In college, I took a graduate level course called Media Criticism. There were two major projects I had to complete in the class. First was to present a film to the class, dissect it’s political messages and use principles of philosophy to explain the core concepts of the story. The second, was to do the same thing with a television series.
For the television series, I chose The Chappelle Show, which had just started its second season, and focused on the portrayal of white people in the first season. For my film, I chose Pump Up the Volume.
Pump Up the Volume was released in 1990, and the US was on its 10th year of conservative Republican control with the first Bush administration, which followed the ultra-patriotic, censorship-happy, Reagan administration.
The Parent Music Resource Center was making waves in the music world, pushing for explicit lyrics labels on albums, and pressuring the recording industry to clean up its act.
Pump Up the Volume was a reaction to this entire era.
It is about a disgruntled youth, speaking his truth on a pirate radio station, dodging the Federal Communications Commission, parents, and school administrators while doing it.
Slater’s character cursed. He spoke frankly about sex. He played music that was forbidden on public airwaves. He was a rebel, and his peers rallied around his efforts because he connected with their own restless spirits.
The movie is still great in a nostalgic kind of way, but with the dawn of the Internet occurring just a few years after the movie’s release, its relevancy has suffered a bit. The idea of a pirate radio station is now antiquated at best. Former radio pirates, and the personalities drawn to such a thing, have found homes on the Internet via their own websites, blogs, social media profiles and podcasts. The soundtrack to Pump Up the Volume, however, still holds up as being filled with good tunes.
Ice-T, Beastie Boys, Frank Black, Sonic Youth, Concrete Blonde, and Bad Brains (featuring Henry Rollins), were among the artists Happy Harry Hard-on played in between rants on his radio station.
It covers the gamut of musical genres. It’s got punk, it’s got 80s synth tunes, college radio alternative songs, hip-hop, and more.
Not Included on the Spotify Playlist:
6. Kick Out the James By Bad Brains 11. Scenario by Beastie Boys 12. Me and the Devil Blues by Cowboy Junkies 13. Why Can’t I Fall in Love by Ivan Neville 15. Heretic by Soundgarden 18. Tale O’ The Twister by Chagall Guevara 20. Stand by Liquid Jesus