"Hackers - Original Soundtrack" Various Artists (Album, 1996)
In my review of Hackers, a hi-tech action caper film, I said one of the best things about it was the soundtrack featuring an impressive selection of dance acts. This OST to Iain Softley's 1995 film brings the likes of Underworld, Prodigy, Leftfield, Orbital, Stereo MCs and other together in one package. Instead of being written specifically for the film, the fourteen tracks here date as far back as 1991 (Orbital's Halcyon & On & On). So the album is as much a stand alone dance compilation as it is a film soundtrack. And that's why it works well on its own. If you've a taste for the commercial dance acts included here then I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this, whether you've seen the distinctly dodgy film or not.
Kruder and Dorfmeister's opener Original Bedroom Rockers begins promisingly enough, sounding like a slice of sleazy funk from the 70s, but it quickly deteriorates into a more contemporary groove with all too-familiar soulful female vocals. Underworld's Cowgirl is a pumping piece that brings to mind the rushing MTV-like visuals of Softley's film. It doesn't outstay its welcome despite the near nine-minute running time. Prodigy's Voodoo People will require no introduction for enthusiasts and is typical of their early sound. John Lydon provides his distinctive vocals to Leftfield's Open Up which help lift the so-so track a bit higher; whilst DJ Carl Cox puts in an extremely run-of-the-mill appearance with Phoebus Apollo. Big, black and mean he may be, but this is one DJ who should stick to spinning other's music.
Josh Abrahams' trance-like The Joker provides a welcome change of pace as does the chilled-out ambience of Orbital's Halcyon & On & On (sampling Kirsty Hawkshaw's memorable vocal line from the Opus III hit It's A Fine Day). Plastico's Communicate gets the "Headquake Hazy Cloud" remix treatment courtesy of hard house champions Eskimos and Egypt. Meanwhile Prodigy get a second bite of the cherry with One Love. The Stereo MCs' hit Connected provides another laid back groove, as does the "Mekon Vocal Mix" of Ramshackles' Eyes, Lips, Body with its skanky sax and organ reggae. The ballsy attitude (not to mention guitars and drums) return in Urban Dance Squad's Good Grief and Richest Junkie Still Alive by Machines of Loving Grace. Squeeze close the proceedings with their typical Heaven Knows which I can only assume is end credits fodder since it differs wildly from the rest of the contents.
Devoid of the film's striking visuals, the album sounds remarkably safe these days - though in the US in 1995 most of the tracks here would have been pretty 'alternative'. I picked this up at a boot fair for a quid, which represents great value. If you're lacking albums by most of the artists on this soundtrack than this is worth picking up if you don't have to pay too much. Less radical than it originally was, this album is nevertheless still entertaining. For a more contemporary (and successful) take on this approach to the trendy OST, take a look at the very impressive soundtrack to the art-house SF flick Pi. 6/10
See also: Hackers (film review)