Home > Reviews > ARLINGTON ROAD – Angelo Badalamenti

ARLINGTON ROAD – Angelo Badalamenti

arlingtonroadOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Arlington Road, directed by hot young independent filmmaker Mark Pellington, is a disturbingly convincing suburban fairy tale starring Jeff Bridges as a widowed college professor who slowly begins to suspect that his seemingly innocuous next door neighbors, Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, may actually be terrorists involved in a bombing campaign across the United States. Composer Angelo Badalamenti, best known for his work with cult director David Lynch on films such as Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart and the Twin Peaks TV series, has collaborated with computer technology composers Tomandandy for the score which, while you’re hearing it in the cinema, sounds absolutely astounding. Alternatively, a friend describes the CD as “appropriately atmospheric” – his own expression which can be translated as meaning “a load of rubbish”. Personally, I quite enjoy it.

The first cue, ‘Bloody Boy/Neon Reprise’ is a perfect example of this duality. It underscores a scene of a small boy, battered and bloodied, staggering down the center of suburban street. The scene is intercut with hallucinatory point of view shots from the boy’s perspective – jagged, skewed perceptions of his immediate surroundings, made almost indecipherable due to the pain racking his young body. The surrealistic, pumping techno music that accompanies the scene adds immeasurable volumes to the mood of chaos and confusion, overwhelming the aural senses with increasingly violent sounds. Without the visual stimulus, though, the track is virtually unlistenable and, instead of being exciting and challenging, generates an almost insatiable desire to press the stop button.

Many of the early sections of the score are devoted to tense, dissonant mood-setters relying mainly on coarse string lines and harshly hit piano chords reminiscent of James Horner, which are occasionally embellished by Tomandandy’s innovative use of electronics and synthesizers. Cues especially of note include the driving ‘Discover Troops’ and the almost unbearably agitated ‘Copper Creek’. As the score progresses, though, Badalamenti’s orchestral tendencies take over and, by the end of the score, everything is screaming bloody murder, with cacophonous tracks like ‘Last Day’, ‘Stoplight Flight’, ‘Escape’ and the incredibly powerful ‘The Bomb’. Much easier to digest are the dark, moody orchestral tracks Badalamenti uses to color the tragic scenes of Bridges’ remembering his dead wife. ‘Old Newspapers’, ‘Values’, the painfully attractive piano and string ‘Lament for Leah’ and the conclusive ‘Aftermath’ and ‘Leah’s Theme’ are undoubtedly the best tracks on the album.

I hated this score before I saw the movie. However, having seen it, enjoyed it, and heard how well it fits the film, I feel almost compelled to give it a better rating than I would have had I been coming at it completely fresh. Personally, I find Arlington Road to be a stimulating, exhilarating score which, although it has very few moments of what anyone could call “beauty”, is nevertheless an intriguing piece of music. It is a testament to Angelo Badalamenti’s ingenuity than he can come up with a score which has huge amounts of dissonance, but which still remains strangely enjoyable. I hope people other than David Lynch start employing him from now on.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Bloody Boy/Neon Reprise (written by Simon Shackleton and Howard Saunders, performed by Lunatic Calm) (5:50)
  • Old Newspapers (1:44)
  • Lament for Leah (3:50)
  • It’s Something Personal (2:06)
  • The Party (4:45)
  • He Repeats He Repeats (1:57)
  • Discover Troops (2:40)
  • Into The Cage (2:04)
  • The Yearbook (1:43)
  • Copper Creek (3:31)
  • Values (2:29)
  • Cheryl (1:08)
  • The Truth Is Out There (3:10)
  • The Study (2:04)
  • What Message (2:26)
  • Last Day (7:56)
  • Stoplight Flight (1:25)
  • Escape (4:50)
  • The Bomb (2:02)
  • Aftermath (5:30)
  • Leah’s Theme (3:50)

Running Time: 67 minutes 54 seconds

Milan 74321-65152-2 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Angelo Badalamenti. Orchestrations by Angelo Badalamenti and Andy Barrett. Additional music by Tomandandy and Phil Marshall. Recorded and mixed by Tim Jacquette, Michael Semanick and Bob Levy. Edited by Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz. Album produced by Angelo Badalamenti.

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