Amongst the strange lot of people who follow the realm of film scoring in the same way meat-and-potatoes Joe Sixpack follow football, the common wisdom is this: Michael Giacchino is the new John Williams, and Bear McCreary is the new Jerry Goldsmith. McCreary learned at the feet of Elmer Bernstein, swooped in and scooped up Oingo Boingo after Danny Elfman left to write the same 4 scores over and over again for the next 20 years, and then went and wrote the best suite of dramatic orchestral music in 20 years with the Season 2 soundtrack for Battlestar Galactica.
I’m not so sure McCreary can be so easily pigeonholed as “the new anything,” and it’s his soundtrack to Eureka that backs me up on that…
The gamut of influences previously mentioned?Elfman, Goldsmith, even a smidge of Williams?all show up. But it’s his tutelage under Bernstein that seems to show up more than anything. Specifically, Bernstein’s scores for “Animal House” and “Ghostbusters”. McCreary isn’t just Xeroxing mid-eighties whimsy with all the trombones and loping basslines that entails. McCreary himself in the liner notes states, Folk, Blues and Country proteins were crossbred with 8-bit video games, resulting in horrendous musical monsters, half-breeds of “Buckwheat Zydeco” and “Mega Man 2”.
It’s hard to write a review when the composer himself sums the whole thing up perfectly in the liner notes. This score is all those things, providing the perfect sonic backing for a show as quirky as Eureka. Quirky is a term vastly overused lately, so overused the word is now synonymous with “boringly cute in cloying ways” but the show and this score seem to be endeavoring to restore some honesty to the concept of Quirk. Sherriff Carter’s Theme opens the CD winningly with a jaunty, ramshackle bounce, The Mask of Fargo throws some darker elements in without undercutting the sense of fun, Noche de Suenos switches gears rather lovely, and Bear keeps the “everything but the kitchen sink, so long as it’s in tune” motif going with his brother Brendan’s Let’s Get Hitched, and Captain Ahab’s EurekAerobics. Those aren’t the only outside contributions, as the main title to Eureka, Eureka on My Mind opens and closes the disk, and Mark Mothersbaugh of “They Might Be Giants,” himself a king of quirk, lends his gentle, nerdy touch to the score.
“Eureka” is one of those soundtrack CDs that works as a suite of music totally divorced from the show it’s supporting. Even if you’re not remotely familiar with the show (I myself have only seen about 5 episodes total) the music on display is a cohesive, interesting and flat-out-fun listening experience that reminds me that all score-work doesn’t have to be strings and horns and serious bombast. It’s a testament to Bear’s skill that he can do that well, and better than anyone else in Hollywood – listen to Carter Burwell’s score for “Burn After Reading,” for example, and tell me he hasn’t been studying Bear’s Battlestar work. But I appreciate the reminder that the spirit of Elmer Bernstein is still circulating on celluloid somewhere, and of course, it’s his prot?g? reminding us.
You can order your copy of “Eureka” on La La Land Records.