The 13th Floor

Quintessential Vinyl: The Howard Shore Scores for David Croneberg

One of the advantages of being a writer and getting the opportunity to work from home, primarily, is that I have access to my entire record collection. For me, there’s nothing more comforting or soothing than writing while the scores to some of my favorite films spin in the background. And with the vinyl craze on the rise, a lot of well known soundtracks for horror classics have been re-issued and become readily available again.

Sometimes, I pick themed playlists. A certain composer or director. Perhaps a certain time period of film soundtracks. Or it could just be random! But earlier this week, I opted to pull out all my Howard Shore scores for David Cronenberg films.

Shore first worked with Cronenberg on his 1979 feature THE BROOD, and maintained a steady working relationship with the director throughout his career with only a few examples where another composer stepped in, no doubt due to scheduling conflicts. It’s one of the great cinematic marriages between director and composer. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized that 5 quintessential collaborations between the two had all been recently reissued on vinyl. So, if you’re a record collector, and/or a fan of Cronenberg & Shore, here’s a handful of titles you should add to your collection.

SCANNERS / THE BROOD (Mondo)

This Mondo release showcases the two earliest collaborations between Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore. The double side LP features both the soundtrack score to SCANNERS with THE BROOD on the B-side. The main reason for this is that there’s actually not much music in THE BROOD!  SCANNERS continues with one cue on the back, and then THE BROOD music is presented as one long track; this is a traditional, scary Shore score that sets the stage for that awkward feeling of delving into the unknown that Cronenberg’s earliest works always evoked.

SCANNERS, to me, always felt like a horror version of the X-MEN, where there were a whole bunch of people out there with the same powers as Professor X. THE BROOD made me more terrified of children than I already am! The release featured 2 original covers by artist Sam Wolfe Connelly, and came in two colorway options. This one is currently out of print and not available directly through Mondo anymore, but if you hunt around online, you’ll be able to track one down either via Discogs or Amazon for a little over $30-40 bucks.

 DEAD RINGERS (Mondo)

Another stellar release from Mondo, and one that came out just as Scream Factory put out Blu-Ray collector editions of both DEAD RINGERS and RABID, is Shore’s complete original score for DEAD RINGERS, featuring a simple yet striking original cover art by Randy Ortiz. Much like the film, itself, Cronenberg’s style became more intricate and complex at this stage in his career. He’d already seen commercial success with THE DEAD ZONE and THE FLY, so this was the first in a trilogy of weirder, more experimental and surreal features in his filmography, and Shore’s style morphed to match what Cronenberg was doing. I mean, this is a film about gynecologist twin brothers, but it’s still a traditional, beautiful, lush Shore score, so keep dueling Jeremy Irons in mind when you listen. This also paves the way for the next two on this list, which go really bold, sonically. DEAD RINGERS is still available on red vinyl for about $30 bucks directly from Mondo right here.

CRASH (Mondo)

This is a film I didn’t get to see in theaters, because of the controversial NC-17 rating at the time. It was something I instead saw on home video for the first time, and I don’t think I fully understood or appreciated it back then. But listening to this glorious re-issue score makes me want to go back and watch it again with fresh eyes and an adult perspective. The movie depicts those that fetishize & get off on car accidents. And with that as his inspiration, Shore gets to really experiment by incorporating 6 electric guitars, 3 orchestral harps, 3 woodwinds and 2 percussionists to draft the score. It’s available through Mondo on a double LP (the 4th side is etched), featuring this gorgeous cover art by Rich Kelly for $35. Get yours right here!

NAKED LUNCH (Mondo)

Now we come to the most avant-garde and ambitious of all the scores: Howard Shore’s collaboration with jazz legend Ornette Coleman and the London Philharmonic Orchestra to deliver the sonic landscape of David Cronenberg’s bonkers William S. Burroughs adaptation of NAKED LUNCH! The semi-autobiographical story of Burroughs is funneled through a character named William Lee played by the great Peter Weller, and considering the drug-induced nature of the whole thing, and the elaborate looking creatures, this score very much captures the film’s lunacy. It’s challenging, not an easy pill to swallow, but neither is the film itself. This wouldn’t be my first recommendation, but if you’re a more seasoned Cronenberg/Shore fan, it’s definitely worth the listen. It’s got another killer art design by Rich Kelly, and is also still available direct through Mondo right here.

THE FLY (Varese Sarabande)

This is arguably the most well-known work for both David Cronenberg and Howard Shore, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise, because it’s a freakin’ masterpiece. I revisited the film not that long ago and from the first 5 minutes, you can just feel the synergy that brought this thing together. The score is easily the most straight forward, bold and catchiest of Shore’s work for Cronenberg, which fits the film, considering it’s also, by far, the most commercial feature Cronenberg has ever made.

In the off-chance you’ve never seen it, Jeff Goldblum plays brilliant scientist and inventor, Seth Brundle. He’s created a pair of telepods and courts a beautiful reporter named Veronica (Gena Davis, Goldblum’s real-life girlfriend at the time) to document his monumental scientific breakthrough. But, when he transports himself from telepod to telepod, a fly gets in the chamber and slowly, but surely, their DNA starts to fuse, turning Seth into a giant fly! It’s easily one of the best remakes ever done with brilliant performances, unbelievable gore FX, assured direction and a great, sweeping and emotional score by Howard Shore. It initially took me a while to track down a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl, and I was disappointed by the used one I managed to get. Lots of pops and hiss. But thankfully, earlier this year, Varese Sarabande re-issued this sucker on vinyl with a lenticular 3D cover! As well as a glow-in-the-dark variant! As far as I’m concerned, this one is essential. Grab yours right here.

x