I’d like to be straight to the point, so here goes, while I do like a lot of the music on John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, I also find a lot of it a bit lacklustre. About fifty-fifty, if you can believe that. However, no matter what the arbitrary number I cobbled together at the end of this review says, I do not like this album as a whole, and I’m going to explain why in a moment, I’m just going to need to give out some positives before I start digging my heel into this album’s teeth.
The best praise I can give this album is that it sounds good. That may sound like a very dumb piece of criticism given what I said in the above paragraph, but bear with me here. Each song on this album has at least one aspect that I really like. It may be some twinkly keys here or some brooding synths there, but those positive moments are found on every track. Obviously, that is a good thing. John Carpenter is extremely good at creating any atmosphere he wants, whether it be surprisingly cheerful, like the start of Mystery, creepy like on Night, or just plain groovy, like on Domain. The problem is that it’s all a bit repetitive.
The way I react to repetition in music can be spasmodic at the best of times, so my level of enjoyment from this album could be way off your’s. On one hand, I dig the hell out of Swans due to the way that the repetition is blended with an emphasis on sparse rhythmic beats to create a hypnotic sort of atmosphere (god, I sound like a wanker), while on the other hand I loathe about ninety-five percent of EDM because the repetitive nature of the genre digs into my brain like a parasite. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the repetition on Lost Themes at all. By the third track, Fallen, I knew exactly what I was in for over the course of the album, and I was right. I got a lot of samey, Retrosynth-y, atmosphere-building keys buried underneath some odd, sparse, electronic sounds at the forefront, and that’s the content of most of the album. Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking ‘Well, that sounds a lot like standard soundtrack music’, and that there’s your problem.
John Carpenter can put out a great theme for a movie, hell, the theme for Halloween is my favourite theme ever, but there is a certain something that disappears once you take the movie away from a soundtrack or a theme. A theme is allowed to get away with being repetitive, as long as it builds atmosphere, because it’s supported by a film, but it seems as though John Carpenter forgot that there wasn’t an accompanying film to any of these songs. If I was watching a movie, this soundtrack would kick some ass, but I’m not, so it doesn’t. A case similar to this was the soundtrack of Under the Skin that came out last year. Amazing movie, amazing soundtrack to accompany the movie, but once I listened to the soundtrack on its own I found it very dull.
The shame is I really liked some tracks here, it definitely picks up towards the end, with the final three songs, Wraith, Purgatory and Night, being my three favourite songs of the album. Wraith has a freakin guitar solo, I wish the rest of the album had some goodies thrown in like that, but it doesn’t.
In the end, Lost Themes was an album that I reminded me of why I should stop anticipating stuff as heavily as I do. It’s filled with some good-sounding tunes that don’t go anywhere and barely vary from the template. Before you ask, no, I’m not going to make a remark about how Lost Themes ‘should have remained lost’, that’s stupid. Oh, and also, as I said clear as day before, the number that this album ends up getting rated as is completely arbitrary. It is almost impossible to quantify why I don’t like this album in a number form, just as it is with most complex opinions. Sorry if that doesn’t fly by you, but I don’t really care.