Sean Lennon, ‘Alter Egos’ Soundtrack – Album Review
With movies like ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Super’ and the Don Dada of all superhero revisions, ‘Watchmen,’ still clogging up the bottoms of the nation’s Netflix queues, no one’s in any rush for another superheroes-are-people-too movie like ‘Alter Egos.’
On the other hand, new music from Sean Lennon, who scored ‘Alter Egos,’ has been scarce. It’s been seven years since he released a fantastic, ambitious sophomore album in ‘Friendly Fire’ and eight since his solo debut on the late, great Beasties imprint Grand Royal. So while we wait (and wait and wait) for the youngest Lennon/Ono to release a third album, we’ll have to get our baroque-pop fix from his film work.
The ‘Alter Egos’ soundtrack is the second time he’s provided a musical backdrop for filmmaker and friend Jordan Galland. Previously, he raided renaissance ambiance and Nino Rota whimsy for their collaboration on ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’ (which featured surrealist rapper sui generis Kool Keith on the closing track).
But with this being a genre picture (and a winking, revisionist one, at that), Lennon gets the chance to run amok through decades of film-score tropes, and he seemingly has a blast doing it. During the soundtrack’s heavier moments, he doesn’t nod as much and shine a big, blatant Batsignal at the Caped Crusader. The album’s ‘Main Theme’ owes much to Danny Elfman’s late-’80s ‘Batman’ score, while darker, complimentary tracks like ‘The Killer’ look to Hans Zimmer’s work on Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy for their brooding gravitas.
Angelo Badalamenti’s depressive ‘Twin Peaks’ moods are here, as are some Carter Burwell-inspired strings. The character of Jimmy even finds his orchestral mood when Lennon pulls the arrangement equivalent of a Weird Al parody with Jonny Greenwood-styled atonality in ‘Jimmy’s Theme’ and ‘Jimmy’s Drunk.’
This isn’t to say that Sean Lennon is being derivative throughout or simply aping the masters. Tracks like ‘My Hero,’ a paradisiac, twee love song, and ‘Fridge Walks,’ a tinny, four-on-the-floor dance track, shake up any potential strings-and-things redundancy.
‘Love Life,’ the atmospheric highlight of the soundtrack, lambasts that ’60s jet-setting Brazilian style dead-on, even breaking out the cuica, the friction drum that squeaked its way into omnipresence during the heady decade.
Throughout, the ‘Alter Egos’ soundtrack is set apart by Lennon dropping the “aw shucks” meekness rampant in his solo records to run confidently and face-first into tricky musical territory. Like the great composers, he understands, subtly, when to drive a theme or instrument home and when to introduce a quick, hushed quirk into a track. (Dig that brief cricket chirp break in the surf-rock track ‘Emily vs Claudel.)
Until Lennon finally releases his follow-up to ‘Friendly Fire,’ listening to him hone his cinematic skills is a fine way to pass the time.