Film Score Friday: ‘The Rum Diary’ by Christopher Young

Christopher Young is most known for his Gothic, bombastic scores for horror films like Drag Me To Hell and Hellraiser. His wheel house has always been big, bold and scary, which is why his music for The Rum Diary is so very interesting.  This music isn’t scary, it isn’t going to give you nightmares, in fact I think I want to have a Mai Ti with a funny little umbrella in it while I listen to it.

The Rum Diary is a return to the world of Hunter S. Thompson and the music is fits in very well with what you expect from that statement. It has a jazzy, free spirited nature that devolves into some serious kookiness from time to time. The most interesting quirks of this score are the Tom Waits-ian vocals that appear from time to time and a guitar duet with Johnny Depp and JJ Holiday.

Christopher Young, who was originally a jazz drummer, was influenced on big jazz band sounds of the ’50s and ’60s, and you can hear how much fun he is having with this music.

One of the trade mark elements that I love so much about Young’s horror scores is that despite the imagery and pure evil his music represents, you all ways have a since that he is having fun with the music. This trademark is thankfully front and center in this score, I have to smile while I listen.

Young’s score is fabulous, but it is not the only music that makes it onto this soundtrack, and unfortunately that is where the album falls on it’s face a little bit. The opening track is the Dean Martin song Volare, which is a lesser song and just gets the whole thing off to an odd start. Then the album ends with music from JD Band, Johnny Depp, JJ Holiday and Patti Smith.

The JD Band tracks are actually quite fun too, especially Roll Out the Roosters, which fits in very nicely with Young’s music. The Patti Smith song is nice enough, but it is slow and unaccompanied by music, it just ends the whole thing in an odd way that makes me wish something more fun capped the whole thing off.

Then we get to the Johnny Depp music. Now I love Johnny Depp the artists, he takes risks and is a true entertainer, but man this music is just not up to snuff. I respect the “neatness” of having these tracks on the album, and I am sure they probably play well in the film, but on the album they seem so out of place. If there was anyone else playing the music on these tracks they wouldn’t even be on the soundtrack most likely.

I really wish the album was arranged in a better way, if the great Christopher Young stuff was not all in one giant chunk the other, odder tracks might fit in much better. If you mixed in the other tracks better, perhaps their major change of pace would have worked better for me, but as it stands now, as soon as you get past the last Young track the album takes a nosedive.

Three Favorite Tracks:

Rum Diary by Christopher Young – The main theme of the movie and one of the nicer main themes I have heard in a while. This sets the mood perfectly for the next fifteen tracks you are about to listen to, while not giving away just how kooky the music will be getting. This track is also just so damed chill, I really want this to be playing while I walk on a beach sipping some fruity rum based drink and relaxing while I look deeply into the crystal clear blue nothingness that is the ocean.

Black Note Blues by Christopher Young – Now this is one fun track, and you Tom Waits fans will find a lot to like in this one. I am not certain but I think this is actually Christopher Young singing, I tried to dig up conformation on that, but I could not find it, but who is actually doing the vocals doesn’t really matter. This track is just perfect for the crazy, cool, nuttiness that you think about when you think Hunter S. Thompson. Probably a track that will live in my playlist long after anything else on this album.

Roll Out the Roosters by JD Band – You know I took a lot of pot shots at the non Young music on this album, so I do want to take a moment and shine a light on easily the best of the other music on the album. This track isn’t as jazzy cool as the main score, but it has a manic energy that is just infectious, I can easily see how this type of music fits into this world. Honestly before I knew who did the score for this movie I expected lots of the soundtrack to sound like this track, so it is nice that we can have a piece of that next to the superior score itself.

Least Favorite Track:

Volare by Dead Martin – I just don’t get it. Maybe this track has some contextual importance in the film, but on the album this starts things off on the wrong foot. Thankfully the very next track is amongst my favorites so the album still grabbed me pretty quick, but man this just feels wrong next to everything else. It doesn’t help that I don’t really like the song that much either, but I don’t know that any lounge lizard, crooner song would really play well as the lead off batter for this light, zany and jazzy cool album.

I really liked the music by Christopher Young, and it is a shame the other tracks bring down the album experience as a whole. I really think the score is worth a listen and ranks as one of my favorite of the year, but as an album I have to give it a few knocks down for poor song organization and some silly song inclusion choices.

Final Score for The Rum Diary

3.5 out of 5

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