Shame Soundtrack Review

It’s a very odd thing to write a review of a soundtrack to a film you’ve not yet seen. You listen to the music blind, without the luxury of letting the images from the film guide you through the emotional journey of the album. It’s something of a purer experience in that sense. It makes listening much more about the music, than the film it scores. If the soundtrack is a good one, you should already have a decent idea of the tone of the movie before you buy the ticket. 

In the Shame soundtrack we’re treated to a somewhat eclectic mix of musical genres.  It’s a journey taking you all over the musical spectrum with a jazz reworking of a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, blue’s tinged rock and roll, eighties electronica and original classical piano pieces. What’s great about this is that all these pieces do somehow hang together, elevating it from a simple soundtrack album to something you would actually like to own – regardless of the film it scores. It’s the type of album that you would listen to late at night, on your own, looking out of a rain stained window and smoking a cigarette.

There’s a hush to the first two tracks making the mood oddly relaxing, despite the constant tick-tock of a clock in the background of the first track “Brandon”.  In fact, all of the original pieces have the feeling of being clocks, marking the passage of time building toward a climax <snort> of sorts that seems to be reached in the beautiful arrangement of strings that top off track 11 “Unravelling”.

It’s not all relaxation however as we move on to some real classic disco gems too.  Track 3 “Genius of Love”, which I had completely forgotten about, had me up and dancing like a lunatic with glee.  Followed up by Blonde’s (and I imagine appropriate, given Shame’s subject matter) “Rapture”.  Debbie Harry’s vocals are just brilliant and if you haven’t listened to this song in a long time, I highly recommend that you revisit it.

In the way of things, there is one song on the album that I admit I did have to skip. Having spent many a summer holiday from university working in a shop and listening to a perpetually looped tape there are some songs that immediately put me back in a bright green and orange uniform and sadly “I Want Your Love” is one.  Still it’s there for a reason, and is no-doubt appropriate to the film as a whole.

Arguably the standout track is a reworking of the “New York New York Theme”, sung with real feeling by Carey Mulligan.  Who knew she could sing? But her rendition completely takes away from the traditional feelings the songs evoke.  Usually, when you hear it you feel a happy lightness.  Mulligan’s interpretation is slow, hitting the minor notes with more resonance and evoking feelings of loss and a personality broken,  especially in the acapella section; its heartrending stuff.  I can only imagine the impact that scene will have on the big screen.
In a year when everyone raved about the Drive soundtrack, I would argue that as a listener this is actually a better, more rounded album and a sounder investment.

Suzanne King

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