The funny thing about Shaun Cassidy’s TV series is that they tend to have intriguing premises, gather wonderful ensemble casts, and are ambitious in the way stories take very weird turns, and composers get to play with a wide variety of musical themes and ideas, often surprising our expectations, and transcending the more rushed and repetitive genre scores typical of the medium.
That’s at least the impression one gets from Cassidy’s two best-known shows, American Gothic(1995-1996), and Invasion (2005-2006), both of which suffered the network axe when each series was essentially abandoned by the networks (CBS and ABC, respectively) and dumped into hard-to-find time slots, often after the shows disappeared from active broadcast for weeks at a time.
Invasion was a great attempt to bring conspiracy fears and the terror of biological substitution of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and it worked beautifully. Composers Jason Derlatka and Jon Erlich (House M.D., The Agency ) wrote music that was perhaps shockingly emotional, and tailored directly towards characters who seemed to be always in the process of grieving over repeated traumas – such as the sadness of those killed during a vicious hurricane, and the few who mysteriously returned from oblivion… but strangely different.
The decision to score the show with a large orchestral sound upped the production values, but it also transformed what’s essentially an extended B-movie into classic melodrama, with moody themes that really nail the anguish of the show’s two now-remarried divorcees: park ranger Russell Varon, very much human; and ex-wife, Dr. Mariel, a hurricane survivor who thinks she’s no longer human, and whose new husband, Sheriff Tom Underlay, knows the truth.
So while cues like “Russ and Larkin” and “Last Moments” address the moments where confused characters discover some strangeness in themselves or reinforce their devotion amid all the ongoing chaos, tracks like “Larkin Crashes” offer a classic mix of angry brass and menacing percussion. “The Battle,” as a contrast, has the composers evoking some Shorian harmonics over a straightforward percussion track; the pinched harmonics are very unsettling, but there’s an elegance to the strained notes that infer the alien vs. humans conflicts will ultimately affect the global population.
MovieScore Media’s album offers a robust collection of tightly edited cues that trace the show’s core theme of identity, and how strange behavioural and physical changes of the hurricane survivors affect a traditional community. Cuts like “Species Transformation” may progress towards a shrill cliffhanger finale (typical of each episode’s last act), but they’re also grounded in tones and thematic bits (lovingly played on violin) that cover internal and external character conflicts.
The cues are well-sequenced, and while some tracks are brief, the composers stayed with a tempo that’s far less rushed than expected; Invasion was a show about a slow-moving infiltration of aliens, and the music reflects their chillingly calm approach in consuming the town.
With the series’ one and only season available on DVD, the album gives fans another venue to experience the show’s most compelling elements, but those searching for engaging sci-fi/drama music will be pleased with the care given to this short-lived gem.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan