Kurt shares his favorite instrumental music to read and write along with
Artist: Graeme Revell
Album: The Crow Original Motion Picture Score
Length: 50 min
Sounds like: everything you ever loved dying tragically in the 90’s
When you hear the words “music from The Crow” you probably think of the juggernaut soundtrack album featuring new music from Stone Temple Pilots and Nine Inch Nails, plus contributions from The Cure, Rage Against The Machine, and Medicine. (Any Medicine fans out there? Effing Medicine, am I right? Hello? Is this thing on?) The soundtrack was a tremendous part of that movie’s identity, but it was only half of the equation. The other half was Graeme Revell’s instrumental score.
It’s worth taking a moment to consider how music functioned in the film. The rock songs on the soundtrack were either happening in the scene—usually performed by the artist at Top Dollar’s club—or accompanying some moment of personal discovery for the hero. Eric dons his face paint, taking up the mantle of the The Crow to a song by The Cure. He races over rooftops in pursuit of his first kill while we hear Nine Inch Nails covering Joy Division’s Dead Souls.
So what does that leave for interstitial music? Revell’s score basically has two modes. The first is music associated with fighting and danger. These tracks build on top of a bed of low, rumbling strings with aggressive flutes, soft alto sax, or perhaps a lone, haunted vocal. If there’s any percussion at all, it takes of the form of a shaker or a big, slow series of tom hits. The result feels a little unsettling, a little noir, a little Asian, a little Terminator, and—if we’re being honest with ourselves—a lot 90’s. Fittingly, these songs always feel like they’re barely being held together. This makes them effective in the film, but not the always the most fun to listen to.
The other mode focuses on Eric’s connections to other people who are not his victims or pursuers, and this is where the score is at its most haunting and most magical. These songs are characterized by bright strings and piano lines that feel like they’re constantly moving upward, but then resolve neatly and easily into a warm major chord. These songs—especially those associated with Eric’s lost love Shelly—feel gentle and homey. In fact, they occasionally border on saccharine. Return To The Grave underscores this with a glistening acoustic guitar. Pain And Retribution features a children’s choir under a big church-y reverb. In these moments, the score is both haunting and majestic.
There are a couple tracks that feel out-of-place in that they feature the character of Eric Draven performing. Tracking The Prey opens with an excerpt of It Can’t Rain All The Time by fictitious band, Hangman’s Joke. This is, at best, an interesting distraction. Captive Child and Devil’s Night both open with renditions of Eric’s rooftop guitar solo. These feel a bit more organic to the score, but only slightly.
All in all, it’s very affecting and haunting, though not always super easy to just listen to. But it’s an important piece in the complex puzzle that made the first Crow a modern Gothic classic.
(And, while I was joking around, and it’s on the soundtrack, not the score, Time Baby III by Medicine is actually a pretty solid tune.)
Pros: Some truly beautiful music.
Cons: Spends a lot of time being a soundscape.
Standout Track(s): Birth Of The Legend, Believe In Angels, Return To The Grave
Kurt Pankau is a programmer, musician, and storytelling enthusiast. He occasionally blogs at www.kurtpankau.com and often tweets at @kurtpankau. His short fiction has been featured in Quantum Fairy Tales, Daily Science Fiction, and once it even got produced for Wisconsin Public Radio. Fun Fact: He does not live anywhere near Wisconsin.