CD + MP3: Brighton Rock (2010)

June 10, 2011 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Silva Screen Records/ Released: February 7, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: 16 tracks / (43:33)


Special Notes: n/a.


Composer: Martin Phipps




Martin Phipps delivers one of the most inventive scores of the year with this marvelous soundtrack for the second version of Graham Greene’s classic kiddie crime film, Brighton Rock. Reset to (apparently) the swinging sixties, Phipps provides merely a hint of the era with slight elements of jazz, pop rock, and easy listening strings, but the core of his score lies in a twitchy three-note theme frequently delivered by a constantly changing group of choral singers.

In the main titles, it’s a soft bombastic beat with female vocals, nicely evoking the pugnacious rage of a punk in a march that’s appropriately as underdeveloped, just as the film’s immature lead character, Pinkie Brown. In “No Ring,” voices are pitched high but soft, alongside a solo piano, with a gradual addition of string bass, and later super-thick bass reverberations.

Other variations have the theme heard as a distant whistle, solo violin, or slowly evolving liturgical chorale, with ‘Satan’ discernable in the Latin lyrics. In “Uno Satanum,” the full liturgy is performed with female chorus and waves of percussion and brass. Delicate cimbalom accents are used to launch a jazz rock / big band variation, which evokes the classic crime and spy dramas of the sixties where the cimbalom was de rigueur in scores by John Barry, Quincy Jones, and Lalo Schifrin.

A few source-styled cues break up the moody drama, such as the nutty theme variation “Colleoni’s Boys,” with its skittering rhythms, bawdy brass (very reminiscent of sleazy sixties exploitation films), and Phipps’ recurring use of whistles, with slight accompaniment from organ.

“Bogeys” is a short but sweet variation with undulating brass waves brass that reveal the composer’s affection for Bernard Herrmann and his unusual instrumental combinations and rich colours, whereas the fluffy “Ida” is all vintage sixties exotica, bursting with melodramatic & rich strings, harp, and a cheeky soprano sax that drunkenly avoids the thematic line with impunity.

The album is punctuated by the song “There’s a Storm A’ Comin’” which is notable for the way Phipps takes a flighty tone and gradually transforms it into some thing viciously satirical, as well as a device to bring the film’s period setting into modern times: a smooth male vocal begins what sounds like a bopping riff on Max Steiner’s easy listening hit “Summer Story”; the midsection dumps the classic orchestral pop ensemble in favour of electric guitar, rock drum kit, and strings more typical of seventies mood rock; and a wailing electric guitar finishes off the tune with a lengthy solo that for audiences, turns Pinkie Brown into an everyday thug.

Phipps’ background is mostly in television (Wallander, Sense & Sensibility), but he has scored a handful of contemporary dramas (Harry Brown), and perhaps his experience in evoking disparate periods reflect his knack for crafting really fresh sounds to create cues that are almost mercurial. That might be tied to the mood of specific scenes, but Brighton Rock seems to suggest a composer who aims for the direct emotions, evokes the physical environment with impressionistic strokes (such as the slight pop rock and jazz elements), and creates a continuity of sounds that are reassembled into careful configurations designed to cover a character’s sharp arcs.

Silva’s album is meticulously engineered, and audiophiles ought to seek out the CD to enjoy Phipps’ use of dynamics (the high voices and low sonic rumbles in several cues are marvelous), rich string vibrato (particularly the exquisite Herrmannesque “A Stiff Drive”), and crystal clarity of every compositional nuance.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


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