Fans of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon can be a pretty obsessive bunch: my own personal Pynchon devotion is so pronounced I even have an image plucked from his novel The Crying of Lot 49 tattooed on my arm. But such uncompromising adulation is fitting – after all, all of the man’s novels have been about obsession, one way or the other. His novel Inherent Vice is a comedy of sorts, but at its heart it is concerned with the terrifying way one can become trapped in a mystery, obsessively searching for a solution that may or may not even exist.
Inherent Vice has been transferred to the screen by celebrated auteur P.T. Anderson, and comes complete with a soundtrack composed by Radiohead member Johnny Greenwood. He’s the perfect man for the job: Greenwood’s music has always been swirling and hypnotic, and his off-kilter style perfectly fits the opiate haze tone of a novel like Inherent Vice.
In many ways, the Inherent Vice soundtrack is Greenwood’s most accessible work as a composer to date– the jagged, dangerous tone of his work on The Master and There Will Be Blood has given way to slightly softer, more conventional melodies. Not that this serves to the album’s detriment: tracks like The Golden Fang and Amethyst have a gentle, sun kissed beauty to them.
Inherent Vice is ostensibly a detective story, and tracks like Shasta and Meeting Crocker Fenway pay tribute to the noir soundtracks of the past. Best of all, they manage to be as playful as the novel itself – there’s something warmly comic about their shuffling, slightly demented style, most evident on the supremely entertaining Adrian Prussia.
For Radiohead fans, Spooks will be the most interesting song of the album – it is a reworking of an unreleased Radiohead piece – but for those who are here for Pynchon, the real appeal is the track’s inclusion of readings from the novel itself, delivered beautifully by indie queen Joanna Newsom.
Not all of the tracks on the album are original however, and interspersed with Greenwood’s tunes are a number of tried and true favourites. Neil Young’s Journey Through The Past is a perfect accompaniment to the book’s slight touch of melancholy, while tracks by Les Baxter and Kyu Sakamoto keep things deliriously odd.
Of them all however, Here Come the Ho-Dads by The Marketts is the album’s best pre-existing song: it’s resolutely, unashamedly insane stuff, ecstatic and almost cartoon-like in its fervour. In short, it’s the perfect song to accompany such a perfect novel.
If you’re looking for a way to spend a sadistically hot summer evening, light a couple of sticks of incense; turn the lights down low; peel open the pages of Inherent Vice and spin this soundtrack. It’s bound to be a trip you won’t forget soon.