For the 2000 Sylvester Stallone remake, the producers inevitably had to upgrade the lounge jazz sound of Roy Budd’s original 1971 score with a rock/electronic edge, as well as more contemporary songs in order to beef up the lead character’s shorter temper fuse that wreaks all kinds of havoc when he attempts to track down his brother’s killer.
New to the story is a niece, who’s problems he’s forced to deal with, but the two eventually strike up a strong bond, which somewhat fills in the voids left by the brother’s death, as well as Carter’s own crappy life.
The niece may not have been a welcome addition to Carter purists, but it did allow composer Tyler Bates a bit of room to create moments of tenderness - an emotion that’s utterly absent in the ’71 film, where the character’s just pissed, sleeps around, and mangles a lot of people in his quest for payback.
The original Jellybean CD in the U.S. is short one cue – “Main Theme / Carter Takes a Train” – which was present on the original Silva CD in the U.K. Moreover, the represented score on both releases, while superbly mixed and edited, was very short, and Bates’ entire score – used and unused – should’ve been packed onto the album.
As it stands, either album still reflects one of the best upgrades of a classic film theme, because Bates deconstructed Budd’s Carter theme and reconfigured it for a number of dynamic cues.
The harpsichord, used in the original ’71 film, was replaced by Bates with a dulcimer, and the revised theme quickly develops into a revenge track with Bates foreshadowing Carter’s fist-punching action with heavy bass, electric guitar, and electronic pulses that stutter and slow down like a pinwheel – a great effect that matches Carter’s festrering rage as it pulses, erupts, and fizzles out.
“The Garden” is a gentle theme version that’s given a semi-tragic veneer with solo violin, delicate keyboards, and clumsy notes on keyboard that match the awkwardness of Carter grappling with death, and the sudden surprise of having a niece.
After a bass pulse and a dialogue sample (of Anthony Zerbe?), Bates scores the chase cue “Christmas Tree Chase” with a jazz combo, funky brass, and syncopated drums. Strings heighten the tension, and Carter’s rage and the chase’s aimlessness are reflected by an wandering ostinato, and edgy bass tones, which eventually coalesce into a brassy finale.
A jazzy march forms the skeleton of “House of Cards,” over which Bates drapes guitar strums and hi-hat hits. The absence of bass tones is fixed when whole tones reverberate from the piano, and the rhythmic textures converge into a variation of the chase cue. Bates also layers the cut with tones filtered to resemble digital clouds, where amorphous notes sort of form loose theme patterns. The effect is also present in the sad cue “Jack’s Consolation,” which is a blend of orchestral stings, fuzzy keyboards, and whole notes that drift through the repeated guitar pattern.
Strings are also prominent in “World Turned Upside Down,” a slowed down march with brief vocal tones that foreshadow the raging march in “The Disk”; and solo violin also dominates the super-brief “Audrey’s Decision,” where tones are reverse-processed to heighten a sense of confusion and tragedy.
In “Doreen’s Story,” Bates heavily exposes the shrill vibrato of a violin to cover another tragic character’s life story, and it’s a perfect example of the composer’s use of simplicity to create emotion; there are no wasted notes, nor any indulgent musical flourishes. The orchestrations are extremely precise, and any isolated sound – solo or filtered effect – has a direct relationship with the characters.
Most of the score is comprised of short cues that fill in moments where characters are about to make crucial decisions, or those brief scenes where uncle Carter bonds with the niece. The rest of the album offers up cues like the Tangerine Dream-styled “Let’s Take a Ride,” which consists spiraling keyboard and synthetic rain drops wound into a cyclical pattern.
“Finish What You Started” offers the first full restatement of the main theme, although it’s very different from the main title version. A dulcimer replays the prelude, but the rest of the theme is performed through industrial feedback set to a staggered rhythm that evokes a worn soldier doing his final act of revenge before he sacrifices himself and crumples to the ground.
The last two cues on the U.S. CD are the album’s longest, and function as source and underscore. “Chicken in Chinatown” is a straight theme riff with a rock beat, electric guitar, and layers of electronic processing that rapidly distorts guitar licks into pulses before the cue closes with a fast chase motif, heavily drenched with a fat analogue bass (rather reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder) and snare drum hits.
“Cybersex” is a techno dance floor cue, but Bates retains a distorted electric guitar and tonal pulses to maintain continuity with the rest of the score, and distant choral samples echo in the distance as the tempo hastens the cue (and U.S. album’s) fast endpoint.
The final cue on the Silva CD, "Main Theme / Carter Takes a Train,” is more of a remix of the originall Budd main titles music, with train sound effects, and synth keyboards which extend into a recap of the full theme rendition.
Get Carter was Bates’ second film score, and it shows off an agile composer with an unsubtle affection for vintage analogue instruments, hence the reason Neil Marshall engaged the composer to craft a perfect eighties retro score for the otherwise messy Doomsday (2008). Although he’s better known for scoring 300 (2006) and several horror films (Slither), Get Carter is a superb expansion of Budd’s theme, and it’s a score screaming for a complete release. Perhaps Silva might undertake the project, now that it’s making older scores available as digital downloads.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan