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For A Good Time, Call... by John Swihart (Review)

posted Oct 10, 2012, 1:37 PM by
To this listener, John Swihart’s most memorable score is without a doubt Napoleon Dynamite. Part of what made that film so obtuse and maddeningly addictive were the off-balance, foreign-sounding, minimalistic cues Swihart constructed amongst independently curious and catchy pop songs. For the comedy For A Good Time, Call…, involving the relationship of two roommates that start a phone-sex answering service, Swihart stretches the sticky and endearing score of Napoleon Dynamite in an attempt to generate a more traditional vibe. Unfortunately, doing so thins the quality of Swihart’s work, making For A Good Time, Call… a score that’s very difficult in which to sink oneself.

I hesitate to keep comparing For A Good Time, Call… to Napoleon Dynamite, but truth be told, Swihart maintains a good share of the youthful, soothing, and suggestive sound of the latter score while trying to expand upon it with the former. But far and away the largest weakness of For A Good Time, Call… is the extremely short lengths of all its tracks, the entirety of its 28 songs not even lasting as many minutes. The care that Swihart has no doubt taken to construct a fitting score, and comedic emotion he’s tried to inject, at least in this case, necessitates either more effective introduction or longer exploration, and neither of those are evident. Intriguing sounds begin to arise on several tracks, though: “Hairy Soap” reminds of comedic hijinks of Disney movies (and is over in sixteen seconds), “1-800-MMM-HMMM” and “Go Check on Krissy” begin to show upbeat comedic stressors a la Jerry Goldsmith’s The Burbs and Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands (and are in total less than two minutes long), and “Three Way” sounds uncannily like the Alexandria city themes from Nobuo Uematsu’s score to Final Fantasy IX (though only for mere seconds in spite of the track being the longest on the entire album at 2:34). For the sake of parallel argument, Napoleon Dynamite has a total of roughly sixteen minutes of score from Swihart peppered amongst its release, but the work is much more brooding, captivating, rewarding, and fun to hear.

In and of itself, Swihart’s score simply fails to snag the listener’s attention regardless of its quirky and enigmatic origins. Not only is it over in the blink of an eye, but its lack of imploring content will drive it away from ultimately being memorable or effective in its use. Whereas the score’s lack of length may not be within Swihart’s control, its overall drab and monochromatic sound with lack of developmental content unfortunately is. Regrettably, I can’t recommend John Swihart’s For A Good Time, Call… as a standalone release.