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David Bowie - Labyrinth - Original Soundtrack CD (album) cover

LABYRINTH - ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

David Bowie

 

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2.09 | 43 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
1 stars I actually kinda like the movie from which this soundtrack comes. I never watched it until I was 23, so I don't have any childhood nostalgia towards it, but it strikes me as a halfway decent collection of weirdly interesting and atmospheric scenes that may not necessarily gell together perfectly but nonetheless makes for an amusing couple of hours. I even don't necessarily mind the soundtrack in the context of the film: the non-Bowie parts sound like standard 80's soundtrack fare (heavily based in big dramatic synthesizers), and the Bowie tracks are presented in such bizarre contexts that I'm able to have a good semi-ironic laugh at them. I can totally see why it would have bombed so badly upon release, but I'm glad it mustered a cult following in ensuing decades.

While the music of the film works decently enough within context, though, I find it unbearable as music I would consider just sitting down and listening to. And please don't tell me that it's unfair to judge a movie soundtrack involving a rock artist using the same standards I would use to judge a "regular album." The following albums from my collection are either movie soundtracks (in part or full) or were initially conceived as soundtracks, and all of them are albums I freely enjoy (there may be others in my collection, but these come to mind):

The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles: Help!

The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour

Can: Soundtracks

Bob Dylan: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Brian Eno: Music for Films (granted, it's for movies that were never made)

Brian Eno: Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks

Peter Gabriel: Birdy

Peter Gabriel: Passion

Peter Gabriel: Long Walk Home

The Kinks: Arthur

Pink Floyd: More

Pink Floyd: Obscured by Clouds

Pink Floyd: The Wall (maybe not technically, but yeah, it is)

Prince: Purple Rain

Frank Zappa: Uncle Meat

Heck, even Bowie had had a soundtrack made of recent material just a few years earlier: 1982 saw the release of a soundtrack to a movie called Christiane F., where the soundtrack entirely consisted of tracks from Station to Station and the Berlin Trilogy. And don't forget that parts of Station to Station and Low were originally intended for the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth. The point is, there was absolutely no reason that Bowie couldn't have had his cake and eaten it too, by taking part in a soundtrack that would hold up fine as an album. This did not happen, and my feelings towards it follow accordingly.

The Trevor Jones half of the album may have been par for the course for movie soundtracks in the mid-80's (or maybe it wasn't!), but it's unlistenable today. It almost kinda reminds me of Frank Zappa's synclavier experiments in the 80's and early 90's, which don't really thrill me, but at least Frank was trying to write genuniely challenging late 20th-century classical and just didn't want to bother with real orchestras and their unions anymore. When these sounds try to create big dramatic tension, or big dramatic beauty, it sounds laughable. And oh me, oh my, there are some baaaaad synth horn sounds in here.

In the Bowie half, only the opening collaboration between Bowie and Jones, mixing the main title sequence with a brief snippet of "Underground," fills me with any halfway warm feelings, and that's largely because it's only 3:21 and neither Bowie nor Jones overstays his welcome. The full version of "Underground," which closes the soundtrack, makes for an excruciating six minutes: hearing pompous faux-gospel in such a ridiculous context doesn't make me happy. The most famous track, "Magic Dance," is mildly amusing for about as long as it takes to finish the initial exchange ("You remind me of the babe" "What babe?" etc): making this into a full-fledged five minutes when it just recycles a small set of mediocre ideas over and over was a terrible idea. "As the World Falls Down" and "Within You" probably could have been remade into something better in another era, at least if he'd taken the best ideas from each of them and combined them into a single track lasting three minutes: here they're just gloppy and boring. Plus, returning to their context in the film, the idea of David Bowie in a codpiece trying to seduce a young girl 20 years his junior makes this more than a little disturbing.

There's one more track (the irritating "Chilly Down"), but it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, there's no reason for anybody to own this album. There are some fragments of goodness here and there, but nothing comes together well enough to make me want to listen to this ever again.

tarkus1980 | 1/5 |

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