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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Composed by Tyler Bates
  • Hollywood Records / 2017 / 44m

I thought James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the more entertaining entries in the Marvel series so far, gleefully refusing to take itself seriously, and audience reaction in general was overwhelmingly positive.  A sequel was inevitable, and Gunn has returned along with the cast led by Chris Pratt, whose character Peter Quill meets his father (played by Kurt Russell) and goes on a journey to find himself.  It will doubtless be very successful – and a third film is already in the works.

Tyler Bates wrote one of his more popular scores last time round, though if truth be told I couldn’t remember a thing about it as soon as it finished and I certainly can’t remember anything about it three years later.  I can’t really tell you therefore how much music from the first score is reprised here – but I can tell you that it’s a very enjoyable affair, surely the best thing Bates has ever written.

Tyler Bates

“Showtime, A-Holes” opens the album with a burst of the Brian Tyler-ish main theme, before the action begins in “Vs the Abelisk” – it’s based around the much-copied descending string action figure from Junkie XL’s Mad Max, and this is one of the best appropriations of it that I’ve heard so far.  It’s not exactly original (it wasn’t when Junkie used it either, but that’s surely the origin of its appearances since) – but even this early on, it’s apparent just how accomplished the orchestration here is.  It’s done to the hilt, with so much flair – I imagine a reasonable portion of the credit for that should go to Tim Williams, Bates’s orchestrator, but whoever deserves the praise, it’s certainly warranted.

“Space Chase” is a more explosive action piece still, with so much going on, and not long later, “Two-Time Galaxy Savers” is even better, just furiously entertaining, with a delightful heroic version of the main theme to close it out.  In between them there’s some surprisingly emotional material, and in “Groot Expectations” a bit of brass writing that’s heaven for a James Horner fan like me.

There are some more serious moments, the first of which is “I Know Who You Are”, with some ethereal textures accompanied by a great dramatic thrust forwards, and a great guitar line running through the whole thing.  Another fast-paced action track follows, “Ego”, with some uber-dramatic moments with apocalyptic choir.  There’s a little passage in “Kraglin and Drax” which sounds a little bit like Elliot Goldenthal’s Batman theme… which for obvious reasons is quite amusing.

The score’s secondary theme gets a rousing rendition in “Mary Poppins and the Rat” and after that, it positively races towards its conclusion, with one big moment after another.  The brass writing (and performance) is just great, the energy level never drops from manic.  It’s much like in Brian Tyler’s Marvel scores, quite relentlessly exciting, only ending up a notch below it in the rankings because the theme isn’t as memorable.  My favourite track might actually not be one of the many action pieces, but instead the terrifically over-the-top drama of “Dad”, old-fashioned movie music emotion being wrought for all its worth.

I said above that I couldn’t remember a thing about the first score when I came to write about this one.  Three years hence – if I’m still around – I’m not entirely sure I’ll remember much about this one when I come to write the third (for all its quality, it does for a long time go in one ear and out the other) – but there’s no denying how flat-out entertaining it is.  It’s bright and breezy, moves along at a furious pace and the album’s short enough that there’s never a hint of it wearing out its welcome.  Bates deserves much credit for writing something so entertaining.

Rating: *** 1/2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Tyler Bates | |

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  1. Lone Commenter (Reply) on Saturday 29 April, 2017 at 04:32

    Nailed it, James. These are weirdly unmemorable, but they are very enjoyable anyway. I saw the film, and ‘Dad’ brought me to tears. It’s quite an emotional movie, despite me not being able to listen to the many of the jokes without cringing. Not sure it’s really my style of humour – too blatant, maybe.
    But is it just me, or do Tyler Bates and Brian Tyler seem interchangeable? I’m constantly mixing them up.

    What’d you think of the 70s/80s soundtrack this time round?

  2. tiago (Reply) on Sunday 30 April, 2017 at 04:43

    The cue “Dad” reminded me a little of James Newton Howard’s Flow Like Water from The Last Airbender and Stampede from Water for Elephants.

    Anyway, director James Gunn apparently got so excited with this particular cue, and streamed the recording of this track live on his Facebook page. I wish more directors (spefically Rian Johnson) to do this more often:

    • Lone Commenter (Reply) on Monday 1 May, 2017 at 13:24

      What I would give to hear the entire Last Jedi score right now…
      The Force Awakens was such a wonderful work, but unfortunately it’s marred by my dislike of the movie. I’ve got this feeling that Ep. 8 is going to be spectacular.

  3. Momo (Reply) on Monday 8 May, 2017 at 18:18

    Loved the movie, and the soundtrack was just as bombastic and fun as it needed to be (perhaps at the expense of enough complexity to invite a re-listen). I particularly liked the new theme for Peter and his father, which as you say gets played for all its worth at the top of the orchestra’s lungs throughout the score. Not a bad night at the theater to be honest! 🙂