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Nick Cave And Warren Ellis - The Road : Original Film Score

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 17 / 1 / 2010

Nick Cave And Warren Ellis - The Road : Original Film Score
Label: Mute Records
Format: CD


Pastel Nick Cave and Warren Ellis soundtrack to faithful new film adaption of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road', which proves restricted by the film and book's macabre and desolate nature

Cormac McCarthy’s short-novel 'The Road' has enjoyed a charmed life. Although conceived up to a decade earlier, the book was completed and published in 2006. Rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize – perhaps in recognition of McCarthy’s past achievements, not least 'The Border Trilogy', than its stand alone merits – the rights to produce a film adaptation were snapped up and filming scheduled. With John Hillcoat in the director’s chair and Viggo Mortensen lined up to play ‘The Man’, it appeared the seamless journey of 'The Road' from page to screen would be completed within months. Sadly, this, however, proved unfounded. Instead delays dogged the project, which did not hit screens across America and Europe until winter 2009. What emerged, however, was more than even the most avid McCarthy readers could have dared hope for. Utterly faithful to the text – despite the omission of some of the more disturbing cannibalism scenes – the motion picture captures perfectly the desolate nature of the book; mans’ attempts to maintain its humanity in the face of a radically altered reality. Set against a fractured, disintegrating world – painted solely in grey – 'The Road', both on page and screen, fairly wreaks of decay; the inevitable decline and eventual failure of the ragged few survivors of the unknown annihilation. But then, what place a score for this vast emptiness? With so little remaining in the world the composer has a limited pallet from which to draw their ideas; restricted as they are the macabre, desolate tones of the piece. With Hillcoat directing it is no surprise to find Nick Cave and Warren Ellis here composing the score, having previously worked together on 'The Proposition' (which was also penned by Cave). But while Hillcoat again succeeds, Cave and Ellis are here restricted by the very nature of the project. The evocative opener ‘Home’ creates a wistful air, dragging listeners back to a time of plenty before the unnamed disaster stuck the world, but from there on in the dozen of so tracks offered rather merge into a homogenous, panoramic mix. Only ‘The House’ – which in the film adaptation sees The Man and his son escape a gruesome band of cannibals – stands apart from the pastel tones which colour the score. It is difficult to distinguish one emotive sweep of the violin from the next – all the more surprising given Warren Ellis’s acknowledged skill with a bow, as demonstrated by his work with the Dirty Three. 'The Road' score ebbs and flows but fails in any attempted to mirror the emotional resonance of either the McCarthy novel or Hillcoat adaptation. This is all the more galling given Cave and Ellis’s work in the Bad Seeds and other projects; it is hard to imagine a time when a listener would reach for this disc ahead of anything the pair had previously collaborated on. Ultimately that is the inherent problem with film soundtracks; loom in the foreground and composers will be accused of dictating to audiences how they should perceive a scene – fear, anger et al - or retire into the background and the same accusers will ask questions og the score’s emotional impact. It is a balancing act, and one Nick Cave and Warren Ellis achieve with aplomb during a cinematic screening of 'The Road'. But as a standalone release? The Original Film Score should be considered as just another part of the film’s marketing, and little else.

Track Listing:-
1 Home
2 The Road
3 Storytime
4 The Cannibals
5 Water and Ash
6 The Mother
7 The Real Thing
8 Memory
9 The House
10 The Far Road
11 The Church
12 The Journey
13 The Cellar
14 The Bath
15 The Family
16 The Beach
17 The Boy

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