It seems like a lot of remix maestros have been bursting onto the scene as solo artists lately – Moby, BT, Fatboy Slim, you name it – but few of them have as unique a sound as Australian Rob Dougan sports on his debut album. Having put his unique spin on the works of a number of artists including Kylie Minogue, Dougan discovered a whole new unexpected audience when one of his songs was used very briefly in The Matrix. Remember the “lady in the red dress” training scene where Morpheus demonstrates the dangers of the Agents to Neo? The low-key atmospheric menace leading into that scene is a short excerpt from Dougan’s “Clubbed To Death” single. When The Matrix exposed Dougan’s song to not just a new audience or two, but rabid new audiences, he wisely repeated the move by reworking another of his songs for the soundtrack of The Matrix Reloaded.
That song is “Furious Angels”, also the namesake of Dougan’s first solo collection, and it could hardly sound more different than the beat-heavy movie version (this version strips out everything except Dougan’s vocals and the orchestra). Yes, Rob Dougan sings on several of his songs, his lyrics veering between hope and vengeful spurned love, and his delivery darting from a style I’d describe as “Dylan does ENZSO” to a smoother approach that I describe as “Neil Diamond woke up with laryngitis and sang a big splashy James Bond theme song anyway.” Dougan is not a great vocalist, and when one considers that most of his songs are drenched with the sweet sound of an honest-to-God orchestral backing, his growly, rumbly vocals are even more incongruous. But when one listens to him singing the vengeful vows of “Left Me For Dead” and “Furious Angels”, or the world-weary “Speed Me Toward Death”, it somehow seems right that he didn’t hire someone with smoother pipes. “Speed Me Toward Death” is probably the catchiest of the vocal tracks on here, as it really encapsulates my earlier comment about someone gruff trying to croon a Bond theme – it’s grandiose, morbid, violent, and yet funny in its own bitterly ironic way. It’s also one of the more accessible tracks on Furious Angels, with some funktastic guitar work getting a word in edgewise amid the orchestral splendor. It’s about as close to a perfectly balanced song as Dougan gets here.
But Dougan isn’t all angst and darkness, as “One And The Same” proves. And perhaps the best piece of music on the entire album is the closing number, “Clubbed To Death II”, which bears little resemblance to the other track bearing that name, and musically speaking it’s far, far more interesting. It’s an instrumental with a strange kind of wistful, world-weary hope to it, and a lovely and deceptively quiet piano solo lulls you into a false sense of security that the song’s over. It’s a great little number that I wish was about two or three times longer than it is. And it proves, as does the rest of Furious Angels, one thing: Dougan is ready for a film scoring assignment of his own, not just riding shotgun with Don Davis. Hopefully someone who’s actually making a movie will pick up this hint too and put Dougan on the case, because I’m ready for more where this came from.
- Prelude (0:44)
- Furious Angels (6:09)
- Will You Follow Me (3:52)
- Left Me For Dead (4:41)
- I’m Not Driving Anymore (4:37)
- Clubbed To Death (7:28)
- There’s Only Me (5:39)
- Instrumental (4:27)
- Nothing At All (6:34)
- Born Yesterday (7:34)
- Speed Me Towards Death (4:34)
- Drinking Song (3:59)
- Pause (0:35)
- One & The Same (Coda) (5:46)
- Clubbed To Death II (3:48 – hidden track)
Released by: Cheeky / Warner Bros.
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 70:27