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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Lisbon
Fat Possum
Crooked Fingers
Short Careers: Original Score for the Film Ball of Wax
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Although Short Careers is the first-ever release of Eric Bachmann under his own name you would have to be some sort of seriously demented individual to have been ignoring the man's contributions to rock and roll up to and since this motion picture soundtrack's release. While his work with Archers of Loaf made him a super star and his solo releases under the name Crooked Fingers have made him a legend, this is Bachmann's first foray into the often drab world of film scores. I'll be honest and say right up front that I've neither seen the film Ball of Wax nor heard of it outside the context of some random film that had the benefit of having Eric Bachmann's beautifully twisted mind do the score for it. To tell the whole truth I haven't met anyone who had so much as heard of the Daniel Kraus-penned film and, furthermore, no one seems to know who Kraus is either. Apparently Bachmann isn't just the best thing to happen to this mysterious film, he's also the only thing to have happened to it.

And just what sort of film is it? Well for starters the plot is summarized as "an evil baseball player turns the game into a blood sport by pitting his teammates against one another in violent competitions" - a description that leaves quite a bit in question. Thanks to an anonymous (ahem, Kraus?) review on the Internet Movie Database website we have a bit more information- Bret Packard is the best baseball player in the world. Bret Packard is rich, famous, good-looking, and set to win his fourth championship ring. But Bret Packard is bored. That all changes when a teammate is mysteriously stabbed during a ball field brawl. Using this violence as a springboard, Bret begins a new game, a game where only he knows the rules. Using his powers of persuasion, Bret pits teammate against teammate by promising everyone the one thing that they want the most, whether it be power, respect, or cold hard cash. Soon, the entire team is self-destructing, and Bret couldn't be happier. But with their lives and careers on the brink of devastation, Bret's teammates and family realize that they have to take baseball - and life - back from Bret Packard, once and for all.

As it turns out I'm not really actively seeking out a copy of Ball of Wax to investigate, due in large part to what sounds like a terrible idea for a film but also because I'm perfectly content with Bachmann's score. Like Stephin Merritt's (of the Magnetic Fields) score to the film Eban & Charley, Short Careers is a true musical score to what I can imagine are the most poignant, tense and dramatic scenes in the film rather than simply a soundtrack of pop hooks masquerading as a score. From Bachmann's musical accompaniment I can gather a great deal about the film itself. The music is dark and carnivalesque, taking on a twisted, distorted atmosphere like many of Tom Wait's more demented, fun-house-mirror moments. The title track is a good example of the overall scheme of things, a morose, twinkling piano ballad that would fit well into the score of another film, Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter.

This score takes a talented rock and roll songwriter and completely removes him from his element, then proceeds to have him pen the aural backdrop to a film with a preposterous storyline that no one has heard of nor seems to really care about. As you might imagine, this is hard to get into. But taken on its own and put on the stereo in the right states of mind (disturbing yet romantic) Short Careers stands on firmer legs than one could possibly predict. Daniel Kraus has Eric Bachmann to thank for that.

Reviewed by Clifton Gates
Currently sleeping on beaches in Costa Rica, Clifton Gates is an occasional contributor, editor, idea springboard and moral crutch to LAS magazine.

See other reviews by Clifton Gates

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