The new Robert DeNiro crime drama City By The Sea finds British composer John Murphy delivering a score which would not sound out of place in one of Brian De Palma's more elegiac thrillers. The cues are short - there are 20 pieces in 39 minutes - and generally maintain an atmosphere of moody introspection and autumnal melancholy.
Although the melodic material is entirely different and there is little in the way of sustained action, the overall feeling is suggestive of De Palma's Carlito's Way, which sported a fine score by Patrick Doyle; haunted strings and mid-tempo melodies played out with a sense of dark foreboding. The addition of a celeste brings a musical box delicacy to several pieces (try 'Return to Coney'), a childlike quality ironically and disturbingly at odds with the sombre nature of the film. The chiming, tinkling theme, especially when set against low level electronic ambience ('Vince Pleads With Joey'), has an icy beauty evoking the fairytale malevolence of Goblin's music for Suspiria, while elsewhere a feeling not unakin to Pino Donaggio's Dressed to Kill is established.
Arab voices and processed reggae runs through 'Getting High', while there is a yearning to the final orchestral cue, 'The Beach', not so far removed from Angelo Badalamenti's 'Falling' theme from Twin Peaks. 'Shivers - Boardwalk' likewise has something of a twisted, slowed down Lynchian rock ambience.
There are two effective piano pieces; an arrangement of Chopin entitled 'Raindrop Prelude' and a reflective, titular, setting of the main theme. Both are eloquently performed by Bryan Pezzone. At the opposite extreme, 'Bullet From a Gun' is co-written by John Murphy and Robert Awork, and performed by the latter. Despite a catchy groove the harsh rap vocals are unlikely to appeal to one person in 100 who appreciates the remainder of the disc. The solution would have been to place this song first or last on the album, or preferably, to leave it off entirely. As it is, it breaks the flow of what is otherwise an elegantly low key score. A refreshing melodic change from thriller scores which present little but relentless suspense writing.