Quantum of Solace

David Arnold

Rating: 8.2

After both the Bond movies and music were given a revamp in Casino Royale, which was met with much eagerness, it became apparent that it would be the new musical face of James Bond. David Arnold's Bond scores prior to Casino Royale met with mixed reviews, while Casino Royale was almost unanimously applauded as a much needed change of pace from what some thought had become hardly more than a jumble of musical cliches trying to hark back to John Barry's glory days as the franchise's composer. For Casino Royale, Arnold would take a much more modern, Bourne-esque approach, and while some have accused both it and Quantum of Solace as being nothing more than spin-offs of Powell's work for that series, the merging of the modern gritty with the classic Bond 'cool' is certainly a musical landscape worth exploring.

On any Bond score, the song is very important, and often also somewhat controversial. Such was the case with "You Know My Name", from Casino Royale. As was the case with the score, Arnold took the song in a new direction. Less soulful and more rock, the song met with mixed opinions. The way in which it was used throughout the score, however, is usually considered exemplary, and establishes a strong identity for that score. But if some listeners were cautious about the new song approach taken then, they can now be outraged. "Another Way To Die", the first ever duet used as a Bond title song, has tried its hardest to break new ground and explore new territory. Jack White joins his somewhat dark, gritty guitars and vocals to the much more soulful style of Alicia Keys, and the result is certainly....interesting. While I do not dislike this song with the passion that many do, I think the greatest problem is that David Arnold was not allowed to help in its production. Because of this, the song's almost promising musical aspects are left un-explored, and the score lacks a certain identifiability because of it.

Besides this problem, the score itself performs magnificently. Arnold has begun to use the Bond theme a little more freely, and, while still always restrained, it is given much more space to breath in this installment. "Time To Get Out" opens the album with a bang, and showcases some impressively frantic combinations of orchestral and electronic textures. "Pursuit At Port Au Prince" is probably my favorite track on the album. Energetic and often loud, it never loses interest or reverts to cliche musical 'chase' elements. Toward the end we are also treated to an excellent rendition of the Bond theme. "Night At The Opera" does a wonderful job of making suspense music listen-able, something that I rarely hear accomplished. Both "The Palio" and "Target Terminated" showcase excellent chase or fight music, and "Perla De Las Dunes" is an impressive culmination of action music.

The quiet moments are much more meaningful compared with Casino Royale, keeping the listener's interest throughout the entire album. Vesper's theme is again used, featured most prominently on "What's Keeping You Awake", "Camille's Story", and the second half of "Forgive Yourself". This falling piano melody is understated and subtle, but can also be quite gripping in its simplicity. For some reason, I like it far more the way it is used on Quantum of Solace than Casino Royale, and it gives the quiet cues musical purpose and focus. Perhaps the reverb on the piano sometimes goes overboard on the side of sentimentality, but that doesn't alter the effect, which is one of gripping tragedy, reconciled to itself.

Arnold has done it again, producing, in my opinion, a work superior even to Casino Royale. While the lack of a song identity for this score is inexcusable, given the fact that Arnold worked on "You Know My Name" and succeeded wonderfully, he has still been able to rise above this handicap and create a consistently engaging listening experience. The musical future is bright for Bond if Quantum of Solace is any indicator, and I eagerly await anything else Arnold may have in store for this franchise.

-Colin Thomson

Track List:

Time To Get Out
The Palio
Inside Man
Bond In Haiti
Somebody Wants To Kill You
Greene & Camille
Pursuit At Port Au Prince
No Interest In Dominic Greene
Night At The Opera
Restrict Bond's Movements
What's Keeping You Awake
Bolivian Taxi Ride
Field Trip
Target Terminated
Camille's Story
Oil Fields
Have You Ever Killed Someone?
Perla De Las Dunas
The Dead Don't Care About Vengeance
I Never Left
Another Way To Die

1 comment:

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