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Rather distant, very heavy fantasy music doesn't grab as it should

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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 New Line Productions; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall

Howard Shore has spent the last few years in very intense territory, with the Lord of the Rings movies being followed by serious films calling for serious scores, in the form of The AviatorA History of Violence and The Departed.  He has been in exceptional form through this run of scores (also writing his massively enjoyable LOTR knockoff Soul of the Ultimate Nation video game score in between them) - but now, at last, a chance to lighten up a bit with the gentle children's fantasy The Last Mimzy.  No more of those dense clusters, that muddy recording, the constant dramatic intensity...

...except those things are exactly what find themselves in his music for The Last Mimzy, which could go on a lecture tour teaching other film scores how to be humourless and intense.  Now, there's nothing wrong with music like that... but still, it's not like Shore hasn't tackled such light, throwaway fare as Big, Mrs Doubtfire and The Truth About Cats and Dogs in the past.  Mimzy is anchored around a pair of strong themes - familiar to listeners of The Aviator in their austere orchestration, and to listeners of Lord of the Rings in their melodic and harmonic construction - and these are very good, but by the time they have formed the basis of the album's opening few cues, one does begin to wonder whether they will be the only things of note in the score.

Sadly, so it proves - Shore does introduce other melodic material, but it never makes a connection with this listener.  He is certainly a composer capable of establishing a great emotional connection, but he sometimes treads just the wrong side of a very fine line due to his (admirable) desire to make music which is first and foremost interesting - surely the music from The Last Mimzy would be better as an intellectual exercise than a film score for a children's movie.  For all that, the first 15 minutes or so of the album are very strong - it is after that that it begins to lose its way a little, seeming a little directionless and more than a little emotionally distant.  

I used the word "austere" earlier, which is the perfect description for this serious, rather bleak music.  But I also used the word "humourless" - and while that may apply to the first 15 cues, the 16th and final one could not be further away from it - indeed, I don't know whether I have ever laughed so hard in my life as I did at the song "Hello (I Love You)", written by Shore with Roger Waters, and sung by the latter.  Had it been written by a five-year-old boy for a talent competition, the poor lad would have been humiliated by the howls of laughter coming from all around, and probably never dared venture into the world of music again.  Because it's from a "legendary rocker" I'm sure lots of people will be queueing up to sing its praises, but seriously - if anybody has ever heard a worse song in construction, vocal performance or arrangement, or lyrics so trite, cliched and banal as these - do write in, because I could make a compilation album to give to someone I don't like for Christmas.  

The Last Mimzy is quite interesting music - and would make a very fine album by many composers' standards - but those who have recently been wondering whether Shore has lost his capacity for exercising a light touch will have further fuel to add to their fires.  It's OK - but ultimately a slight disappointment due to the extreme height Shore has set the bar for himself over the last few years.


  1. The Mandala (1:38)
  2. Whidbey Island (3:21)
  3. Under the Bed (2:46)
  4. Cuddle (1:27)
  5. Beach (1:59)
  6. Scribbles (2:38)
  7. Blackout (3:16)
  8. Palm Readings (4:12)
  9. I Love the World (:52)
  10. Help! (1:20)
  11. I Have to Look (4:09)
  12. Can I Talk? (5:25)
  13. Eyes (2:15)
  14. The Tear (4:07)
  15. Through the Looking Glass (5:02)
  16. Hello (I Love You) Roger Waters (6:16)