AGENTS OF SECRET STUFF – George Shaw


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

A YouTube short comedy-drama film that’s a mix of spy movie and teen-drama set in a high school, Agents of Secret Stuff centres on a secret agent going undercover to protect a girl who is a target of an assassin group. Produced by Wong Fu Productions, the music is composed by regular Wong Fu collaborator George Shaw who is probably best known for his MovieScore Media releases J-ok’el and Marcus. The music is written in the style of a James Bond/Mission: Impossible/spy movie style with twangy guitars, gutsy brass statements of the main heroic theme and a John Powell/Bourne movie vibe in the strings. Over the course of the 25-minute score, as well as the spy elements, there’s also room for comedic and romantic passages that all add up for a varied listen.

The opening track, “Agents of Secret Stuff”, gives a full-blown statement of the heroic theme in electric guitar and brass that starts things off very positively. The second track, “Training To Be An ASS”, then highlights the variety of the score as a whole and also shows off Shaw’s grasp of how best to use his limited resources for a movie such as this (the “live” instruments including “just” trumpet, violin, clarinet and guitar). This 3-minute cue is more of an atmospheric track, featuring electric bass guitar and a variety of electronic percussions with washes of synth soundscapes. Shaw does a good job of getting the most out of the limited live instruments together with wise use of synths. This means that the score doesn’t sound as though it’s trying to be bigger than it should.

The score itself can feel a bit fragmented, particularly with the middle section, where tracks only occasionally last more than a minute. This section features the more comedic tracks of the score (e.g., “Get Out of My Room” and “Double Rainbow Girly Cookies”) and tend to present just musical ideas rather than fully fledged cues. One of Shaw’s strengths though is his ability to compose music with emotional depth and this talent is highlighted by a lovely theme played by clarinet in “Are You My Father?” and expanded to a larger ensemble later in this cue and again in “A Father’s Sacrifice”. This theme together with the spy main theme offers a couple of memorable aspects to the score. The regular use of witty acronyms thoughout the film (e.g., an Agent of Secret Stuff (ASS) must impress his boss to achieve his Honorary Operative License Entitlement (HOLE) and defeat the Society of Not So Good Stuff (SINS), etc) suggests that this short film is probably not aimed for someone of this reviewer’s age group. But separated from the film, the composer’s thematic material stands up well by themselves.

As the score to Agents of Secret Stuff only runs to just over 25 minutes, the release features a variety of additional tracks from other Wong Fu Productions. The majority of these tracks tend to be short cues for small instrument ensembles (e.g., guitar, drums, keyboards, etc). However, in amongst these tracks (and the CD as a whole) is a wonderfully lyrical piece for solo piano that, for me, outshines everything else heard in this release. Heard to accompany images of a variety of Italian landscapes, “These Four Walls” (for the short film of the same name) is a beautiful composition that reminds me of something that wouldn’t sound out of place in an emotional sequence in a Pixar movie. This track is a highlight in a release that’s more a compendium of tracks highlighting the composer’s talents where you sift through a pile of tracks to find the shining nuggets. It’s an ideal release for today’s pick’n’mix digital purchase environment.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ***

  1. Agents of Secret Stuff (1:43)
  2. Training To Be An ASS (3:33)
  3. Prime Locker Estate (0:47)
  4. Danger Lurks (0:57)
  5. Slippery Floors (0:31)
  6. Get Out of My Room (0:24)
  7. Double Rainbow Girly Cookies (0:58)
  8. Blade In The Flower (1:10)
  9. Date Chase (1:48)
  10. It’s A Trap (0:58)
  11. My Only Friend (0:29)
  12. Saved By A Girl (1:47)
  13. Angry Asian Girl (1:16)
  14. Ruining The Moment (0:27)
  15. Are You My Father? (3:05)
  16. Trust Issues (0:57)
  17. Anger Unleashed (1:16)
  18. A Father’s Sacrifice (1:38)
  19. Agents On The Inside (1:59)
  20. The World Is Saved (0:33)
  21. Whimsicle Yogurt (0:17)
  22. Rock Rym (0:15)
  23. Annoying Admirer (0:44)
  24. Unemployed Life Is Good (0:55)
  25. These Four Walls (3:55)
  26. 1st Competition (2:28)
  27. Coffee Shop Meet (2:43)
  28. In Serious Trouble (2:14)
  29. Crunch Some Numbers (0:26)
  30. Freaking Loser (0:23)
  31. Passed Out Drunk (0:34)
  32. Bad Combover (0:42)
  33. Experimental Recipes (0:56)
  34. Hair Loss (0:25)
  35. Familiar Scent (1:04)
  36. Sales Pitch (1:54)
  37. Bad News Phone Call (1:28)
  38. Nice Guy Finishes First (1:26)

(Tracks 1-20 from Agents of Secret Stuff, tracks 21-24 from Funemployed, track 25 from These Four Walls, tracks 26-28 from Technology Ruins Romance, tracks 29-31 from Up In Da Club, tracks 32-35 from What The Flush, tracks 36-37 from Spencer In Yo Face! and track 38 from Just A Nice Guy).

Running Time: 49:25

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