The Big Picture Sucks

Alan Rankine

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The Big Picture Sucks Review

by Andy Kellman

He's no Howard Shore or Jan Hammer (or even Barry Adamson), but with The Big Picture Sucks, Alan Rankine stitches together six compositions that can be classified as music for imaginary films. In fact, the back cover bears this out, with the subtitle "In wich Cleopatra and the paesant declare war on each other, gangsters from Marsaille are called in; and in wich Grandma chooses sides." This theme only fits for half of the tracks. Rankine eschews his own vocals (a smart move) and gives way to near-ambient instrumentals and sound collages with bits of movie dialogue. Making film music that stands the test of time is a daunting challenge, especially when it isn't made for an actual film. Rankine makes a valiant attempt and winds up with mixed results. Compositions like "Shambok," "Pop Off," and "Lies" sound fitting for extended shots of Egyptian landscapes, but the synthesized sound is very 1989. "Once in a Blue One" and "Glory to the Take and the Killing" would fit well in late '80s suburban scenarios. The former is relaxed, highlighted by melodic synth chimes; the latter is noisier and more rhythmic. "Happens Every Time" is the centerpiece; an energetic nine minute pastiche of film dialogue with a rhythm not far from something found on Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Hardcore Rankine fans or film music buffs will be the only ones to get much of anything from this. And if you happen to be making a movie with a late-'80s feel to it, The Big Picture Sucks should do the trick. It's a shame the immensely talented Rankine didn't continue to work in this vein, because it shows a great deal of promise.

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