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Great scores from Bad Seeds

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - White Lunar
(Mute Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 23, 2009
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Review by Tony Bonyata

Although Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have been creating music together for the last decade-and-a-half with The Dirty Three, Grinderman and, most notably, The Bad Seeds, it wasn't until a few years ago that they shifted from their deep, dark rock roots and started composing music for films. Their first foray was in 2005 when they scored the ethereal soundtrack for John Hillcoat's quasi-Western "The Proposition" (which Cave also wrote the screenplay for), followed up two years later by creating the music for Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." While both films take place in the 1880s (Australia's outback and The Wild West, respectively) the music doesn't hearken back to the time as much as it helps define the feel of the storylines and specific scenes of these wonderful films, both music scores which have been released as part of a two-CD set entitled White Lunar.

In addition to the music from these two larger scale films, this set also includes music that Cave and Ellis scored for the lesser-known films, "The English Surgeon" (2007) and "The Girls of Phnom Penh" (2009), along with John Hillcoat's yet to be released new film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." Also accompanying the soundtrack material on Disc Two are four interesting unreleased ambient soundscapes (all named after craters - Halo, Zanstra, Daedalus and Magma) that the two have pulled from the vaults.

Gone is the howling, manic rock of The Bad Seeds on these recordings. In its place are songs that incorporate the ambient musings of Brian Eno, pastoral elements borrowed from classical music, a bit of Baroque in the style of Arcangelo Corelli, along with a few truly creepy, otherworldly things thrown in for good measure. Despite the number of different soundtracks being packaged together, both discs flow together quite effortlessly, with gentle piano and violin ballads sitting comfortably next to dark, brooding soundscapes and ghostly compositions.

Certainly Cave and Ellis aren't the first rock stars to score strong film soundtracks (two notables that spring to mind are Peter Gabriel's magnificent score for Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" and Neil Young's harrowing soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's 1995 western "Dead Man"), but this fine collection of film music from two of rock's most talented artists (even if they may be vastly underrated in the scheme of things), prove they're as good as any in this challenging field of music. In fact, with Cave's broad range of talents as musician, songwriter, author (his first novel And The Ass Saw The Angel was published in 1989 and last month saw the release of his second "The Death of Bunny Munro"), film actor ("Ghosts... of the Civil Dead," "Johnny Suede," "Wings of Desire") and screenwriter, he's proven himself to be one of rock's few true Renaissance men.

Related articles:

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Sept. 2008
Grinderman - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Jul. 2007
Grinderman - Album review - Apr. 2007
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus - Album review - Jan. 2005
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Concert review - Chicago, IL - June 2003
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Nocturama - Album review - Dec. 2002
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Apr. 2002
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - NoMore Shall We Part - Album review - May 2001
Nick Cave - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Mar. 2001

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