August 8, 2011

Favorite Soundtracks: The Last Days of Disco

The Last Days of Disco is the third film in writer / director Whit Stillman's series of comedies depicting young urban bourgeoisie lifestyle, following the more widely acclaimed and popular Metropolitan and Barcelona. Released in 1998 and set in 1980-81, The Last Days of Disco follows a group of WASPy Ivy League grads in New York City as they navigate their first jobs and search for romance in nightly visits to 'The Club,' a disco- and dance-filled nod to Studio 54. The dialogue here is consistently rich and brilliant, from the entire scene dedicated to deconstructing Disney's Lady and The Tramp to various commentaries on sexual promiscuity and class. The influence of the erudite and dry-witted Stillman is easy to spot in films by his contemporaries Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson. And like those filmmakers, Stillman also meticulously curates his soundtracks with his own distinctive taste in pop music.

It would be easy to knock The Last Days of Disco as another shallow compilation of disco hits, but this soundtrack is sprinkled with everything from deep ska and R&B cuts to Italo disco. Sure, Chic's "Good Times" and "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross make appearances, but so does "Queen Majesty," a 1967 Curtis Mayfield cover by Jamaican rocksteady group The Techniques. Stillman cleverly uses a jukebox at the characters' favorite late-night bar, Rex's, as a vehicle to invigorate the playlist of stale disco hits. There, you hear tracks by the likes of Washington, DC girl group The Jewels, soul quartet The Chi-Lites, and "The Oogum Boogum Song" by Brenton Wood. You may not fall in love with every song on the soundtrack, but you will absolutely find a new favorite track or two. And if you haven't seen this bona fide cult classic, please, get on that already.

After the jump, listen to a couple of cuts from the soundtrack and watch the classic 'Lady and The Tramp' clip.

"Lady, the ostensible protagonist, is a fluffy blond Cocker Spaniel with absolutely nothing on her brain. She's great-looking, but - let's be honest - incredibly insipid." — Josh

After being out of print for years and going for prices as high as $100 on DVD, the Criterion Collection released a special edition of the film, which you can pick up here.

Stream 23 tracks from the soundtrack on Spotify.

The Techniques - "Queen Majesty"
The Jewels - "Opportunity" 
Brenton Wood - "Oogum Boogum Song"

Brenton Wood

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