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MATCHSTICK MEN – Hans Zimmer

September 12, 2003 Leave a comment Go to comments

matchstickmenOriginal Review by Peter Simons

One of the most unexpectedly fun albums of the year undoubtedly has to be Hans Zimmer’s Matchstick Men. The sheer joy with which this score was written just oozes from its pores. That alone is worth a million bucks for me. Its snazzy, southern European feel is slightly reminiscent of As Good As It Gets, the score for which Zimmer received an Oscar nominated in 1997, but although it would be deserved, Hans won’t get that kind of recognition for Matchstick Men. The score deliberately weaves in performances of Nino Rota’s theme from La Dolce Vita, which automatically renders the score illegible for the Academy Awards. This is a shame, because this wicked little score deserves all attention and recognition it can get… but on the other hand — who gives a hoot about the Oscars?

Matchstick Men is a comedy by Ridley Scott. Now there’s a guy who hasn’t done a comedy since — well, Hannibal I suppose. Otherwise (ignoring G.I. Jane, which was unintentionally hilarious), this is his first comedy. And it’s a good one too, about small-time con artist Roy (Nicolas Cage) who runs a criminal business with his partner in crime Frank (Sam Rockwell). They steal – wait for it – water filters, and sell them to unsuspecting people who pay a lot more than the merchandise is actually worth, luring hapless victims into the scam with promises of bogus prizes like cars and jewelry. But, although crime actually does pay for Roy and Frank, Roy suffering from severe case of agoraphobia in his personal life, and is subject to a constant stream of facial tics – to the extent that it is threatening his “work”. To this end, he seeks out a psychoanalyst, but soon comes to regret his weekly sessions. It turns out that Roy a daughter named Angela (Alison Lohman) – and she wants in on the family business.

The CD opens with the first of several excellent source music selections, “The Good Life” by Bobby Darin, before the score kicks with a of whistled rendition of the main theme. Thereafter, Zimmer’s music moves off into to a somewhat more orchestral sound, with prominent parts for accordions, as well as a marimba and woodwinds. ‘Ichi-Ni-San’ is a hypnotic track with a lush theme and a jumpy accompaniment. Before long you’re into the Rota homages, and you’re already tapping your feet and snapping your fingers to the beat. The fourth track, ‘Weird Is Good, is a definite highlight of this excellent album is. Let’s just say it does it’s title justice, starting with a funky bassline, some sort of nocturnal percussion and traces of a tango, before slowly but surely moving into Thin Red Line territory where staccato flutes fade in and out.

After this mysterious intermezzo, the track returns to strings and accordion to create a very romantic Italianate mood.
‘I Have A Daughter?’ is noteworthy, as the style of music echoes the state of Roy’s mind, frantically racing and thinking “I have a daughter?” This track segues nicely into Mantovani’s “Swedish Rhapsody”, one of several source cues that add a touch of hilarity to the album. It’s also one of those ‘bad taste’ tracks that just puts a vision into your mind of Hans Zimmer and Ridley Scott in the mixing room, giggling, saying to each other  “oh, this is baaaad, let’s leave it in!”  The score takes a sharp turn with “Tuna Fish and Cigarettes”, where all the romantic atmosphere is traded in for techno music. ‘No More Pills’ returns to the source material, although I wonder whether this cue was actually done by Hans Zimmer himself – it really sounds as if it was done with (different) samples and may very well have been arranged by Jim Dooley or Geoff Zanelli.

The album concludes with the surprisingly dark ‘The Banker’s Waltz’, which features heavy strings reminiscent of parts from Hannibal. Though it is in itself a good track, it is a little bit of let down that the album takes a few unexpected and not-so interesting turns at the end. Still, this is one masterful score from Zimmer who shows, once again, that he is much more versatile than most people give him credit for.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • The Good Life (performed by Bobby Darin) (2:23)
  • Flim Flam (0:12)
  • Ichi-Ni-San (2:51)
  • Matchstick Men (2:09)
  • Weird is Good (6:42)
  • Lonely Bull (performed by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass) (2:15)
  • Ticks & Twitches (2:48)
  • I Have a Daughter? (1:06)
  • Swedish Rhapsody (performed by Mantovani & His Orchestra) (2:37)
  • Keep the Change (1:24)
  • Nosy Parker (2:44)
  • Leaning on a Lamp Post (performed by George Formby) (3:00)
  • Pool Lights (0:54)
  • Pygmies! (2:07)
  • Charmaine (performed by Mantovani & His Orchestra) (3:05)
  • Roy’s Rules (2:04)
  • Carpeteria (2:26)
  • Shame on You (2:55)
  • Tuna Fish and Cigarettes (1:55)
  • No More Pills (4:39)
  • Tijuana Taxi (performed by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass) (2:05)
  • The Banker’s Waltz (3:07)

Running Time: 55 minutes 37 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6515

Music composed by Hans Zimmer. Conducted by Bruce Fowler. Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony and The Santa Monica Symphonia.  Orchestrations by Bruce Fowler, Geoff Zanelli and James Dooley. Theme from La Dolce Vita by Nino Rota. Featured musical soloists Satnam Singh Ramgotra, Heitor Pereira, Frank Marocco, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Fowler, Melissa Muik, Mel Wesson and James O’Leary. Recorded and mixed by Slamm Andrews. Mastered by Bruce Maddocks. Album produced by Hans Zimmer.

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