Crazy Eyes – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Original Music By: Bobby Johnston
Original Songs By: Stepfather, Gvcci Hvcci, Sister Spaceman and Lindsay Heath
Duration: 41 min
Label: Lakeshore Records

Crazy Eyes, the film, follows Zach (Lukas Haas) who seems to be living the Hollywood bachelor dream – he’s got a house in the hills, the phone numbers for dozens of beautiful women and a hard-partying lifestyle aided and abetted by his bartender pal, Dan (Jake Busey). It seems nothing can tie down this divorced father, until he meets “Crazy Eyes” (Madeline Zima) – the one woman he can’t have. As the two embark on a love-crazed, booze-fueled relationship, Zach’s family issues begin to take center-stage, questioning whether or not this partying lost boy can step up to the challenge and become a man. Crazy Eyes was co-written and directed by Adam Sherman (Happiness Runs). The soundtrack features original music by Bobby Johnston and new songs by indie artists Stepfather, Gvcci Hvcci, Sister Spaceman and Lindsay Heath.

Reviewing this I couldn’t help but compare it to the Lola Versus soundtracks I covered previously. Musically they’re fairly different, but both are a mixture of quirky instrumentals and hip indie songs (Lola splits these into 2 albums) and both are based on indie romances that flopped critically and commercially. Like the soundtracks to Lola, this is still worth your time despite any shortcomings the film may have, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.

The songs, which are spread in-between Johnston’s score are where the album was strongest for me. ‘Jesus on the Mainline’ gets things off to a good start with a country tinged spiritual. ‘Did Dennis Get Deported?’ is incredibly catchy and lively compared to most of the other tracks. ‘Bags and Books and Bones’ by Lindsay Heath and friends is a nice change of pace too with its funky electro style. ‘Queen of Darkness’ by Gvcci Hvcci was my favourite track though with an unusual electro-hip-hop feel that reminded me a little of Santigold.

They’re not all great, some of Lindsay Heath’s solo songs didn’t blow me away and the final track, ‘Here Right Now’ by Sister Spaceman is a bit of a limp way to wrap everything up, but overall it’s the songs that stay with you.

The Bobby Johnston tracks aren’t bad though. They’re all fairly varied with the Jewish dance music of ‘The Hieronymus Bosch Exhibit’ mixing with the toe-tapping jazzy West Coast (ish) guitar of ‘It Won’t Be a Struggle’ (my favourite of the instrumentals). There’s a clear jazz influence to much of it, with lots of walking bass lines, some snared trumpet and the occasional improvised scat vocals. Unfortunately, due in part to their looseness, diversity and brevity, these tracks don’t really stick with you and you feel like you’re listening to a solely song-based album if you don’t concentrate hard enough.

Taken as a whole it’s a decent album with some strong tracks, but it’s not something you’ll be listening to for years to come.

Crazy Eyes – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on digital download.

To find out more or to buy the soundtrack head over to Lakeshore Records.

The Odyssey – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Music By: Antonio Pinto & Dudu Aram
Duration: 30 min
Label: Lakeshore Records

Produced as part of the build up to London 2012, The Odyssey was commissioned especially for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Hackney-born Asif Kapadia (Senna) combines epic aerial images with the voices of Londoners to chart the city’s turbulent yet inspiring journey from winning the bid in 2005 to the 2012 Olympics. The soundtrack features original music by Antonio Pinto (City of God) and Dudu Aram (aka Ali Disco B).

I keep changing my mind about this one. I think the problem for me is that a fair amount of the music on this album reminds me very much of the chilled out electronica/dance music I listened to a lot of in University about 10 years ago, so I can’t decide whether it’s a bit dated, or it’s just that my tastes have changed over the years.

If I try not to worry about whether this holds up to the music of artists still relevant in the genre, there is a lot to enjoy about this album. For want of a better descriptive word, it’s very cool, mirroring the highly metropolitan view most have of London and without having seen the film I can imagine the music accompanying shots of the modern architecture and hustle and bustle of city life. Whilst the album mainly has a fairly relaxed feel, there is always enough energy to stop it turning into ambient background music and towards the end the beats become even more prevalent and you’d be hard pressed to call it ‘chill out’ music, which some earlier tracks point towards. Tracks like ‘British Chaos’ are full on dance numbers, which aren’t always my thing, but are well done enough to rise above the lazy chart house music that normally springs to mind when people say ‘dance music’ to me.

