Michael Andrews - Donnie Darko (Original Score)
In most respects, the movie Donnie Darko has become a word-of-mouth champion since its release in 2001. The wonderfully eerie fusion of gothic science-fiction with an eighties-teen-comedy-period-piece framing has gained a strong fanbase despite a deliberately incomprehensible plot and underwhelming US box office take. In an even bigger fairytale twist, the Tears For Fears song Mad World was covered for the film as a piano-driven collaboration between composer Michael Andrews and singer-songwriter Gary Jules. Almost two years later, the song was released as a single in the UK and sensationally beat The Darkness and Pop Idol to take the coveted Christmas number one spot in the charts. Thus, Gary Jules’ latest album is given a ‘proper’ UK release, along with Michael Andrews’ original score to the film Donnie Darko.
Some of the best film scores of all time fail as stand-alone musical products because they were created as incidental accompaniments to actions onscreen, and therefore when reviewing any soundtrack you have to choose whether to assess it alongside its intended context or as a product to be bought for entertaining consumption. Andrews’ score was a deliciously haunting blend of moody noir-synths and swirling chords on screen, and yet on record it draws comparisons with many artists on the Warp label. This is music at its most evocatively abstract, devoid of any of the eighties time-capsule songs that littered the film, such as the excellent Head Over Heels by Tears For Fears or The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen.
Classical composer Erik Satie designed piano music for suitable background occasions, and in some respects Andrews has crafted a twenty-first century Satie album that soundtracks a thunderous nightmare the no-man’s land caught between reality and the imagination. Yes, Mad World shows up in two versions at the end, but this only serves to add to the cerebral overload. Clearly, Donnie Darko won’t appeal to many non-soundtrack enthusiasts, but there are many people out there who will be giving this a constant spin on their stereo, even if Mad World is totally overplayed already, and that’s essentially the main reason why most would buy it.