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Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Miramax Film Corp.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Triumvirate of composers bring dark, urban sound to the original and best Town Planning Simulator game


Disappointingly (for me, at least - I imagine there are some who don't share my frustration) Sin City turned out not to be a mis-spelt big-screen adaptation of the urban design computer game Sim City but instead is based on a comic book I've never heard of (and is, indeed, the 59,424th such film released in the last few months).  Director Robert Rodriguez has always had a somewhat eclectic approach to the music in his films, rarely favouring a traditional score, and recently favouring either writing the music himself (Once Upon a Time in Mexico) or employing virtually everyone in Hollywood able to string a few notes together to write a bar or two each (the Spy Kids films).  The latest trend of scores being written by multiple composers is one I hope ends very soon indeed.  A good film score is the vision of a singular composer, working closely with the director to come up with the correct approach, but then being able to inject his or her own personality into the music.  Bringing more than one composer on board can only result in a hodge-podge of different, conflicting musical styles, or result in the composers having to write in a completely generic manner in order to avoid such a clash of styles, thus removing any chance of them writing music which is personal to them (and thus removing any chance of it making interesting music).

However, Sin City seems to be a very rare exception where its semi-episodic nature (the film is told from three different characters' points of view, with each being distinct) means that using a different composer for each character's story is not so objectionable.  It goes without saying that it would have been preferable if the director had been confident enough in his film to entrust one composer to score the whole thing (there are certainly precedents, such as Jerry Goldsmith's music for the episodic Twilight Zone: The Movie) but nevertheless, the concept of three composers scoring this film doesn't seem quite so offensive as, say, the prospect of two composers (plus, no doubt, numerous ex-Media Ventures interns) scoring Batman Begins.  The three composers in question are Rodriguez himself, who scored one segment and provided a bit of bridging music for the others, along with John Debney and Graeme Revell, each of whom had worked with the director in the past.

The disc opens with the "main theme" (though it's not one you'll be whistling in the shower - or bath, for that matter) composed by Rodriguez, centered around a raspy, smokey sax solo, perhaps coming off like some of Elliot Goldenthal's more "industrial" music (though obviously featuring none of that composer's orchestral prowess).  Shortly thereafter, we are thrust into Revell's portion of the score, which is actually very similar to this.  It's incredibly dark but fortunately is not just the collection of noises that sometimes make up Revell's music, but has clearly been composed very deliberately and in some detail.  There's little in the way of acoustic instruments, but the music remains fairly interesting, particularly the action piece "The Hard Goodbye".

Debney's music comes next and is (and I find this strange) not written in an entirely different style from the rest, at least not at first.  It still features urban percussion, though a string orchestra provides accompaniment now, and still doesn't contain much in the way of melody.  It's not particularly interesting until it bursts into life somewhat with the score's best cue, "Deadly Little Mino", with the orchestra finally being able to take over somewhat.  The piano-based action/suspense of the next cue, "Warrior Woman", isn't bad either, and Debney clearly takes the opportunity to write slightly more satisfying music than the other two composers.  "Tar Pit" returns to the urban jungle and raspy sax, but there's a film noir quality about it which lends it more appeal.  "Jackie Boy's Head" is brief but satisying, adding a nice (acoustic) beat and frantic brass accompaniment to the sax.  This leads directly into "Prison Cell" which features the only hint of emotion in the whole score, with some impassioned (and impressive) music.

Rodriguez's own section closes the album and isn't quite as interesting as Debney's, but does feature some surprisingly well-written sections, particularly the largely-orchestral "Kiss of Death" and "That Yellow Bastard", which are probably the most traditional-sounding pieces on the album (the latter is an action track which sounds more than a little like something Goldsmith might have written).  The best track on the album is not in fact by Rodriguez, Debney or Revell, but is Silvestre Revueltas's superb composition "Sensemaya".  All in all, the album is surprisingly coherent, and reasonably interesting.  The dark nature of the music makes it hard for me to imagine many people listening to it more than once or twice, but the approach to scoring ended up working and, at least in Debney and Rodriguez's tracks, there are a couple of "keepers".  In terms of the atmosphere it creates, it can't be faulted, and somehow the whole seems so much more than the sum of the parts.

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  1. Sin City (RR) (1:55)
  2. One Hour to Go (RR) (2:12)
  3. Goldie's Dead (GR) (2:16)
  4. Marv (GR/RR) (2:10)
  5. Bury the Hatchet (GR) (2:40)
  6. Old Town Girls (GR/RR) (:45)
  7. The Hard Goodbye (GR) (4:32)
  8. Cardinal Sin (GR/RR) (2:15)
  9. Her Name is Goldie (GR) (1:01)
  10. Dwight (JD) (2:11)
  11. Old Town (JD/RR) (3:16)
  12. Deadly Little Mino (JD/RR) (2:58)
  13. Warrior Woman (JD) (2:19)
  14. Tar Pit (JD) (2:12)
  15. Jackie Boy's Head (JD) (:36)
  16. The Big Fat Kill (JD) (3:17)
  17. Nancy (RR) (1:45)
  18. Prison Cell (RR) (1:49)
  19. Absurd Fluke (3:41)
  20. Kiss of Death (RR) (1:58)
  21. That Yellow Bastard (RR) (1:36)
  22. Hartigan (RR) (1:44)
  23. Sensemaya (Revueltas) (5:59)
  24. End Titles (RR) (3:16)