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The Interview / This Is The End / Kingsman – Henry Jackman

February 21, 2015

Cover_TheInterviewTHE INTERVIEW / THIS IS THE END

Henry Jackman, 2015, La-La-Land Records
17 tracks, 35:08

Henry Jackman is on a roll! And it’s not a toilet roll. Three scores of his see the light of day in rapid succession. And guess what? All three are a hoot!

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“The Interview” only one of the more controversial films in recent history – allegedly evoking a cyber-attack by North Korea onto Sony’s computer network. Subsequently the film was exposed to a wadload of attention it surely doesn’t deserve; and as a result crowds flocked to the cinema (and to iTunes) to express their democratic right to watch crap movies.

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” on the other hand is a well-received action/adenture film by Matthew Vaughn of “Kick-Ass” and “Stardust”. As with “Kick-Ass” the score is by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson.

Below is my botched attempt at one review for two releases of three scores.

What does it sound like?

“The Interview” —

There is one thing about “The Interview” that is surprisingly good – the original score by Henry Jackman. I was expecting a typical ostinato-driven, horns blasting, dub-step pumping experience. The reality is that Jackman’s score is a tonne of fun! The album opens with “Kim Jong-Un” and it presents a theme that is both menacing and melancholy. I’d say it’s a 7-note, call-and-answer melody. The rising motifs in the background are quite exquisite and add a sense of grandeur. It’s a strong and surprisingly ‘classical’ opening to an album that continues to entertain. “East Meets West” features some stereotypical (though still infectious) percussion and plucked instruments, but the chanting vocals add a sense of authenticity. “Guns N’ Girls” stands out due to its heavy use of electric guitars… or should I rephrase that to: its use of heavy electric guitars? Either way works.

The score is short and most cues are of an ‘underscore’ nature, but they remain interesting and Kim Jong-Un’s theme (or at least its opening 3-note motif) is never far away. In “Skylark Discovers The Truth” it is performed slowly on a piano to melancholic effect. Orchestral parts slowly build to a dramatic crescendo, before diving into “The Wrath of Kim”. This is simply an outstanding action cue. It is energetic, it’s theme-driven, and it contains some fantastic cinematic clichés. When that ‘Holst’ rhythm kicks in at 2.25 I’ve already been tapping my feet for some time; and when things go all-out ‘Silvestri’ on your ass from 2.40, I am grinning from ear to ear. “So Long Sook” offers a lovely, reflective end, whilst “Grand Finale” offers a satisfying reprise of Kim Jong-Un’s theme… however, I’m already rewinding back to “The Wrath of Kim”.

“This Is The End” —

Also included are half a dozen cues from Jackman’s “This Is The End”, a score that is even more fun than “The Interview”. It’s orchestrated in a similar fashion – for orchestra with a strong emphasis on brass. However, “This Is The End” also feature plenty of chanting choir… seemingly parodying “The Omen” by Jerry Goldsmith. On more than one occasion, the score also reminds my of Alan Silvestri.

“The Exorcism of Jonah Hill” is amazing – the writing for strings and brass is fantastic. And then there is that huge, demonic choir. It’s proper horror film stuff… unless you realise what they’re actually singing. It had me in stitches. I haven’t laughed this hard at, and with, a film score… probably since “Chicken Run”. On the downside: it makes you realise how much nonsense composers may have been feeding us over the years and we haven’t even noticed!

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” —

Written in a similar idiom as the previous two scores is “Kingsman”. The score strongly revolves around a 6-note motif (three up, three down) which is heard right off the bat in “Manners Maketh Man”. It’s simply enough to be moulded into something that fits any situation, yet (somewhat remarkably) it is strong enough to carry the score. During the opening cue alone it forms the basis for both a leading theme (for strings and Bond-like brass) and a driving string ostinato. In “The Medallion” it features hesitantly on piano, and harp, before building to a glorious climax for strings and counterpoint brass. This main theme also seems to pave the way for a secondary theme that’s first heard towards the end of “Valentine”. It’s got a slightly bigger range and feels a little more elegant.

An odd side-effect is that it’s difficult to say much more about the score. Thematically there isn’t much more to it than what I’ve already said. Jackman and Margeson put that theme through its paces in practically every single cue. It’s incredibly infectious. I get excited at the first hint of the 16-note arpeggio that’s derived from the main theme, for example in “Pick a Puppy”.

Electric guitars, rock drums and synth also feature, though they generally take a back seat to the orchestra. A cue like “Shame We Had To Grow Up” combines a mysteriously pulsating synth sound with ‘noir’ winds and brass, approaching a James Bond-like sound. “Calculated Infiltration” is an 8-minute tour de force. Exciting rhythms, with accents from guitars and brass, the main theme in a dozen variations, heroic brass performances, it’s all there! Lastly, “Finale” is a wonderful cue, reprising the scores highlights – its themes, its rhythms, its percussion, synths and guitars. It briefly juxtaposes the main theme against a few chords that presumably represent the baddies, to dramatic effect.

Is it any good?

“The Interview” and “This Is The End” are ludicrously good fun. They feature strong themes and excellent, colourful orchestrations (take a bow Stephen Coleman). It’s not even a guilty pleasure… it’s just a pleasure! The consistent style and quality, both in the writing and the orchestrations, ensure that these two score sit comfortably together on one album – an album that is most definitely worth exercising your democratic right for. And exactly the same goes for “Kingsman”. These are three well written, brilliantly orchestrated, incredibly good fun scores that can’t fail to brighten up your day.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

Cover_TheInterviewTHE INTERVIEW / THIS IS THE END

Henry Jackman, 2015, La-La-Land Records
17 tracks, 35:08

“The Interview” —

01. Kim Jong-un (4:09)
02. Me So Sorry (1:16)
03. Operation Dung Beetle (1:03)
04. East Meets West (1:13)
05. Backdoor Rendezvous (2:54)
06. Guns N Girls (0:42)
07. Panic At The Palace (2:41)
08. Skylark Discovers The Truth (1:46)
09. The Wrath Of Kim (3:41)
10. So Long Sook (1:27)
11. Grand Finale (1:19)

“This Is The End” —

12. Inferno On Melrose (1:44)
13. Celebrity Sinkhole (2:57)
14. Book Of Revelations (1:29)
15. Feeling Horny? (0:57)
16. 15. The Exorcism Of Jonah Hill (3:05)
17. 16. The Final Rapture (2:45)

 

Cover_KingsmanKINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE

Henry Jackman, 2015, La-La-Land Records
15 tracks, 46:28

01. Manners Maketh Man
02. The Medallion
03. Valentine
04. To Become a Kingsman
05. Pick a Puppy
06. Drinks With Valentine
07. Skydiving
08. Shame We Had to Grow Up
09. Curious Scars and Implants
10. Toast to a Kingsman
11. An 1815 Napoleonic Brandy
12. Eat, Drink and Paaaaarty
13. Calculated Infiltration
14. Hand on the Machine
15. Finale

Availability

Visit the La-La Land Records website for more information and samples from any of these three scores.

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