So. Is the soundtrack to The Million Dollar Hotel the next U2 album? In a word, no, but it’s certainly a great substitute until the next U2 album comes out later this year.
Bono’s voice pretty much dominates the first half of the soundtrack, and while only three songs are attributed to U2 the Group, it’s hard not to feel the band’s influence throughout the disc. Million Dollar Hotel star Milla Jovovich even does a rendition of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love,” covered by Bono and pals as a b-side for “One.”
Movie actors performing their own musical numbers is the latest public relations gimmick by Hollywood studios — Matt Damon sings in The Talented Mr. Ripley! — but Jovavich affects a pretty good Macy Gray on her version of “Satellite of Love.”
As he’s done with other projects, soundtrack producer Hal Wilner has fashioned a house band for The Million Dollar Hotel, giving the disc the feel of an album. That wouldn’t be such a revelatory thing if soundtracks, which are usually scattershot affairs, weren’t used as promotional material by studios and A&R launching pads for labels.
And this house band has some stellar names: John Zorn collaborators Bill Frisell (guitar) and Greg Cohen (bass); Jon Hassell on trumpet; Daniel Lanois and drummer Brian Blade from Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball crew — even Bono!
Once the disc moves from its songs to its incidental music, The Million Dollar Hotel becomes the soundtrack it was always meant to be. The instrumental pieces are dark and moody — especially with Frisell’s more prominently featured haunting timbres — but those tracks never become more than film score.
While Wilner and co-producers Lanois and Brian Eno do a marvelous job of creating their usual dreamy atmospherics, the final track of the disc is the best — a rock en Español version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the USA” with Tito Larriva belting out “Anarchiiiiiiiaaaaaaaa!”
Pretty good for a soundtrack, really.