Grease is the Word
Where to start? To call ‘The Greasy Strangler’ comedy horror doesn’t seem to do it justice. It’s a sexy comedy, claim the makers while backing up a truckload of cats to empty among the pigeons.
Whatever you call it, ‘The Greasy Strangler’ is the debut feature film from writer/director Jim Hosking and co-writer Toby Harvard, two Brits with backgrounds in TV ads and music videos.
Set in Los Angeles, it’s the tale of a father and son combo who run Big Ronnie’s Disco Walking Tour (”The Earth, the Wind and the Fire lived here”, “Kool from Kool & The Gang used to work in that convenience store” and so on). As it’s the only disco walking tour in town, what’s a girl to do when she wants a bit of glittery history on foot? Cue kindly sexpot Janet who duly kicks up a romance with the son, Big Braydon, much to the chagrin of the father, Ronnie, who you will not fail to notice is hung like a firehose, and goes about seducing his son’s new beau. Oh and there’s a killer on the loose, smeared in grease and dispatching pretty much everyone. And things get really weird.
Adding to the chaos is Andrew Hung’s brilliantly bonkers soundtrack, which comes, delightfully, pressed on shocking pink vinyl with white greasy splatter. It would seem that while Fuck Buttons remain on sabbatical (not a peep since 2013), both Hung and partner in crime Benjamin John Power are making fine use of their time. There’s Power’s ongoing Blanck Mass project, while Hung has experimental outfit Dawn Hunger, but more telling are his solo ‘Rave Cave’ EPs. There’s two so far, written and performed on a Nintendo Game Boy and yet, quite brilliantly, not chiptune.
Sure, you can hear those stock-in-trade 8-bit chirps, but the ‘Rave Cave’ sound is a good deal more sophisticated than the usual cheerful console fodder. Hung’s film soundtrack debut owes much to those inventive ‘Rave Cave’ EPs. And while the Game Boy doesn’t make an appearance (the score was written on a laptop in three weeks flat), it’s clear he’s taken the same kind of thinking and run with it. You don’t get an idea of quite how far until you hear it.
“There is a similar sonic palette that links the two pieces of work,” explains Hung. “My tastes from ‘Rave Cave’ might have carried through onto ‘The Greasy Strangler’, but that was unintentional.”
Hung’s score is a triumph, standing toe-to-toe with the on-screen mayhem it sets the whole thing off much like tossing a match into a fireworks factory. “I had such a blast making this album,” he says. “It was an opportunity for my silly side to really let rip.”
He isn’t kidding. So there’s vocals, which when you first encounter them on crackpot stomper ‘Get On The Greasy’ will make you laugh out loud. It’s like Alvin And The Chipmunks gone stoner disco. The “singing”, which is throughout the album, is quite joyous. At times, as on ‘Go Home To My Bed (Sad Mix)’, the multi-tracked double-dosed helium-fuelled antics feel almost emotional. Elsewhere, like on the frantic jibber-jabber of ‘Oily Grapefruit’ or the killer cut ‘Disco Kings’, it’s used to pick out infectious melody, more like an instrument than a voice.
‘Oily Grapefruit’? Yeah. Titles on film soundtrack albums are often a dry affair, mere descriptions of the action unfolding on screen. There’s no “mere” about titles here – ‘Fizzy Barf’, ‘Stoned On Fart Fumes’, ‘Amulet Of Arg’, while ‘You Didn’t Listen, Oh No’ is passive-aggressive poetry in motion.
‘Little Song’ had us laughing again. It’s like a ripped to the tits version of Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ only to descend into some weird harpsichord acid romp that reminds us, oddly, of the theme to 60s TV show, ‘Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased)’. There’s also waltzing fairground melody a-plenty, like on the love theme ‘Make Love To Me Brayden’. Full of noises off – comedy twangs, clangs, splashes, slaps and canned laughter – Vangelis’ ‘Love Theme’ from ‘Blade Runner’ it is not.
With quirk like this by the barrowload, it is such an unhinged record for all the right reasons. The level of invention and playfulness on display is quite brilliant. What’s more, it works as a listen on its own, which is no mean feat. It might be Hung’s debut as a soundtrack composer, we’re sure as hell it’s not going to be his last.