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Lovely little animation score from unexpected composer
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
One of the most unlikely scoring assignments in recent years was Mychael Danna being hired to score the animated comedy Surf's Up, about some competitive surfing penguins. This sort of thing is usually the exclusive territory of Hans Zimmer's entourage, so there's something strangely satisfying that a composer as serious as Danna would get an assignment like this. It's clear from the opening cue "Legends" that this is not your usual animated score - elegant, balletic music for piano and strings ushers in the album in arresting fashion.
What this does have in common with the vast majority of animated scores is the bite-sized nature of all the music - the album runs a shade under half an hour, but features 23 different tracks, which gives you an indication. Styles come and styles go - after that graceful opening cue, "Sports Network Presents" features some disco drums and Beach Boys guitars - but, as Thomas Newman showed in Finding Nemo, it's perfectly possible for a serious composer to write proper music for this sort of film and for it to function beautifully.
It's interesting how well Danna copes with going outside his comfort zone - his usually introspective ways clearly wouldn't be sufficient here, and some of the expansive, brassy action music sounds like it's from the pen of a composer who's been doing this sort of thing for all of his career. The blast of brass in "The Big Z Memorial" is particularly fine. However, the highlights are certainly the more considered pieces - that opening, or the gorgeous "Big Z's Shrine", for instance. "I Don't Have a Way" is another charming little vignette - in a score full of them.
The comic moments are handled with panache too - "Log Roll", with its ukelele and slide guitar, is a real treat; "Cody Struggles" is music with a real smile on its face, and it will create that reaction in most listeners too. Danna can't quite resist injecting a slice of his more usual style into "Training", with its Indian flavour straight from Bollywood. It's never going to be considered a major work by Danna, but it's a very pleasant score which shows a different side to the composer, and it's nice to be reminded that animations from studios other than Disney are allowed to have music which is something other than utterly banal. The album is a very limited release from BSX Records.