Thomas NEWMAN Erin
Brockovich SONY SK 89239 [35:10]
For Erin Brokovich, Newman appears to be in a hangover
situation from American Beauty. Once more we have what on the surface
seems to be a flimsy score with material based on simple musical figures
endlessly repeated modulating through related keys and decorated with a variety
of instrumental and synth colourings - as I said its American Beauty
revisited and expanded. There is a feeling of musical meandering, music off
the cuff, extemporisation (there is much jazz orientation); in fact, two
or three tracks like `Pro Bono' have music that might have been composed
by an Aeolian harp swayed by random breezes - pleasant meanderings.
This score has sufficient variety to sustain interest - just
about. The opening track `Useless' blends synths with piano in a nicely laid
back easy listening style. A number of tracks follow this pattern, one of
the best of which is `Two Feet Wrong' that has piano with a syncopated mix
of synths. Elsewhere, as might be expected, the music takes a more eerie
and sinister turn in response to the unfolding drama. One track `Malign'
even has Indian inflections mixed in its ascending eerieness. Strings and
piano float softer, dreamy material seamed with poignancy for tracks like
`Miss Witchita' and `Anabelle'.
'A pleasant, undemanding musical experience; but certainly
not one of Thomas Newman's better scores. He seems to be treading water
But Jeffrey Wheeler is even less enthusiastic:-
Thomas Newman currently holds the title of one of the most
creative voices in the world of film music. (Note to the readers: Please
do not ask me if a large gold belt or oversized trophy comes with that title.
I honestly have no idea.) In trusting his thought and skill one suspects
he would agree, if grudgingly, that not every innovation is a good one. His
score for the fact-based law film "Erin Brockovich" is the sort of garrulous,
dramatically lackluster electronic amble his father proscribed tooth and
nail. I can only hope this is an isolated incident; Mr. Newman does better
with orchestral soundscapes and atmospheric sounds than with gadgets and
The Erin Brockovich theme is a snappy piece clearly styled
by Newman. It is spicy and up-tempo... and wholly undermined by the so-called
urban sound. It remains recognizable throughout, at least. Barely. Other
themes steadfastly avoid memory cells. I am not exactly sure there are
other themes. The parts muddle Newman's typical orchestral style into a circuit
board, an all-electric scattering of acoustic ideas to form a mildly engaging
wall of white noise. Samplers, drum machines, and electronic keyboards rarely
form the ideal emotional arsenal, especially not when soft-core jazz provides
the lone source of interest. As entertaining as it may sound, something other
than variety must certainly act as the instigator. The delineation between
tracks begins to blur after track five... or is track six?
The production for this disc is not much at about 26 minutes
of original underscore. Two of Sheryl Crow's hit songs, 'Redemption Day'
and the halfway decent 'Every Day is a Winding Road,' serve to verify the
precise abrasiveness of Crow's mishandled voice and illustrate the historical
insignificance of the Billboard charts. My attention wanders to the album
insert, where the highlight of the release has little to do with the music:
There are several motion picture stills of Julia Roberts in skimpy outfits.
One of those outfits is leather. It's better than a Victoria's Secret
catalogue... so I hear, of course... Now, why would I lie about something