December 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Helter Skelter  
Music composed by Mark Snow
  Available on BSX RECORDS (BSXCD 1001)
Running Time: 60:15

helter skelter

The disturbing true story of Charles Manson and his murderous followers has already been told in a very strong made for television film of the same name made in 1978 starring Steve Railsback, so whether this new version will offer anything new or improved remains to be seen. What is does have however is a score by premiere TV composer Mark Snow, whose best known work is probably on the cult series the X-Files.

A rather poor version of The Beatles song 'Helter Skelter' opens the CD with lead vocals by Glenn A. Jordan - if anyone is looking for an outstanding interpretation please check out the Siouxsie and the Banshees cover instead. Just a pity it's not available here. Beyond this, 'Ranchy Cello/Boom Top Chase' is a nicely understated, atmospheric piece with slow-burn percussion, but tracks such as this are few and far between and the majority of the soundtrack is taken up by electronic suspense pieces. Late sixties psychedelic rock influences, while absolutely correct in a dramatic context, are unfortunately not much fun to listen to (unless you are an ageing hippie!) as illustrated by 'Creepy Crawl', while the frenetic 'Sunrise Arrest' is simplistic pseudo techno and interest soon wears thin. Droning electronics like 'Slaughterhouse' and 'News Views/Leaving the Baby' dominate hereafter and offer nothing in musical terms that would lead someone to return for a repeat play, although admittedly they will inevitably work perfectly well as background atmosphere.

This score has a similar feel at times ('Linda Surrenders/LabiancaTales/Eerie Smile' for instance) to Brad Fiedel's fine work on The Serpent and the Rainbow, although it is nowhere in the same league. And while this once again demonstrates Mark Snow's unquestioned dramatic sensibilities and consummate grasp of the art of technical film scoring, there is little here to inspire enthusiasm. Work like this truly throws up the age old question of whether some film music is just not suited for independent listening. But the question is probably as redundant as arguing about artistic taste itself so there may be those who find this compelling. Sadly, I'm not one of them.

Mark Hockley

*(*) 11/2

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