MEN IN BLACK 2: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
This CD should come with a warning: “Ensure MiB-designer shades are firmly secured to bridge of nose before pressing play.” The music is so dazzling it could blind you. While many scores fail to fire the imagination when separated from the screen, this one gets the synapses blazing from bar one.
Danny Elfman is a master at evoking frenetic energy from strings and choral tones, so it’s little wonder that given half an excuse to add brass and rhythm section to the equation, he grabs the opportunity, does his sums, and comes up with a monumental amount of entertainment value. Give Elfman an inch and he takes a galaxy; and brings its alien population along to jump out of the speakers at you.
The opening track, Worm Lounge #1, is the perfect example. Its crisp lounge-Latin beat and horn-laden riffs evoke every image from martini-slurping extra-terrestrial slugs to sharp-suited secret agents with oversized silver firearms. And that’s only the beginning. Soon the score is rattling along with enough clever and busy bass and percussion to serve as soundtracks in their own right. Here, however, they merely stoke the engine. Elfman has a tremendous panache for running short orchestral patterns together into a mosaic of tongue-in-cheek urgency. The staccato brass and string bursts scurry in intricate contours around each other like a game of worm twister.
When the score occasionally takes a breather, the strings lengthen out and a soupcon of romantic guitar demonstrates that Elfman can do wistful when he wants to. He can also nod more often and more supply than a multi-necked elastic alien. In the Title’s bell-synth pattern there is the echo of the original Star Trek theme; and throughout, as the percussive beats are overlaid with both horn accents and the obligatory ethereal voices, there is the sense that Peter Gunn has encountered ET and taken it all in his stride.
As a final bonus, the cool-kitsch doesn’t lose its prefix when the post-score novelty songs kick in. First we have Tim Blaney doing his amusing poochified version of I Will Survive, and at the last, Will Smith with a rap number that is staggeringly unobjectionable. If, like me, you rate most rap experiences as right up there with, say, being devoured alive by a giant toothy gastropod, the last thing you expect to award any kudos to is a an actor moonlighting as a rapper just because he’s a black star with good phrasing and an ability to wear his Ray Bans well. Yet Smith pulverises the prejudice with a tune that not only invites everyone to “nod ya head” (Elfman and the aliens already having obliged in their respective ways) but should give rise to some serious shake at the other end of the anatomy. In fact, Black Suits Comin’ is so hip and smoking that it could conceivably kick some fashion sense into the Ali G-gear-wearing brigade. Yes indeed, if only a few more rappers wore ties. At least we could imagine strangling them. Good onya Will, that’s what I call really doing your bit to save humanity.
Published August 29, 2002
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COMPOSER/PRODUCER: Danny Elfman
FEATURED ARTISTS: Will Smith; Tim Blaney