Thomas Newman

Rating: 8.4

Until it was nominated for an oscar at the end of the year, it looked like the score for the critically acclaimed Wall-E would be one of the only aspects of the movie nearly unrecognized. Most film score critics shared the opinion that Thomas Newman, as always, had wonderful ideas, but failed completely to develop them into a confluent whole. What they seem to have missed is that this is, in a large part, the charm of the score: its quirkiness, aided by its fragmentation.

In fact, the score for Wall-E is one of the most interestingly quirky in a while. Combining two songs from Hello, Dolly!, "La Vie En Rose" by Louis Armstrong, a new song by Peter Gabriel, and a meaningful underscore would have the tendency to turn into a mix-mash of styles and genres, and lose all sense of complete meaning. Somehow, though, Thomas Newman pulled it off.

Beginning with "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly!, the score sounds like more of a period work than anything, until the song fades, increasing reverb as it does so. This one artistic decision, in my opinion, is what keeps the album from getting off to a bad start. Already, we see that time period fading, as we get glimpses of a ruined world. The almost eerie "2815 A.D." follows, setting the stage for, as director Andrew Stanton calls it, the "space opera' aspect of the film.

To write a track-by-track analysis of the album would be useless. There are 38 tracks on the album which lasts 61 minutes and 47 seconds. Being a helpful sort of reviewer, I'll do the math for you. That averages tracks to 97.55263158 seconds, or a little over a minute and a half. But this is the way Thomas Newman works, and the tracks do not, as sometimes happens, have uselessly long 'dead space' at the beginning or end, so the over-all listening experience is not hurt from this excess of tracks.

The score is, like the other musical choices, a curiosity. Replete with sound effects from the movie, and full of odd instrumental combinations, it is a wonder that it is able to hold together any type of symmetry. But it does, and also manages to tell a story. The sound effects, for perhaps the first time in history, are actually used pleasingly, and add to the generally odd ambience of the score. The instrumentation also goes a long way in creating this score's certain 'sound'. The album liner notes list soloists, giving us a glimpse into what it took to create the textures Newman uses to great effect throughout the score. The list is ridiculously long, and includes many instruments which I do not even recognize, but are used in ways which add to the score, instead of being merely curiosities.

In the area of packaging and design, Wall-E soars. The cardboard-like material and color of which the digipack is made is a nice touch, and the over all design of both this and the liner notes is very interesting and well done. The notes themselves, however, should be the standard to which the rest of the industry should try to attain. Not only are the soloists and their many instruments mentioned, but so is the rest of the orchestra, name of player and instrument. I only wish more albums would follow suite.

Perhaps Wall-E can seem random at times. There can be no doubt that it sometimes appears a little fragmented. But the end result is meaningful and impressive. Though there are themes for characters in it, the score concerns itself more with exploring the character of the movie, and, in this case, there is plenty of exploring to be done. Right now, in the genre of animation, Wall-E has put Thomas Newman at a tie with Michael Giacchino as the number one composer. It is both delicate and exciting, restrained and impressive, quirky but confluent. It is, in a word, impressive.

-Colin Thomson

Track Listing:

Put On Your Sunday Clothes
2815 A.D.
The Spaceship
Bubble Wrap
La Vie En Rose
Eye Surgery
Worry Wait
First Date
EVE Retrieve
The Axiom
Foreign Contaminant
Repair Ward
72 Degrees And Sunny
Typing Bot
Gopher (GO-4)
Wall-E's Pod Adventure
Define Dancing
No Splashing No Diving
All That Love's About
Directive A-113
Fixing Wall-E
Rogue Robots
March Of The Gels
The Holo-Detector
Desperate EVE
It Only Takes A Moment
Down To Earth
Horizon 12.2

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