Composer: Bear McCreary
Label: La La Land
Suggested Retail Prices: $ 15.98
It’s fitting that Bear McCreary has used Battlestar Galactica to reveal himself as one of the most innovative and intriguing composers on TV. For few other already-clichéd 70’s sci-fi shows seemed to promise further (if lovable) goofiness than this Star Wars knock off. Yet no TV relic has ended up being so brilliant in its in-your-face revisionism, particularly as heard in its music. For what started off as the dull, beat-heavy music of Richard Gibb’s pilot would soon turn into something wondrous under McCreary’s stewardship. As the show found its footing, the music opened up into a seemingly limitless galaxy of melodies, among them the dangerous percussion of space battle, ethnic melodies for the twelve colonies, and the ethereal atmospheres for the gods they worshiped. It was a religioso sound that made heroes and villains into one glorious enigma. The heavy orchestra you’d expect was out the airlock (at least until the second season), proving that this young composing Turk wasn’t John Williams- thank Kobal. And with every slow step that the Galactica took towards Earth, Bear McCreary unveiled some new, melodic mystery that he doesn’t so much intend to solve as explore.
That sense of discovery reached new heights in Season 3, where music seemed to carry the show more than ever before, especially in some episode’s knowing void of dialogue. The interior of the Cylon ships became a haunting, lone piano. Dark bluegrass embodied a recall of war crimes. An Indian Sitar became a space battle cry, and the unforgettable, and frankly insane use of “All Along the Watchtower” rose Starbuck from the dead while revealing unlikely Cylons in Galactica’s midst. But old musical friends returned as well to re-affirm McCreary’s musical continuity, among them the bagpipe theme for Lee Adama and his stern father, as well as the lush, flowing string melody that announces a new generation of Cylons that prove them as more human than human.
Once again, La La Land records has collected McCreary’s standout cues for Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 – perhaps the best of the show’s trio of “greatest hits” albums. At just about 80 minutes, this is a flowing, and well-chosen representation of McCreary’s utterly unique space opera. It can have the orchestral somberness of Elgar, repetitive strings that Philip Glass would be proud of, the bounce of a Scottish jig, a violin that echoes the loneliness of the stars, or a lovely voice that promises redemption for the show’s weary travelers – something that will hopefully arrive in Battlestar Galactica’s next, and last season. And even if Galactica has realized that the show has run its course (not counting spin-offs of course), the biggest bummer will be that next year means the end of McCreary’s run with the program. Thankfully, he’s also scoring Eureka and the forthcoming Sarah Conner Chronicles. If sci-fi TV is a galaxy that McCreary’s trying to conquer, then I welcome the invasion.
Hopefully someone out there in big-screen Hollywood is listening. But in the meantime, McCreary is knocking direct-to-DVD horror scores out of the park – beginning with Rest Stop, and now continuing in devilish, backwoods style for Wrong Turn 2 (also just released by La La Land). Where McCreary had last dealt with a murderous driver in desert county, he now gets to stalk the woods with “mutant hillbillies.” And the result plays like a murderously fun, hopped-up take on Deliverance. All the redneck strings are here, from the banjo to the fiddle and mandolin – with accordions, autoharps and the sitar thrown in for good measure. All race about with a happily murderous pace. If you can imagine “Dueling Banjos” turning into a competition where the players’ fingers blow off into a goofy, bloody hoedown in a roadhouse from hell, then this soundtrack is it in spades. Showing just as much love for percussive, ethnic music here as he does on Galactica, McCreary gives the music of Wrong Turn 2 a ferocious, fun energy. Better yet, it never sounds like “horror music” as such. And with its detours into guitars and whistling, the score even dares to run down the Spaghetti Western road. After hearing this blast of a score, McCreary has me down for a rental to see how the heck anything this cool could accompany one more movie-going band of bloodthirsty mutants.
But whether he’s accompanying a legendary quest for Earth, or some beautiful young things trying not to get axed in half, McCreary’s new soundtrack releases continue to show him off as one of the freshest talents in the scoring business. As fun as they are innovative, Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 and Wrong Turn 2 show that McCreary’s adventure has just begun, much to our listening pleasure.
To buy Bear McCreary’s soundtracks for Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 and Wrong Turn 2, click here.