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Review by Brad Green:
I haven’t seen the film, but I have been scrutinising the stills. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Sad hack, sitting at a computer monitor in trackydacks and T-shirt, and getting his Jolies by ogling Lara’s assets. And you’re absolutely right. Here I am in my tired old garb checking out images of the love child of Indiana Jones and Xena Warrior Princess, and desperately admiring her designer diving gear, sexy sporty outfits and a silver jumpsuit that Catwoman and Emma Peel would wrestle to the death for the chance to squeeze into.

Just the sort of wardrobe a video game adventure woman needs to save the world. Of course a kick-ass soundtrack always comes in handy too; and in this respect Ms. Croft gets a leg up from about two thirds of the music here, while the other third is more like an assortment of nasties from the original Pandora’s Box. With the Lost Ark already accounted for, retrieval of this much maligned container is the plot peg, although its contents in this instance are boiled down from the Evils Of The World to the sort of plague Saddam’s scientists were bottling. (At least according to certain dossiers that may or may not have been sexed-up like an action girl.)

I’m sure that in the Ancient Greek version, Pandora’s Box came with an index of wild variety, including such iniquities as monotonous drum beats, unimaginative power chords and that oxymoronic concept, techno-music. Admittedly these only leaked out in the latter part of the twentieth century, but they’ve been making up for lost time. Here The Crystal Method, Lunatic Calm and Gerling go about spreading the travesties with various trance dance and trash thrash, while Nadirah “Nadz” Seid does his best to render hip hop as the worst of the lot. And Moby, who was one of the first electronica-dance artists to present like a pop star, demonstrates once again that he is the perfect example of Fame’s poor taste. His moniker stems from the fact that Moby Dick author Hermann Melville is his great-great grand uncle. Poor old Herm was a literary leviathan whose brilliance was only recognised after his lifetime. The great-great grand nephew is, in a critical sense, a musical minnow whose mediocrity may only be recognised after his.

Fortunately for our funkily attired crypt crasher, she doesn’t have to go about all her spunky heroism on a diet of such tripe. Plenty of other tracks, the majority in fact, fall into a sort of neo-alt rock category that’s more than fun and punchy enough for its context. The prefix of the genre is the key of course. Alt rock and its odious subgroups and relatives--grunge, punk, garage--has been gradually evolving into a more palatable style that takes its rough edges and applies them to recognisably musical structures. 

Solid offerings here by Filter, Alexandra Slate, Saliva and Sloth aren’t exactly classic rock, but they overlay the grunting guitars with some agreeable hooks, and more surprisingly perhaps, hints of ‘80s pop. Filter use a pre-chorus bridge that echoes Duran Duran; the opening of Saliva’s Time is an unmistakable nod to The Police’s Walking On The Moon; and even more overt but far less effective is The Dandy Warhol’s appropriation of the bass and drum groove Ashes To Ashes. The original remains David Bowie’s finest moment, but The Dandy Warhols build a far lamer song on the same foundation.

The most impressive element of Filter and Alexandra Slate’s songs are the strong vocal performances, a distinct advance for alt-rock from the years when Kurt Cobain’s tuneless growl ruled the airwaves. Slate’s half purr, half rasp is at least half as good as Suze Demarches at her best (which is more than good enough for me); and Filter’s frontman has clean, strong voice, with just an undertow of husk. It’s also well toned and impressively endowed in the upper register; much like Ms. Croft. 

For the obligatory orchestral cue, we get a slice of Alan Silvestri. He’s a likely suspect for these films because he’s always delivered great accompaniments for animation. Interestingly, with animation literally brought to life here, we find his usual frenetic arrangements pared down to minimalist, somewhat romantic strings.

Another familiar name is David A. Stewart, best known as the half of the Eurhythmics that didn’t really kick, though his one notable post-Eurhythmics hit came from a soundtrack--the lyrical instrumental duet Lily Was Here with saxophonist Candy Dulfer. Stewart’s track here is pleasant enough but it does sound like competent musicianship looking for a leading lady. Get back to those collaborations is my advice. But it also features a stark contrast to the younger guitarists. Alt-rock might be developing a little more musicality but the fad for grime in the guitar tone remains. Stewart’s strings veritably sing in comparison; he just doesn’t quite have the chops to totally knock us out.

I guess we will just have to wait for the self-sufficient Lara Croft to come to her own aid. She strikes me as a gal unlikely to settle for second best, and while there’s plenty to admire on this soundtrack, for the next sequel I can see her penetrating the secret burial place of a long lost artifact. The classic electric guitar solo. 

Published September 25, 2003

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TITLE: Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Cradle Of Life
ID: 397603 373725
Hollywood Records
ARTISTS: Alexandra Slate; The Crystal Method; Lunatic Calm; The Dandy Warhols; Kasabian; P.O.D.; Saliva; Filter; Moby; Nadirah “Nadz” Seid; Davey Brothers; David A. Stewart; Conjure One (featuring Sinead O’ Connor); 3rd Strike; Sloth; Alan Silvestri; Gerling

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