I’ve been thinking about soundtracks a lot this week. Mostly I’ve been thinking about how terrible they are for the most part, and how lucky we are to have people like Michael Giacchino around to keep things interesting. The art of the soundtrack has been, for years, lost on newer composers. Left to their own devices, the icons of the form (John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith) have become so self-indulgent that I can barely tell their newer movies apart from one another. Lucky for us there are still a few who remember the good old days.
The record that got me thinking is the new release from Brian Burton (aka DangerMouse) and Italian composer Daniele Lupi, Rome. Now, I’m no fan of DangerMouse. When it was released some years ago, I couldn’t believe how terrible the Gray Album was. Not only terrible in it’s execution, but equally terrible in the idea. His work with Gnarls Barkley was initially fresh and fun, but St. Elsewhere was followed by The Odd Couple, and all hope was lost.
But in this new effort, I find joy in his homage, along with Luppi, to composer Ennio Morricone. Growing up with the westerns of Sergio Leone, Morricone’s sounds are stuck in my head, along with millions of other filmlovers. The album isn’t really a copy, which I like. Burton and Luppi add some funk in the mix, which gives it a kind of 70’s groove that is completely different from anything Morricone ever did, but it stays true to the sound.
The reason I wanted to pick up the record, truthfully, is Jack White and Norah Jones. I’m a huge White fan, and as much as I cringe whenever “Don’t Know Why” comes on, Jones is totally aces on projects that aren’t her solo. If you don’t believe me, check out her work with The Little Willies or her short cameo on Belle and Sebastian’s last album.
And they knock it out of the park on the tracks they appear on. Especially the track “Two Against One.” I like White’s vocals and they blend well with Jones on this one and “The Rose With The Broken Neck.” For the rest of the record they’re apart, which is just as well. Too much of a good thing can be a problem. If you’re a fan of either of them, I’d definitely recommend checking this out.
Overall I’m just happy that someone made this record. It’s kind of like when Steven Soderbergh made his first Ocean’s movie. It was an homage to the brat pack (even though it was pretty much just a remake, he captured that spirit). I wish more artists would keep in mind that there were people before them that were just as good, if not better at their craft. John Williams may go down in history as the greatest film composer of all-time, but give me Bernard Hermann or Dimitri Tiomkin any day.
It’s sad that with all the great music out there, if I want a good film score I have to seek out pop/rock musicians like Johnny Greenwood or Jon Brion instead of going to the people Hollywood keeps hiring.