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  • Composed by Clinton Shorter
  • Milan Records / 2014 / 45m

A love affair blossoms under the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in the city of Pompeii.  How sweet!  What could go wrong?  Paul W.S. Anderson.  Back in the late 1990s, someone sent me an album promo – it was something new, something that hadn’t been done before – an album of trailer music.  I opened the packet hoping for a new Jerry Goldsmith album and so was rather disappointed.  Disappointment led to confusion – why on earth would someone want to sit down and listen to trailer music for a couple of hours?  Fast forward a decade and a half and there’s a whole industry of it and people do indeed want to listen to it.  You now don’t just get albums of trailer music, you get albums of library music which the composers hope may one day be used as trailer music.  It’s like film music, but amped up, designed to be generic and therefore able to be used in multiple places for multiple purpose.  And people love it!  Now, here’s Pompeii, by Clinton Shorter, a film score that sounds like trailer music.  The opening track is even clearly modelled on “Heart of Courage” by the most famous of the trailer music providers, Two Steps From Hell, with its muscular rhythms and chorus very closely following that piece.

The whole album is in that vein, really (with some Gladiator thrown in too, in film music terms) – loud, unsubtle, pretty generic – and yet somehow most enjoyable.  I don’t know what Clinton Shorter usually sounds like, but I imagine it’s not this; and of course it’s disappointing that another composer getting his big break ends up just trying to sound like Hans Zimmer rather than being himself.  However – importantly – there’s a panache to this music that, for all that it’s generic as anything, lifts it way above an Ender’s Game or a Robocop.  There are tunes, there’s a fun atmosphere – the Zimmerisms here are from Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean, not from The Dark Knight.  I thought in the couple of years after Gladiator, when it seemed the score for every major blockbuster was trying to be like it, that film music couldn’t get much worse; of course, the years since then have revealed that it can get much worse and it’s in that context that somehow Pompeii sounds quite fresh and provides so much entertainment, with its power anthems dripping with sweat.  Ultimately it’s disposable fluff, but you have fun while it lasts.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Debbie (Reply) on Tuesday 4 March, 2014 at 22:09

    sigh, another 3 star or lower…I was hoping to find something exciting….I guess the year is still young

  2. Solaris (Reply) on Tuesday 4 March, 2014 at 22:18

    You know, it’s not exactly Shorters’ big Break. “District 9” was a pretty successfull film (financially and critically) 😉

  3. Joshua Hoppman (Reply) on Tuesday 4 March, 2014 at 22:59

    I actually really enjoyed this music, lack of original thematic content, media ventures style, and trailer music, though it was. This will probably be a new guilty pleasure of mine.

  4. Orlando Gonzalez (Reply) on Tuesday 4 March, 2014 at 23:18

    I went to see the movie on a Friday night, it was very generic stuff. Nothing to write home about really, Film music is very much going down the drain and I am very much afraid of whats coming next.

    As always James a very nice review.

  5. Jens (Reply) on Wednesday 5 March, 2014 at 15:09

    While not as unlistenable as some, I simply can’t get on board with this kind of scoring.

  6. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Wednesday 5 March, 2014 at 23:40

    I’m waiting for THOMAS BERGERSEN & NICK PHOENIX [the composers known as ‘TWO STEPS FROM HELL’] to break into motion picture scoring, instead of just supplying music to underscore trailers. AND there are some gems on the two CDs I have that celebrates their creativity. You’re spot on James >from POMPEII’s primary theme [ of tragic beauty] to the motiff for the doomed lovers [a female vocalise merging into an orchestral reprise] and the chanted end titles [thank you JERRY GOLDSMITH for The Omen’s Satanic Mass] it’s obvious that CLINTON SHORTER was influenced by the dynamic, exciting & often beautiful music of the TWO STEPS FROM HELL partners. The ZIMMERESQUE influences were drowned out by sound-effects specialising in Vesuvius spewing out fireballs, crumbling temples & villas, the earth being ripped open, screeching humanity and a massive tidal wave. The digital sound & 3D effects were epic and the storyline OK. While sitting through the end credits to enjoy exerpts of the score, I noticed JOSEPH LoDUCA’s name – he was credited for two tracks…maybe the music for a banquet honouring the arrival of a Roman Senator. It sounded exotic and I hope it was included with SHORTER’s score. Naturally, I’ve ordered the CD and can’t wait to again experience SHORTER’s memorable themes for Pompeii.

  7. David (Reply) on Sunday 9 March, 2014 at 21:44

    Sorry, but I don’t hear any influence from Zimmer (when it was the last time that Zimmer wrote anything like Celtic Rebellion, To The Harbour, or My Gods?). It’s a fully orchestral and thematic score (The one people complain that there’s not too much from it). Given that there’s some cliches used through it, it sounds fresh and it’s Shorter’s best score since District 9.

  8. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 10 March, 2014 at 12:40

    You must have ears of cloth if you don’t hear Zimmer in this score.