Thomas Newman,
(Decca, 2005)

Thomas Newman is one of those prolific composer/conductors who seem to be releasing a new movie soundtrack every time you turn around. I remember quite enjoying his soundtrack for Road to Perdition. I was, unfortunately, not as pleased with the Jarhead soundtrack as I might have wished.

The movie Jarhead focuses on a Marine's experience during Operation Desert Storm to force Iraq out of Kuwait in the early 1990s. As a war movie, it is only so-so. I do recall when viewing the film that I thought the mix of soundtrack music and the occasional song worked. The moods are properly set. The songs and tunes support what you are seeing on the screen.

The song that touched me the most during the film and piqued my interest in the soundtrack plays during the closing credits. I think it is called "Jesus Walk With Me." I was beyond disappointed to find out that this track was missing from the CD. Strike one!

I have listened to the soundtrack a few times and I have to say that without the visuals, the instrumentals on this CD often sound disjointed from each other. The flow from track to track is jarring at best. Also, within any single track, the melody is very repetitious. Perhaps you heard 30 seconds or less while watching Jarhead so it wasn't noticeable. Increase the time and you do. You'll notice it repeats itself. It is redundant. The same notes are played over and over again ad nauseam. ... Strike two!

There are 25 tracks on the soundtrack, five of which are radio songs. They include "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin, "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" by T-Rex, "O.P.P." by Naughty By Nature, "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy and "Soldier's Things" by Tom Waits. Taken out of the context of the story, these songs (which are fine songs individually) should not be placed together. They combine as well as oil and water. Strike three!

As an aside, I've often wondered (but never researched) whether there is any relationship between Thomas Newman, David Newman and Randy Newman. Are these composer/conductors the same thing to soundtracks that the Baldwin brothers are to acting?

A few things have been reinforced for me while watching the movie and listening to the soundtrack for Jarhead. First, war is a terrible thing -- even if you never fired a bullet during the conflict. Two, humans have the ability to be cruel to both their fellow man, the creatures they share this planet with, and the environment. Three, some movie soundtracks can only be enjoyed while watching the film they support. Better luck next time, Newman.

by Wil Owen
24 June 2006

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