Music composed by Michael Giacchino
Label: Varèse Sarabande
Catalog: 302 066 898 2

Year: 2008

1. I Am Speed
2. World’s Best Autopia
3. Thunderhead
4. Tragic Story of Rex Racer
5. Vroom and Board
6. World’s Worst Road Rage
7. Racing’s In Our Blood
8. True Heart of Racing
9. Casa Cristo
10. End of the First Leg
11. Taejo Turns Trixie
12. Bumper to Bumper, Rail to Rail
13. The Maltese Ice Cave
14. Go Speed, Go!
15. He Ain’t Heavy
16. 32 Hours
17. Grand Ol’ Prix
18. Reboot
19. Let Us Drink Milk
20. Speed Racer

Total Time: 60:24

Reviewed by
Tom Hoover

Michael Giacchino returns with another marquee assignment, this time for the film based on the classic anime series, "Speed Racer." The soundtrack is brought to us by Varese Sarabande and offers 20 tracks of Giacchino's score. The running time is generous (over 1 hour of music) and the sound quality is above average. It's a nice release, especially when you consider that this could have been a derivative song compilation album. That's one for the score lovers.

In this era of filmmaking, most composers should accept the fact that a lot of what they'll be called to write is music based on existing material. Giacchino not only accepts this situation -- he seems to genuinely embrace it. Giacchino is no stranger to writing music that had a previous existence. Case in point, "Mission Impossible III" and the upcoming "Star Trek" reboot are two example of projects he has already scored or soon will be. "Speed Racer" is a project that falls squarely in that mold and makes for a good barometer to see what direction the composer is heading in. From what I heard on the CD, all signs indicate a green light -- "Speed Racer" is a terrific score.

The soundtrack is a mix of styles that work cohesively together. Giacchino has been able to take the nostalgic elements of the existing music to create a score that has modern trademarks associated with it. In some ways, one could make an argument that if sound quality of this nature could be generated in the 60s, along with the tools to create it, of course, than this would be a score that would fit into that era perfectly.

Going into this project, there were a lot of questions as to how the main theme would be used. The motifs of the source material are brought to life both as featured cues and as background elements. The use of it was so effective that I was feeling nostalgic and I had never regularly watched the cartoons that the movie is based on. Now that's effective writing! Indeed, Giacchino was able to create a bonafide tapestry by weaving the different phrases of the source material into this soundtrack.

The pace of the score is quite rapid, as one could imagine, but there are also some nice melodic chords that are heard throughout. These softer cues make for a more 'fan friendly' appeal. Also nice are the moments in which Giacchino uses a bit of vocalization in the score, specifically during Track 9, "Casa Cristo." It's tracks such as this one that gives "Speed Racer" a modern spin and also distinguishes Giacchino's own voice in the proceedings.

The main Speed Racer theme is heard in various facets. My favorite use of it is when it drives on in the background during some of the major action cues, thus becoming more than just a reference to the original and a major player in the score. You see, a theme's depth should be judged by the various ways in which a composer can use it in a score and Giacchino's approach played out nicely. Not too much, not too little and enough variations to keep it interesting. Core fans should not worry about the Speed Racer song, either, since that is what caps out the album on the last track. It's more or less a retro tribute to the song, with some old school instrumentation that should bring back some memories for fans of the long standing series.

"Speed Racer" is a highly energetic, entertaining score that will please most ears. Specifically, listeners who appreciated the style of "The Incredibles" score will especially want to hop on board with this one as Giacchino once again shows that he isn't afraid to take chances with his work. Well done.