Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

I still love that Elfman called one of his cues "Love Theme?"

Revisiting CDs I haven't listened to in a while. My pile of CDs to sell, donate or otherwise get rid of is currently 21 high -- well, 14 in one and 7 in another, if you need exactness and for me to not lie. Hoping to get more ready to go, but I do want to listen to them, give the music on them a day in court. Even good albums have gotten me to think Yes, it's good, but I think I've gotten all the enjoyment I can out of it. (I also think I've burned out on the band Cake, save their albums Fashion Nugget and Comfort Eagle.)

Plenty of stuff I'm definitely keeping, including from film scores. Today I listened to a nice re-recording of Alex North music: excerpts from The Bad Seed, A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata! (the truly happy music "Gathering of Forces"), The Misfits and Spartacus. Spartacus is still probably my favorite film score ever. The performance on the Nonesuch CD from 1997 that I listened to today (and which I reviewed, back in the day) is occasionally not quite satisfying -- why go to nothing but piano in that part of the "Main Title"? -- but the drums that are emphasized until they're almost washing over the action cue "Draba Fight" still make me go "Aww, yeah."

Definitely not a classic, but still fun and staying, is the Alan Silvestri score to 1995's Judge Dredd, the next thing I listened to. It's actually a pretty sincere score, on top of how muscular and comic book-brassy it is; my hunch is that it was better music than the movie deserved. I've seen maybe five minutes of it, so I can't judge (LAME AND LOUSY BARELY-A-PUN NOT INTENDED), but I'm still going to.

The other CD I revisited, and which is safely staying in my collection (in fact, I listened to it straight through twice tonight), is Danny Elfman's score to the 1996 Mission: Impossible. It manages to sound nuts -- but in an almost completely controlled way. Film Score Monthly founder Lukas Kendall hit the nail on the head back in '96 when he described Elfman's work in general as "potent and manic-depressive," and that really describes the energy in this score. Elfman wrote it in about 3 1/2 weeks, after Silvestri had been fired from the film, but it doesn't sound rushed at all. (And one can sometimes tell: I love Michael Kamen's music, but his rush job on X-Men in 2000 is mostly just kind of flat.) At the time Elfman was getting louder and weirder with his brass, sometimes clustering them here as if he were scoring a Godzilla film (and going even farther with that soon after in his score to Mars Attacks!). And there's off-kilter snare drum playing all, all, all over this score, which made Kendall evoke Jerry Fielding, approvingly; Fielding is one of his favorite composers. The result is propulsive, but in an askew way. And the musical payoffs, especially for the fight on top of the train -- you know the sequence: Tom Cruise and Jon Voight hanging onto the Chunnel train, Cruise hooking the helicopter to the top of that train, the whole shebang getting pulled into the Chunnel, fun with blades -- can still make me laugh out loud at their audacity. Whatever Brian DePalma and the writers were putting in the water while making that movie, Elfman drank it up and pissed out film score gold.

(No, in fact, that's not my worst analogy ever.)

Whoa, am I still in love with this score (plus now I want to re-watch the 1996 film, to appreciate how perverse it is for a summer blockbuster). In fact, when Kendall made the "potent and manic-depressive" point, it was to explain why he generally doesn't listen to Elfman's music away from the films it's for, but I read that and thought That's exactly why I like his music!

Finally, a personal tidbit: To this day, that slamming 8-note motif at the start of Elfman's M:I cue "Train Time" goes through my head when I see an Amtrak roaring through my neighborhood.
Tags: music

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