Review Summary: Entirely slow paced, "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" pursues a dark tune, with excellent results.
Being completely unbiased towards an artist is difficult at times. For instance, never hearing the works of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds or Warren Ellis’ other soundtrack work is a bit odd. Considering both are known for their general musical abilities why would someone pick this up if it wasn’t for those reasons? Although they both bring huge popularity both by fans and critics, I’ve never listened to either of their work. It is to my understanding that they (Cave & Ellis) are part of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and this is their 2nd collaboration for a soundtrack. Blind and unaware of the film, only by its time period and historical figures it involves, I listen to what Nick Cave & Warren Ellis pursues: capturing the elegance, simplicity, and somberness of those times. Gripping in character study is Jesse James and his amazing escapes, myths, and actions, what isn’t discussed are the people around him – precisely what “The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” is about. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis use a whopping 3 instruments with consistency to orchestrate a movie soundtrack mainly piano and violin; Ellis’ instrumental skills are put to the test with him leading the charge key by key.
Cave and Ellis do not try to make an overly complex tune on any of this; instead they rely on the piano sequences to set the mood of loneliness, while the violins sweep through. There isn’t a heightened sense of suspense or danger as you would assume for what it is portraying, instead the atmosphere of the album is quite tangled into the subtle emotion of solitude. “Money Train” would be the only suspenseful song, yet it moves at an awkwardly slow pace and fades out in a short time. Thus the album is slow moving and always keeping a consistent pace. Cave and Ellis entwine piano and violin masterfully, building on each other. Although, not to a great point as stated previously. I wouldn’t say this album is diverse in any way, but the fact much of it relies on 2 instruments throughout while keeping the same formula of piano textures and high to low pitch violin is what astounds. Ever consistent with an eerie sense of loneliness the soundtrack stays remarkably sluggish, not causing problems at all. “Moving” on uses a bit of acoustic guitar, yet it isn’t dependent on it at all – nearly ditched all together in the next track. The void of the violin in “Song For Jesse” isn’t noticeable to the point its yearned for, instead its replaced with a backdrop of low, almost unnoticeable guitar strings and the mother of all surprises a triangle to the forefront. It works to perfection, holding the sense of emptiness and desolation, yet using another instrument that wouldn’t be associated with such. Despite the album being driven by what some would say a static and overly used instrument throughout the album, there are a few oddities within the soundtrack to elevate the mood. “Cowgirl” actually does the opposite of “Song For Jesse” – scrapping the piano and holding the violin, but what stands out is the lingering of a guitar rhythm backdrop.
“The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” isn’t exciting in any shape or form, instead its slow moving, hard to digest in the first few listens. If you dislike the backwoods country of that time period (violin, acoustic guitar) you will be hard pressed to enjoy this. It’s heavily laden in a low acoustic guitar in the background with mostly single violins and piano sequences that rub on each other. Despite its atmosphere that gives off the sense of repetitiveness such as “Song For Jesse” and “Another Rather Lovely Thing” the album grows with repeated listens. The mood is set for the loneliness of Jesse and the deception of the coward Robert Ford.