By Charlie Brigden
It’s impossible to overstate how much the film score world misses Basil Poledouris. It’s telling that two recent reboots – RoboCop and Conan The Barbarian – were both graced with generic and ineffectual soundtracks, especially compared to Poledouris’ music for the original movies. Thankfully the world is being reminded once again, as one of his most popular scores, the original RoboCop, is being reissued on vinyl by Milan Records.
Poledouris’ work on RoboCop is absolutely iconic – not just for that driving theme, which admittedly is amazing – but also his treatment of RoboCop and Murphy being two sides of the same coin. Poledouris constantly treats Robo as a human being, and his journey of rediscovery is scored with not only existensialism but also emotion. Running through the score is a three-note motif that represents his identity. Heard initially in the opening as the title card appears, it appears a number of times, including ‘Drive Montage’ where former partner Lewis sees Robo pull the same trigger-spinning move as Murphy did, and again when she asks him his name after he has a bad dream.
Combining with this is an emotional searching string wind theme for his memories of his family, particularly his wife. This is used to devastating effect in ‘Murphy Goes Home’, where he walks around his former family home, now a showhome for an electronic estate agent. And then there’s that march, which amazingly enough didn’t feature a whole lot in the original soundtrack album.
The baddies get their own motifs, with the unforgettable Clarence Boddicker’s gang having a low brass cluster as their signifier, and robo rival ED-209 receiving a blunt metallic motif, appropriate for his clumsy nature. There is also a cheesy theme for the MediaBreak TV show, along with other source tracks for mechnical heart transplants (‘Have A Heart’), family board games (‘Nukem’), and the supercharged 6000SUX that features throughout the film (‘Big Is Better’).
What’s great about Poledouris’ score is the way it melds orchestra and electronics without being too on the nose. It would be easy to just give Robo your standard synth line, but instead he uses synths to augment, strengthening the connection between flesh and robotics. Of course, when RoboCop does his thing, he does it with aggressive percussion (anvils especially) and huge brass attacks.
Milan are reissuing the expanded program of RoboCop for the first time on vinyl, along with CD and digital. This program was originally released on CD by Intrada Records and it’s fantastic, a hundred times better than the original soundtrack album. The quality is great but the score expanded and in order just shows Poledouris’ talent off so much more. The only gripe one might have is that the source music is in the main body of the score.
RoboCop has always been a popular score and looks to be ever more popular on vinyl. Milan have done a good job bringing us the expanded edition instead of just throwing the old one on, and it’s another chance for many to get a score which had previously sold out ultra-quickly on CD. I’d buy it for a dollar.
RoboCop is out July 17 on vinyl, CD, and digital from Milan Records