Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: 'SPEED RACER' Original Soundtrack

speed racer soundtrack(via With his comic book heroics for THE INCREDIBLES, the energetic espionage of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3, a “Roar”-ing Godzilla salute in CLOVERFIELD and the Parisian rodent swing of RATATOUILLE, Michael Giacchino is rapidly proving himself as the composer for Hollywood’s pop throwbacks, showing a real intelligence and creative drive as he soups up old musical jalopies into retro score wonders.

Now Giacchino’s been given animation’s most iconic cartoon car, a Mach 5 made as “real” as the Wachowski Brothers will allow in their visually overwhelming take on SPEED RACER. Going on their psychedelic ride will be a love / hate joyride for many viewers over the age of eight, as they see a favorite childhood show done with equal amounts of flashy coolness and mind-bending idiocy.

But that’s not even talking about the film’s roaring sound effects, which often make hearing Giacchino’s nearly non-stop score as challenging as trying to listen to a string quartet at the Indy 500. While Giacchino’s music definitely does the laps for the film itself (when he isn’t encouraging the worst excesses of Chim-Chim and Spritle), SPEED RACER’s score proves to be a far more enjoyable, and audible experience on its own CD. It’s as energizing a ride as any musically re-tooled cartoon standard can hope for, and that’s no doubt due to Giacchino’s stated love for Nobuyoshi Koshibe’s original scoring on TV’s SPEED RACER.

Koshibie’s great theme song was a memorable combo of go-go 60’s pop and jazz-inflected Spanish rhythms, an anime take on Herb Alpert if you will. And where most composers wouldn’t want to tread in somebody else’s main title (especially one that’s as memorable to cartoon geeks as “My Way” is to Sinatra fans), Giacchino dives into Koshibe’s SPEED sound with a wonderful enthusiasm, and infinite variety. “I Am Speed” turns its opening phrase into magical, symphonically whirling anticipation. “Go Speed, Go!” spins it as a breakneck military march that erupts into cliffhanging hijinks. Techno-orchestral suspense builds with playful Asian percussion as the theme bubbles through the Mach-building montage of “32 Hours.”

And you’d think you were hearing Handel’s “Messiah” as the theme bursts into the heavens with a twinkling orchestra and the choral hosannas of “Let Us Drink Milk.” And to cap off the Koshibie fest, Giacchino’s ends the album with a “Speed Racer” rendition that samples the original song, and then overdubs it with a hot brass rhythm section, singers belting out lyrics in the original Japanese, and the sprinting Mach 5 sound FX. A composer’s fanboy love doesn’t get more obvious, or cooler than this. (+continue)

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