David Arnold's score for Tomorrow Never Dies is probably the only Bond score not written by John Barry that received any kind of critical acclaim. He seemed to update Barry's sound with modern rock and pop extras and making sound like a real 90's score. In fact, I think Arnold is one of the only Hollywood composers who uses synths that are actually drawn from pop music. Yes, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer and chums all use synths, but they don't relate much to those used in pop music and I think becuase Arnold manages to so effectively cross this line that his Bond scores that use this technique sound so much more up to date. On the other hand, it might well mean that they sound out of date more quickly. Then again, Barry's Bond music always sounds like it's from the 60's, which is no bad thing, but these things always 'date' as such at some point. They evoke a period and that's it. It's just how well they date. I suspect that Arnold's music will date much more badly than Barry's, but probably not as badly as something like Bill Conti's disco effort. The one reason that Arnold's will survive longer is his good use of orchestra against the backing synth programming. Well, it was good in Tomorrow Never Dies, but this score takes the most extreme type (ie. Backseat Driver) and uses it for virtually every action cue. Only a few seconds into the opening cue (which joins imperceptably onto the second, Come in 007, Your Time is Up) we are hit with pulsing synths, small samples over the top of that and the hint of orchestra in the background. Once you've head that, pretty much most of the other action cues sound the same. OK, there are speed and subtle differences, but the swamping effect of the techno/dance/pop/whatever backing does mean that things tend to sound the same more often than they should.
It has to be said that with a little imagination, a couple of the later cues come out a great deal better, most notably Pipeline which uses a weird hybrid of Herrmann or Philip Glass style repeating phrases that alter slightly each time and get more and more intense as the track progresses. This is, of course backed by a harsh bassline, but it's not quite so intrusive this time around and the orchestral use is actually most impressive. Cavier Factory and I Never Miss similarly make more use of the orchestra, the former finally getting around to a decent outing for the Bond theme beyond the opening pair of tracks. The final, lengthy action cue, Submarine also uses more and more of the orchestra, with the dance music just providing an underpinning rather than being the main feature. I can't help thinking that Arnold is thriving on pure adrenaline rush to produce the desired effect, this is no substitute for interweaving his new techno textures with the orchestra. The crazy thing is that when he does so, the effect is fantastic and works so much better than anyone could have predicted.
For whatever reason, the score gets better and better as it progresses. The opening techno tracks are almost like a precursor of doom and most people will be praying that the rest isn't like that. The first few quiet cues aren't particularly special, slightly themeless and with annoying samples laid over the top, it doesn't bode well. There are a few high spots, most notably the very Barry-esque Casino cue which could quite easily have been from one of the Connery films. However, beginning with Pipeline, a strange transformation occurs. The orchestra starts to make more of a splash
I have this strange notion that if you combined the first few tracks of Tomorrow Never Dies with the second half of this score along with the end title song from the former, Surrender, you'd have the perfect 90's Bond score. However, seperately, they go slightly astray for various reasons. The first half is just action based purely on overdose and non action that is just plain boring. The song, actually written by Arnold this time and performed by Garbage isn't a great deal different to Sheryl Crowe's much maligned Tomorrow Never Dies effort. In this case, I actually think that Arnold went too much the way of eliminating the Barry-isms; Surrender may have been a pastiche, but it was a superb pastiche. The end title song sung by Scott Walker was ditched by the producers in favour of a funky update of the Bond theme. That speaks volumes really. Imagine a naff lounge jazz version of From Russia with Love sung by Tony Bennette.
I'm going to be harsh, becuase even though the second half is a great 4 star action score, the first half is hit and miss to say the least. I suppose this is a case of too much music, or possibly the wrong music on the album. Then again, it's not supposed to appeal to me particularly. My sister who likes going clubbing would love it, I'm sure and if I ever had to suggest a score you could go clubbing to, this would be it.