Lakeshore Records presents Danny Elfman's original soundtrack album for Wanted, in stores June 24th on CD and iTunes. Danny Elfman's Music For A Darkened People and Cinemusic.net bring you a preview of the album with 15 specially selected soundclips.
01. The Little Things
02. Success Montage
03. Fraternity Suite
04. Wesley's Office Life
05. The Scheme
06. Fox In Control
07. Welcome To The Fraternity
08. Fox's Story
09. Exterminator Beat
For samples from tracks 10 to 15 check out Cinemusic.net.
Danny Elfman is a composer who is seemingly restless in his career. Even after cementing his position in the top tier of film composers, he doesn't seem content to sit back and score movie after movie, cashing paycheck after paycheck. Instead he's become a experimentalist, trying documentaries (Deep Sea 3D, Standard Operating Procedure), concert hall (Serenada Schizophrana, "Overeager Overture"), ballet ("Rabbit and Rogue") and soon full-blown Broadway musicals with Houdini. Considering the debacle that was scoring Spider-Man 2, and the subsequent abuse and misuse of his triumphant Spider-Man theme in the third film, it's no wonder that Elfman is searching for areas outside of film to exercise creatively. The appeal of scoring a film for him has often been who the director is and his latest, Wanted, must have been no different with Timur Bekmambetov at the helm, whose Russian blockbusters Nightwatch and it's sequel Daywatch, were praised for their visuals and storytelling. It's not surprising that Wanted is also based on a graphic novel, as Elfman seems to have dibs on scoring comic-book based movies, and done so better than anyone else.
An action movie like Wanted could have been scored in a traditional matter -- and for the most part Elfman approaches the film in that way. Lots of forward thrust from a regiment of percussion (pre-laid by the composer prior to recording with the orchestra), looped beats, fuzzed electric guitar, all lend a contemporary edge required for this kind of film. But the difference with Elfman comes from his unique melodic style. Whereas something like Men In Black could have been scored simply as a sci-fi action movie, Elfman dials into the humor and retro-Mancini-appeal with a thumping bassline and big-band brass. Wanted is very much written in the same way. The score never feels compromised by an attempt to pander to tween demographics, nor does it feel inhuman and overly calculated like many contemporary action scores.
Danny ElfmanDespite having all the reliable and expected action score touchstones, Elfman melodically eschews the obvious. He writes one of his longest themes (notewise) in a very long time, which in it's pure form is eight notes repeated and then morphed into a second, equally long B-part variation (heard right from the get go in "Success Montage" on strings, then woodwinds and then strings and brass). Those that have a hard time grasping the main melodic line here should revoke their imaginary Score Geek membership and perhaps contemplate collecting Screen Archives fridge magnets instead of actual soundtracks. But wait, there's more -- there's also a motif for Wesley, the hero (James McAvoy) based on the main theme ("Wesley's Office Life") usually voiced by a processed electric guitar lick and add to that an equally substantial - and aggressive - string signature for the liplicious Fox (Angelina Jolie) ("Fox In Control", "Rats", "The Train").
There's plenty to like here, made especially potent by the fact this album runs a very tight forty-eight minutes (approx. forty-five of which is score). "Success Montage" establishes the main theme, "The Scheme" builds it into bigger proprotions, and as montages go, "Success Montage" is one of Elfman's best (and he writes great ones, see: Nightmare Before Christmas' "Christmas Eve Montage", "Study Montage" from Back To School, "Fun Montage" and "Fall Montage" from Charlotte's Web -- two for the price of one! -- and "Return Montage" from Sommersby... I could go on...!). "Fraternity Suite" pulls together a couple of shorter cues for male chorus chanting latin (and dammit if that doesn't sound like Elfman himself) with insistent string ostinatos. Hints of Elfman's Spider-Man crop up in "Wesley's Office Life", including a percussion roll straight out of Planet of The Apes, but hey, who's noticing beyond those with Elfman's canon completely cranially catalogued?
Stick with it, as the second half of the album is dominated by action scoring. From the ball-busting "Fox In Control" to the throbbing groove of "Exterminator Beat", loaded with bass guitar, the ever present string ostinato, arching brass and thumping loops to "Rats", which features one of the best renditions of the main theme (at 2:25) on oboe, then flutes and then for full orchestra. This is a long-haul of Elfman action licks that will have his fans shifting their automatic trannies into "D" and speeding out of the local galleria mall parking lot with all the urgency their responsibly-economical subcompact can muster.
There are a few moments of respite here worth noting, mainly the meditative "Fox's Story" which features, yes, a duduk and female vocals. Tastefully rendered here, however, and mercifully short for those with an aversion to these tried-and-or-tested orchestration techniques. The female vocals perform a unmistakably Elfman melody and are mixed with a soft VOX choir. Think "Betrayal" from Mission: Impossible injected with a little "The Truth Revealed" from Hulk, complete with baltic percussion. These elements are later reprised in the emotionally turbulent "Fox's Decision", this time for full orchestra and chorus!
Elfman closes out the album with "Fate", a neo-classical variation on his main Wanted theme, for strings only, until the brass join in the final third, as the basses saw away with all the intensity of a starving college student devouring a tray full of Taco Bell Cheesy Gorditas.
I can't fail to mention the rocking song Elfman has penned and performed, titled "The Little Things". While it doesn't quite fall into any particular rock subgenre (vocally too soft for the screamo crowd, virtually Christian-metaphor free for the God rockers, not a single shoe will be gazed while listening to "The Little Things"), it's got a hook, a breakdown, and enough knack to dazzle you. For many this will be worth the price of admission, as many now mid-life, SoCal, new-wavers still beat a steady drum for Danny Elfman as a rock musician and haven't been thrown a bone for almost fifteen years.
It'll be interesting to see how interesting and varied a score like Wanted is received by those who bemoan daily the dearth of exciting film music being written for films these days. They hang scores-by-committee in effigy at every opportunity. They use the words "Remote" and "Control" in the same sentence like their synonyms for "Satan" and "Beezebub". Well folks, here's the antidote. A score that thrills, challenges, but is very easy to live with. And not a second of his has two many notes, and not enough rests. Like Elfman sings in "The Little Things", "it all comes down to you-hoo-oooh."
Music Composed by Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Edgardo Simone, David Slonaker, Bruce Fowler
Orchestra Conducted by Pete Anthony
Recorded and Mixed by Dennis Sands at The Newman Scoring Stage
Produced by Danny Elfman and Bill Abbott
Label (Catalogue): Lakeshore Records, (7-8016-34021-2-4)
Availability: In print
Purchasing options: Available at Amazon.com
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