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The Croods (Alan Silvestri)

December 17, 2013

Cover_TheCroodsTHE CROODS

Alan Silvestri, 2013, Relativity Music
24 tracks, 73.52

Alan Silvestri goes back in time. All the way to the Croodaceous period. Plenty of action, adventure and a whole lot of fun guaranteed!
Review by Pete Simons

WINNER “Best Animation/Young Audience Score”, 2013 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards.

What is it?

“The Croods” is a DreamWorks animation film that received moderately positive reviews and made enough of a profit to greenlight a sequel. The story is based on the simple and familiar idea of a group of people travelling through unknown territory and discovering new things along the way. In this instance, that group of people are a bunch of Neanderthals who come across mythical creates and invent things like fire and shoes along the way. Composer of choice is Alan Silvestri who is well versed in comedy, action and adventure – the three key ingredients for this lively score. The film is directed by Kirk de Micco and Chris Sanders who, between them, having writing credits on “Space Chimps”, “Racing Stripes”, “Lilo & Stitch” and “How to Train Your Dragon”.

What does it sound like?

The album is bookended by two versions of “Shine Your Way”, a pop song written by Alan Silvestri with Glen Ballard and the film’s directors. It’s an incredibly cheesy song, (hopefully) aimed a pre-teens. The second version is more dance than pop – but hey, both are really not very good at all,  but… Silvestri’s theme is so infectious that, after a couple of bevvies, you might just find yourself waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

That simple yet infectious theme is (re)introduced during the “Prologue”. Gently at first by strings and flute. After a brief horn statement it is taken over by staccato strings accompanied by various percussive instruments. It’s kind of quirky, though this particular arrangement here leaves you wanting more. Which is fine seeing as this is only the score’s opener. What follows is a percussive piece performed by the USC Trojan Marching Band. It’s a Silvestri composition though does contain fragments from Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” (listen to the brass). It’s a fun piece, but  at 4-minutes long does drag.

“Bear Owl Escape”, “Eep and the Warthog” and “Teaching Fire to Tiger Girl” are full of wonder, Silvestri-style.  Soft strings, wood winds, bells, a noble horn reprising the main theme. “Exploring New Dangers” slowly introduces some darker chords and a little more action. “Piranhakeets” sees Silvestri is full-on action mode, including his trademark bass and snare drums, with a big wink to his own classic “Predator”. The writing in this cue is nothing short of phenomenal. “Fire and Corn” keeps up the pace (and it’s quite a pace) with all sorts of comedic techniques. With “Turkey Fish Follies” the score returns to mickey-mousing. The are plenty of nice moments in this latter cue, but it does feel disjointed.

On a number of occasions Silvestri moves away from his typical orchestral scoring. “Going Guys Way” presents the main theme for panflutes and guitars over electronic beats (giving it a slight Jamaican feel), whilst “Grug flips his Lit” is an altogether more jazzy affair (think “Sideways”). The album (or at least the score portion of it) closes with “Cantina Croods”, a Spanish-Mexican rendition of the main theme… which I can’t listen to without thinking of a Doritos advert than runs in the UK.

The middle section sees the score quieten down a little. “Story Time” reminds of “Contact” with it soft strings, horn and glockenspiel, whereas the echoing harp of “Family Maze” brings “The Abyss” to mind. And in spite of some overly fake percussion “Star Canopy” evokes a sense of wonder and beauty. Things quickly become much more dramatic again with “Planet Collapse” and “We’ll Die if We Stay Here” which contain some wonderfully dense string writing.

“Cave Painting” serves as both a variation on the earlier “Family Maze” and as a precursor to the “Cave Painting Theme” suite. It’s balls-to-the-wall once more with “Big Idea” which, if a little fragmented, is absolutely epic as it offers full orchestral variations on the score’s themes, choir included, and plenty of percussion. After the “Epilogue”, which is more or less a repeat of the “Prologue”, the score is rounded off with what almost seems like bonus tracks: a wonderful rendition of the “Cave Painting Theme” and a lengthy “Family Theme” suite.

Is it any good?

2013 has been a mixed year for Alan Silvestri. “Red 2” was quite the disappointment, yet “The Croods” is one Silvestri’s funnest scores in a while. On a side-note, Silvestri fans will be delighted that towards the end of the year Varese Sarabande announced a 2-CD Deluxe of “The Abyss” (to be release 6th January, 2014), while Intrada has released “Blown Away”, a spectacular action score from 1994. “The Croods” is a lively score with all the Silvestri trademarks we love. Overall, though particularly during the first half, the album does suffer a little from mickey-mousing. There are plenty of highlights and the second half does become more coherent, not least through two lengthy concert suites of the score’s main theme. And fine soaring themes they are! As an album it’s not quite perfect, but it is tremendously good fun!

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. Shine Your Way (Alan Silvestri, Glen Ballard, Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, performed by Owl City feat. Yuna) (3:25)
2. Prologue (2:08)
3. Smash and Grab (4:09)
4. Bear Owl Escape (2:45)
5. Eep and the Warthog (3:52)
6. Teaching Fire to Tiger Girl (1:55)
7. Exploring New Dangers (3:33)
8. Piranhakeets (2:24)
9. Fire and Corn (2:06)
10. Turkey Fish Follies (4:17)
11. Going Guys Way (3:15)
12. Story Time (3:55)
13. Family Maze (3:21)
14. Star Canopy (2:07)
15. Grug Flips His Lid (1:44)
16. Planet Collapse (1:44)
17. We’ll Die If We Stay Here (5:28)
18. Cave Painting (1:12)
19. Big Idea (2:34)
20. Epilogue (4:25)
21. Cave Painting Theme (2:52)
22. The Croods’ Family Theme (5:54)
23. Cantina Croods (1:12)
24. Shine Your Way (Adam Young remix, performed by Owl City feat. Yuna) (3:15)

Album Credits

See the album on Allmusic.com.

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