17 hours ago
Monday, April 5, 2010
The Abyss: A Score out of Water
Context is everything. A clown at a kid's birthday party or at the circus is harmless and sometimes even entertaining. A clown at a bus station is scary. A penguin at the zoo is a delightful attraction for children. A penguin in Antarctica is just another flippin' penguin. Ringo Starr as drummer for the Beatles was just peachy. Solo Ringo Starr is . . . well, kinda pathetic.
You get the picture.
And when you don't get the picture, sometimes a soundtrack just doesn't sound like much. This is what keeps The Abyss from getting a lot of rotation on my playlist. I really like the movie; I think it's every bit as good as Aliens or the first two Terminator flicks and full of everything that James Cameron excels at doing. I just haven't seen it for a very long time, which leaves me with the problem of not having very specific visual anchors for a lot of Alan Silvestri's soundtrack album, and on its own, it doesn't have enough to hook me.
I used to think of Silvestri as a poor man's John Williams. That may be unfair; I think he clearly has his own strengths, especially after a good 20 years more of development. But listening to this, one of his earlier efforts, you can tell the vast difference between their styles. This is all stuff that works gloriously when you're watching the movie: complex rhythms, wild brass flourishes, ominous clunking sounds from the very lowest note on the piano, wordless chorus, and tinkly strings and flutes for emotional moments. Outside the film, it's all a little disjointed. A Williams cue from the same era would tell a whole story musically all by itself. Both are perfectly valid approaches to film scoring, but one is a whole lot more fun to listen to.
So, there's not a lot to say about this album. (I'm not even quite sure how I ended up with a copy.) It's just fine, but if I want to listen to a Silvestri score, I'll probably go for something with a more consistent through-line, like the manic cartoonishness of Back to the Future, the lyrical schmaltz of Forrest Gump, or the sheer testosterone binge of Predator.