In 1995, after a six-year absence, James Bond finally made his return to the cinemas. Pierce Brosnan was taking his place in the shoes of Britain's greatest secret agent: much later than many had hoped but finally there. The film on the whole was a success. GoldenEye is still trumpeted as Brosnan's finest, with an excellent post-Cold War storyline, an impressive assortment of characters and well paced action. But there has remained one dark mark on its otherwise very positive resume — Eric Serra's GoldenEye soundtrack.
In the late 1980s, John Barry's attempts at modernising the Bond sound had seen a fairly successful introduction of rock music into the mix. When MGM was finally free to continue the Bond franchise in the 1990s, they set Serra the task of continuing Barry's work.
Techno has never been my cup of tea. Trance like beats of nightclubs leave me cold, and while the synthesized beats, scrapes, clatters and whines of Serra's score may please his fans, traditional Bondians are likely to be left as chilled as I was by the soundtrack.
Serra's score opens with "The GoldenEye Overture," which features an array of clattering clonks which will become the standard of most tracks, before the shrieking synthesizers kick in for the last 90 seconds or so. It's not a good start, and the majority of the album follows along those lines. There can only really be one occasion where the synthesized sound properly works, and that would be "Dish Out of Water," where you would expect such din that plagues other tracks.
Track 1 – GoldenEye - Tina Turner
Track 2 - The GoldenEye Overture
Track 3 – Ladies First
Track 4 – We Share The Same Passions
Track 5 – A Little Surprise For You
Track 6 – The Savernaya Suite
Track 7 – Our Lady Of Smolensk
Track 8 – Whispering Statues
Track 9 – Run, Shoot, and Jump
Track 10 – A Pleasant Drive in
Track 11 - Fatal Weakness
Track 12 - That's What Keeps You Alone
Track 13 - Dish Out Of Water
Track 14 - The Scale To Hell
Track 15 - For Ever, James
Track 16 - The Experience Of Love
The second track on the album is simply a mess. You don't need to have seen any pornographic material from the 80s but, somehow, "Ladies First" manages to conjure up images of moustachioed letharioes and blonde bimbos with incredible ease from the opening ten seconds alone. I probably sound forty or so years older, but this electro-techno pop melarkey's all a bit silly to me.
Orchestrated tracks, including "We Share the Same Passions," "That's What Keeps You Alone" and "Forever, James" are far more traditional, and somewhat better affairs, thanks to the London Studio Session Orchestra. But they don't seem to conjure up quite as much passion as Barry's offerings. They're neither as smooth or swooping as Barry's work and seem almost watery, rather than flowing.
However, the true horror of the Goldeneye soundtrack is left for the final track, with Serra's own dragging ballad, "The Experience of Love." It's a horrible song, with no redeeming qualities. Serra comes off as a poor man's Michael Bolton (taking the crown strangely enough from Bolton himself) while the backing vocalists seem exhausted by the song. Secondary, aka end-title, Bond themes in the past have always had some link to the films themselves, and come out quite strongly (k.d lang's "Surrender" instantly comes to mind) but this comes off as little more than Serra saying "I can also sing rather badly too."
Thankfully, the main theme to GoldenEye is far stronger and possibly one of the best in the series, taking us back to the golden age of themes with powerful songs and singers (Mr Jones, Miss Bassey, that's you). Tina Turner's vocals are, in most basic terms, belting and come with a rough edge that adds to the power of the lyrics, crafted by U2's Bono and The Edge.
An obvious omission from this soundtrack, apart from Minnie Driver's "unique" cover of the Tammy Winnet hit "Stand By Your Man," is the music scored by John Altman which took place of Serra's compositions for the tank chase sequence in the final cut of the movie. Clearly, someone along the production line took as much offence to Serra's use of the Bond theme as I did, as well as the hollow wailing which can be heard at irregular interviews during "A Pleasant Drive..." Altman's score took a far more traditional path and worked well.
At the end of the day, Serra's attempt at filling Barry's shoes was horribly misguided. Some would argue it was a daring attempt at something new, but this reviewer believes it was a terrible mistake. This style of soundtrack may have worked for the renowned GoldenEye Nintendo 64 video game, but as movie soundtracks go it's one of the worst.
If you're looking for an endorsement, this is all I can offer: If you liked the soundtrack when you watched the film, then go ahead and buy it. But anyone who has enjoyed the traditional sounds of Barry, his slightly more modern successor David Arnold (and everyone in between) over the years should stay away.
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