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Soundtrack review: Bad girl (Warren Ellis – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Bad girl (Warren Ellis – 2017)


Bad girl Amy, 17, is given one last chance by her adoptive parents, who think Amy’s friendship with local girl Chloe is a step in the right direction. But when Amy discovers Chloe’s secret she finds herself fighting for her life, and for the future of the family she herself tried to destroy. The score was written by Warren Ellis who, every now and then, breaks apart from his musical partner for decades, Nick Cave, and writes solo scores.

For the first minute of the opening cue “Genesis” I had to check and see if I didn’t get the wrong copy since it’s nothing more than the noise of what sounds like sprinklers or something. The music starts though and incorporates those sounds in a strange grinding piece that reminds of the more psychotic Bad Seeds songs. Here I was expecting a lush piano score and I get needles and grounded glass. I must check again to see if this isn’t a David Lynch affair. No, it’s not, because the next cue, the theme for Chloe alters my perception and switches to Miami Vice mode with a neon lit retro ambient piece; there is definitely something sneaky and perverse about this cue. Yeah, the Lynch vibe is still there a bit. I am not complaining since I am an avid ambient music fan. There’s a contradiction with “Amy” since her theme sounds quieter and more innocent in the same quirky ambient mood.

Considering the music, the movie must be pretty insane. Warren Ellis writes his most unusual and neurotic music, very visceral and uncomfortable, with sharp edges that cut at every second. “Suicidal” is one of the most insane cues I’ve heard this year and I am thinking that if Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Radiohead got together to make music for a Brian Fuller TV show maybe it would sound like this. Of course wounds must be cared for with 80s reflective electronic balms like “Motel room”. The atmosphere of “Bad girl” is quite unique and out of this world; this score is a hybrid, a combination of tortured and twisted instruments which may or may not be musical. I am not sure what I am listening to in “Bush walk” except a woodwind instrument which might be very rudimentary.

With every next cue this score intrigues me more; I know a lot of people will not get through half of it; it could be debated if this is truly a musical composition but I am opened to experiments and this one…I can’t look away. I can’t say I am enjoying it very much either since it’s just too rusty and aggressive. I would have expected this from Nick Cave but Warren Ellis always seemed like the quieter of the two. There are moments when an ambient motif appears and charms me, like in “Pool fight” and there is that Cave / Ellis sparse string sound that I know and love fighting to surface in “The blood”. It’s now, towards the end of the score that I am finally convinced that this is a Warren Ellis composition.

Then the android version of Ellis takes over for the final two cues, “Bad girl” and “Bad bad girl”. Heartbeats, regular beats, distorted breaths and electronic instruments end this extravaganza and when it’s over I am still not sure what the hell it was that I listened to. “Bad girl” is the most intriguing score of 2017 and it’s worth a listen just to hear how weird it really is.

Cue rating: 72 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 42

Album excellence: 16%


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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