in Review

John Carpenter – Lost Themes

John Carpenter is old. My estimates put the filmmaker at somewhere between 80 and 80,000 years of age. Wikipedia says “67” but Wikipedia is written by liars. (I’d know, I read that on Wikipedia.) Of course you and I know John Carpenter as the director behind such classic films as the 2001 sci-fi flick Ghosts of Mars and for his 1979 made-for-TV movie about Elvis. Clearly, the man has accomplished a lot, so why record an album? Because with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes the ability to use computers and with the ability to use computers comes the ability to program and play synths and beats, it’s the natural progression.

The album begins just as you’d expect any Carpenter movie to begin; a wandering melody from a machine that most likely doubles as a Colecovision, a haunted piano, and a simple, hypnotic rhythm. Though it only takes 45 seconds to remind you that John Carpenter is old. To clarify, I’m talking about the fact that Carpenter, who now looks like the ghost of Albert Einstein, doesn’t always make the most “hip” selections when it comes to choosing his synth voices. 45 seconds into track 1, “Vortex”, there’s a synth that distinctly sounds like something from a Sega X-Men video game. There’s a charm there for sure, but it also sounds incredibly cheesy. Almost as cheesy as if Wolverine fought a helicopter… But that will never happen, right?

Many other tracks on “Lost Themes” (not a soundtrack to the TV show by the way), make similar mistakes. Far too often are awesome melodies executed with not so awesome instruments. Though when this does work, holy shit, it works. “Fallen” sounds like something straight from that iconic Kurt Russell/John Carpenter film. No, not the 1979 made-for-TV film Elvis, that one with the eye patch. The album’s closing track, “Night”, is another standout. I find Carpenter is at his best when he keeps things simple. The less weird shit he tacks on the better the track.

I hear Carpenter collaborated with his son to do Lost Themes, which makes sense, the old timer probably needed someone to teach him how to use modern technology, like the internet. Carpenter’s music sensibilities may be dated, but that’s part of the fun of Lost Themes. Listening to these droning melodies and beats is like listening to the soundtrack to the long lost Carpenter movie. Let’s all hope it has Kurt Russell too.

Favorite Tracks: “Fallen,” “Night,” “Obsidian”