“Naked Lunch (Expanded Edition)”
Music By Howard Shore Featuring Ornette Coleman
Soundtrack Album Review
Howe Records/24 Tracks/Disc Time/66:10
Composer Howard Shore and Director David Cronenberg to this very day are one of the best composer-director collaborators that are strongly going today. “Naked Lunch” which came out in late 1991, was Cronenberg’s adaptation of William S.Burrough’s novel about a writer and bug exterminator named Bill Lee (Peter Weller, Robocop) who he and his wife Joan (Judy Davis, Absolute Power) who are addicted to the bug poison that causes hellucinations and weird mental trips. Lee accidently murders his wife during an a reinactment of William Tell and with the help of his typewriter turned cockroach, he escape to an African port called the Interzone where he meets and befriends eccentric characters.
As Shore and Cronenberg’s collaborations over the years have yielded some rather interesting scores and films by themselves in which Shore has created varying worlds of music. From the horror romance of “The Fly”, the Herrmannesque strings of “The Brood”, the stark cold electronic world of “Videodrome”, the operatic “M. Butterfly” and the chilling suspense of “History Of Violence” and more that shown Shore’s versitility to adapt to any of Cronenberg’s films no matter the subject matter. This time around, Shore employs the late jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman as the voice of this score through his improvised whaling and long with the power of the London Philharmonic Orchestra that really brings out the best of both weird worlds within the film itself.
From the start, Shore establishes a mood that is avant garde and surprisingly thematic thanks to its’ jazz roots aided by the saxophone solos by Ornette Coleman with the “Main Title”. Saxophone wails with harps, bass and strings flowing to a great powerful crescendo at the end of the track. The stark and cold world of the film continues with the track “Hauser And O’Brien/Bugpowder” with harps and strings that establish the main theme while Coleman’s saxophone riffs take off to cap off the end of the track. Shore underscores the weird goings on of Peter Weller’s helucinations highlighted by the tracks “Mugwumps”, “Centipede”, “The Black Meat”, “Interzone Suite”, “Fadela’s Coven” and “Intersong” which each some of the best material this score has to offer in terms of their unique improvisation as well as use of ecclectic orchestrations as well as showing off more of Coleman’s wonderful saxophone solos that really give the score a kind of beatnik mood amongst the darkness of the two worlds that Weller’s character inhabits in the film. “William Tell” and “Nothing Is True/Everything Is Permitted” are another set of stand out tracks that Shore establishes a very dramatic streamlined view of the material which is the polar opposite of the material the score is based on. It also has such depth and melody that they work together in their own dramatic universe. “Writerman” is a riff on the original Main Title track that really allows Coleman just to wail away at will as if he was playing on one of his old jazz records from the 60’s and it is an interesting way to end the score itself along with the track, “Clark Nova Dies” which sounds like a jazz track right from one his albums at the time.
Howe Records expanded release of the soundtrack expands the material by sum seventeen minutes, which is already adds to the interesting and dark world of the film. The original Milan Records album was a very solid listen and this one while it adds some more material to it, is also very good. Fans of the film will love this expanded edition, but the most casual soundtrack fan would be turned off by it. Naked Lunch isn’t one of the best in the Shore/Cronenberg collaborations, but it is definitely part of a bigger symphony of compiled works that are all unique and original. Thumbs up.