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Synth-heavy score is very much a product of its time
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 PSO Presentations and TriStar Pictures Inc.; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
John Badham's Short Circuit proved to be a fantastically entertaining film for lots of nine-year-old boys (like me!) when it was released in the 1980s, with its winning formula of action and laughs - and a cute robot. How could you go wrong? I can't say I noticed the music at the time, but 20-odd years later I can notice it for the first time, as David Shire's score has become part of the Varese Sarabande CD Club. I didn't even know Shire had written the score until this CD was announced - I can't ever remember seeing any discussion about it, or a track appearing on a compilation, and I haven't seen the film since its cinema release in 1986.
I guess that for a score to a well-known film, by a well-known composer, not being mentioned by anyone at all wasn't necessarily an indication that this would be an essential purchase, but a fool and his money... It turns out to be dominated by electronics almost from start to finish, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, but when they're this kind of cheap-sounding 1980s ones and used to this extent, it's pretty hard to take unfortunately. There's an orchestra there and how I wish we could hear the typical Shire orchestral swagger without the hindrance of the bleeps and twitters - but they're integrated so deeply into the music, of course that's not possible.
On the occasions when the electronics are kept at bay to an extent, there's music here which is very fine - the action material of "Joy(less) Ride" is fantastic, some of the playful music for the robot star Johnny 5 is quite endearing, and the sweet-natured "Joke Triumph" is really lovely, and followed by the finest piece of the album, "Danger, Nova / Escape Attempt / Aftermath" - the orchestration sounds a little thin (surprisingly), but it's almost as if the music is finally set free from a cage. It's not awful, but very much a product of 1986; die-hard fans of the film will know exactly what to expect, and will undoubtedly love it, but others - even Shire fanatics like myself - may need to exercise a little more caution.