by Michael Collins
All I want for Christmas is all that you have.
So what does Sonic Death Monkey have in store for you this holiday season of joy and goodwill? Abandoned children pursued by a guy who is trying to kill them and some guy who is already dead, that's what.
The Lemony Snicket film – as is the case with the books – is a triumph of style while perhaps a little lacking in substance. You were left wanting a little more meat on those bones despite its nice little line of wicked sense of humour.
The style of the film of course has a contribution from the music. So if the film is a triumph in style, maybe it will have a soundtrack that is worth a listen.
The first positive sign that this is the case is the composer. It's Thomas Newman. The man responsible for the music of Six Feet Under and American Beauty. His beautiful, sparse arrangements are a delight to the ears.
His style established in the above mentioned is evident immediately. Bad Beginning, may be the title of the opening track, but for the listener it's a very promising star. It's a lilting piece with delicate percussion and an almost eastern sound to it. A find mood setter it has to be said.
The music aims to be a more mood creation piece rather than have separate tracks to stand out. This music is at times playful – showing the sense of humour of the film. At other times it is reflective – like the music from a musical jewelery box. This reminds of Harry Potter scores, but we are in far more capable hands with Thomas Newman.
The film is all about the quiet resilience of its three children. So naturally there is a track called just that, Resilience. A beautiful piano lead piece that is a highlight of the CD.
Wonder and amazement is expressed in, The Reptile Room. It has exotic eastern sounds again, and it also has that deep electric bass guitar sound that is common in Newman's work.
This is another top notch effort from Newman – Probably my favourite film composer going around at the moment. This CD is just right for that late Christmas present for someone whom you want to give a gift that involves the theme of trying to kill children. Hey come on, we've all thought it at least once.
Kevin Spacey wins full points for having the ambition of trying on the role of Bobby Darin for his directorial and starring effort in Beyond The Sea. As far as swing standards go, Bobby Darin was one of the guys who actually set the standard with his renditions of, Mack the Knife, and, La Mer (the title track, Beyond The Sea). Spacey is brave to take on this big task.
Opening track, Hello Young Lovers, is pumping and enthusiastic in its arrangement, but what we really want to know is how does Spacey's voice hold up.
Well it's ok. It's a bit like the Buffy Once More With Feeling soundtrack where there were participants doing their level best when they were way over their heads. Spacey gives an adequate performance. Ever seen Mel Gibson doing Hamlet? Well that's what Spacey is like at singing these 60s-style swing tunes.
The music ventures away from swing to folk with, Simple Song of Freedom, and, Change. Spacey is a little more at ease in these more reserved arrangements. More ventures go to early 60s US pop with Dream Lover.
In, Some of These Days, Spacey has more character his voice. It's here that he is at his most comfortable. He's got more to play with, where his joking around a little bit. Give Spacey more character to work with and he gives a stronger performance.
The version of, If I Were A Carpenter, has a country feel to it. While this is consistent with Darin's career, Spacey is stretching the listener's friendship as the style starts to vary a little too much. Swing was what Darin was best know for and I think the album would have done better to stick to that style. I would say that, being a big band swing fan. Yeah, I'm biased.
The production is very glossy. I like my swing to be a bit more raw and old school (ie 30s style rather than revamped 60s style with 21st century production techniques). It's a more commercial sound – A great introductory to swing, but give me old school any day.
So it's all, Nearly-But-Not-Cigar, for Spacey's attempt at Bobby Darin. Give him the encouragement award, but the 1st prize will be going to someone else.
link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1265
originally posted: 12/22/04 20:28:50