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SONIC DEATH MONKEY SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS - Underworld & 28 Days Later

Sonic Death Monkey is seen every Saturday
by Michael Collins

This week SND looks at the soundtracks to Underworld and 28 Days Later. Surprisingly itís the ďInspired-By-The-FilmĒ Underworld compilation that is probably the better overall album with its consistent mood and attitude. 28 Days Later though has some great highlights.

The soundtrack of 28 Days Later opens just as frantically as the film. Thereís lots samples cut and pasted from seemingly a thousand sources as you struggle to find your bearings on the album just as the filmís lead character has to do in the film.

The opening music and most of the score is from John Murphy. Most of the soundtrack comes from him with a few ring-ins. One of those ring-ins is Perri Alleyne.

His performance of Abide With Me is simply beautiful. Just the young Alleyneís voice belts out the hymn, which is wisely given no accompaniment at all. We can then focus on the stark beauty of the song and the voice singing it. Similarly the performances of Ave Maria and In Paradisium (by the Choir of Trinity College from Cambridge University) are just beautiful. Indeed itís funny to see how these pieces of music somehow find their way into such a stark and intense film.

Murphyís Requiem reflects the humanity that is part of the story. The deaths are tragic and Murphyís music for these moments is powerful.

There are tracks though that do reflect the more frenzied moments of the film.

Tower Block is a perfect example of one of the more frantic tracks. You get nervous just listening to the thing. Not dissimilar to the mood set in the Run Lola Run soundtrack, the track gives a wonderful sense of energy, excitement and the utmost urgency. If you are in a hurry listen to this track. This one will compel you to get a move on.

The Tunnel track has a similar effect. Listening to this makes you think that someoneís stalking and you must run home now and hide under the bed. Itís brilliant work by Murphy to so effectively evoke these emotions in the listener.

Other tracks are quite tranquil and ambient. This is quite a contrast to the frantic nature of the film. Tracks such as I Promised Them Women and The Search for Jim have those ambient touches, yet also are a little less melodic like the work of X Files composer, Mark Snow, which increases the tension and gives a sense of a dark foreboding this way comes.

Not unlike one of those mid 70s era Pink Floyd tracks, In The House, slowly and darkly builds momentum until it builds up to themes previously heard from the soundtrack. Itís like itís telling you, oh no here we go again.

Brian Eno contributes to the soundtrack. He has long been an expert on atmospherics. Heís the perfect man to have to provide music for the moody desolate and frantic film that is 28 Days Later. Lightening up things a little is Grandaddyís AM180. Itís a pure indie loser-core sound and works in the same was as The Pixies worked at the end of Fight Club.

A notable omission from the album is a song that is heard in the opening of the film. Itís by the band, Godspeed, You Black Emperor (surely one of the silliest and melodramatic band names there ever was) and the song is called East Hastings. Youíll need to dig up there debut release F#A#(infinity.) Yes, thatís what it gets called - I donít know - canít these guys lighten up?

Perhaps the lack of desire to lighten up enhances this bandís moodiness, as East Hastings is a top track and itís a shame that itís missing from the soundtrack.

Due to the various endings in the film that have been made, there are also various choices of music that could go with them. The soundtrack includes the optimistic and hopeful version of The End. It helps you recover from the emotional wringer that so heavily features on this soundtrack.

Since the film is such an emotional roller coaster, the soundtrack is as well. So this makes it difficult to listen to unless you plan to relive the emotional highs and lows of the film. If that is not your intention you will find yourself skipping tracks to match the mood that you are wanting to set at the time of listening.

A more consistent mood is set in the soundtrack for Underworld. The black leather clad tribal vamp flick that saw Kate Beckinsale make like a blood bank and hairy pest remover. This mood is achieved despite this soundtrack being one of those compilation Ďinspired by the moveí deals.

There are a number of all too familiar themes to look for in the film and so the music acts accordingly. There are the hyper-emotional ballads and thereĎs, the as-threatening-as-a-drunk-lone-ant industrial songs.

Sarah Bettensí All of This Past will appeal to Sarah McLachlan fans with its sweet but overblown feelings put into the arrangement. Itís just too big. Learn some restraint people!

Trust Companyís Hover works in the same way. The forced husky vocals almost made me laugh. The huge production in this song almost makes the songs fall in on itself. There is a nice song buried deep in there somewhere but the lard and gloss poured on top almost loses the song completely. And this was only the Quite Mix. Iíd hate to hear the Completely Over The Top We Even Threw In The Kitchen Sink Mix that Iím sure exists somewhere.

While some of these songs will be barely heard in the movie (if heard at all), they do well to create a strong mood for you as you listen to the soundtrack. Finch with Worms of the Earth is all screaming guitars turned up to about, a hundred and eleven. Thumping double kick drums keep the thrashing pace leading you to have this almost irresistible urge to go and head butt something. Best to keep away from your friends or babies whilst listening to this track!

Canadian electro-moody merchants Skinny Puppy provide Optimissed. As was usually the case with these guys, the song is dark, extreme and scary. Although itís not at this bandís scariest. With itís at times clangy, at times squelchy beats, this one is set to be a hit at your local industrial goth club.

Coming from the same state of mind is Red Tape by Agent Provocateur. I like this one better, as itís a little funkier. It has the screaming guitars again, but the vocals are held back a bit, so the rhythm section can still do itís work. This one will get you dancing in your black leather corset.

Recalling grunge at its dodgiest is The Damming Well. While vampirism can be cool on screen there just seems to be something wrong when people start singing about it. Thatís what The Damning Well do with their song Awakening. It just comes across as almost laughable as they seem to take themselves far too seriously. Movies have a definite boundary of whatís real and what isnít, but a band doesnít have that luxury. So when real people go on about how, ďI must be a humanĒ and other such scary demon shenanigans - well it just comes across as sounding rather silly.

Puscifer, Page Hamilton, A Perfect Circle and others do similar things with their respective efforts. David Bowie contributes with Bring Me The Disco which is as flat as all his music has been for the past twenty years, while Concrete Blonde alumni Johnette Napolitano sings Suicide Note -which is better than most efforts here, but youíll want to be hearing Concrete Blondeís Tomorrow Wendy or Joey instead.

Curiously Milla Jovovich turns up (sheís not in the film although sheĎs pencilled in for the pseudo-vampire flick Ultraviolet) with a song called Rocket Collecting. Her performance in this song reminds you that it was a pretty strange decision for her to decide on acting as well.

The shining light is the fantastic Lisa Germano with From A Shell. Her sultry voice and the songís minimalist arrangement bring a welcome sense of self-control that is not seen elsewhere on the soundtrack.

While the music standard isnít as high as one might hope, The Underworld soundtrack does provide a more consistent mix and will certainly be favoured by fans of the genre. It has that consistent mood to it, so itís more likely be played from beginning to end.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=800
originally posted: 09/27/03 22:15:47
last updated: 02/01/04 08:45:09
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