30 Days of SPECTRE #019: The Score (Thomas Newman)

Day 19 of 30 Days of SPECTRE!

It’s time for a musical extravaganza on today’s edition of James Bond Radio. Well, not so much an extravaganza and more an in depth discussion of Thomas Newman’s second go at a Bond score.

We play some tunes, compare SPECTRE to Skyfall and see how it compares to previous efforts by John Barry and David Arnold.

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16 Responses

  1. Overall I’ve been disappointed with Newman’s two Bond scores. I remember
    reading that he was going to be the composer prior to Skyfall and I was really
    excited as I’d liked a lot of his scores that I’d heard before that and I
    thought he could bring something fresh to the music.

    The Skyfall score I thought was completely unmemorable. Never getting into
    the weirdness/shitness levels of Eric Serra or Michel Legrand for NSNA, but just
    not at all distinctive. On first viewing of SPECTRE I felt the same. However,
    on second viewing I warmed more towards this latest score – so much so that I
    bought the soundtrack album (the first I’ve bought for years). Now, I think his
    atmospheric pieces are actually pretty good in the latest film. However his
    action themes I do think are very ‘generic action movie’ except when he makes
    use of the Bond theme. Very disappointed that the burst of the OHMSS theme that we heard in the trailer didn’t appear in the movie.

    He does like a cheeky bit of Bond theme on a flute scattered over the score,
    which is quite reminiscent of John Barry’s ’80s scores (though it would be the
    theme song that Barry would include a woodwind version of), and I’m down with
    that. Interesting that in tNewman’s two scores he’s included instrumental
    versions of the theme songs without having had a hand in the writing of the
    songs – the first composer to do that I think since George Martin. I’ wouldn’t
    be too unhappy if Newman was back for a third time, when I hope he can crack it next time.

    When Madeleine was looking so alluring on the train in her white dress, I
    thought we might have got a bit of Barryesque saxophone on the soundtrack but
    never mind – no sax before a fight I suppose (I do apologise..).

    One final thought: it sounds to be like the full Bond theme that’s been used
    in the last two films sounds exactly the same as David Arnold’s arrangement of
    it from the end of Casino (with it’s very high and loud brass and the bongos).
    I’m not complaining because think that’s one of the very best arrangements of
    the theme but I wonder if Newman simply conducted and recorded new versions of Arnold’s arrangement of if they just re-used the piece from the Casino
    score.

  2. Following our recording for this podcast I felt like it wasn’t reviewed as objectively as it could be. Consequently, I’m going to listen to the soundtrack this weekend with no distractions and then record an updated mini review to extend my thoughts on the score – Chris

  3. I really hadn’t given the score much thought outside the theme song, and I just realized, that this is actually the biggest sign of something being awry. This a Bond score. People should be exiting the cinema with their heads full of score-snippets. Man, I used to leave Bond-movies being able to hum the tunes by instinct, when remembering the different scenes.
    That sure didn’t happen with SPECTRE, since I could only really remember the Day of the Dead music and the Hinx theme, and despite having lately re-watched Skyfall, it’s a complete blank apart from the theme song.
    I have to go back to Casino to recall anything memorable.

    I’m going to put some of it down to me getting older, and some of it down to the style of Craig’s movies demanding more attentiveness from the viewer regarding dialogue and imagery, possibly detracting from the score.

    But it shouldn’t be like that. The score of a Bond movie should grip you, make your hair stand on edge, excite you, entertain you, make you feel at home.

    I’m making a note of this (another note), to make an effort to notice the score more on next viewing, and I will make it my ambition to see SPECTRE again as soon after the ending of the “30 days” podcast series as I possibly can, bringing a huge amount of things to consider and notice from the podcasts. There are so many things to consider now, that I wish the Blu-Ray would just release, so I can get a proper viewing in!

  4. I think part of the reason that Casino had anything remotely resembling a ‘Bond theme’ was because David Arnold wrote the music to the theme song with Chris Cornell and it was also why it ported over to Quantum during the car chase, so it gave him more freedom to use a part of it as a Bond riff. The oboe riff during the Day of the Dead track could have been used as Bond’s theme throughout Spectre, perhaps – unless it was and I kinda tuned it out! But I agree about the instrumental version of Writing’s on the Wall. It is good, especially the opening few bars where everyone thought it would be Thunderball-like. A shame they didn’t use it more.

  5. actually, listening to the podcast – what about John Williams doing a Bond soundtrack? Would he be able to pull it off enough to not sound like Star Wars or Harry Potter?

    1. Don’t think the Bond guys pay the top dollar that John Williams could get from knocking off another score for Spielberg but there’s no doubt he’d do an amazing job. Basically, I agree with what the guys said – him and John Barry can do pretty much anything on film (action films, romance, intrigue) and it’s top drawer pretty well every time. Some of Barry’s lesser-known non-Bond work – like ‘Body Heat’ is one I particularly like – is just sublime.

