When reviewing film scores and soundtracks, it’s helpful to keep an open mind. While we may favour certain musical mediums over another, what’s important to look at the music with the film in mind and use that as context, which itself is sometimes guesswork if we haven’t seen the film. As someone who doesn’t generally get on with dubstep and the more popular variants of electronic dance music, reviewing Spring Breakers is a bit of a challenge.
The new film from cinematic enfant terrible Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers is about four girls who rob to fuel their spring break, only to fall further into the criminal world with the gangster that bails them out from jail. With the hedonism of the film and their break, this means a lot of hip-hop, dubstep and pop. Oh, and Skrillex.
Skrillex. This is my introduction to the EDM artist extraordinare, who to me always sounded like an enemy of the TeenageMutant Ninja Turtles. Now Skrillex is quite a big part of Spring Breakers, with no less than six tracks on the album, not including the three of Cliff Martinez’s score tracks that also feature him. It’s a wonder his name isn’t plastered all over the cover.
And you know what… he’s pretty good. Like I said earlier, the music isn’t exactly my style, but there’s an energy and melody to it that probably works in the movie pretty well. Also it sounds a lot like video game music. He’s also pretty adept at adding a bit of grime to the proceedings – and he’s obviously taken influence from Martinez in his instrumental work. ‘Park Smoke’ for instance is a pretty dark and ethereal track which actually sounds pretty cinematic. In fact, the best track is his with ‘Scary Monsters on Strings’, a stripped down orchestral version of the opening track, ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’.
Martinez’s score provides the typical undercurrent he’s so good at, with interesting melodies with something more disconcerting under their skin. The score is uncomfortable at times, so while on the surface it works as a chillout session in-between the other tracks, once you dig a little bit deeper it feels just that much more creepier.
On the flipside, I just can’t get into the rap. It’s not a comment on the genre – I’m a fan of hip-hop and have been for a while, I just don’t really like any of the rap on here. It all seems pretty boring and just isn’t fun to listen to. On the plus side, Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights’ is pretty good.
So with an open mind, I actually like the Skrillex material. It’s fun to listen to, and his score work is a fine complement to Martinez’s excellent score. The hip-hop is skippable, but otherwise Spring Breakers is a lot of fun. It’s clear to me now that I was wrong about Skrillex. I hope he forgives me.