Riccardo Tisci has certainly always skewed dark at Givenchy. He’s normally looked to religion and history to infuse his shows with a seriousness and an iconoclastic bent. In his 2011 Spring Menswear show, he dialed back some of the ornateness and went for cleaner details, but he still needed a way to provide some dark romanticism that has become signature. Cue Gerard McMahon’s Cry Little Sister. The theme to The Lost Boys is dramatic, smoky goth-pop. Wholly earnest in its drama, the song’s eerie kids choir and tribal synth-drums announce its era immediately. On its own, it’s arguably a bit cheesy today (although still pretty fantastic). Yet set against the ghostly gimp masks, crisply tailored white skirts and the flesh colored leggings of the runway show, the song somehow earns back some of its gravity. The presentation and the soundtrack feel slightly incongruous, but that actually makes the histrionics of the track feel brilliantly, intentionally alienating. It’s like watching The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill dance in the mirror. Only such an antiseptic, artificially-produced song could create that much of an inhuman feeling.
Check out the original, along with a Givenchy show snippet below:
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a mantra that could easily be applied to both Swans and Ann Demeulemeester. Both have been churning out gothic/industrial-tinged work for decades without ever losing their sense of adventure or seeing a dip in quality. So it makes perfect sense that Demeulemeester would choose the band’s song Screen Shot for last year’s Fall/Winter collection of her women’s line. It’s a loping, sickly beast, dangerous and definitive. That makes it a perfect pairing with the collection, not as funereal as years past, but rather powerful and precise. The clothing is high gloss and sultry, with an extra eye to strong tailoring. The song is eight driving minutes of growing menace, beginning tightly controlled, but snowballing into a shrill cacophony. Like many other Swans songs, it it deceptively simple, finding commanding new angles in repetition, much like Demeulemeester’s own work.
Haider Ackermann’s clothes have always been for rebels. For Fall/Winter 2015-16, he kept a touch of rockabilly tailoring, but dialed down the color. The slight changes made for a dramatically different mood. So how to capture that with music? What about a slow, menacing remix of State Trooper by Bruce Springsteen. Maintaining the unsettled narrative and wild yelps of Springsteen’s journey into the mind of Charles Starkweather, while adding a practically lento disco beat, the mood of the song transforms. Before it was about paranoia and fear. Now it’s about power. The models walk slowly and deliberately. They are sultry and in control. The refrain of “Mr. State Trooper, please don’t stop me,” becomes more of a command than a plea. It’s a bold take on a song that already reaches unnerving perfection. It demands attention. The clothes demand attention. The models demand attention, yet they are not in competition. Each element comes together to form a single mood: a severe but alluring flawlessness.
Check out Ackermann’s runway remix, as well as the peerless original below:
The king of runway soundtracks is undeniably Hedi Slimane. His transformation of Saint Laurent was built on the tight knit relationship he’s always had with rock and roll. When he moved the label’s design operations to Los Angeles, he wasted no time incorporating the local rock scene into the brand’s DNA. Arguably the biggest musical hit he’s scored so far is the use of Burger Records alums Cherry Glazerr for his Fall/Winter 2014 show. The hypnotic, grungy psych song features teenage prodigy Clementine Creevy (who, for the record, can really shred live) strumming up a heavyweight storm while chirping seductively over the electrifying track. There are moments when it sounds like she’s about to slip away, slinky and high as the sun. Despite being absolutely massive sounding, the track is also laid back and nonchalant, a killer combo with Slimane’s dark take on 60s Go-Go glamour: confident and cool, in control but not in a hurry. Saint Laurent rarely features a musical collaboration dud, but this outing was a match made in heaven. Check out the full runway and the single version below:
Fashion month kicks off this week in New York. In recent years, the soundtrack to the runway has become increasingly important. Not only is it a way for a designer to set the mood for the show, but it can also show off their current cool cachet or root themselves firmly in a specific moment from the past. Rick Owens put just about every other designer and music pairing to shame when he used Ima Read by Zebra Katz as the musical backdrop for his Fall/Winter 2012-13 womenswear show. Sparse and threatening, the track itself sounds like an Underworld song in stereo panned all the way left. Then Katz starts in with his simmering threats, the kind of quiet promise of violence that you do not question. Next up, Njena Reddd Foxxx throws down one of the most non-chalantly badass verses in history. The whole thing is cool as ice, a brilliant contrast to the literal fire that is alight behind the runway. While Owens’ own work is largely similar from season to season, Ima Read adds a menacing layer of urgency and attitude to the collection, transforming it from the work that has been presented before it. It’s a hypnotic marriage of singular artists. Check out both the original runway show and the delightfully disturbing music video below:
This is for the guy that killed this song at karaoke last night. You don’t get a lot of rock songs about toxic fantasies of young girls, so I guess congratulations to The Killers for stepping in and filling that void. But really, When You Were Young is a brilliant, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-while-drunk, desert epic. Mostly carried by Brandon Flowers’ totally committed, over-the-top performance, the song is a soaring feet of bizarro nostalgia.
