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Soundtrack review: The punisher (Tyler Bates – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: The punisher (Tyler Bates – 2017)

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Marvel’s The Punisher, or simply The Punisher, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Steve Lightfoot, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films and other television series of the franchise, and is a spin-off of Marvel’s Daredevil. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios, with Lightfoot serving as showrunner. The series revolves around Frank Castle, who uses lethal methods to fight crime as the vigilante “The Punisher”, with Jon Bernthal reprising the role from Daredevil. Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah, Deborah Ann Woll, Daniel Webber, Jason R. Moore, Paul Schulze, Jaime Ray Newman, and Michael Nathanson also star. Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as “the Punisher” after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family. The score was written by Tyler Bates.

Jon Bernthal made such an impression in the second season of “Daredevil” that even if it wasn’t in the plan, Netflix gave him his own show. Now his violent and uncompromising appearance in that show made him a fan favourite and that plus the fact that Tyler Bates, who made the “John Wick” movies that are based in a similarly all out violent character, wrote the score, are all premises for a full on action show. Considering though how the quality of the Marvel Netflix shows has declined lately and with the words “uncovers a larger conspiracy” in the description of the show I am sure the 13 episodes will have enough filler moments.

The main theme is heavy blues fun and I’m sure it will become quite catchy once I start watching the show; it’s also quite different in tone from the rest of the score which is much darker. Tyler Bates though knows the industrial paths well and somehow manages to infuse a cue like “The runaround” with 70s like electric funk; the cue is jazzy and sneaky and it’s all controlled with the electric guitar and a bit of percussion; I like slippery experimental cues that keep me guessing and I like the raw sound I am hearing. It feels like the composer wanted to give a more neo noir sound to the “Punisher” score; “Dig deep” is another peace that makes me think of a hard boiled detective investigating something in black and white. I think that moody sound I am hearing is a harmonica and it’s always nice to hear a harmonica in a score.

“The punisher” (and I’m sure I will say the same thing about the show as well) is much less violent than I expected; Tyler Bates went for an industrial electronic texture that sometimes works very well, like in “Lewis gets the boot” while other times (like in “Misdirection”) is too fragmented and uncomfortable to listen to. What I like though is that this sound, sometimes convulsed and restrained, other times explosive reminds me a lot of how I perceived Bernthal’s “Punisher” as a character. He is violent but there is something deeper and more emotional at his core and the music captures this. A cue like “Hiding evidence” with its Arabian chanting brings the Afghanistan element of the story in the music.

Tyler Bates doesn’t write melodic music; his strengths lie elsewhere, in the aggressive and barbed wire like texture of the music, a sound that matches the demeanour and gestures of the main character. This is the kind of score that fits the show like a glove but is a bit less enjoyable as a standalone listen. There were moments I liked, especially those where Tyler Bates makes the music pulsating and tense but not enough to make me want to return to this score.

Cue rating: 81 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11 / 43

Album excellence: 25%

Highlights:
The Runaround
Dig Deep
Rampage
Escape the Base
The Punisher End Title

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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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