Few British films have had such an impact on our pop-culture as Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult classic, ‘Trainspotting’, a deeply immoral tale of addiction, friendship and love in the filthy underworld of 1990s Edinburgh. What is it about ‘Trainspotting’ that makes it so iconic? Is it the somewhat loveable characters, ‘Renton’ – struggling to come clean of his heroin addiction, Sean Connery wannabe ‘Sick Boy’, borderline psychopath ‘Begbie’, and of course ‘Spud’. Is it the downright hallucinatory cinematography, or Boyle’s exploration of social themes beyond drug addiction; poverty, squalor and the essence of British culture itself. Or, is it the soundtrack, deemed one of the most quintessential uses of music in cinema ever.
The original ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack is such an integral part of the film, taking the viewer on a journey to the dark heart of Britain’s pulsating underground scene, from the subterranean trance of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ to the funk-driven dance-punk of New Order, and the Britpop daydream of Blur and Pulp. It’s been described by Entertainment Weekly as “Saturday Night Fever for the Ecstasy generation”. It truly represented ‘90s subculture, and now we’ve been teased with trailers for a long-awaited sequel, featuring none-other than Wolf Alice’s ‘Silk’, a hint for the direction the film’s musical journey will take? I’m here to take a brief look at 10 artists who I think could possibly soundtrack ‘Trainspotting 2’, bringing British pop-culture into the modern era whilst retaining that edge of the original.
1. Jamie xx, Disclosure
In a crucial scene in the film, Renton is told by Diane that “music Is changing”. “1,000 years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just w*nkers” reads his internal monologue as he drifts aimlessly through an Edinburgh nightclub. What better way to show this change than the evolution of dance music in the 21st century. No longer a ‘90s counter-culture movement, dance music has phased into the mainstream and treads a fine line with chart pop. The presence of influential British dance artists, such as the sultry R&B house beats of Disclosure or Jamie xx’s trip-hop infused electronica would be a must-have for the soundtrack. And who doesn’t’ want to see Renton navigate a Scottish club, met with the alien sights and sounds of the Lawrence Brother’s ‘Latch’
Few bands can evoke the gritty sentiment of 1970’s ‘oi’ punk subculture than the inseparable Tunbridge-Wells garage-punk duo. Slaves will always be known as the band that brought hardcore punk back into the mainstream, blending it with angular bluesy riffs, plodding hip-hop sensibility, and comedically catchy lyrics. I feel that Slaves visceral 3-minute punk blasts are a definite must for ‘Trainspotting 2’, and songs like ‘Hey’, ‘Ninety Nine’ or ‘Same Again’ would be the perfect accompaniment for one of Begbie’s loose-cannon bar fights, whilst their social observations are a perfect fit for Boyle.
3. Jamie T
“The one man Arctic Monkey”, Wimbledon’s very own alt-rock prophet, Jamie T emerged kicking and screaming from the post-punk revolution of the early noughties to deliver his swaggering brand of socially conscious indie-rock and hip-hop. It’s exactly these poetic rap verses that I could imagine would squeeze in nicely to the T2 soundtrack, especially material off his jaunty rap-pop debut, ‘Panic Prevention’, described as a “sweary love letter to London town”. Saying that, Treays’ latest LPs offer a more mature, and eerie vibe that would match darker scenes. Grungy and haunting recent single ‘Tinfoil Boy’ would be ideal.
4. The Fat White Family
Perhaps one of the most absurdly offensive, grotty yet thrilling bands (if you can even call them that?) on the British music scene, Peckham’s apocalyptic cult/six-piece Fat White Family must be destined to soundtrack the ‘scummier’ aspects of the film. Their noxious blend of post-punk thrash, woozy psychedelia and rockabilly’ country would match the dirty Scottish underbelly of tower block squats and dodgy back-alleys. Imagine the likes of ‘Touch The Leather’ or ‘Love Is The Crack’ playing as some poor addict lines up their next hit.
