Not scary mutant bovine-children; rather those rugged frontier roamers of American folklore. Who used to pack ’em in at the picturehouses but have enjoyed less success in recent years, as the movie-going public have proved every bit as resistant to the allure of the modern western as the US electorate was to the gnome-like charms of Ross ‘Iron Ears’ Perot.
Speaking of indestructible lugholes forged in the fiery furnaces of Mount Olympus, that’s EXACTLY what director Gore Verbinski and that Johnny Depp bloke could do with so as not to be driven completely loopy by the maelstrom of negative babble swirling around their latest collaboration, The Lone Ranger.
For not only did the axe swing over TLR during preproduction (non-fatally, as it turned out; studio backers Disney elected to prune the budget instead of pulling the plug completely), but on its recent release Stateside, the box office numbers were the disastrous side of disappointing, as the core audience who still actually gave a shit about the Lone Ranger character stayed at home. In their cemeteries.
However if the parent movie is looking very much like a loss for Disney, then hope still springs from the two (count ‘em!) accompanying soundtrack albums.
One of those features the film’s score, from Verbinski’s musical collaborator on the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Hans Zimmer. The other, going by the subtitle Wanted, is that hoary old industry chestnut, the ‘music inspired by’ album; a shameless unit-shifting device that once upon a time conspired to land Alright by Britpop bantamweights Cast on the soundtrack to Tom Cruise’s Mission:Impossible.
Now, Bruce Willis might die hard (his dignity? Not so much, if the recent Sky ads are owt to go by), but motion picture music stereotypes die harder. So, just as 19th century classical is somehow entirely acceptable for a Middle Ages-set castles ‘n’ princesses romp, while rock ‘n’ roll is not, likewise the western is imprisoned in a mire of languid desert blues and bawdy saloon shuffle.
And The Lone Ranger: Wanted provides no exception to this rule: it’s guitars tuned to ‘painfully authentic’ pretty much all the way through, with the synthesised tones provided by John Grant’s album closer Saddle the Wind and a few bars of Iron & Wine’s Rattling Bone only sounding startling by virtue of their novelty.
Rattling Bone is certainly one of the smartest cuts here, even if its circular chain gang rhythms give it the feel of a soundtrack to a 16-bit RPG game. Evocative? Just close your eyes and picture those dwarven blacksmiths hammering away on their next pair of Perots.
Holy Water, Ben Kweller’s album opener, shares DNA with Oasis’ The Importance of Being Idle and treads a similarly thin line between being catchy and annoying. In the battle of “Yee-haw!” rowdiness, Devil Train from young bucks Grace Potter and the Nocturnals wins out over Poor Paddy Works on the Railway, a take on a 19th folk song by Depp’s old mucker Shane MacGowan.
Speaking of old, here’s Iggy Pop! Sounding disturbingly like Michael Eavis attempting to croon a Christmas carol! The Popster’s take on trad ballad Sweet Betsy from Pike exhibits all the life of an ossified mammoth’s tusk, and imparts all the pleasure of walking in on your mum in bed with the postie.
Crap as his offering is, at least Iggy provides something vaguely memorable, which is not a charge you can level at the contributions of many of the other artists represented here, including Sara Watkins, Lucinda Williams and British guitarist Pete Molinari. So while much of The Lone Ranger: Wanted chugs along inoffensively enough, the biggest thing lacking on this ‘inspired by’ album is just that – inspiration. But hey, everyone still got paid, right?
For more info visit and to listen to previews click HERE