With the release of The Runaways film I was not quite sure what to expect. Was it going to be a straight up rock doc, or would it play fast and loose with the people involved? Beyond that, how would the music sound? I was completely unfamiliar with the Runaways' music.
All I knew was that the band produced female rock royalty in Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I am also pretty sure I had heard of Cherie Currie at some point in my travels. When it comes right down to it, I was completely unfamiliar with the Runaways, their story, and their music. Even if the film proved to be narratively bankrupt (it's not), it would have served as a wake up call by pointing out one of the many holes in my music collection: the Runaways.
The film was not a terribly in depth affair, but we are given a vibrant look into the 1970s and the world inhabited by the teenagers who would come to be called the Runaways. It focuses almost exclusively on Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, chronicling their rise to fame with wild-eyed producer Kim Fowley. While the film takes us on the whirlwind rise and fall, the soundtrack helps to seal the deal with a collection of period tunes that will put a sneer on your face and a desire to turn the volume way up.
Soundtracks are an interesting beast. For all intents and purposes the reasons soundtrack albums are released are to promote the film they are spawned from. The content of said albums can be canned tunes made to sell albums like the Transformers soundtracks, they can be comprised of songs specifically written for the film to assist in atmosphere and help set tone like one of my favorites, Judgment Night, or a third direction is the Tarantino route where you find the right song for the film regardless of source/age/popularity. It is this third style that The Runaways subscribes to.
The album is comprised of a number of familiar tunes, but they all serve a purpose. They help put a face on the time frame, a musical stamp if you will. Beyond that, they also represent those who influenced the Runaways look and sound. The tracks include "Roxy Roller" by Nick Gilder, "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie, and "I Wanna be Your Dog" by the Stooges. Some great sleaze rock tunes that just beg to be played loud and clearly had a hand in the Runaways.
This is not the entire soundtrack, mind you. Since this is a movie about the Runaways it is required to have some of their tunes. There are seven of them, split between actual Runaways recordings and new recordings feating the movies stars. The original recordings are "Hollywood," "You Drive Me Wild," and a live version of "I Wanna be Where the Boys Are." All three of these highlight how good these girls were at such a young age. The music is intense, raw, and forces your attention.
As for the new recordings? Two of the four stand out to me. The first is the band's iconic hit "Cherry Bomb," a song that was written for Chere Currie during her audition. Dakota Fanning does a fine job playing Currie in the film and does a very good job of getting that punk aesthetic in her voice as she sneers her way through the song. The other song is "Dead End Justice" a duet between Fanning and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. The song is an ode to the LA street urchin lifestyle. There is something edgy to the performance, convincing and oddly catchy. The rawness of the original tracks is replicated here and they pay tribute to the original recordings.
Bottomline. The movie may not be as in depth as I may have liked, it still delivers an authentic atmosphere and drags us along for the ride. The soundtrack is a trip back into the 70s when rock was raw and uncompromising. This is a good collection of songs to rock out to and I have no problem recommending it.