Danny Elfman – Dark Shadows (OST) – Album Review

Danny Elfman: Dark Shadows (OST) (Watertower Records)
Format: CD / DL
Out: Now

Tim Burton’s new vampire drama (starring Johnny Depp of course) is currently showing at a cinema near you. The film itself has been described as “visually arresting but rather ordinary”, but what about the soundtrack? Read on to find out.

A good movie score always takes a few listens before a justified viewpoint can be constructed, but with a style as distinctive as Danny Elfman’s, can an objective opinion be so easily formed?

It has been almost thirty years since Elfman composed his first soundtrack for Tim Burton and so it would be unfair to criticise the synonymy of their names. It has been a partnership which, whatever your opinion of the features themselves, has always produced both memorable and stirring music.

Elfman’s prancing and consistently playful strings have a tendency to lead us into eerie, prolonged Theremin swathed passages before boisterous outbursts of chaos drag us right back to the starting point and the cycle begins again. ”˜Dark Shadows’ is no different.

Reminiscent of earlier work (in particular ”˜Edward Scissorhands’), there is a familiarity to this album which, even upon the first listen, is hard to pinpoint as a positive or negative thing. If we hear something by John Williams, Hans Zimmer or Ennio Morricone, chances are you will almost instantaneously attribute the composer to the piece. There is nothing inherently wrong with having an incredibly distinctive style; in fact it is actively encouraged. The problem is when a style doesn’t develop. Therein lies the most significant difficulty that exists within this particular offering.

This could be a Burton/Elfman collaboration from a decade ago as easily as it could be one from two decades ago. I’m sure that if you played it over one of his older movies in a ”˜Wizard of Oz’ / ”˜Dark Side of the Moon’ style mash-up, the results would have you enthusiastically and actively encouraging people to try it at every party you attend for the next 5 years.

It’s delightful and brimming with eager charm, atmospheric and dense, yet, the overall effect is one of a road well-travelled. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of Elfman’s soundtrack work to date (and have no shame admitting that I am an avid Oingo Boingo fan) and ”˜Dark Shadows’ is no exception, I just don’t feel that I gained anything by familiarising myself with it.

So, is it possible to objectively view someone like Elfman in light of all he has done for cinematic soundscapes? The simple answer is no, but that will never make us love him any less.

All words Colin McCracken. Colin runs the Zombiehamster.com website & is on Twitter as Zombiehamster.

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