Miscellaneous Playlists

Reel-to-Reel Presents: “Grosse Pointe Blank”

High stakes, high stress, high-powered rifles and…high school? 

That’s the life of American assassin Martin Q. Blank.

Face it, returning to the hallowed halls of our respective high schools is a nauseating thought for most of us. 

And in that respect, he’s no different from the rest of us. 

Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Released in 1997, “Grosse Pointe Blank” follows a hitman as he returns to his sleepy Detroit suburb for a job that coincides with his ten-year high school reunion.

“Grosse Pointe Blank” (dir. Armitage, 1997) theatrical trailer from YouTube.

When I say “John Cusack movie,” you know what I’m talking about, right?

I mean pure, 80s-90s heyday, mid-swing Cusack?


Because that guy is exactly what sells “Grosse Pointe Blank.”

He’s awkward but still suave all at once, with an endearingly quirky charm that sets the tone for the entire film; A man who inadvertently terrorizes his psychiatrist with flippant descriptions of killing for money while floundering at the thought of seeing his high school sweetheart again after ten years…and after he stood her up, on prom night no less.

Opposite Cusack, Minnie Driver plays the aforementioned high school sweetheart Debi, a young woman stuck in their hometown DJing for the local radio station.

With that, most of the music we hear is diegetic; her sets play over Martin’s stereo or in the background of the studio.

Radio Free Grosse Pointe

Within the film, Debi’s sets bounce between the impossibly interesting alternative 80s two-tone and punk with the occasional inclusion of 60s rocksteady and ska ranging from The Clash to Toots and The Maytals.

Speaking of, the soundtrack utilizes numerous Clash songs, “Armagideon Time” and “Rudie Can’t Fail” specifically, front man and guitarist, Joe Strummer scored the rest of the film.

I would say, that his work on the film doesn’t feel very reminiscent of the Clash whatsoever. If anything, you can hear the roots of what would eventually become Joe Strummer & Mescaleros, formed in 1999.

The score itself is moody and atmospheric by still carrying that distinctly Caribbean flair strummer had been developing since the 1970s.

Beyond that there’s the obligatory “greatest hits” playlist that comes along with any anniversary of any sorts.

Being the tenth anniversary of their high school graduation, that puts us smack dab in the mid-eighties; Bowie, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cure, Pete Townshend, and Nena amongst others.

Bodhi’s Best:

Keeping in line with the 80s alternative, ska and college rock sound of the film, and attempting to prove I’m a cooler DJ than the fictional Debi, I pulled some of my favorite tracks that could’ve just as easily made the film.

So please, somebody tell me I’m cool.

“Love In Vain” by The Ruts

“Love in Vain” by The Ruts from YouTube.

The Clash didn’t earn the moniker “The Only Band That Matters” for no reason, but it’s a shame to act like they were the only reggae inspired punks coming out of England.

The Ruts made small waves in the UK with their 1979 single “Babylon’s Burning” but shortly fell into obscurity following the 1980 death of lead singer Malcom Owen.

Out of all the offerings on “Grin and Bear It,” the last album released with the original line up, “Love In Vain” is one of their more straight forward reggae inspired offerings.

A loping, echoing drum beat preludes a droning chant of “don’t want ya in my arms no more,” a worthy track for the spurned, reggae loving Debi.

“Pop Song 89” by R.E.M.

“Pop Song 89” by R.E.M. from YouTube.

There’s not much to say about R.E.M. that hasn’t already been said.

I could go on about how they helmed the leap from post-punk to tried and true alternative, or the Athens scene and the birth of college rock, but it’s been done to death.

Released in 1988 as the lead track off of the band’s fifth album, “Green,” the song hits all the sweet spots of Martin and Debi’s radio station reunion.

A play on the Doors’ “Hello, I Love You,” R.E.M.’s “Pop Song 89” loses the seductive, confident Morrison song for an earnest and awkward meet-cute.

Hello, I saw you, I know you, I knew you /
I think I can remember your name (name) /
Hello, I’m sorry, I lost myself /
I think I thought you were someone else

“Pop Song 89” by R.E.M. written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills & Michael Stipe

Awkward small talk grows to even more awkward deep conversation but that’s the beauty of getting to know someone (again).

“Hey Wow” by The Connells

“Hey Wow” by The Connells from YouTube.

Speaking about college rock pioneers, we’d be remiss to miss The Connells.

If you were a college-kid in North Carolina in the ’90s, “Fun and Games” was part of the official roster of CDs you were issued upon arrival.

Released in 1989, the album would go on to be one of their most commercially successful albums, peaking at no. 163 on the Billboard 200.

Born out of the Chapel Hill-indie scene in 1984, the group’s jangly, guitar driven sound often was written off as just another R.E.M. imitator, but I would beg to differ.

Bucolic but still sharp, The Connells felt more grounded than R.E.M. ever did; Whereas Stipe was out to prove to the world how smart and cool he was, Mike Connell was just kicking around UNC.

More than anything, I associate their specific brand of juvenile jangly rock with my Dad’s specific brand of 90s delinquency.

Which fits, because I was introduced to “Grosse Pointe Blank” much of the same way, so, thanks Dad.

Reel-to-Reel airs live on WKNC 88.1 FM HD-1 Friday Mornings from 8 – 10 a.m.

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Take the shot – Bodhi

By Bodhi

Human Dewey Decimal System for all things music and movies, purveyor of useless knowledge.