John Carpenter hit a real rough patch in the ‘90s, as evident by the soundtrack to his 1996 film, Escape From L.A. Absent are the luscious synth sounds of its predecessor, Escape from New York, replaced by shrill electric guitar and robotic, dull drum programming used as a stand-in for an actual acoustic kit. Then, to add insult to injury, when you do get a nod to the classic synth score it just feels out of place and cheap. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but when one of the masters produces such a lackluster soundscape, it can be disheartening. Composer Shirley Walker collaborated with Carpenter on this release, but it’s unknown which of the two account for the worst contributions.
There’s a few bright spots, but it’s near impossible to know exactly where they are due to the brevity of most of tracks. The album is littered with small sections of sound effects and quick stabs, which give it an uneven feel when trying to play all the way through. Even the abundance of never-before-released tracks (like the dreadful “J.C.’s Blues”) add nothing here, and if anything tend to bog the whole thing down. I tend to enjoy the western-themed cuts the best, an example being “Showdown.” It’s more akin to the guitar/bass/drums approach in his 1998 score for Vampires, a film and selection of music I find much more enjoyable.
The best part of this release is its packaging. The thick gatefold is vibrant with reds and yellows abound. Inside, they included some of the most ridiculous stills from the film, including my favorite, the shot of Snake hang-gliding with his batwing. The vinyl is also spectacular: clear with radioactive green spots throughout. It’s a super attractive release, and might sway you if you’re on the fence about the actual score.
“Escape From L.A.” is still available on Test Tube Clear Green Splatter or Milk White/Black Eyepatch at Real Gone Music.