Review Summary: Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood gets hired to do movie people will actually see, with better, more consistent results.
God bless the poor film-maker who heard Jonny Greenwood's ***-bouncing-off-the-walls score to the film Bodysong
, and thought "Damn, this is just the kind of music I want for my movie!" What a ***ing loon, right" Well, the joke's on us folks, as director Paul Thomas Anderson's film There Will Be Blood
currently sits with 8 Oscar nominations, including nods in the categories people actually care about, Best Picture and Best Actor. In my opinion, a great film lay not in special effects or star-power alone, but there has to be some underlying current of heart, some element of passion, and maybe even a little guts. Hiring Jonny Greenwood to compose your soundtrack takes guts. Anyone familiar with the Bodysong
soundtrack knows that the music of that record is chock full with some sick avant-garde randomness. An esteemed writer on this very website once said about Greenwood and Bodysong
, "I can’t see Jonny Greenwood making many soundtracks. It limits him, restricts what he can do with his music. That is, if he ever wants to be hired for a soundtrack again."
If that be the case, then limitations are exactly what Greenwood needs to progress from just experimenting to blending his proven avant-garde sound with a pinch of actual listenability. There Will Be Blood
is a more restrained effort than its counterpart- but as a result, more consistent, listenable, and maybe even better.
Clearly, Greenwood understood that this soundtrack would be for a film people would actually see
, and composed accordingly. Whereas Bodysong
pulled from jazz and orchestral work, There Will Be Blood
strips the superfluous away, leaving a bleak sounding collection of music. Immediately noticable from the get-go is Greenwood's intense usage of strings that set up a fierce sence of dread. The album's opening quartet has Greenwood restricting himself to naught but strings and a piano, but the minimalism here only leads to an increased feel of apprehension. Ranging from the spiders-in-your-bedroom tinkling of "Eat Him By His Own Light" to the lurking shadows of "Open Spaces", There Will Be Blood
begins slowly, introducing themes that appear for but an instant, only to be revisited later for a powerful effect. The relaxed piano-violin duet of "Prospector's Arrive" stands solidly on its own, yet when it reappears with a full chamber orchestra as "Oil," it's beautiful. Slowly, Greenwood builds a record that not only sucks the listener in, but induces a trance-like feel as well. Unconsciously, this record lulls the listener into a false sense of security, releasing blips of climaxes here and there, yet never delivering the climactic release. As a result, There Will Be Blood
leaves the listener stunned and disquieted, as if something terrible should be happening, but hasn't yet.
Such is the effect of Greenwood's music. By confining himself to this specific minimalist sound, Greenwood uses control rather than chaos to give his music power. The album stays very much on one path, slowly picking up steam, like a train headed to the middle of nowhere pulling out of a godforsaken station in bumble*** (An image conjured each time "Proven Lands" plays). Littered throughout There Will Be Blood
are gorgeous violin swoons that tear at heartstrings, yet never become cliche or trite, crying during "Prospector's Quartet", yet violently kicking during the epic "Future Markets." The former, with a demonic waltz texture, closes the album with a dreadful beauty, like a requiem for whomever it plays. Like the scene in Elie Wiesel's Night
in which a violin plays before the morning of imminent death, "Prospector's Quartet" embodies the feel of the entire record, and the film. It's sad, eerie, and above all, marvelous. Greenwood set out to make music that would underscore a story of greed, religion, oil, and family. What he did was make a record filled with emotion and passion.
Sitting alone in my family room after listening to There Will Be Blood
with just an all too bright desk light screaming in my face, I couldn't put into words my feelings. It's dark, that much is certain, the obnoxiously bright light destroying any possibility of my eyes adjusting to the blackness around me. It's not that I feel alone, or an intense sense of fear. Just worried is all, and I have no reason to be. Rolling Stone movie-critic Peter Travers says seeing the film There Will Be Blood
makes you feel so pummeled it's hard to get your head clear. The record There Will Be Blood
makes me feel so apprehensive, it's hard to escape my own head. Funny how Jonny Greenwood did that. To Paul Thomas Anderson, we all owe a very sincere: Good call.