Review Summary: The sequel no one saw coming accomplishes that rare task of managing to put the original to shame
Objectively, trying to critique an orchestral score that’s been designed entirely as nothing more than a “companion piece” can be a little taxing to say the least. There are a variety of pieces to the puzzle that can render the reviewer’s job of attempting to place said score in some type of contextual neutrality insignificant. We all understand that there is that context (which is to say that we’re aware of the fact that these pieces of music are specifically designed to be accompanying something visual) but it’s an obvious conclusion that even the most casual of listeners should expect to take something
away from a soundtrack that manages to equate to more than mere memories of key sequences in said film. We all understand that on its own, as an album of sorts, we’re allowed to afford it some degree of complacency given its obvious objective, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still treat it with the same level of appreciation, or displeasure, when it fails to deliver on the sonic goods. And even though we all knew that Daft Punk joining forces with Walt Disney to spearhead the soundtrack for Tron: Legacy
wasn’t going to result in any kind of electro house Mecca, we can all agree that we expected something more
than what was served up to us. Teasing us with snippets of ‘Derezzed’ was ultimately the smartest play that the powers-that-be could have used, even though it also ended up being the soundtrack’s ultimate un-doing. Sure, we weren’t expecting Daft Punk’s highly anticipated new album, but we expected Daft Punk to be, at the very least, Daft Punk. What we got instead, however, were a lot of wishy-washy half realized ideas and a bucket load of soulless cinematic ambition. And sure, the robots proved that buried underneath the circuitry and the pulsing lights lay a beating heart of sorts, but it was a life source layered in lines of synth makeup and mechanical crescendos. On paper it should have worked, but for their part, the robots were sadly absent. Well then, cue the remix album.
Perhaps the Walt Disney corporation realized the error of their ways by keeping Daft Punk on a leash, for Tron Legacy: Reconfigured
if we must) is the drug addled and venomous sister to Daft Punk’s lackluster pieced-together-by-AI orchestral mishap. Pulling together the latest and brightest, and running the gamut of today’s various dance friendly and candy coated genres, this remix album has its eyes set squarely on a good time and goes for broke. Even though essentially a cash-in on the fabled legacy that is Tron, it works simply on the grounds that it actually accomplishes what we all hoped the original soundtrack would do. It’s a pulsating mass of delirious 8-bit mongering, a digitized symphony injected with some groove and, dare I say, life? The translation from musical score to club banger is handled so simply, with all the transformations performed so effectively you wonder why Daft Punk just didn’t do this in the first place. God knows the movie wouldn’t have suffered had the soundtrack just simply been a pastiche of hard hitting tech beats and ecstasy filled house. Truth be told, it probably would have been better off for it. But instead, months after the release we’re given this, what should have ultimately been the true “voice” for the album. And it’s a little surprising that the French robots themselves are nowhere to be found here.
Instead we get a who’s who of current club royalty, each given their own chance to bring their unique dancefloor magic to the table and attempt to carve out a soundtrack destined for a very different night out than one that involves heading out for a quiet movie. And no one wastes anytime in getting started with The Glitch Mob opening things up, their take on ‘Derezzed’ solidifying the electro house scorcher into something a little more rigid and sturdy, their reliance on more mid-tempo beats dissolving the original’s Casio destroying tune into a sea of distorted bytes and bells. The Crystal Method re-calibrate ‘The Grid’ into a mild big beat extravaganza, the original’s crescendo’s bouncing around a steadfast beat, filling the track with a hurried sense of anticipation. The Teddybears take the overly ripe dramatics of ‘Adagio for Tron’ and dissolve them over a bed of electro house pummel, the track kicking itself around in a cycle of destroy and rebuild. Surprisingly though, one of the album’s brightest moments comes in the form of the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest dj” Paul Oakenfold and his stadium-sized trance ensemble. He turns ‘C.L.U.’ into a typical Saturday night trance affair, but in doing so he completely removes the original from its surroundings and turns it into a steamroller of wordless emotion and piercing vitality. Essentially, everything Daft Punk should have been attempting to pull off themselves.
Further on down the line Boys Noize appear with their A.D.D. laced brand of club house, reconstituting ‘End Of The Line’ into a slovenly mess of jittery binary, but it comes off second best when paired up against Teddybears’ unique interpretation. Both Kaskake and Com Truise play up to their respective strengths, even though Raddon does seem a little out of his element in working with something a little more hard hitting than the subliminal fare he’s known for. Photek (the wild card of the ragtag ensemble) disappoints when he fails to inject any life in the second remix of ‘End Of The Line’, as do The Japanese Popstars who sadly do little more than run through the motions of build release, build release. Pretty Lights’ interpretation is neither interesting nor pretty (strangely), Derek Smith just seems to lose himself in the prospect of trying to wake up the tired ghost of ‘Solar Sailer’. In fact it’s Sander Kleinenberg’s funked up ‘Tron Legacy (End Titles)’ re-jigging that ultimately brings a little dignity to the album’s dying moments, with its minimal low-end sounding like ‘Around the World’ on acid.
Barring the dubious second half Tron Legacy: Reconfigured
has accomplished the task that Daft Punk surprisingly failed to pull off, despite their obvious talents and inclinations that suggested that scoring a film such as Tron would have been a walk in the park for them. Instead of pseudo-cinematic dynamics, here we get futuristic synth and a melting pot of high end release. Even though Daft Punk has always been that dance outfit you weren’t actually meant to dance too, it seemed well within their reach to craft a floor filler to suitably accompany such a futuristic setting as Tron. Instead it turns out the sequel that no one expected has managed to fulfill that seemingly simple obligation. And despite a few small mishaps during the album’s later stages, that obligation is fulfilled splendidly. Daft Punk just got stood up at their own game.