Music in the movies: June score round-up

In this week’s Music in the movies, Glen looks over the scores for the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean, Attack The Block and Hanna…

In this month’s score round-up, there be pirates, teen assassins, monsters from outer space, vampires, Frankenstein, and a killer tyre called Robert. There’s music from a trio of electronic duos, one of the most highly regarded blockbuster composers of this generation, and some of the finest genre composers from the golden age of British horror…

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Hans Zimmer 

Zimmer’s second score of the year accompanies a film that will, no doubt, be one of the most watched films of 2011. The fourth instalment of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise sees the great composer return, but this time it’s not just reliant on his brand of orchestrated action, as he has enlisted the help of Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Their flamboyant, virtuoso guitar work provides the soundtrack’s highlights, and gives the score its own identity, as the film itself is intended to re-establish the franchise after a couple of lacklustre (albeit hugely successful) sequels.

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Sure, there are a number of typical Zimmer moments, as well as nods to previous themes heard in the franchise, and it doesn’t come anywhere near matching the quality of his score for Rango, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. The CD also features a number of remixes that, to me, weren’t particularly satisfying, and seemed a little unnecessary. 

Hans Zimmer’s score for Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is available now through Disney.

Attack The Block – Basement Jaxx & Steven Price

Joe Cornish’s debut was something that I had anticipated since first hearing about it, and while it didn’t disappoint,  it didn’t blow me away either. It’s clear that Cornish is talented as a director, and I loved that it attempted to capture the spirit of the type of films that were commonplace in the 80s and early-90s.

The score by Basement Jaxx and Price also goes some way to capture that spirit by using the minimalist synth lead approach favoured by John Carpenter in his heyday. The score it shared most similarities to for me was Assault On Precinct 13, with a slow build of tension achieved through the use of a strong and ominous bassline. Here, less is indeed more. 

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Still, it’s not a score without its faults, and there are times where it doesn’t quite work. But for a debut, it’s very solid indeed, and is, in fact, a stronger effort than much of the latter-day Carpenter material, and some of the scores that have accompanied alien invasion fare, from notable composers like Brian Tyler.

A promising effort, then, even though it is a little inconsistent – and there’s certainly enough here to keep me interested to see if Basement Jaxx chose to compose for film again.

Basement Jaxx and Steven Price’s score for Attack The Block is available now through Decca.

Rubber – Mr. Oizo & Gaspard Augé

I wasn’t overly keen on the film itself; fantastic premise and soundtrack aside, I thought that Rubber really failed to be either an interesting art house oddity or a decent horror flick. Overall, it was a little too cool for school for my liking. 

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Fortunately, I gleaned some kind of enjoyment from the soundtrack, which stays true to the stylings of both Oizo (director Quentin Dupieux) and  Justice’s Gaspard Augé.

For the most part it works, with Augé’s grand anthemic themes and Oizo’s quirky passages complementing each other well, and it’s testament to both of them that it retains their key characteristics while also working as a score. It’s something that French duo Daft Punk failed to do with Tron: Legacy last year. 

The duo don’t shy away from showing their influences either, as there are hints of Morricone heard throughout the score as they capture that western feel. There are also references to the scores of French cinema, as well as Kraftwerk. It showcases its influences more effectively than the film itself, and also succeeds in retaining its own identity. Not the year’s best score by any means, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting.

Mr. Oizo and Gaspard Augé’s score for Rubber is available now through Because.

Hanna – The Chemical Brothers

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The third of this month’s featured scores by an electronic duo is, for me, the best. It also helps that the film it accompanies is also the strongest. The score provides the perfect accompaniment to the action on screen, giving it a sense of urgency as well as adding an air of tension throughout much of it.

How the score is gradually introduced is also very effective; from the film’s isolated beginnings, where our protagonist has lived a life without music, we experience her evolution throughout the course of the film, and as she experiences more of the world around her, new layers are introduced to the score. 

Scores from artists not necessarily associated with composing for film seem to be all the rage of late (I appreciate this has happened many times in the past, but there’s certainly a current trend), and examples like this and Reznor’s score for The Social Network show how great they can be. I for one certainly hope to hear more efforts from the Chemical Brothers accompanying films in the not too distant future. 

Since watching Hanna, I have been unable to get The Devil Is in The Details out of my head. It’s the infectiously catchy number that’s whistled by Tom Hollander’s creepy hit man throughout the film, and it’s absolutely superb, if slightly obnoxious. What I think is most effective about it is that it’s familiar while being an original piece.

The hook really works in two parts; you have the whistled set-up, that tails off into an homage to Heigh-Ho from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, which ties in nicely with the fairy tale aspects at the heart of Hanna.

The Chemical Brothers’ score for Hanna is available now through Back Lot Music. 

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The Hammer Legacy – The Frankenstein Collection and The Vampire Collection

Among the many scores I’ve covered so far this year,  it was a nice change to receive these two collections to review. As I’m sure is the case with many of the readers of this site, the films of Hammer provided me with an introduction to horror at an early age, and often resulted in quite vivid nightmares.

A part of the reason the films were so successful was the quality of the scores that accompanied them. Scores that were a contributing factor to the nightmares the film caused.

It’s easy to identify a Hammer score, and this is partly down to the work of James Bernard, who scored more than 20 Hammer films throughout his career, and his work features heavily over both of these collections.

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They also feature works by Harry Robinson, Laurie Johnson, Leonard Salzedo, Don Banks and Malcolm Williamson. The quality of the music is great, and is best enjoyed played very loud to get the full effect, so for Hammer fans who don’t own the scores covered here already, these collections are a must buy.

The only minor complaint is that they’re far from extensive collections, with both of them only clocking in at a little over 30 minutes each. But the great quality of the work contained more than makes up for the lack of quantity.

The Hammer Legacy – The Frankenstein Collection and The Vampire Collection are available now through SilvaScreen.