The Perfect Storm
SONY CLASSICAL SK 89282
The opening track begins with uncreative music, full of roomy clichés
and lacking any protean application, but almost two minutes in there is the
musical symbolism of impending danger, a dark roll of low strings, timpani,
cymbal and brass -- gathering storm clouds and thunder - that made me remember
how great Horner can be. That first magnificent moment is hardly new
compositionally (raise your hand if you've heard Hovhaness' Symphony No.
2), it is even old symbolically (Beethoven's Symphony No. 6; and you can
put your hand down now), but like the whole of what is contentiously Horner's
best score, "Brainstorm," it slices through complaints of undue referrals
with at least the illusion of individuality. Horner's craftsmanship shines,
if not his artistry. Themoment raises hope.
You know the expression "Hope floats." Well, "The Perfect Storm" ultimately
I spent many of my younger days 'bashing' Horner, using terms that were at
best brutally accurate and at worst indicative of teenage stupidity. Usually
there were combinations of both. However, the basic dilemma remains for us
to argue: James Horner is habitually not at his best.
Few listeners will be startled by the general lack of innovation. Some could
thank Horner for compiling enough of "Apollo 13" and "Mighty Joe Young" that
they can sell them for more shelf space. I would keep Mark Mancina's exceptional
"Twister" score, though, as the quality of Horner's electric guitar use is
questionable... Of course, all composers repeat themselves and others, but
there is repetition that enhances, that is redundant, that plagiarizes, and
there is that which doesn't bear repeating.
Interesting, then, how his soundtracks can be well acquainted, yet peculiarly
inconsistent. There are more excellent moments than the one I fondly mentioned
above awaiting brave adventurers, but "The Perfect Storm" basically panders
to shallow musical standards. Let us start with the main theme. James Horner
is the master of the complaining melody. It starts flatly in the middle range,
moves up the scale to state a truly obnoxious phrase, returns to the tonal
center, and then repeats its "I want! I want! I want!" styled refrain. It
is a juvenile motif overused by track five (a patchwork cue virtually guaranteed
to have those knowledgeable of classical music screaming, by the way), yet
the orchestration shimmers! Shortly thereafter Horner introduces a secondary
theme where it is the orchestration that dries and shrivels. He strips it
down to the string section, accented horribly by arpeggios awkwardly played
on piano. The action/tension music is uniformly exciting but ludicrously
derivative... to the point of abstraction. Quiet moments and a handful of
symphonic lightening bolts are what provide the core interest. Thus between
a stormy sense of deja vu and the infrequency of themes meeting
variations, the successes within the recording attract attention to just
how washed-up it is overall.
Oh, and John Mellencamp sings the theme song.