2016, the year that Oxford indie-rock quintet Foals achieved world domination. Evolving from jittering math-rock to stadium ready alt-rock and everything in between, 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘What Went Down’ was the final nudge that sent Foals stratospheric. Sellout worldwide tour? Check. Reading & Leeds Fest headline slot? Check. cinematic debut? Definitely! What would Danny Boyle’s exploration of British subculture be without giving a nod to perhaps one of the defining rock bands of this generation. ‘What Went Down’s visceral title-track, all “cathedral sized riffs” and animalistic energy would be a welcome addition to the T2 soundtrack.
6. Tame Impala
This year has most certainly been the ‘Year of The Impala’, as Kevin Parker and company stake their claim as kings of modern psychedelic-rock. In a similar fashion to Foals, Tame Impala’s frankly outstanding 2015 LP, ‘Currents’ blended rippling neo-psychedelia, and infectious guitar-pop to superb effect, bringing the Aussie band back into the ‘indie mainstream’. ‘Trainspotting’s imaginative and hallucinatory visual imagery, particularly when Renton enters that odd ‘carpet sequence’ (you’ll know what I mean) or when he dives into “The Worst Toilet in Scotland” would suit the trance-like psychedelic vibes of tracks like ‘Cause I’m A Man’ or ‘Music To Walk Home By’ perfectly. How could you make a movie about drugs and not include Tame Impala!
Leicester four-piece Kasabian exploded into the ‘post-Madchester’ world of the early-90s with their self-titled debut, which mixed traces of dance-rock in the same circle as The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Happy Mondays with Oasis-sized swagger and swirling synth arrangements. The band’s moody electro-oriented alt-rock has been played in many an indie nightclub over the years, and what with electro-rock legends Primal Scream appearing on the original ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack, Kasabian surely deserve a place in the sequel?
8. The Libertines
The Libertines very much spearheaded the garage-rock revival movement in Britain during the late ‘90s and early noughties, borrowing from a wide-range of influences including The Jam, Velvet Underground, The Clash and, of course, The Smiths. Having to jostle with the likes of The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and The White Stripes can’t have been easy, but The Libertines had something the others didn’t. It was their uniquely British angle, and Doherty’s near-drunken sounding slur that has seen them hailed as one of the most iconic British rock bands of the century, and it’s exactly this that makes them worthy of a place on T2.
9. Arctic Monkeys
It’s possible that no band has ever, or ever will have such genre-defining influence as these four boys from High Green, Sheffield. Undoubtedly Arctic Monkeys are one of the greatest British bands of all time. Their fusion of slick indie-rock and danceable neo-punk, alongside frontman Alex Turner’s distinctive voice and sharply delivered lyrics gave them an iconic British sound. I can imagine the grittier post-punk themes of ‘WPSIATWIN’ and ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ suiting some of the faster-paced and edgier scenes of ‘Trainspotting 2’, whilst the swaggering and sultry alt-rock tones of ‘AM’ would possibly fit a more romantic vibe.
10. Wolf Alice
How could I write a post about the ‘Trainspotting 2’ soundtrack and not talk about Wolf Alice, seeing as ‘Silk’ has already been used in a teaser trailer! Bursting onto the scene in 2013 in the midst of a resurgence of leftfield bands like Peace, Swim Deep and Drenge, Wolf Alice deftly mixed sticky ‘90s alt-rock, sparse electronica, folk and grunge to deliver their own brand of “off-kilter indie-rock”. Fronted by the incredibly talented and equally gorgeous Ellie Rowsell, Wolf Alice had to be destined for big things, with their debut album ‘My Love Is Cool’ receiving a welcome nod for The Mercury Prize, they went on to deliver an extensive tour and even headlined By The Sea festival this year to round it all off. I can immediately see what attracted Boyle to ‘Silk’. It’s warming pop-rock tones fit the mood of the trailer perfectly, and I’d absolutely love to see more of them in T2!