Monday, 7 January 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Johnny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood

When not sticking it to the man with the label-less, ‘pay what you like’ release of In Rainbows before skedaddling across to XL for the pocket-lining assurance of a bulging royalty cheque (and a number one record no-less), Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood had a pretty productive 2007. Starting off the year with the cumbersomely titled but rather fine Trojan compilation Johnny Greenwood Is The Controller, the floppy-locked multi-instrumentalist cemented his Annus Mirabilis by composing the score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s much vaunted There Will Be Blood.

Having yet to sit through the film in all its cinematic splendour, it’s impossible to elucidate how successfully Greenwood interprets Anderson’s on-screen ideas but on the basis of these eleven orchestral arrangements it seems fair to say There Will Be Blood ain’t no sunshine and sugar motion picture. A cavern-dwelling cacophony of strings, piano and percussion, this half hour composition casts a bleak shadow of melodious introspection fraught with claustrophobia and despair that’s a bold attestation to Greenwood’s more crestfallen inclinations.

It would take an imprudent scribe not to draw parallels with the composer’s globe-conquering day job and flashes of Radiohead astral-gazing are certainly awoken in the murky graveyard of mourning keys and neck-hair quivering violin scuffles found lurking in ‘Prospectors Arrive’. But There Will Be Blood is a more solemn affair than any of Greenwood and his cohorts' commercial ventures, with ‘Future Markets’’ haggard staccatos and ’Eat Him By His Own Light’’s rickety piano trinkets creating sinister, apologetic soundscapes that pass effortlessly into the airwaves without a moment's thought to their master's preceding radio-friendly output.

Yet, despite ‘Proven Lands’’ percussive cheek or the brooding sheen of ‘Prospectors Quartet’’s sweeping elegiac pillar, it’s impossible to relinquish the disenchanting actuality that this is a silverscreen soundtrack not made with home-listenig in mind. For all the fascinating aural nooks and crannies Greenwood gouges, he fails to concoct the imagery required to allow such sterling symphonic compositions to explode into life; y’know that moment where sight and sound embrace as one, leaving eardrums and pupils both enraptured and enthralled in the thrill of sensorial matrimony.

There’s no doubting There Will Be Blood continues to prove Johnny Greenwood as one of the most spellbinding and innovative musicians of our time, it’s just without a little visual stimulation it’s not quite as apparent as usual.
Rating: 7/10
Out now on Nonesuch Records

1 comment:

Nick said...

I went to see the film last night. The music's really claustrophobic like you say, and overbearing, which makes it a huge element of the film rather than just backgrounding. It often doesn't even seem to have much relation to the images, but it creates a new kind of meaning in the paradox.

Ye ken?