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Battle: Los Angeles
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Varese Sarabande / 2011 / 78:19

Roger Ebert’s famously dismissive review (Google it) hasn’t done much to dampen enthusiasm for Jonathan Liebesman’s film Battle: Los Angeles, which has attracted decent audience levels and even some reasonable word-of-mouth.  The director has worked before with composer Brian Tyler (including on Darkness Falls – one of his breakthrough scores).  Given the film’s premise (fierce battle rages between man and alien in LA), no doubt some film music fans would have been salivating at the prospect of a score which might recall David Arnold’s extremely popular Independence Day, whipping things up to a patriotic fervour.  The fact is, scores like that are very much the exception rather than the norm even in films like this; 2011’s norm, in films like this and indeed just about every other film, is the Hans Zimmer-inspired sound with which we have all become very well-accustomed.

The album’s opener, “Battle Los Angeles Hymn”, is a gloriously cheesy piece of music which would be suitable for slow motion shots of soldiers attacking each other in any number of films.  It’s great fun.  First two-and-a-half minutes and one thinks – so far, so good.  Of the remaining 76 minutes, I can’t be so enthusiastic.  It’s all quite predictable – a lot of action, Zimmerish power anthems, everything but the kitchen sink thrown in.  And it’s loud.  No, make that loud.  Mastered so loud, in fact, that there seems even to be a little distortion in some tracks.  Half an hour of the highlights would make for a seriously good album (including the lovely “Elegy” somewhere to break it up).  78 minutes?  Not so much.  It becomes extremely grating long before the album’s over, increasingly hard to tell any one part from any other, increasingly hard to imagine ever listening to it again.  So sad that once again a disastrous album presentation spoils what could have been something terrific.  **

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  1. A. Rubinstein (Reply) on Wednesday 20 April, 2011 at 15:09

    Actually, the thing with Brian Tyler’s albums presentation is that even though they’re all excessively long, all the highlights are deliberately placed at the beginning of the album, regardless of their film order. The idea behind it, I guess, is that it wouldn’t be difficult to program a shorter listening experience for those, like you, who prefer it. So it’s not that fair to blame the album for being overlong in this case, since it’s really done in a way that suppose to please everyone.

  2. Mikal (Reply) on Wednesday 20 April, 2011 at 17:01

    I see you got around to reviewing it. 🙂 I had a feeling you wouldn’t be too wild about this one, but I wanted to see what you thought, nevertheless. Also, I thought you would be more turned off by the MV/RCP sound, but it seems the lengthy album presentation is what really ruined the experience for you. Oddly enough, this is one of the few ~80 min. Tyler albums that doesn’t drag for me; along those lines, I know that a lot of Tyler’s score albums tend to be “top heavy,” and while it is apparent in the case of Battle: LA, it’s nowhere near as conspicuous as it is with many of his other albums. I thought there were plenty of highlights in the latter half of the album, and that’s even with the first half setting the bar almost impossibly high. For me, it’s one of Tyler’s most consistent albums.

  3. Solaris (Reply) on Wednesday 20 April, 2011 at 17:55

    Well, when I saw that you wrote a review for Battle:LA, I instantly thought: “Two Stars because of Over-long Album”. Ta-daa!

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 20 April, 2011 at 18:08

    I may have slightly overplayed my hand with this one since the raw material isn’t as good as on other Tyler scores (the over-simplistic Zimmerish action music isn’t done as well here as it has been elsewhere). I don’t see the “stuff the good music at the start” argument with this one, though – that’s blatantly true with something like Children of Dune (I wonder if anyone has ventured past the twenty-minute mark on that one within the last five years?) but Battle: LA seems to be fairly consistent throughout – just not interesting enough at any point to warrant the quantity of it being offered. There’s half an hour of highlights sprinkled throughout, but who has the time or patience to find them and make the perfect album? That’s what the album producer’s meant to do! Must leave it there – I spy another dead horse which needs flogging just across the room…

  5. Kalman (Reply) on Saturday 23 April, 2011 at 10:27

    I was hoping you would give at least 4 stars for it even though I completely agree with your opinion of the very long playing time. But as for the music itself I think it’s Tyler’s best – at least for me. The movie was crap and the only thing that kept me in the cinema was the music. I was humming the melodies afterward and run to buy the CD.
    And I have to add that Tyler has never been a favourite of mine.