During my teenage years and afterwards I used to listen to a lot of music that had nothing to do with film. While I was in high school and college music used to help me get through a lot and be a unique refuge and usually my preferences and loyalties lied with a small number of bands and artists. If I were to make a top 10 it would surely include Nine Inch Nails, Nick Cave & the bad seeds, Radiohead, Pearl Jam and Faith No more. I’ve been listening to these bands for 25 years and now, one by one, I am meeting them again in the film music world. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis are already seasoned and acclaimed film score writers while Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead also has a few compositions to his name and Mike Patton from Faith No More has been experimenting with film music. It’s a very nice surprise to now find Pearl Jams’s Mike McCready’s name on a score, for the documentary about DJ Marco Collins “The glamour and the Squalor”.
Marco Collins is one of America’s last great rock radio DJs and a musical tastemaker that changed US culture. Before the Internet made sourcing new music and rising bands a simple matter of keystrokes and RSS feeds, there was the radio DJ. No one epitomised this role like Marco Collins. He was the on and off switch for an artist’s potential career and was the gatekeeper credited for helping break the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Beck, Weezer and countless others.
Listening to this score is like relieving those times 20 years ago when I used to listen to rock and more rock. Mike McCready does what he knows best which is play raw, kick ass guitar, the grunge way. Every short cue (only one of them is longer than 2 minutes) sounds like an intro to a Pearl Jam song and I cant get enough. This is not the Joe Satriani guitar type of composition, clean and spectacular; it’s the dirty but optimistic tormented sound that made grunge such a legendary genre. I almost expect every minute or so to hear Eddie Vedder’s unique voice start to penetrate my soul. Be it a noisy cue like “Young-ish”, a melodic ballad like “Tried & True” or a stormy intro like “Northern / Falling apart”, it’s all there, the agitation, the angst and the furious hope that I was finding in every Pearl Jam record.
I keep mentioning Mike McCready’s legendary band because this score is the same kind of music only stripped of the vocals. I mean I listen to “Meridian suns” and I hear Pearl Jams’s “Yield”. I love the trip down grunge rock memory lane this score is providing and who better than someone who lived and breathed this genre to bring homage to the DJ that helped promote it and make it more popular. The composer also improvises with more futuristic sounds in “Shrine watched” and “Spaced out”.
My favourite cue from this score is “Tree fractal” because it incorporates just a small dose of melancholy in the guitar, enough to match the longing I always got from listening to Pearl Jam; it’s a nice little melody that feels like Mike McCready sitting on a chair somewhere improvising and expressing his feelings through the guitar. The reprise of the theme also adds a small violin section that only makes it better and more hopeful. The reprise and “Trying and truer” made me think of Rob Simonsen.
“The glamour and the squalor” is a grunge score that comes straight out of the 90s. For fans of the genre, or of Pearl Jam, Mad season and the other Seattle bands it will serve as a trip down memory lane. For others it will maybe be an introduction to what grunge meant through a series of guitar improvisations. Either way, if you love guitar, this one is for you.
Cue rating: 84 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 45
Album excellence: 47%
Northern / Falling Apart
Tree Fractal (Reprise)
Trying & Truer