  6. When it comes to the score, much like ranking the movie overall, you need time to let it breath. The reason we can all hum the music cues from the rest of the Bond Library is because we have all watched and rewatched, paused and rewound these movies until the VHS tapes wore out.

    Having said that, i enjoyed the Spectre upon first viewing and it has gotten better in places each subsequent listen. I loved Day of the Dead, Mr. Hinx, Rome and Moneypenny stuff especially. I would like to have heard a little more for the Blofeld cue and they under used Q’s cues.

    The score does lead to my greatest disappointment with the movie…Falsetto’s on the Wail. It’s such a great piece of music and the lyrics are great. Would’ve loved to have either heard a Buble version or a Jennifer Hudson take. Ultimately Amy Winehouse. Can you imagine Amy Winehouse belting this one out? Ugh.

    Keep up the good work

    1. Agree with you of course that everything new (from the whole movie to the component parts) needs time but having said that, I did have a few melodies humming around my head almost instantly on seeing the David Arnold-scored movies. In the last two movies, it’s only the theme song that’s stuck in my head afterwards.

  7. The opening scene’s track – Los Muertos Vivos Estan – is enough for me to give the music an overall thumbs up, I think it’s brilliant. First viewing I was literally tapping my feet to the beat and the way he sprinkles in the Bond cues is awesome. The rest of the music I agree is some re-hash and some common action music, with exceptions Eternal City and the Writings instrumental. I wonder why the album doesn’t have the final DB5 drive-away Bond theme?

    By the way, the one super outstanding Skyfall track IMO is Tennyson. Talk about an audio cue – every time I listen I recall M reciting the poem and Bond running through the streets to save her while Silva and his men are shooting there way in to kill her. There are a few more good ones in Skyfall but that’s my favorite.

    Cheers
    L

  8. The Music as Bond approaches Mr. White’s Cabin is horrid. It sounds out of place, should have been low temple and moody.

  9. I’d understand the producers not wanting to weave the theme of the film in to the soundtrack for financial reasons as Tom and Chris said if it was a small, low budget film but Skyfall took over $1 billion at the box office so that shouldn’t be one of their concerns! Also, if you can’t use The James Bond Theme in a James Bond film apart from the end credits, who the fuck can? It’s used in The Goonies more than Quantum of Solace and that’s just tragic. Dig deep Babs! Give Monty his (cough) hard earned cash!

    The Spectre score is better than the Skyfall score overall as it quotes the Bond theme a bit more and it’s a fair bit more mannered but over all it’s very similar and is now joint 2nd with Skyfall for the one I’ll listen to the least. In sorry to say that as it works quite well during the movie.

    1. Oh man! What you said about the Bond theme being in Goonies more than Quantum is so true and so sad. We finally have have SpECTRE and Blofeld back in the films, but now we’re getting less and less of the Bond theme; dum di di dum dum. Monty must be getting a lot if they can’t afford it, especially considering the movie cost $300,000,000.

  10. I think Spectre’s score was beautiful, but it will never stick in my mind like 90 percent of every one of John Barry’s scores has. David Arnold was a little closer to Barry, but to me a lot of his stuff sounded like any other action movie. I would be happy to see Michael Giacchino do a Bond score. I feel like he’s the closest thing to Barry now. He actually copied John Barry’s’ style in The Incredibles soundtrack and it sounded INCREDIBLE.

  11. Funnily enough I find Newman’s work to be superior in SP than it was in SF, and I’m taking into account the occasional reuses of SF cues. I felt it fit the more lavish, globe trotting mood we get in SF, whereas, while I think his work on SF is fine, it really fits the mould of what Tom describes in the episode as ‘rhythmic’ rather than ‘melodic’. The actions cues, such as the one for the Rome car chase, has a bit of an operatic sound to it. It still doesn’t hold a candle to Barry, but it’s a step up. That being said, Newman follows Mendes around, and if Mendes doesn’t come back (who knows, really), that would probably mean no Newman for Bond 25, which wouldn’t make me shed any tears to be perfectly blunt.

  12. Alexandre Desplat is someone I’d like to see handle Bond music. He’s very good at constructing melodies. Unless dividend-related matters prevented him from doing so, I feel that’s one composer who would, in fact, weave the main title song orchestrally into the overall score.

  13. I like how you mentioned the music in the car chase.

    The pulse theme in that scene was also used in the cold open of Skyfall. You mentioned that some of the score could have been from any action movie.

    Well…… It was in Die Hard 2. Newman changed a quarter note to an eighth note on the ascension at the end. Fun stuff.

    Check out the score from DH2. The track is called The Runway.

    Cheers! 🙂

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