- 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.