4 out of 5
Mastered by: James Plotkin
Goldsmith is, of course, one of our legendary composers. Whether you follow such things or not, his spread of films – and contribution of notable themes to those films – is so far and wide that once you’ve done at least a few years of active film viewing, chances are pretty high that you’ve been appropriately awed or chagrined by a piece of work he’s done.
There are plenty of more in depth, studied analyses out there of the man and his influences and style; I’m not smart or listened enough to go through that, but I can certainly offer my opinion: That what always impresses me about a Goldsmith theme is how expressive it is while matching the tone of the movie. I realize I just sort of stated the general intention if a score, but a lot of the big name composers, to my ear, tend to stick to more of a template; you’re getting the composer first, film second. With Goldsmith, his style is inherently recognizable as well, but I don’t feel taken out of the film by it – film first, composer second.
For Gremlins, this means embracing the goofy, campy, and yet creepy brew that Joe Dante and Chris Columbus dreamt up. So while there’s a full orchestra here, often Goldsmith smartly opts for a stripped down, keyboard-based tune, akin to something you’d expect burbling through TV speakers while watching some shlock 70s VHS horror. This is a blended with a knowing smirk – embracing the film’s humor – and a brilliant effect that mimics the gremlins “singing” to craft a ridiculously memorable theme that can shift into suburban bop, as Billy bikes to work, or slow down into something more sinister for our horrific scenes.
…The other thing about Goldsmith, though, is that he composes to cues, which means you tend not to get too much of that tune or theme you want before the scene ends and the music goes through a type of bridge until the next punctuatable moment. So it’s a stop and start experience, with that main Gremlins tune being manipulated and re-used in a seemingly endlessly inventive fashion, though – I have to say – never quite superceding what Goldsmith accomplishes with the main theme itself.
The Mondo packaging on this is, of course, stupidly cool, with water and sunlight affected packaging and fantastic art, and the sound quality seemed pretty consistent to me, though I might have preferred bumping up the quieter sounds in the mastering process (if possible), as I found myself raising and lowering the volume depending on the track.