Quick Review: Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Music composed by Hans “Long John” Zimmer
Additional music by: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Eric Whitacre, Geoff Zanelli, Tom Gire, John Sponsler, Matt Margeson, Guillaume Roussel
Additional arrangements by: Jacob Shea, Thomas Bergerson, Nick Phoenix
Orchestrated by: Bruce Fowler, Elizabeth Finch, Walt Fowler, Rick Gioninazzo, Kevin Kaska, Suzette Moriarty, Ed Neumeister
Album time: Score 43 minutes, Remixes 32 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

And here we go again.  That was the feeling listening to and watching the most recent Pirates installment.  The film feels different; perhaps it’s the switching of directors or the focus on the adventures of Jack Sparrow.  We do maintain a bit of continuity in that Hans Zimmer and company have returned for the music. 
The score, on the other hand, adds some new people to the long list of people.  We have classical composer Eric Whitacre, known for his choral works joined in on the mermaid theme with choir.  The bigger names (and also front cover status) is Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican guitar duo.  Their work is featured all over the album, giving the score a Spanish flair.  I actually like this touch to the score.  Hans Zimmer’s other recent score, Rango, has a similar flair.  The thematic material hasn’t really evolved since the beginning, which is fine for a sequel nowadays, but I expected a bit more of a change than instrumentation changes.
The score (and film) in general leave a taste of retread rather than variations on a theme.  For some reason, I feel like going track by track if there’s anything interesting to say. 

The album starts with a pretty familiar sounding Jack Sparrow theme for his escape and general craziness in Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow.
  The theme appears more in the film than on album, but not my much.  Angelica is the best track on the album, with Rodrigo y Gabriela (RyG) taking the lead on a pirate-y tango.  This is also the first track released as a pseudo-single and spread over the internet.  Mutiny is slightly different version of a Curse of the Black Pearl.  The longest track (and most used in the score) is Mermaids.  The women’s voices fit nicely with the mermaid motif, which sounds beautiful and yet ominous.  It has some moments that sound like some of Zimmer’s work on the Da Vinci Code.  The cue turns to an action cue with a churning string ostinato and the wordless choir joining in.  More guitars and Pirates music ensues.  South Of Heaven's Chanting Mermaids certainly sounds like nothing else on the album, perhaps more RyG influence than Zimmer.  Blackbeard didn’t have a distinct personality compared to past foe Davy Jones.  His theme (and aptly named track) doesn’t either.  There are some interesting instruments like electric guitar, but mostly nothing spectacular.  The track has some in-your-face moments, but overall lacking in the memorable villain theme.  I do have to mention the famous Dies Irae used as the Spanish explorer’s motif.  I get the Catholic connection, but other than that, it seems a bit silly.  A bit more mermaid motif, a bit more guitar solos.  The End Credits are enjoyable with the guitar/Pirates theme. 

Now for the fun part.  This is where my “yarr” turned to a “yawn”.
I don’t know whose ideas the remixes were.  We’ve seen them on other Pirates soundtracks (Dead Mans Chest) and the Treasures Box Set.  I’m not entirely sure their intended audience, as a remix for the main theme would be fine, but we get 7 full tracks of remixes.
  Did Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack make the studio want more club music?  Not to mention the remixes sound nothing like their original material, but that’s not my fault.  For me, they’re basically un-listenable.  And as a score fan, I was sorely disappointed by the sheer number of unnecessary remixes on the album.  Oh well.   

End Credits

Click here for a behind the scenes video of Zimmer and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

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