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ALBUM REVIEW: "Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series"

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ALBUM REVIEW: Various Artists – Stranger Things: Music From the Netflix Original Series (Netflix / Legacy) 2017

Back in the summer of 2016, everyone was talking about the Netflix series Stranger Things. As a child of the 1980’s, who was the same age as the kids in the show, which is set in 1983-84, the themes and feel of the series really resonated with me.

I distinctly remember around Easter of 1983 I encountered some ghostly kids in a windy field near my home. They were acting strange – suspicious – and so I ran after them and they vanished in a creek bed behind an old, crumbling building belonging to a spooky seminary that owned the land and woods in that area.

In fact, that area was a perfect place for me and my friends to explore, tell ghost stories, build forts and make memories. In fact, last night I think I dreamed about that same place – it was called St. John’s Woods, back in Little Rock – appropriately enough.

That same spring of ’83 (a weird year in many ways), I was really liking Styx’s Kilroy Was Here album (the one with “Mr. Roboto” on it), Def Leppard’s Pyromania and The Police’s Synchronicity.  Duran Duran, Prince and Michael Jackson were also big with my peers, along with Madonna and Van Halen.

So, when the creators of the spooky series Stranger Things began inserting period-perfect pop and New Wave songs into the soundtrack – not unlike the way songs were placed in Donnie Darko, a smart, supernatural film set in the 1980’s – it only got my further hooked on the show, just as the ambient synth music, featured on a 2016 Stranger Things soundtrack, did.

This worked into my Dust Devil Dreams articles (including “Supernatural, perhaps…”) and I loved how Will’s older brother Jonathan loves bands like The Clash, Joy Division and Talking Heads and turned his younger brother onto these bands as well, with The Clash song “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” playing a key role in communicating between our world and the “Upside Down.”

Of course, “Should I Stay, Or Should I Go” is on this lengthy, new soundtrack which features songs from both season one and two of the series, but is rather slight in terms of detailed liner notes or images from the series in the CD booklet.

So, was I pleased to find “Every Breath You Take” by The Police? “Africa” by Toto? “Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart? “Talking In Your Sleep” by The Romantics? Of course! These were big songs when I was 12 and 13 years old.

Some of the songs, like “Atmosphere” by Joy Division, “Nocturnal Me” by Echo & The Bunnymen, “The Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs, and “Elegia” by New Order would have less likely been heard by my pals and peers in Arkansas circa ’84. But we did love The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” (heard early in the second season when some California jerk with a mullet rolls into Hawkins) and “Whip It” by Devo (as heard during the scene at the video arcade – of course!).

Produced by Stranger Things creators The Duffer Brothers, along with Shawn Levy and Nora Felder, the 30-track music soundtrack is interspersed with snippets of dialogue featured in the series, from Winona Ryder's frazzled mom, worrying about her missing son to amusing one-liners featuring goofball Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), a fan favorite. 

It's not all 80's all the time (one wonders if all this 80's nostalgia has an expiration date) on the soundtrack, as Jim Croce's early 70's classic "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" is included (featured in a scene where Hopper - played by David Harbour - puts on a record for El - played by Millie Bobby Brown) and as is Peter Gabriel's latter-day cover of David Bowie's 1977 classic "Heroes." 

And for me, I had noted last year that the inclusion of The Bangles' 1987 cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" - originally used in the film Less Than Zero -  was inaccurate, since the scene where Barb is snatched by the demigorgon takes place in 1983. 

But inaccuracies aside, the soundtrack is largely a fun trip down memory lane for Gen X'ers like myself. I'm only early into watching season two of Stranger Things and so far it isn't quite packing the punch that season one did, but that could change. 

Stranger things have happened ... 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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