February 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Jarhead  
Music composed by Thomas Newman
  Available on Decca (B0005983-02)
Running Time: 61:33
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

Following up on their "American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition" successes, director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman reunited for the film adaptation of "Jarhead", Anthony Swofford's cynical collection of his experiences as a U.S. Marine in the era of Operation Desert Storm.

Rather than latching onto the potential of an individual story with an international backdrop, Newman launched into his regrettable 'ambient' mode, this time expressing alienation and little else. The title of the opening track, 'Welcome to the Suck', is not only a reference to the unpleasantness of combat service, it provides a self-criticism of startling accuracy. The score's aggressive doses of electric and synthesized instruments, pop rhythms, breathing and whistling effects, and--peeking out from under the noise--a string orchestra, suggest the cacophony of an industrial workplace... but that also has an implicit suggestion of something constructive behind the racket, a proposition that is rather inoperative here. When one of the most interesting tracks is called 'Dickskinner', the word 'rubbish' suffices.

Two rap selections prompted a parental advisory warning in the States, but in fairness Naughty By Nature's 'O.P.P' and Public Enemy's 'Fight the Power' are a perfect fit for Newman's underscore. The odd men out are Bobby McFerrin and his optimistic 'Don't Worry, Be Happy', T-Rex with the old-school rock of 'Bang a Gong (Get It On)', and Tom Waits with the melancholy 'Soldier's Things'.

Thomas Newman could have stayed out of The Suck, but "Jarhead" ends up being a misstep for the composer of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Oscar and Lucinda". For my part, there is scant likelihood of me getting sucked into this disc again.

Jeffrey Wheeler

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