Original Review by Alan Rogers

Murderball is the acclaimed fly-on-the-wall-documentary style movie that was the winner of the Documentary Audience Award in 2005 at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, the movie follows the U.S. Quad Rugby team’s quest for gold at the recent Paralympic Games in Athens. Uncompromising in style, this MTV co-production gives a glimpse into full-contact wheelchair rugby: in particular, the cut-throat rivalry between the U.S. and Canadian teams.

Commotion Records’ “Music From The Film” CD release is a combination of songs (remember, this is an MTV co-production) from the likes of industrial rock band Ministry, The Moldy Peaches, through to the electronic jam that is Ween. For those particularly interested in movie scores, four cues written by Jamie Saft for the movie are interspersed between the songs (though these cues amount to only 12 minutes of playing time). Saft is a musician who has only recently turned to writing for movies. But he has (at the time of writing this review) already been associated with two award winning movies: this movie and God Grew Tired of Us, winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in 2006). Saft’s music for Murderball admirably bridges the gap between the songs (that underscore, amongst other things, the competitive games) and the more emotionally grounded portions of the movie that need underscoring from specifically written music. A score highlight is the somewhat optimistic “Robert’s Theme” – a catchy, rhythmic cue featuring piano and acoustic guitar. This theme adds a good counterpoint to the rest of the music featured in the movie. Saft’s underscoring also links in very well with the songs featured in the movie (and on this CD). Cues such as “Murderball Remix” and “Dungeonous Warfare” feature furious percussion, heavy rhythms and rasping guitar lines that mirror the songs, in particular Ministry’s “Thieves” and “Waiting”.

Normally I shy away from score/song combination CDs as I find that the songs seem to have no real need to be on the CD (or in the movie), coming across as being more like product placements for other branches of the large media giants putting up the money for the movie. But, that’s certainly not the case here. This is one of the best score/song combination CDs I’ve heard and music supervisor Tracy McKnight should be congratulated for bringing together a wonderful selection of songs. On paper, this should be a collection that shouldn’t meld together: the industrial metal of Ministry, techno leanings from Ween, the “folksy feel” of The Moldy Peaches with it’s unexpected lyrics (“Squinched up your face and did a dance / You shook a little turd out of the bottom of your pants”) and the ambience blanket of Chessie – all very different styles but it all just meshes like a dream.

I put off reviewing this CD because I didn’t expect to like this CD but now I wish that I’d listened to it much sooner. This is a listening experience that’s so varied that most listeners will find something to like (score and non-score listeners alike). There’s an energy in this release that might possibly leave the listener breathless and wanting more of the same – a state of being that I’d imagine the athletes featured in this documentary reach when caught up in their sport.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  1. Thieves (Ministry) (4:59)
  2. Murderball Remix* (4:44)
  3. The F**ked Jam (Ween) (2:55)
  4. Light & Day (The Polyphonic Spree) (3:24)
  5. Something (Sam Prekop) (3:47)
  6. Robert’s Theme* (2:27)
  7. Anyone Else But You (The Moldy Peaches) (2:57)
  8. Song For Jerry (The Whiles) (1:31)
  9. Follow Me Home (Chessie) (6:51)
  10. Penultimatum* (3:21)
  11. Keep On Workin’ (live version) (Scratch Massive) (5:12)
  12. Dungeonous Warfare* (1:27)
  13. Waiting (Ministry) (5:04)

*Score composed by Jamie Saft

Running Time: 48:39 (Total score: 12:09)

Commotion Records (2005)


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