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Lawless by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (Review)

posted Sep 6, 2012, 10:42 PM by Kaya Savas

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are a force of musical brilliance that rendered me a pile of shaken tears from their scores to The Proposition, The Road and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford. They are simply the two most brilliant composers to have ever graced the medium of cinema. Nick Cave has a very rare distinction of being not only a bandleader with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, but he is also a screenwriter and a composer. He wrote the screenplay to The Proposition as well as for Lawless. John Hillcoat directed his band's music videos so naturally when Hillcoat made the leap to features he brought along Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (also part of The Bad Seeds). Now, Lawless is a unique musical experience. The film is made up equally of songs and score. The songs though are such an integral part of the story that they act as score. Cave and Ellis pretty much wrote, performed or produced every song on the soundtrack as well so this isn't a normal song album of source music. The songs are the score.

Lawless is a fantastic film, and I really mean that. The characters carry the film, but since it takes place during prohibition the music needed to focus on the time period and location. Hillcoat loves westerns and he infuses this film with many western archetypes even though it takes place in Virginia. The film is definitely labeled as a gangster film, but honestly I think gangster and western genres share almost all the same archetypes. You'll notice that Cave and Ellis do different incarnations of the same songs very much like they did in The Proposition. The music's tone changes as you progress, and even though it's hard to get a handle of the film through this CD you can tell that the songs do set a certain mood. The only bit of score on the CD is "End Crawl" and it's a decent piece of score even though it's only a tiny piece of the big picture. The score in the film working with the songs is the real experience, and unfortunately we are missing that score on the CD. The full experience is top notch. The film is extremely heavy at times and the score does a superb job of carrying the narrative.

This is a fantastic album filled with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' approach for the film from the song perspective. Their score side is equally impressive and should be experienced so make it a goal to see this movie. Lawless doesn't come close to the brilliance of their other scores, but I consider their other scores to be masterpieces. This is score capturing the essence of a time and a place. The songs set up the necessary moods and work extremely well in the film and make for a great album as well.