I also like the fact that the instrumentation feels very organic, merging well with the more electronic glitches and beats which accompany it. Some of the piano and string lines in particular sound great, with title track ‘The Odyssey’ impressing in particular with its beautifully flowing piano lead (I play the instrument so I’m a sucker for piano-based music). I think it’s this warmth that gives off the more relaxed vibe, even though much of the music is quite pacey and beat-driven.

The more I think about it and the more I listen to it (it’s on now), the more I think it’s a decent album which is well produced and fitting to its subject matter. However the tracks don’t tend to stick with me and I keep getting the nagging feeling that I’ve heard this before and done slightly better in my youth. For a soundtrack to a film that is basically a kind of promotional piece this is high end stuff though and fans of this style of music may love it.

The Odyssey – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on digital download.

To find out more or to buy the soundtrack head over to Lakeshore Records.

Assault on Precinct 13/Dark Star

Composer: John Carpenter
Produced, Arranged and Performed by: Alan Howarth
Duration: 62 min
Label: Buysoundtrax

I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter’s work in the 70’s and 80’s, especially Assault on Precinct 13. An incredibly taught, no-frills exercise in tension and excitement, the film is a B-Movie classic. The soundtrack, by Carpenter himself of course, is a classic in itself. This new release sees frequent Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth (Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China) producing, arranging and performing a new recording of the score alongside a new recording of the soundtrack to Carpenter’s first feature Dark Star (a film that I don’t remember much about to be honest – I saw it when I was a teenager).

With the main theme being stolen for the video game Xenon 2, I was a fan of the Assault on Precinct 13 soundtrack before I even knew it. The simple 4-note bassy-melody of the theme is insanely catchy. It has a wonderfully dark feel to it too, with occasional string synths supplying an eerie backing to the main melody. The skittish percussion gives the whole thing an unnerving edge too, bringing to mind helicopters circling overhead.

Luckily Howarth retains the Casio-style synth sound. To be honest, other than sounding perhaps ‘bassier’ than before, the new recording sounds incredibly faithful (to my ears at least). Yes it sounds very much of its time, but that’s all part of the charm and those old fashioned electronic sounds have a warmer feel than some of the more modern, processed stuff we get today.

The only gripe I have now, on listening to the soundtrack as a whole (I only knew it before from its theme and from watching the film before), is that it is rather repetitive. Other than some raw, stripped down tracks such as ‘Wells’ Flight’ and the mellow 70’s sound of ‘Precinct 9, Division 13’, ‘Julie’ & ‘Walk Out’ most of the album consists of variations on the main theme. It still works though and on repeated listens some of the subtleties of the differences between the tracks shine through.

The Dark Star soundtrack isn’t as instantly satisfying. Largely made up of abstract synth freak outs and various bleeps and blips, it lacks the catchy hook of Assault, but as an early foray into make-shift electronic scoring you have to respect Carpenter for breaking new ground. The film was released in 1974, when electro-pioneers Kraftwerk were only just cracking the mainstream with their Autobahn album, so I can only imagine how fresh a soundtrack like this must have been at the time. Whereas the synthetic sounds of A Clockwork Orange reinterpreted classical music 3 years previously, Carpenter crafted original sounds in a more avant-garde and abstract fashion that could be seen as equally as important. It’s not something I’m eager to whack on my stereo regularly, but I can certainly respect it.

So all in all this is a great package. The sleeve notes are worth mentioning too with Randall D. Larson providing extensive background information as well as his thoughts on the two films and scores. I’m not a fan of the front cover, but what’s inside is certainly worth a read. A highly recommended purchase for fans of Carpenter’s work.

Assault on Precinct 13/Dark Star is out now on digital download and CD.

To find out more and to buy the soundtrack head over to Buysoundtrax.

Listen to samples:

Assault on Precinct 13 (Main Title)


Message From Earth/Dark Star

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