>> Shame: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2011)

Artist: Various

Album: Shame

Genre: Blues, Classical, DJ/Dance, Easy Listening, Jazz, Pop, Soundtrack/Theater

Label: Sony Masterworks

Tracks: 15

Type: LP

Release Date: December 6, 2011

Discs: 1

Rating: 2.87 (out of 4.00)

Grade: B-

Official Site

There has been a lot of discussion about Shame, the Michael Fassbender and Cary Mulligan starring story of addiction in New York (not the drug kind either). From reviews it may very well be this generations Caligula. In any case when I began listening to the soundtrack, with that formula in mind, try as I might, I just couldn’t connect the soundtrack with the themes that have been suggested the film runs through. Jenna Sauers at Jezebel talks about the film in comparison to American Psycho, only replacing the many murders with sex. Seeing as how the soundtrack is sprinkled with some 80’s hits that holds merit, but what about the rest of the soundtrack? Does it really hold its weight considering its place in the context of the actual film itself?

The first track off of the soundtrack, Brandon, had me fooled. Was a Pink Floyd number about to kick in to my pleasant surprise? The tick tick ticking of a metronome or clock kicks in for the first 40 seconds of the track until the string section begins to lay out some moody ominous music that is so vague that it could be placed at any dark corner in any drama. The track runs a lengthy 8 minutes and 27 seconds long, far too much build up for me but effective in getting the minds cogs turning.

 Glenn Gould offers up four tracks on the soundtrack. This first track, “Aria” - Goldberg Variations, had me interested. It’s a bright and whimsical sounding little number that caught my ear because of a subtle male voice off in the background humming along to the track. Gould’s piano work is impressive but apparently, as the album rolls on, all of his tracks feature piano with the subtle male voice off in the background humming along. It becomes less impressive as a device for giving the track some character and once you’re done with that your left trying to place the music in context with the film. Just how artsy is Shame anyway?

For the next three tracks you’re given some old 80’s throwbacks; Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, Blondie’s Rapture, and Chic’s I Want Your Love. I never find it all that wonderful when space is wasted on soundtracks by music that no one has listened to for years. There’s a reason for that. Tying it into a film is all well and fine but it just seems like wasted space to me. I guess these tracks will have their fans, but will they care for the rest of the album?

John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things follows the 80’s trend, and since the film takes place in New York, why not. Who doesn’t love Coltrane? That was rhetorical of course. Later on we even get some Chet Baker and Howlin’ Wolf for measure.

Up next is Cary Mulligan’s in film performance of New York, New York. Considering the context of her character this track makes all kinds of sense. It’s a bit of a depressing version of the song with some beautiful piano work but for all intents and purposes the quality of Mulligan’s performance here makes prefect sense.

Harry Escott’s Brandon reprises under the variant title of unraveling, yet another ambient look into the title character Brandon. Less tick tick ticking (though we find it there) and more string section. It all makes sense to me at this moment. Brandon, the title character, is a wound up ball of depressive aggravation folded over with a blanket of self hatred and a whole slew of other things. The first track, Brandon, starting off with the tick tick ticking sound is obviously a clock representing Brandon’s decline until his unraveling, hence the title of this track. The clock ticks vanish about halfway through the track leaving simply a beautiful string section offering up a powerfully potent serenity that, I assume, is that breath being released at the end of a long hard ride. Touché Mr. Escott.

The only track on the album that seems to distance itself form the rest of the music is Mark Louque’s The Problem, a club number, obviously an easily placed track, again, in the context of the film, makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately it’s not really that great a track, though it does get the cogs moving, it does so in an “Oh, Okay, I get it” kind of way and then becomes disposable.

As usual with soundtracks your either going to love it or leave it and I thought that, for me, it just didn’t have too much going for it as far as finding a permanent spot in my collection. I have the Chet Baker, John Coltrane, and Howlin’ Wolf tracks in my collection already. The two tracks from Harry Escot that took me by surprise have been endeared to me, for now (sorry End Credits didn‘t have that flare the others had in a revelatory way), but I’m not likely to throw the album on just to listen to those two tracks, rather rip them to my itunes account and leave the soundtrack and its other disposable tracks by the wayside. In any case check it out and if you love it great, and if you don’t, well it has its moments. Enjoy.


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