Ooh La La by The Faces is surely everyone’s favorite rumination on the ignorance of youth. Slightly offensive? Yeah. But it’s just so unbelievably catchy. Rod Stewart has perfected the art of folksy rock songs about getting slightly taken advantage of by women. This rambling, bluesy number sounds like sage advice if you don’t listen too closely. Even if you do, it’s still a toe-tapping classic with a chorus that won’t quit ready to worm its way into your head for days.
Enough with analyzing the doom and gloom of youth. Instead, it’s time to celebrate it with Van Morrison. Appearing on the halfway point of Astral Weeks, The Way Young Lovers Do is the album’s shortest, most straightforward song, even featuring something of a chorus. The upbeat, jazzy, trumpet and xylophone-puncutated waltz is a tribute to the kind of love that only the young are capable of. “Then we sat on our own star and dreamed of the way that we were and the way that we wanted to be,” sings Morrison, in a drunken thrall of romance. Everything seems possible, including happiness. It’s the sort of overt joy that a lot of great songs aren’t able to address. There’s no emotional conflict here. Morrison’s vocals burst with an overwhelming ecstasy that spills over into the raucous gaggle of instruments as he recounts the simple act of kissing a girl goodnight on her doorstep. It’s a buzz of elation preserved perfectly in scattered, scatting whirl.
You wouldn’t normally look to The Orwells for illuminating insights into the minds of today’s youth, but every once in a while they stumble upon some surprising truths. Never Ever is, like many of their tunes, about getting high with your friends. But instead of a mischief-making night out, The Orwells find themselves cooped up inside contemplating their own mortality. “I’ve got this fear of aging,” reveals lead singer Mario Cuomo, desperately pleading in a half howl that sounds somehow on the verge of tears, before adding ,”Tell me what we’re chasing,” as though he can’t even remember what the point was in the first place. Of course, the point was to feel young for a little bit longer, to hold on to the idea that he can be reckless and unpredictable and unbound. “I know when something’s changing,” he finally admits, as though he can feel the years creeping in and youth slipping away. The whole thing plays against the slow, assured beauty of Dominic Corso’s laconic, anthemic guitar. It’s a lethargic, sadness-tinged comedown that meets the end of the party head on.
Hunx & His Punx have an entirely different take on the downsides of youth. The Curse of Being Young melds a soulful throwback girl group foundation written by Shannon Shaw (of Shannon and the Clams) with snotty modern, punk vocals courtesy of Seth Bogart. With everything from minor key rock organ, call and response, and Leader of the Pack style sprechgesang, it’s a surprisingly authentic replica of 60s youth music. Bogart’s bratty interjections turn the whole thing on its head, though, claiming that the misery of youth is the knowledge that an entire lifetime of heartache lies ahead. It’d be much better to be old and have it already (partly) out of the way. The song should be an endorsement of youthful revelry, to have something good before all that pain sinks in, but instead Shaw proposes that it’s hard to enjoy the gifts of being young with the understanding that it will all crumple with time. “That’s the curse of being young,” she repeats over elementary drums, sounding like a primitive Rumour Has It-style Adele. It’s the rare work that manages to be camp, trashy and emotionally resonant all at the same time.