The new Godzilla film is the best in a generation, but what's its Puff & Page doppelganger?
Don’t look now but Godzilla is tearing through silver screens, blowing radioactive breath at his haters. The reboot is creatively imagined, sympathetic to a beloved beast, and punches in just enough morality. I dug it. But something’s missing.
As you no doubt remember, the 1998 Roland Emmerich Zilla was a joyless, bloated, kinda racist, sexist, bummer of a film. It was the sort of pointless, illogical vehicle that makes Michael Bay slow clap. However, as a marketing ploy so shameless it’d make Darren Rovell blush, the ‘98 “Godzilla” got one thing down pat: It came packaged with a mammoth pop, earnestly beloved soundtrack.
Godzilla The Album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and went platinum. The Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page collaboration, “Come With Me,” was a great metaphor for its adorning film: Of the moment, theft-y, packed with more cheap thrills than breakroom birthday cake. The soundtrack brought in interesting monsters of alternative, tolerable post-grunge barnacles, and did a few favors for Epic Records’ project signees. All of the artists--from the leftist political rallying of Rage Against the Machine to the despondent Silverchair to Ben Folds on his rainiest day--managed to tie in songs that were about Godzilla. Shit got Grendel-esque and existential.
Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” is a success because it is good and being conventionally good inherently means no side of transparent musical cash grabs. But fuck all of that, it needs an opportunistic pop soundtrack. Using the original’s masterpiece blueprint, let’s outline how this figurative CD would play through.
Then: The Wallflowers, “Heroes”
Now: Warpaint, “Ashes to Ashes”
Hey Godzilla turns major cities to ashes! But really, a new era Godzilla venture must begin with a straightforward, pleasant but pointless David Bowie cover from a modern, Los Angeles-based buzz band. Oh and this one has these words, “The shrieking of nothing is killing / Just pictures of Jap girls in synthesis and I / Ain't got no money and I ain't got no hair / But I'm hoping to kick but the planet it's glowing.”
Then: Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page, “Come With Me”
Now: Imagine Dragons featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Radioactive”
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Terrible, successful, loathed by critics, and will be remembered as a totem for an ugly moment. Then it was Puffy’s cut and paste production tactics, here it’ll be how popular this abhorrent lab creation got in a post-fallout landscape with minimal guitar-based competition. And how Kendrick Lamar was reduced to an ornament, and how the Grammys had to qualify K. Dot’s existence by presenting him rapping on their middle America telecast alongside familiar instrumentation.
Then: Jamiroquai, “Deeper Underground”
Now: Kanye West, “Send It Up”
This thing needs a little electronic, prisoner of the times escapism soul. I was thinking maybe the party girl turn up of Sky Ferreria or PARTYNEXTDOOR perfecting that signature Toronto sound of in-Drake’s-shadow synths and thumps on “Welcome To The Party.” But we need something more aggressive, that sounds like disaster alarms and cocaine. The best choice is this nuclear reactor meltdown from Yeezus, which happens to feature Shane bestie, Travis Scott.
Then: Rage Against the Machine, “No Shelter”
Now: Pharoahe Monch featuring Black Thought, “Rapid Eye Movement”
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Comically hardliner raps with a backbone are difficult to take seriously these days because it’s a sound that hasn’t grown with the times. But the man is not letting Mos Def back into the country, and there’s definitely a place for it. On Monch’s latest album, he and Black Thought trade militant, “wake up people” bars and it’s unsinkable.
Then: Ben Folds, “Air”
Now: The National, “Demons”
The shared DNA here is tragic balladry, naked singing where you’re almost uncomfortable, dad rock love, and all-around pleasant choruses. “Demons,” from last year’s Trouble Will Find Me, is perfect because it matches “Air’s” Godzilla point of view navel gazing, “I stay back with my demons, passing buzzards in the sky, alligators in the sewers.”
Then: Days of the New, “Running Knees”
Now: Three Days Grace, “Painkiller”
Perhaps the most dated ‘90s rock is that right-after-Stone Temple Pilots, right-before-Creed bacteria wherein long-haired and shirtless frontmen imitated Chris Cornell but lacked his range. You can see these descendants playing to this day in bars with pool tables. The most dated contemporary rock sound is that right-after-rap-rock, right-before-the-Iraq-invasion sludge that Evanescence perfected. The latest Three Days Grace (TDC if you’re cool) single is perfect.
(Editor's note: We're really sorry you pressed play on that.)
Then: Michael Penn, “Macy Day Parade”
Now: Dead Man’s Bones, “In The Room Where You Sleep“
Michael Penn lent a quietly ignored, not bad alt cut to The Album. He’s Sean Penn’s brother. This thing needs a mopey Hollywood connection, and Ryan Gosling’s somewhat dormant vanity project packs veritable, big indie rock punch.
Then: Fuel, “Walk the Sky”
Now: Telekinesis, “Dark to Light”
Fuel was the one of the first bands I remember actively disliking. You listen to its $6.99-at-Target CD and are immediately like, “oh, this is a post-grunge reaction with too much sheen and mcnugget-level substance.” Telekinesis is one dude, Michael Benjamin Lerner, and I don’t really trust him. He’s an Oregon-based glasses sad guy in plaid that uses his middle name to stand out. Today he’s an indie rocker, the same stuff a decade ago is called emo. Still, he writes three-star records that run on messy melodies.
Then: Foo Fighters, “A320”
Now: Foo Fighters, “Bridge Burning”
The Foo Fighters are immortal, ageless. The last arena rock band is more powerful than ever, in large part because it’s not above bringing the shield to any tentpole--no matter how absurd.
Then: Green Day, “Brain Stew (The Godzilla Remix”)
Now: The Isley Brothers, “Contagious (The Godzilla Remix)”
All credit to The Godzilla Remix project for this one. “Brain Stew” was a long-established Green Day song that got laziest remix in music history--literal Godzilla noises intermittently sprinkled. This visionary stroke must be homaged.
Then: Silverchair, “Untitled”
Now: The Orwells, “Other Voices”
“Untitled” recalls late ‘90s emo--think Sunny Day Real Estate’s “In Circles.” It adds big budget, superfluous strings for drama. Chicago four-piece The Orwells muck up that cleanliness, but match in self-loathing despair. “I’m slippin’ in and you’re tripping out but that’s what night time’s all about,” is an apt lyric.
Then: Fuzzbubble, “Out There”
Now: Cloud Nothings, “Pyschic Trauma”
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Puff Daddy signed this Long Island power pop outfit for unknown, baffling reasons and got it to do the electric stuff on that “Benjamins” remix with the music video where the Bad Boy family crashes prom night. Here, Fuzzbubble gets that Godzilla money. Cloud Nothings’ ties to the industry are less famous, but it’s a sonic matched slipper: post-rock sung with nasally urgency, adderall drum fills, fervent strumming.
Then: Joey DeLuxe, “Undercover”
Now: Black Joe Lewis, “Skulldiggin’”
DeLuxe’s contribution is the most dated and misplaced. It’s one of those bowling shirt, lounge singer white guy soul ballads complete with brass blasts. It’s a bygone sound that you remember from its brief ‘90s revival. The kind of thing that made Cherry Poppin’ Daddies seem dangerous. What’s a vintage style that made a more recent splash? Soul. Black Joe Lewis is perfect because the Texas howler’s latest, Electric Slave, finds him with a mostly new band, rampaging against major label obligations on a brown liquor bender.