Review: `Nobody's wasting anything too decent on this with the exception of Goldie'

ANDY GILL ON ALBUMS: Various Artists Spawn: The Album EPIC EPC 4881189
The resolutely conservative US rock industry is really in quite a panic over what they term "electronica" but which the rest of the world knows - and has known for almost a decade now - as techno. As if the enormous success of The Prodigy weren't evidence enough of changing mores, rock musicians of all stripes are currently scrambling for a fingerhold on the techno bandwagon, lest they be left behind, choking abjectly on its dust. The Chemical Brothers, for instance, were recently sent a tape by renowned US guitar-strangler Joe Satriani, who was suggesting a collaboration: when they listened to the tape, it turned out to be simply Satriani playing his fancy metal licks over their track "Loops of Fury".

Not surprisingly, they declined - a good thing too, or else they might have found the offending article turning up on this soundtrack to the American comic-book movie Spawn, a misguided attempt to match (mostly American) indie / metal types in a series of collaborations with (mostly British) techno / jungle / remix bods. It's a sign of changing priorities: in 1993, the same company tried something similar for the Judgment Night soundtrack, except that back then, it involved a shotgun marriage of heavy metal and rap, an alliance of rebel musics which must have seemed logical on paper but which mostly sucked on disc.

The results this time are, as they say, mixed, but it's probably a reflection of the nature of the techno/ remix beast that the "proper" guitar bands tend to dominate here: in the collaborations between Marilyn Manson & Sneaker Pimps ("Long Hard Road Out of Hell") and Butthole Surfers & Moby ("Tiny Rubberband"), for instance, the latter parties appear to add little to the primary bands' input. That's not always the case - Metallica's Kirk Hammett serves in a largely Satriani-esque capacity on a version of Orbital's "Satan", and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello makes little apparent difference to The Prodigy's sound on "One Man Army" - though the only true meeting of minds here seems to be between Slayer & Atari Teenage Riot, whose "No Remorse" finds both parties in complete accord, as they scream "I want to die" over and over.

The basic problem with projects like Spawn - the Album is that bands are reluctant to contribute their best material, using the opportunity instead to shift some of their B-side clutter. Nobody's wasting anything too decent on this, with the sole exception of Henry Rollins & Goldie, whose "T-4 Strain" may be the best thing both men have done, and just about the only piece here that makes something worthwhile of the collaboration. A shifty, nervous groove with whiplash percussion and windy ambience, over which Rollins's breathy imprecations - "I could kill, but I can't die" - slip in and out of focus, it has more content than usual for Goldie, and less redundant rock riffing than usual for Rollins. The best of both worlds, really.