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  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Varese Sarabande VSD-6983 / 2009 / 64:15

Writing film music reviews, I need to try to avoid preconceptions if at all possible; it’s human nature to make them, but they can undoubtedly unfairly swing one’s opinion on something regardless of its actual merits.  I have to admit, before I listen to a new Brian Tyler score, I don’t just have preconceptions formed in my mind – it’s almost as if I can write the whole review before I’ve even listened to the album. He seems to have become the most predictable film composer there is.  It would be great (and a far better piece of critical writing) if I could follow that up by saying what a delight it therefore is that The Final Destination is such a fresh, surprising piece of work.  Sadly I can’t, because it is as predictable as anything.  Tyler is stepping into the late Shirley Walker’s shoes here, and incorporates her theme for the series quite a lot; the rest is exactly what we’ve come to expect from this composer, with action music orchestrated to the hilt, sounding like it could come straight out of any number of his other scores, at first full of energy, but by the time the fourteen-day-long album finishes, you’d give anything for it to just stop.

On paper, Tyler has it all.  He can do melody, he can do exciting action music, he can (though usually chooses not to) dial it back and be a bit softer – and he knows the orchestra like the back of his hand.  But he seems stuck in a massive rut, truly worrying given he’s probably got at least thirty years of film composing to come, if he wants it.  It’s hard to say exactly what it is, because he’s got all the talent in the world, and on a technical level you just can’t find fault; but it sounds so soulless!  I was so excited when he first burst onto the scene with those terrific scores he did one after another a few years ago; and so disappointed that he’s been unable to do anything remotely as good ever since.  He’s young and successful, so it’s completely absurd for me to offer him advice; but I’m nothing if not absurd, so I’ll say how wonderful I think it would be if he stepped back for a bit, didn’t take on one project straight after another, and somehow found a way to inject his music with the kind of love and passion he showed in his earliest scores.  **

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  1. Josh (Reply) on Friday 11 September, 2009 at 05:48

    Part of the problem is that the films he scores are mostly trash. Some composers (like Goldsmith) can overcome that… but Tyler seems content to write on auto-pilot.

    It doesn’t help that most of his soundtrack releases are WAY too long. I can’t think of the last Tyler release that I’ve been able to get all the way through.

  2. mastadge (Reply) on Friday 11 September, 2009 at 18:09

    I agree with Josh. I was reading an interview with Harry Gregson-Williams who, in talking about Spy Game, said that he regretted the album was so long. He said that unless you’ve written the mother of all film scores, there’s generally no reason to release a 70-minute album. I agree completely. The majority of Tyler’s 60-80 minute score releases would benefit immeasurably by being chopped to 45-50, or even shorter.

    (Some of his albums, interestingly, are structured so that there’s a complete album presentation followed by everything else, so that those of us who aren’t looking for an exhausting listen don’t have to do as much programming. AvP2, for instance, has a complete 30-minute soundtrack followed by 45 minutes of everything else, and even Children of Dune has pretty much said everything it has to say by track 8, giving us a nice 25-minute suite in case we’re not compelled to sit through 80 minutes of repetition. This is a trend I’d prefer to see more of, as it seems to be acceptable to both camps: those like me who prefer a good arrangement of the best of the score get it without having to rearrange anything, and those who want essentially the full score have it at their disposal as well.)

    Agreed about the autopilot, too. The man is talented. He’s written good, exciting, beautiful music. But he’s so prolific anymore than he seems to get out maybe 2 or 3 excellent action tracks a year, lost among hours of generic noise. If slowing down would help him craft better scores, I’m all for it!

  3. Josh (Reply) on Friday 11 September, 2009 at 20:30

    I kinda like Eagle Eye… but only when I program about thirty minutes out of the gargantuan 77-minute album. I remember needing to do that with most of the late 90s/early 00s James Horner releases and it’s gotten regrettably more common in recent years.

    It’s the rare composer that can write music interesting and diverse enough to sustain that length. In my book, only John Williams regularly does it.