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How happy is the blameless vestalís lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot. 
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayír accepted and each wish resigníd
(ELOISA TO ABELARD, Alexander Pope)

Review by Brad Green:
Weíve long sought ways to heal the emotional scars of terminated relationships. Back in the 12th century Eloisaís dad didnít think much of her dalliance with Abelard and whisked her off to a nunnery to get her both away from him and over him; in more recent times girls have cloistered themselves in the bathroom with scents and shampoos and attempted to wash stale relationships right out of their hair; and in the not-to-distant future memory erasing technology might well provide a means for exes of both sexes to scrub each other right out of their minds.

This soundtrack is an ode to the mercurial nature of recollection. In the film there is indeed a method of zapping unwanted memories from the brain bank, and the protagonists who were once in love use it to delete each other from their psychological histories. She of her own impetus, and he out of spite. But the latter has mid-procedure misgivings, and much of the film is set inside his mind as he attempts to salvage keepsakes from the mental compartments earmarked for demolition.

So off we go on an odyssey down memory lane, with Brionís impressionistic score helping to evoke the surrealistic qualities of remembering. He is a musician well-suited to the task, being renowned for eclectic performances at LAís Largo nightclub that incorporate eccentric covers medleys and freewheeling improvisations. Here he offers a succession of pithy cues, economical in both arrangement and length. The first is the Main Theme, a delightful interplay of bass and piano, left to cavort by themselves save for a faint and slightly odd string accompaniment that hovers in the shadows. From there, the mood remains on the money throughout in terms of cinematic context, but the album is a mixed success as music in its own right. Whenever Brion is inventive with chromaticism, rhythm and tonality, the score ignites the imagination; whenever he resorts to bland arpeggios it comes across as whimsical background fare at best. 

The tracks divide about half-half on that criteria, but there are also a number of songs that add dimensions to the soundtrack. Brionís own Strings That Tie Me To You and Beckís triste reinvention of The Korgisí Everybodyís Gotta Learn Sometime create a sense of pensive melancholy. E.L.Oís Mr. Blue Sky is an ambitious nod to Beatles-esq psychadelia, somewhat lacking at its core as a song but impressive for its dense arrangement; and two trad-style jazz tracks from Don Nelson have so much bounce in their shuffles and twists in their melodies that they are the most easily entertaining tracks on the album. An Indian tune that is used as source music in the movie is performed with remarkable dexterity by vocalist Lata Mangeshkar, while less appealing are a couple of heavier, rather dull numbers by The Willowz. 

These songs are scattered between Brionís brusque cues, and the resulting diversity and the fact that the score is replete with the haltering quality of quirky riffs that never quite fulfil their destinies results in a somewhat disorienting listening experience -- which isnít of course inappropriate. It is difficult to neatly rate or categorise this soundtrack; it is at once as tantalising and frustrating as an elusive memory. 

Published June 3, 2004

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TITLE: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
ID: 20616 24492
SCORE: Jon Brion
ADDITIONAL SONGS: E.L.O; The Polyphonic Spree; Lata Mangeshkar; Beck; Don Nelson; The Willowz

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