CD, and I played it to death for years afterwards.
Which is why I'm beyond excited that Real Gone Music is re-releasing the entire Matrix soundtrack on vinyl for the first time. It's going to be pressed on a double LP set, in "Red and "Blue Pill" colorways. Very rarely do I get excited about soundtrack pressings on vinyl, but this is going to be something super close to me and my childhood. Until then, here's the soundtrack in all its glory.
MARILYN MANSON, "ROCK IS DEAD"
Years later, in middle school and beyond, I would get into Manson's entire discography, and this is probably the best entry point to the rest of his music. It's that perfect line straddling hard rock and total pop, with lyrics like "God is in the TV" sprinkled in that I totally didn't understand at the time.
It's kind of nuts how this track has become a part of the public consciousness when it comes to soundtracks. All of the weirdo samples and the melody break in the middle give it a lot of variation (memefied bassline notwithstanding). Still a stellar bit of music.
MINISTRY, "BAD BLOOD"
For a kid, this track legitimately sounded like the gates of Hell opening up, pure terror to be found within. It's still some of the best riffing the band had in the '90s, and would totally confuse me when I eventually got into their synthier stuff. Definitely set the pace for me being an uber-goth weirdo, and I couldn't be more thankful.
ROB DOUGAN, "CLUBBED TO DEATH (KURAYAMINO VARIATION)"
This was the ultimate song to make long car rides to the mall or grocery store feel way more badass than they were. Even hearing this song today, I can picture all the extras that shove their way past Neo when he's injected into that Agent simulation program — specifically a dude with greased-back hair and sunglasses. Wonder what that guy is up to these days.
MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO, "PRIME AUDIO SOUP"
It's pretty nuts how many different styles of electronic music Meat Beat Manifesto manage to work into this track. These short snippets in the movie paint a small picture of what the rest of the songs sound like — kind of a reward for digging deeper into the soundtrack, as opposed to being content seeing people jacking into the Matrix and picking up a telephone.
LUNATIC CALM, "LEAVE YOU FAR BEHIND"
Goddamn, this is The Matrix and '90s cyberpunk all wrapped up in one song. The crashing drums, repeating vocals — everything coming together for a track that sounds almost quaint now.
THE PRODIGY, "MINDFIELDS"
One of the Prodigy's best tracks, a constantly evolving mix of groovy synths and ultra-fast drums. It's funny how people remember this soundtrack for the nü-metal and hard rock when it was mostly filled with electronic tracks. Guess it all blended together.
ROB ZOMBIE, "DRAGULA (HOT ROD HERMAN REMIX)"
That scene with Neo entering the club and meeting Trinity for the first time was some real fucking enlightenment — there were sounds and voices that I never knew were possible until that scene. I was totally convinced that my living room was going to turn upside down, these heavy electronic elements mixed with Zombie's voice creating some larger-than-reality occurrence. The classic original may sound a little better to others, but this is the version that I'll always think of as the "real" one.
DEFTONES, "MY OWN SUMMER (SHOVE IT)"
In terms of pure subjectivity, this is absolutely one of my favorite songs ever, just for the fact that if I had never heard it at a young age, I might not have ever gotten into heavier music. The switch in Chino Moreno's voice between totally pissed off, aggressive screaming versus his trademark ultra-pretty tone set up a powerful dichotomy that thrills me to this day. The riff is still hard as fuck, and it deserves to be the band's most popular single.
HIVE, "ULTRASONIC SOUND"
Definitely one of the most underrated tracks on the record, crazily combining drum and bass with heavy metal riffing. Still sounds cool as hell to this day.
MONSTER MAGNET, "LOOK TO YOUR ORB FOR THE WARNING"
To be totally honest, this was the one track on the record I would skip with regularity, probably because it might be the weirdest on the album. Listening back today, there's a lot of different really wild elements coming together to create a ripper of a song, but it definitely didn't have that instant appeal that kid me needed.
RAMMSTEIN, "DU HAST"
The classic. Definitely thought these guys were just speaking in total gibberish through the whole song, and I imagine a lot of other dummies thought the same when this initially came out. Still rips, though nothing will ever top when they show up in Lost Highway.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, "WAKE UP"
Is there any better way to end an action movie about seeing through a constructed reality? To this day, that ending monologue is cool as hell, and despite John Wick being a killer action franchise, I don't think Keanu Reeves will ever look cooler than flying away at the end of The Matrix, totally in control of the computer confines. That two-step bit in the full version of the song is rad, a perfect capstone on the rest of the soundtrack.
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