SPECTRE Soundtrack Review

soundtrack

After the first extracts of the new SPECTRE music by composer Thomas Newman had not exactly been able to impress, today’s release of the full soundtrack album offered room for a shift of opinion. Thanks to many pre-orders, the soundtrack had reached Number 3 on the Amazon UK charts and went straight to Number 1 in the German counterpart while lingering on Number 12 in the US.

spectreWith 26 tracks and a total runtime of just over 79 minutes, one somehow can`t refrain from thinking about how much of Newman’s score will remain unreleased material. Given that SPECTRE is the longest ever Bond film with 148 minutes, a couple of minutes seem to have been excluded from the album. Hard to evaluate without having seen the film first.

Let´s go into detail. Not by reviewing every single track individually, but rather highlighting those that stand out from the rest – positively as well as negatively.

First off, the album starts very promising with a track that Newman recorded in collaboration with Mexican Percussion ensemble “Tambuco”. Carefully placed hints of the iconic Bond theme are shimmering through, mixing with the exotic percussion like a perfectly blended cocktail. This genuinely raises my hopes that Newman might not entirely have brushed the critical voices aside that had complained about a lack of “bondness” in the soundtrack of previous Bond outing SKYFALL in 2012.

The orchestral might of “The Pale King” masterfully underlines the menacing appearence of SPECTRE before turning into a moody and mysterious piece that somehow generates a feeling of uneasiness and anxiety. A nail-biter, like when you feel watched.

Another one of my favourites is “The Secret Room” with its distinct oriental touches. Nothing particularly groundbreaking in this recurring soundtrack motif and yet, it still appeals to you with that whiff of foreign mystery. It’s in tracks like these that you hear Thomas Newman’s undisputable strengths. He clearly is not an action music composer, which is why tracks like “Backfire” and “Snow Plane” don’t thrill me at all. A brutal mélange of Hans Zimmer-like sounds at a breathtaking pace with little melody. With the sole exception of “Detonation”, a track with a decent buildup and striking Bond theme finish, the action tracks literally backfire. Pun intended.

SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved
SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved

The blunt re-use of music from SKYFALL’s train fight scene (2 times) and finale (2 times) puts the icing on the cake and makes you wonder, if just a pinch of originality might not possibly have improved the outcome. Sadly, all the fast-paced tracks for SPECTRE sound like an uninspired extension of the SKYFALL score. Unfortunate, since the major action sequences are the centerpieces that are supposed to figuratively grab you by your private parts and bark “THIS IS BOND!” I just hope this effect will still be there on screen…not that I would wish anyone to grab me anywhere.

The addition of the instrumental for “Writing’s on the Wall” is very welcome, although it is the shortened version. At least you don´t hear Sam Smith’s distant vocal in the background like on the single release. What I really enjoyed immensely was “Day of the Dead” – I absolutely did not see that coming! A track with mainly just drums and energetic, rhythmic singing brought a smile to my face and mentally transported me right into what promises to be one of the most visually stunning opening sequences of the Bond franchise. 

SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved
SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved

THE VERDICT

All things considered, this soundtrack left me shaken and stirred. Not in a bad way, but not a good one either. First and foremost, there are only a few selected tracks that I would consider putting on my mobile to make the way to work feel more like being on a dangerous spy mission. Yes, that’s really one of my unbreakable, nerdy habits. Especially now with winter approaching where black coat and gloves dominate my daily style of clothing, I was longing for some new and gobsmacking Bond music in my ears.

With the exception of  “Los Muertos Vivos Estan”, “The Pale King”, “The Secret Room” and “Detonation”, Thomas Newman’s score doesn’t entirely deliver what I was hoping for, but still isn’t a complete letdown altogether. Streaked by fine orchestral nuances, the occasional subtle bond guitar, sultry strings, mystical flutes and piano it intelligently reflects the complex, multi-layered world of Bond and SPECTRE.

Although there is no full blown iconic James Bond theme, Newman at least managed to integrate parts of it. With SPECTRE obviously reviving classic elements that made Bond so incredibly popular, completely relinquishing the world-famous theme in signature scenes would have been just wrong. The question is what each individual listener is looking for. One important fact has however become painfully clear for me personally: the days in which almost an entire soundtrack by John Barry or David Arnold was able to underscore your non-existent secret agent lifestyle in public is over. Bond music has changed just like the character has changed.

THE TRACKLIST

1. Los Muertos Vivos Estan – Thomas Newman, Tambuco
2. Vauxhall Bridge
3. The Eternal City
4. Donna Lucia
5. A Place Without Mercy
6. Backfire
7. Crows Klinik
8. The Pale King
9. Madeleine
10. Kite In A Hurricane
11. Snow Plane
12. L’ Americain
13. Secret Room
14. Hinx
15. Writing’s On The Wall
16. Silver Wraith
17. A Reunion
18. Day Of The Dead – Thomas Newman, Tambuco
19. Tempus Fugit
20. Safe House
21. Blindfold
22. Careless
23. Detonation
24. Westminster Bridge
25. Out Of Bullets
26. Spectre

PURCHASE THE SPECTRE SOUNDTRACK BY THOMAS NEWMAN
If you haven´t already pre-ordered the SPECTRE soundtrack, it is available from today (October 23) at the following online retailers:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Germany

5 COMMENTS

  1. So much of this soundtrack is recycled from Skyfall. I don’t mean what’s on the disc, but even in the film. The entire helicopter chase, lots of moments in between that and Bond going to Austria, and several other smaller moments in between have lifted cues directly from the previous film. Even what we get that’s original is heavily influenced by the Tennyson and The Moors cues from Skyfall. Just saying this in regards to your lament about getting the full soundtrack – if you have the Skyfall album, then along with Spectre’s, you’ve got everything.

    • Absolutely true. Now, after having finally seen the film, I have to agree with you on almost all points. While some quiet scenes do indeed profit from the soundtrack and don’t bother me so much as the uninspired action cues, the soundtrack as a whole largely remains a disappointment.

  2. I really found for the second time, much to be disappointed in with Newman as the composer for Bond. I fully agree that the Spectre soundtrack lacks much to be worth listening to, even if it works in the film as background. Bond is defined in part by the sound we associate with John Barry and later by David Arnold and while a change for the sake of newness may have guided the producers and director to Newman, he frankly is way to boring, tame and mostly not really able to write a thing that works well for Bond. The Mexico City opening worked because it is the JB theme; almost the entire rest of the soundtrack is instantly forgettable. And the title song makes the grade as the single worst title for a Bond movie. The last four movies have been great while showing us how much Bond suffers being Bond. Could we please have a little fun in the next one?

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