Saturday, 16 October 2010
Music To My Ears
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS remain one of Britain's most respected dance bands. Whereas groups like BASEMENT JAXX and FAITHLESS have lost some of their leftfield respectability because of dull tracks or cynical synergetic corporate partnerships (FAITHLESS' last music video also doubled up as a Fiat car advert and their latest album The Dance was retailed via an exclusivity deal with Tesco), THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS have managed to maintain their serious music credentials. The CHEMICALS came to prominence at a time when the amphetamine-fuelled club scene was booming, with their 1997 album Dig Your Own Hole charting massively well in Europe and America — where the 'Electronica' scene came to prominence on the strength of that album. The current music scene has changed significantly and the CHEMICALS latest album Further failed to chart in the UK because the record label Parlophone decided that every purchase would enter the purchaser into a competition to win an iPad and British chart regulations strictly forbid prizes being used as enticements to buy albums.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS are a great electronic dance band and its catalogue of fantastic music defines the youth of many. If their album sales have been less than robust of late, their live shows remain a potent draw and now it's been announced they will be composing the score for Joe Wright's new action drama HANNA- released spring 2011. Wright claims to have known Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons (the guys behind THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS) since the early 90's when he used to drop acid and design lighting concepts at raves with the both of them. After seven notable albums, it's safe to say the CHEMICALS have produced music that's highly cinematic hence why music loving filmmakers like Cameron Crowe and Sofia Coppola have frequently used their tracks in many of their movies. Yet HANNA will be the CHEMICALS' first film score and it adds to a cool trend in Hollywood where studios are commissioning respected bands/ artists to score their movies. Along with the CHEMICALS doing the music for HANNA, Trent Reznor (with Atticus Ross) of NINE INCH NAILS has scored David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK, while DAFT PUNK has provided the music for TRON: LEGACY and PHOENIX is currently scoring Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE.
A band/ rock star scoring major motion pictures has been done before to brilliant results. Vangelis did Blade Runner, The Dust Brothers did Fight Club, Bob Dylan did Wonder Boys, Peter Gabriel did The Last Temptation of Christ, Wu-Tang Clan's RZA did Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Three 6 Mafia did Hustle & Flow, and Karen O did Where the Wild Things Are — all to great cultural acclaim. One of the reasons why it may be better to commission a band to score a movie is due to the fact that unlike traditional film composers, bands aren't predictable in tying the music they create to the dramatic themes of the film they're creating music for. In that sense the music they make is refreshing and original. It also gives movie scores a cultural currency traditional composers lack. People are more likely to buy a film score if a notable band has composed it, therefore a band's association to a movie may make it more appealing to individuals who would ordinarily shun movies in favour of other pursuits like going to gigs or staying in and listening to albums.
Above all, the movie landscape of late is populated with creative visionaries who either cut their teeth helming the burgeoning music video scene, or are young enough to have been inspired greatly by the MTV craze of the 80s and 90s. For anyone under 35, the creative proposition of creating images to music and not the other way round seems a most palatable intention. They belong to a generation who comfortably marries the aesthetics of moving images with the melodic inventiveness of cool music. It only seems natural for contemporary filmmakers to seek the services of great bands to compose the score for their movies. After all, there's a fine line between movies and music with songwriters like Jim Morrison and Kelly Jones having been film students before becoming singers. Likewise, Spike Jonze and David Fincher are directors who defined modern music videos before going on to change the face of modern American cinema.
Joe Wright's decision to hire the CHEMICAL BROTHERS to score HANNA seems both brave yet in keeping with the zeitgeist. One can argue Joe Wright's portentous Dunkirk beach sequence in Atonement was essentially the best COLDPLAY music video COLDPLAY never used, nor asked for. Unlike Danny Boyle (who was previously attached to direct HANNA), Wright is not known to be a hip director; the sort of director a CHEMICAL BROTHERS score would seem a good fit. (One can't help but be reminded of Iain Softley's efforts to provide his 1995 movie Hackers with an ill-fitting hip soundtrack when the director was anything but hip and the end product felt awkward at best.) Still, the actuality that Joe Wright and the CHEMICALS go way back, added with the current trend of music superstars topping up their income by scoring big movies; this union of rockers and filmmakers actually seems very exciting. With the current inertia in British cinema it is prudent for directors to try and forge fruitful connections with esteemed musicians who themselves are also struggling to keep their heads above water because of rampant piracy, lack of interest in live music and declining music sales. This can be a productive trend that does both parties a world of good and helps boost the creative profile of both the movie and musician.