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The Expendables
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • American release: Lions Gate Records; European release: Silva Screen Records / 2010 / 71:49

Sylvester Stallone’s latest film brings together a whole host of 80s action kings – some of whom (eg Bruce Willis) have gone on to rather greater success than others (eg Dolph Lundgren) – a chance to mingle with a couple of younger pretenders (Jason Statham and 48-year-old Jet Li) – and generally have some fun.  It’s been received extremely well by audiences looking for a kick of nostalgia, though Stallone’s signature line in the film (“If the money’s right, we don’t care where the job is”) pretty much sums up the careers of many of his co-stars in it.

Stallone – who also directs – teams up once again with his latest Rambo composer, Brian Tyler, for the score.  Tyler has become something of an action specialist since first coming to prominence in the early part of the last decade, bringing generally exciting music to a range of projects, sometimes with a fully-orchestral army (Aliens vs Predator: Requiem), sometimes more heavily reliant on electronics (the Fast & Furious films).  While in general these scores have all been immaculate within their films, on albums Tyler does have a tendency to pack the CD to the limit – a practice which I know is favoured by a number of listeners, but for me if a CD’s going to be over 70 minutes long, it needs to be consistently interesting and consistently enjoyable to stand much chance of ever finding its way into the CD player and, for all their good parts, it’s that reason which prevents me from really thinking about him in glowing terms.  Almost all of his albums seem to feature a core (between 30 and 45 minutes) of fine music and if that’s what was actually presented, I’m pretty sure he would be considerably more highly-rated.

Brian Tyler +1 at The Expendables premiereAnyway, The Expendables is 72 minutes long – and I’m delighted to report that the music sustains that duration very well.  There’s an awful lot of action music here and it’s furiously-exciting, impressively-orchestrated material – very loud, but consistently interesting.  Yes, Tyler has written music like this before, but for some reason it seems more focussed here, more tightly-bound to create an interesting whole.  It certainly helps that it’s interspersed with some softer music (two guitar tracks in particular stand out – “Lee and Lacy” and especially the gorgeous “The Contact”).

It’s not going to set the world on fire, but The Expendables is a very enjoyable album from start to finish; it’s Tyler’s most impressive since 2003’s Timeline.  There are a couple of decent themes, neither all that memorable, but this isn’t really a score which needs themes – it’s all about the action music, and with a welcome nod to the master of this sort of thing, Jerry Goldsmith, with a little motif that runs through a lot of it, Tyler has nailed it perfectly.  Some will no doubt say that he isn’t breaking much new ground here, but this is not a movie where breaking new ground would have been appropriate.  I doubt that there will be many more entertaining scores this year.  ****

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  1. Mastadge (Reply) on Saturday 14 August, 2010 at 22:24

    I will stick to my guns and call this too long. Or too something, anyway. Or not enough something. The action music is indeed well constructed, but at some point in the middle of the album I start glancing at my player to see what track I’m on and how many more there are to go, and then it finally ends and I find that I cannot remember anything of what I just listened to other than that it was loud — I can’t remember the shape of the score as a whole nor any standout moments in particular.

    Maybe some more listens over the next few weeks will reveal motifs and structure that were smothered in volume the first couple times; that’s happened more than once before. Currently, though, I would rate this somewhere below Eagle Eye, which is my favorite of his action scores since 2003 or so.

  2. Fraley (Reply) on Friday 15 October, 2010 at 03:01

    The Expendables is my favorite of Tyler’s recent action scores. It’s definitely cut from the same cloth, but it seems to just have an extra spark. The opening track in particular is fantastic! That said, like many of Tyler’s albums, The Expendables loads the album top-heavy with all the best tracks. The first five tracks are on the way to a five star album, but after that, it seems to slowly loose steam. AvP:R did the same thing.