51 Shades of Geek

Alias (Volume 1) – music by Michael Giacchino

Alias (Volume 1)As we’re counting down to the relaunch of the Enterprise on the big screen, I thought this would be an opportune time to check the back catalogue of the latest celebrated composer to put his stamp on the final frontier: Michael Giacchino. After laboring away in the often-anonymous field of video game music, Giacchino began making his name known as a potential A-list composer with J.J. Abrams’ Alias. I wasn’t a huge fan of Alias, but in listening to the two volumes of soundtracks released from the show, I have become a huge fan of its music.

The ironic thing is that, in its more introspective, moody moments, Alias leaned on orchestral music that’s nearly indistinguishable from the music for an episode of Lost (also produced by Abrams and scored by Giacchino). But much of Alias’ music leans in a completely different direction: upbeat, techno-beat-drenched pieces that seem to pay homage to, in equal parts, John Barry’s balls-to-the-wall brassy James Bond scores and the ethnic-location-of-the-week music from Mission: Impossible’s original TV run. Since these scenes almost always accompanied the sight of Jennifer Garner strutting her stuff or kicking butt (and, more often than not, doing both simultaneously), the beat seldom lets up.

The orchestra gets plenty to do in the action scenes, too, but in this case it sounds very little like Lost. One track in particular, though – “On To Paris” – spends a little bit of time combining the techno beats with the kind of low, snarling brass Giacchino frequently uses on Lost, and the effect is quite interesting – the addition of a simple drum beat completely changes the character and mood. One gets the impression very quickly that Alias is what landed Giacchino the scoring assignment for The Incredibles, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and that’s led to nearly everything since, ranging from Ratatoullie to Star Trek. As calling cards go, you can’t do much better than the music from Alias: its ever-changing settings made for plenty of opportunities for musical variety, and Giacchino didn’t squander that opportunity by phoning in generic music.

4 out of 4 starsSo, should the beat-heavy Alias point the way for Giacchino’s Star Trek score? I’m going to hazard a guess that it probably won’t, but if it did…why not? The new movie is an exercise in trying to push classic Trek into a new style for a new audience. Michael Giacchino is one of a wave of incredibly talented young composers who are currently rewriting the books: not everything has to be in a European romantic style. Why not punch up the music and make it more modern? Alias proved that Giacchino was adept at splitting the difference between both styles.

Order this CD

  1. Alias (0:27)
  2. Dissolved (2:07)
  3. Red Hair Is Better (2:31)
  4. Spanish Heist (4:31)
  5. Double Life (1:54)
  6. Tunisia (4:14)
  7. In The Garden (2:32)
  8. Looking For A Man (3:54)
  9. Anna Shows Up (3:33)
  10. Home Movies (0:42)
  11. On To Paris (1:51)
  12. Page 47 (1:55)
  13. The Prophecy (2:11)
  14. Badenweiler (5:11)
  15. Arvin At The Poles (1:38)
  16. Sleeping Beauty (3:11)
  17. Blow’d Up (2:28)
  18. It’s Not The CIA (1:41)
  19. Oh My God!!! (3:19)
  20. The Tooth Doctor (2:01)
  21. It Was Anna (0:56)
  22. Wet Suits (2:40)
  23. Ball Buster (1:42)
  24. The End (0:58)
  25. Bristow & Bristow (3:31)
  26. SD-6 Dance Party (3:18)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 64:56

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